By Luke Wilhelm
On Sunday, August 27th, Ironman Coeur d’Alene showed for the last time why it has been a main attraction in the North Idaho College backyard for so many years. The full Ironman competition is a weekend of competition that brings together people all across the northern panhandle of Idaho, and this year the energy never ceased.
On Sunday morning the water temperatures lingered in the 50s, and the swimmers lurking on the beach weren’t the only individuals anxious to get the race day started. NIC was well represented by multiple staff members, faculty, and students. Last year, NIC was awarded several grants due to its dedication and work at this event. Heidi Schrader, who has led NIC volunteers at Ironman for five years now, said the volunteers raised more money this year that will go towards scholarships and other student programs. Schrader described the volunteering and funds as an “opportunity to make it easier for students to go to school here; you have to do what you can to do that.” Schrader competed in Iron Man several years ago, and the desire to raise money goes along with the tremendous sense of pride in the community and our spirit of competition.
The people that go out there and volunteer aren’t doing it for themselves; they see this day as a chance to do something special for others, to leave a beneficial and meaningful impact on the community. For many of the volunteers, including some from NIC that sacrificed their time, they looked at it as something dear to them, rather than an obligation. Many carry the same mindset as the racers themselves, ready to commit until the big finish.
I am convinced the conviction shown by many of the volunteers stems from watching these racers compete at the highest level. Are they impressed with the sheer force of will, or are they intimidated by the show of strength? This intrigued me because I might see these almost ‘super’ humans and feel a certain emptiness or lack of success. But each and every person I asked described a deep sense of inspiration at being privileged to see so many fierce athletes triumph in the face of incredible adversity. Ironman CDA has brought the community together and inspired a new generation of athletes year after year, and that’s why it will be so missed.
Once again, the event this showcased the talent of these competitors, the energy of the community, and the will of these volunteers. In the wake of its final year, it’s clear this has been more than a race or a reason to go ring a cowbell on Sherman Avenue. For years this event has elevated the community, providing incalculable benefit to local businesses, opportunities to volunteer, and a chance to stand toe to streets and witness perseverance personified in all the athletes and competitors. We will still have the pleasure of hosting the half-Ironman each summer, and the positive effects of the full triathlon will reverberate across the community for many years to come. On this final year we have to look back on the memories, and look to the future with hope, knowing that when we come together, we can’t lose. Because now and forever, Coeur d’Alene, you are Iron Man.