The 13th running of IRONMAN Coeur d'Alene—a classically cool early-summer race—had already made a name for itself two weeks prior when forecasts predicted a record-setting heat wave. On a day that peaked at 106 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celcius), racing smart was top of mind for the field of professionals and 2,000 age-groupers alike.
At the end of the day, steady and smart racing from long-time veteran of the distance Andy Potts and spunky newcomer Heather Jackson yielded wins marked by wide margins of victory.
Potts returns to claim the crown
Setting out at the earlier than normal start time of 5:30 a.m., Barrett Brandon (USA) pushed his way to the front of the race in the non-wetsuit legal, clear conditions of Lake Coeur d’Alene. Paul Matthews (AUS), Andy Potts (USA), and Callum Millward (NZL) were hot on his heels up until the second lap, when Millward fell back to about 90 seconds back of the three leaders. Brandon notched the top swim in (50:23), with a chase group containing Stephen Kilshaw (CAN), Pedro Gomes (PRT), Leon Griffin (AUS), Maik Twelsiek (DEU), and Derek Garcia (USA) scrambling onto the beach 4:30 back after the 2.4-mile swim.
Once clipped into his bike, Potts stormed to the front of the race where he'd go on to maintain his lead and respond well to a significant threat by Matthews between miles 35-60. The two rode together, complementing each others' strengths, but Potts regained the lead at mile 70 and began to put time into the fading Matthews.
Behind the leaders, Twelsiek and Millward worked together to put the heat on. Twelsiek eventually passed Millward to follow Potts into T2 8 minutes back of the defending champion. Millward, Matthews, Wurtele, Kilshaw, and Lieto entered as a ground between 13 and 15 minutes back.
On the run, Potts began churning out the miles with a surprising calmness given the heat. Over the 26.2 miles, he would go on to extend his lead from 8 minutes to well over 20, as the men jostled for position behind him.
Millward used his solid run to hunt Twelsiek down and pass him around mile 9 for second. Next in line was the fleet-footed Wurtele, who moved into third shortly after. As Twelsiek faded, stronger runners (including Kilshaw, Trevor Delsaut, Brandon, Matt Russell, Derek Garcia, and Pedro Gomes) put on the hunt in the increasingly difficult decisions.
Potts crossed the finish line in 8:20:35, using his race-best bike and the day's only sub-3 hour marathon to claim his third title in Coeur d'Alene—and the sixth IRONMAN title of his career. He leaped through the finish arch, to be met by his wife, son, and daughter.
"I think everybody deserves a medal today because it's a cooker. Maybe not an IRONMAN medal, but a medal," Potts said at the finish line.
On the evolution of his day, Potts said that he didn't feel decent until mile 70. "When I was feeling bad I thought 'push hard,' and when I was feeling good I thought 'push hard." After meeting his family at the finish, Potts said simply: "This is a great moment and a lot of hard work is behind it. It's a team effort, and I have a great supporter in my wife."
Jackson wins her first IRONMAN
The women’s race saw super-swimmer Amanda Stevens (USA) run up the sandy beach first in 54:54, two minutes ahead of her next-closest competitors. Katy Blakemore (USA) exited the water 1:49 back, with Dede Griesbauer (USA) on her own 5:11 back of Stevens. A chase group containing Laura Siddall (GBR), Heather Jackson (USA) and Amber Ferreira (USA), trailed at over seven minutes back.
Once on the bike, Stevens held greedily to her position. Blakemore took advantage of the hills and passed the leader at mile 45. All eyes were on Jackson, however, who made quick work of her 8-minute swim deficit and by mile 65 had ridden through the field to take the lead. She rode strong and steady, looking as fresh at mile 110 as she did at mile 5. Stevens put up a fight, but it was Jackson who entered T2 with a 3-minute buffer and the fastest bike split on the day (5:08:32).
The New Hampshire-born Jackson set out on the marathon course with admirable form, steadily putting time into Stevens, and successfully holding off the strong runners hoping to hunt her down. By the half-marathon point, she had extended her lead to seven minutes; the welcoming finish line saw her with a mighty comfortable 15-minute padding. The day was truly Jackson's, who, after battling injury last year, got the day she's been working so hard for. Her 3:08:55 marathon was also the fastest on the day.
"The first two IRONMANs I did I raced kind of like I race (IRONMAN) 70.3's," the Bend, Ore. resident said at the finish line. "Going all out and racing my competitors—that doesn't really work for IRONMAN. Today was about keeping it within myself and staying conservative at the start, and it paid off," she added.
Stevens held on for second, finishing in 9:40:16, while Kim Schwabenbauer (USA) used her second-best bike and run splits to snag the third position by the halfway point of the run. The American would stay there until the end, taking the last spot on the podium (9:50:19) and leaving Ferreira (who'd fought hard at the start of the run) and the fading Blakemore to fourth and fifth.
Top 5 Men
1. Andy Potts USA 0:50:30 4:33:13 2:53:25 8:20:35
2. Callum Millward NZL 0:51:47 4:44:07 3:00:34 8:41:12
3. Stephen Kilshaw CAN 0:54:45 4:43:37 3:00:05 8:43:04
4. Trevor Wurtele CAN 0:56:42 4:41:30 3:04:40 8:46:38
5. Barrett Brandon USA 0:50:23 4:53:45 3:00:02 8:47:29
Top 5 Women
Jackson, Heather USA 1:02:00 5:08:31 3:08:54 9:23:27
Stevens, Amanda USA 0:54:14 5:19:51 3:22:20 9:40:16
Schwabenbauer, Kim USA 1:07:03 5:16:01 3:23:07 9:50:19
Ferreira, Amber USA 1:01:59 5:20:43 3:31:55 9:58:53
Blakemore, Katy USA 0:56:03 5:24:10 3:35:01 9:59:18
Courtesy Ironman Asia Pacific