East County Sports

Madden recovers for win at Coeur d’Alene

Cardiff by the Sea's Carrie Lester won the women's open event in 8:54:51 at Coeur d'Alene on June 27.
By Nick Pellegrino
ECS staff writer

KOOTENAI COUNTY, Idaho —- The annual Ironman Coeur d’Alene alternates between a full triathlon in odd-numbered years and a half-distance event during even-numbered years which made this season’s event brutal enough. But when you throw in barbaric weather conditions, it’s a wonder meet officials didn’t cancel the race.

“Cancel? No way!” said Kurt Madden, the world’s top-ranked competitior in the 65-69 age group. “We’re called ‘Ironman’ for a reason.”

Despite morning temperatures starting at 98 degrees, extending to triple-figures in the afternoon coupled with high humidity due to the year-round snowpack surrounding the Lake Coeur d’Alene Valley, Madden came out on top once again in his age division.

Despite poor times by all athletes because of the savage conditions, Madden set the pace in his age group to remain unbeaten in 2021 by caputirng Ironman Coeur d’Alene, held on June 27.

Madden is already qualified for the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i, come October 9 following last season’s cancellation due to the world COVID-19 pandemic. The swim/bike/run event “where champions race” is now in its fifth decade; the event debutd in 1978.

The mountainous  topography surrounding Coeur d’Alene,including several steep rises in elevation,  is already challenging. However, the weather forced many athletes to abandon the race mid-stream. As many as 600 starters reportedly didn’t finish the course.

“What is the difference between torturous, brutal, or insane?,” quipped Madden, the native of San Diego who started his professional career as a swim coach in East County. “Somehow these words seem interrelated.”

“At Coeur d’Alene, I experienced all of these words.”

It’s not what one expects when starting a race consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a bike ride of 112 miles, then running a marathon covering 26.22 miles, all back-to-back-to back.

“Let’s start with the fun stuff that I really cherished as the event starting at 5:35 a.m. with the mindset to ‘swim, bike, run, and have fun.'”

Instead, the race became the biggest endurance challenge of Madden’s 40-plus year career.

The swim went, well, swimmingly, with no issues at all,” he noted. “I was pleased to finish the swim in 1:00.30.”

“Onto the bike, the first 80 miles were beautiful with very little wind and tolerable temperatures.”

Then everything suddenly changed.

“Around Mike 85, I noticed  it was getting much hotter, my heart-rate was increasing, my wattage and/or power was dropping and I started to bind and cramp.”

“I was near the end f my supply of electrolytes and made it a point to ask every person I encountered if they could share a few extra electrolytes or pills, and also started  to take in more gels, Gatorade, and water.”

This was during the cycling phase of the triathlon; Madden still needed to follow with a marathon.

“As the day became hotter and hotter, I just told myself to just be efficient and not push too hard. However, get off the bike as soon as possible.”

With quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors continuing to cramp, Madden completed the phase in 6:09, a respectable timing considering the bike route included more than 7,000 feet in vertival climbing.

But with temperatures steadily rising, the marathon loomed.

“As I pulled into T2, I knew I was in trouble, so took in more electrolytes and the reality sunk in that it was about 98 degrees. It was no fun starting a marathon when all I could do was walk, jog, shuffle, and pray. ‘

‘About a mile into the marathon, a volunteer gave me some water with too much salt.’

Madden’s body kept enticing his brain to stop and resign.

“At Mile 6, my stomach blew up and needed to get to a port-o-potty as soon as possible.  Somehow, I was able to make it, and — OMG — I looked at my watch and figured I would be out on the course for six hours which has never happened before.”

“At the end of the first loop or 8.5 miles, I was a millimeter away from ringing the bell and calling it a day.”

Pulling out is something not typically found in Madden’s vocabulary.

“Somehow, I kept going and started to feel better and was actually running.  At Mile 17, I asked someone if they knew what place I was in and beyond shocked when I learned I was leading by 45 minutes.”

“I kept pushing despite the heat and was grateful for everyone who had hoses out in the front yard and spraying you down as you went by.

Fortunately for Madden, following more than 12 hours on the course, the finish line was near,

“The last 400 yards and getting onto the red carpet was heaven and was truly amazed that I finished this race, despite a super slow time in the marathon of 5:20 with the temperature at the finish at 101 degrees.”

Although his final time was slow by his personal standarfd), Madden learned he would remain No. 1 in the world after seeing the results from all competitors.

“I learned that over 500 people out of 2,000 starters had a DNF or did not finish,” he noted.

Madden’s perseverance directly led to another championship, and to take some time to allow his body to recover.

“The volunteers were incredible and it was so nice to get back to the hotel with Kelly (his wife), take a shower, relax, and watch the Olympics.  This was a day that I will remember for many, many, many years!”

Up next for Madden will be the Ironman 70.3 event which will be held in Salem, Ore., on July 25


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