Jackson Survives Heat for First Ever IRONMAN Win
As I stood in the finisher’s shoot waiting for the winners to come through at IRONMAN Coeur D’Alene this weekend, I couldn’t help but notice a guy decked out in Wattie Ink apparel and a smile tattooed across his face bigger than any tattoo he had on his arm or calf. This must be Wattie himself and Heather Jackson’s fiancé. You would have thought he just won an IRONMAN he looked so happy to know his soon-to-be wife was increasing her lead on the pack as the unusually hot day in Coeur D’Alene continued to bake everyone under the sun.
I got a chance to meet Heather who was extremely cheery and kind, but her determination on race day brought a look upon her face that showed the toughness and a battle-axe like face that would make anyone want to move out of her way. Jackson’s almost 8 minute deficit coming out of the water might have been what saved her legs so that she could turn in the fastest bike and run split of the day in the women’s race and win her first ever IRONMAN by almost 17 minutes.
Jackson charged hard enough on the bike to catch the lead women, which were Colorado’s Katy Blakemore and former Colorado resident Dr. Amanda Stevens. The two Colorado ladies would lead out of the water, followed by Boulderite Dede Griesbauer, and onto the bike where they flew by me very early on. It was Stevens, followed by Blakemore, and then Griesbauer who had a decent lead on the rest of the ladies, but the women’s field would be shaken up when a major accident occurred.
Griesbauer, who just won IRONMAN Taiwan in April, was in a solid third place when she suddenly ran into a truck that had been allowed through a gap in the cones on the bike course. The truck’s only option was to turn left into the bike traffic, but couldn’t make a turn fast enough to get out of the way of a charging Griesbauer.
It’s still unclear how the truck was allowed to pass or why there was even a gap in the cones with very little road to use, but what is clear is that Griesbauer was in no shape to continue and was taken to the hospital for immediate care.
It wasn’t until the racers were on the run that I got a text from Dede’s husband letting me know that she was out of the hospital and watching the race again. Did I mention Griesbauer is as tough as they come? So it wasn’t too surprising to me that she would jump out of a hospital bed and become a spectator for a bit.
Oddly enough, Griesbauer had set up camp right across the street from us so I quickly found myself staring at an athletic looking woman, sitting in the shade, with a sling and a glazed look on her face. As I went over to hug and talk to my friend, I could tell she was probably still in shock. Not only did she get hit by a truck, but she was no longer out there competing. My heart broke as she explained her injuries, which included a sprained wrist and shoulder and a bunch of stitches in her hand where something sharp from the truck punctured her hand so that the doctor could see her tendons, none of which were torn. Ugh!
I don’t know much about setting up a race course by any means, but I could only think, “How could this seriously happen out there?” Griesbauer left after cheering for a bit with her good friend, and owner of Smashfest Queen, Hillary Biscay, whose husband Maik Twelsiek, was competing.
My only reason for spending a lot of time reporting on this incident is because it’s bad enough to hear about a triathlete getting injured on a race course, but I have never actually seen it with my own eyes and it hurt just seeing the aftermath. I cannot imagine what Griesbauer is going through as she, like all of the pros, spend countless hours working towards race goals, Kona-bound or not, and to just see that altered by a truck on a race course was really upsetting as a reporter and as her friend.
She was definitely in the hunt for the podium this past Sunday, but I know she’s probably already plotting her next race. I just hope races coordinate better with local traffic, volunteers, and local police departments to avoid what could have been a much more serious, or even fatal, incident.
Ok, back to the race! In the end, Jackson turned in the fastest bike and run split of the day, 5:08 and 3:08, making her untouchable as she captured her first ever IRONMAN title in her illustrious career.
Stevens ended up second, 9:40:16, while Kim Schwabenbauer rounded out the third podium spot with an overall time of 9:50:19. Katy Blakemore of Denver finished fifth on the day with an overall time of 9:59:18.
These ladies survived the seriously hot conditions and impressed with solid times and faces of steel as they crossed the finish line. One thing is for sure, that Jackson’s smile at the finish line was just as big as her husband’s was before she even finished.
Potts Puts on Epic Athletic Display
Growing up in Chicago allowed me to experience and capture some of the best athletic and team performances ever. Between Michael Jordan and the Bull’s six NBA championships and being at the game when Walter Payton broke the all-time rushing record, I have seen athletic greatness and dominance in sports.
What Andy Potts did on Sunday’s IRONMAN Coeur D’Alene’s course rocketed right up onto my list of “greatest athletic performances” I have ever seen. With the temperatures reaching 106 degrees, a tough course, and a competitive field of men, I did not expect to see such an upending pursuit of athletic dominance, but that’s exactly what we all saw.
The Colorado men didn’t take long to make their mark on the first loop of the swim, where Paul Matthews, Potts, and Millward, led by Barrett Brandon, would pop out of the water to sprint around the cones on their way to start their second lap. Boulderite Leon Griffin wasn’t far back in the second group of about six guys, followed by a third pack on men which included Coloradans Matt Russell and Patrick Evoe. I made my way to the T1 exit area as the men began their second loop so I could see where they would break up as the ride began.
