COEUR d'ALENE - Some tweaks here and there, sure, but most things are holding steady.
Ironman Village is an example of the latter, and it went up Wednesday and will be open through the weekend beginning at 9 this morning.
Fifty-two vendors set up shop in City Park until Sunday, offering competitive or casual athletes a crack at top-of-the-line racing gear, not to mention something to eat, until 3 p.m. Monday.
But just south of the set up, at City Beach, is where the changes begin - at least on Sunday.
Gone this year is the mass swim start.
In its place is a new piloted swim start where athletes will filter into the water in self-seeded heats.
The reason for the change is safety.
"You decrease the anxiety level for the swimmers," said Michelle Haustein, Coeur d'Alene volunteer director for World Triathlon Corporation, on why the race changed its popular start. "It's going to spread us out in the water."
Spreading swimmers out in the water means keeping them from swimming on top of each other. The goal of the new method is to prevent football-like contact in the water, while making it easier for lifeguards to spot athletes who might be distressed. It has proven successful at other racing venues, such as Boulder, Colo.
Here's how the new wave will work:
Pros will go at 6 a.m.
Meanwhile, the rest of the athletes will seed themselves in groups according to how long they estimate they'll take to complete the 2.4-mile swim.
Signs marking 60 to 70 minutes, 80 minutes, 90 minutes and so on will be on the beach, and athletes will stand under which one fits their time. From 6:30 to 7 a.m., those heats will start to go in one heat at a time. Around 10 athletes at a time will walk through an arch and hit the water. Their chips will start counting time once they do.
So each athlete will be racing to his or her own clock. Knowing they can ease into the water around athletes of similar swimming ability eases some racers' minds.
"The huge thing is anxiety level. The issues we've had - swimmers are having a hard time breathing, they don't understand - it's all anxiety related," Haustein said. "You don't practice getting swam over, you don't practice getting hit in the face."
But that new wrinkle also changes another Ironman staple - the midnight finisher.
In years past, the whole race began at 7 a.m. and the course shut down at midnight. Crowds would always come out before 12 a.m. and cheer the last person to sneak across the Sherman Avenue finish line in less than 17 hours.
But because a good portion of the 3,000 participants will start before 7 a.m., it means they could finish shortly before midnight but still not qualify as an Ironman because the 17-hour rule still holds up.
Despite that, Race Director Mac Cavasar said they expect the same excitement around the midnight finish.
The only difference is that the crowd and athlete won't know the racer's final result until the next day if it comes down to a final-minute sprint.
A definite twist to how it went down before, but, just like in years past, participants have until the stroke of Monday morning to bustle to the finish line, where the crowd will be waiting.
"We're keeping the course open until midnight," Cavasar said.
Other than that, the 11th year of Ironman Coeur d'Alene appears to be following tradition. To match the 3,000 athletes, the event has 3,300 volunteers signed up to help. And the village? It's still packed with racing brand names like Sugoi and Shimano, not to mention food. Like Pilgrim's Market, which is selling green, vitamin-rich smoothies where the blender is operated by the power generated by, of all things, a bicycle.
Those who order, pedal, explained Sydney Williams, setting up the stand on Wednesday. One minute spinning the wheels gets you one large smoothie. That, and a few dollars.
"Because athletes and healthy food go together," she said.
The village is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but closes Monday at 3 p.m.
COEUR d'ALENE -
The Ironman Foundation Community Fund will give $55,000 in grant funding to nonprofit groups in the Coeur d'Alene community as part of the 2013 Ironman Coeur d'Alene triathlon.
The donations will go to support to nonprofit needs and initiatives within the local community, and with this year's pledge, the foundation has given more than $570,000 since the race landed in the Lake City 11 years ago.
The Salvation Army Kroc Center and the city of Coeur d'Alene community fund will share $25,000 while the remaining $30,000 in grant donations will go to several nonprofit groups whose organizations have a volunteer component, the foundation announced this week.