'The Scenic Challenge'

Coeur d'Alene Triathlon and Duathlon

A Coeur d'Alene triathlon competitor dumps a glass of water on his head to cool down as he starts the 10 kilometer run, the third and final leg of the 29th annual Coeur d'Alene Triathlon.

COEUR d'ALENE - Last year, Annie Warner flipped over her bicycle handlebars at 25 miles per hour during a triathlon in Buffalo, N.Y., and broke her back.

Doctors told her afterward the professional racer was done with racing for a while - a long while.

"I was lucky not to need surgery or anything, and that I wasn't paralyzed, so I'm thankful," the Nine Mile Falls, Wash., resident said.

But for months she wore a brace to keep her immobilized.

Torture for an athlete used to running, swimming and biking.

"I was on the couch for three months," she said. "I had to hold still, which isn't easy for me to do."

Saturday, quicker than her doctors expected, Warner was not only racing again, but winning, clocking just over two hours as the fastest female during the 29th annual Coeur d'Alene Triathlon and Duathlon.

"It feels good to come back," she said after crossing the finish line at City Park, one of her first races since the accident. "It just reminded me how much I like doing this."

Hundreds of racers participated in the summer tradition, nicknamed "The Scenic Challenge" for the picturesque landscape across which the course travels.

The 1.5 kilometer swim launched from City Beach, followed by the 40k bike ride along Coeur d'Alene Lake Drive, a scenic route along the lakefront that leads up to Mullan Trail Road for a challenging and forested uphill climb. It finished with a 10k run through town.

"I love racing over here," said Matt Seeley, former pro from Montana who took top male honors running in the 40 and over bracket with a time around the two-hour mark. It's one of his favorite courses because, just as the name suggests, it's scenic and challenging.

"I felt good the whole way," he said. "I was surprised, because I wasn't sure" about the hills on the bike course.

Official results weren't posted by deadline, but they will be available at www.cdatriathlon.com, under 'Races.'

Nate Birdsall, of Coeur d'Alene, was one of the top local finishers.

He clipped through the course after spending two days hiking Mount Whitney, in California. It was a pilgrimage that left him sore even before the race began. Still, he wasn't going to miss a race "on the best course," he said, because of a little tightness. But the race took its own toll, too.

"I pretty much passed out when I crossed the finish line," he said.

But the race, which featured team racing too, wasn't all about top flight runners. Lots of people took to the course out of sheer joy, results be darned.

Like Jim Ford, of Spokane, who didn't get into racing shape until he found a girlfriend who introduced it to him a little while back.

His first stabs at triathlons were rough goes, but Saturday's run felt better than ever.

"I was quite pleased," he said of his race, which he measured by how quickly he plowed through the swim and bike ride most of all. "I was just flying and I didn't get passed. You can't beat that."

And they're off! The first wave of the Coeur d'Alene Triathlon jumps into Lake Coeur d'Alene.


Matt Seeley, of Montana, runs across the finish line.

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