I always like to park myself on a slight incline so that I can see the men as they slow down a tad to climb. However, there was no slowing down as every pro came charging up the hill, their bikes making swooshing noises at they passed. My in-laws and I quickly tried to count and name each guy for our own record, but it was clear that Potts, Brandon, Millward and Matthews were out in front and pushing the pace early.
After setting up to see the men about 30 minutes later, a speeding Potts and Matthews went screaming by us and had opened up about a minute gap on Millward and Brandon, who also zoomed by us. A couple minutes back was a pack of six guys, including Griffin and Russell, who looked comfortable as they kept a zippy pace.
Evoe followed the pack of six by a few minutes and seemed to be cruising as I got the nod and smile, which I only get when he’s feeling good. At this point, the temperature was only in the 80s and the sun was not in full effect yet, so I began to wonder how long these guys could keep pushing the pace.
For most of the race, the men stayed in the same order as they came out of T1, which I have never seen before. As the temperature rose, these guys locked themselves in and kept working, which made it clear that nobody probably wanted to tempt fate and take off in the heat, knowing a marathon was lingering in the wings.
However, there were two guys pushing the pace, and each other, most of the day on the bike and they were Potts and Matthews. I have never seen two guys go so hard on the bike. Each time I saw them, they had traded spots, taking turns leading, but finally, Potts and his monster performance, would come unleashed.
Around mile 80, Potts came whizzing by the crowd alone and he didn’t look like he was going to slow down. Ever!
That pretty much summed up the rest of Pott’s win as he would turn in the fastest bike split of the day, 4:33:13, and tack on the fastest marathon time of the day too, 2:53:25, to finish with an overall time of 8:20:35. The biggest news about his finishing time was that it was only three minutes off Boulderite Ben Hoffman’s record, which in the day’s heat, was quite impressive.
As I watched most of the run, the men’s field did not budge in their order, except for the very front of the pack. IRONMAN 70.3 Boulder champ Millward turned in another impressive performance and claimed second place on the day with an overall time of 8:41:12. Throughout the day, Millward never waivered and looked strong as he pulled away from a charging Stephen Kilshaw who finished third in 8:43:04. I am personally excited to see what the Cupcake King, who assured me he will be back at his cupcake making and videos soon, will do in Kona this year!
Unfortunately, Griffin, who did not feel well after the bike, did not start the run and Matthews did not attempt the run past the first few miles. The rest of the Colorado-based pros who could push through the day were eighth place finisher Matt Russell, 8:57:34, and eleventh place finisher Patrick Evoe, 9:20:27.
“This was not the way I wished the day had gone,” Evoe said, “but I am glad I was able to finish. These conditions were not what I expected coming into this race, but I really liked the bike course better than in years past. This is a great city for an IRONMAN.”
While Potts crossed the finish line to be greeted by his two cute kids, he told the crowd, “I pushed when it was hard and I pushed when it was easy. Everyone deserves a medal today!”
When I asked him if he had changed his race plan, knowing the weather was predicted to be in the hundreds, Potts replied, “You never know what to expect going into any race, but going to Coeur D’Alene, you never expect this weather. As a professional, I need to be prepared for these things. Hawaii is not cold and I can only control my prep. This was good Kona prep!”
One of the most interesting comments Potts made was about how he breaks down his run into segments, counts everything from steps to cones, and focuses on his mechanics, and on anything that doesn’t hurt.
“I want to be in the moment, which is why I will count my steps as I run or think about my mechanics. My elbow, my shoulders, and anything that doesn’t hurt. I won’t focus on my quads or hamstrings. I break down the run into segments so that I can focus on what I am doing until I get to the finish line.”
It was definitely Potts’ day, but mostly because he went out and took it away from every other competitor out there, no matter how hard they tried. It was the kind of performance you do not see all the time, when one athlete dominates, regardless of competition, course layout, or weather conditions. I think it’s safe to say that Potts is looking for a Kona title, and anyone who watched him in Coeur D’Alene would be crazy to say he couldn’t do it. Congrats to all of the pros and age-groupers who participated in all, or part, of this race. It was a hot one!
Coloradans Shine in Other Races
After a great swim and bike at IRONMAN France, Drew Scott, slowed up on the run, but finished the day with an overall time of 11:13:25. We hear France had a stacked field and is a very technical bike course. Way to stay strong, Drew!
At IRONMAN 70.3 Buffalo Springs Lake, the Colorado men dominated the podium with Mark Bowstead winning in 3:53:04, Chris Leiferman taking second in 3:57:19, and Justin Metzler in third with a time of 4:02:34. Colorado Springs’ Joe Umphenour finished a strong sixth place with an overall time of 4:09:21. Way to represent!