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Paul Huddle Coeur D’Alene Q&A—Tips For Your First Ironman Triathlon

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Triathlete magazine intern, Hunter Reed, is in the field, preparing for Ironman Coeur d’Alene. We tasked him with a couple of Q&As. His first victim? Paul Huddle.

By Hunter Reed

During my time up here in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, preparing for tomorrow’s race, I had the chance to catch up with Ironman legend Paul Huddle. Paul calmed my nerves with some tips for race day, and we chatted about what’s going on in his life.

What is your most memorable race and why?

I wouldn’t say there is a most memorable race, but if you started going through the stories, you would get 20 to 50 of those most memorable events. It usually wasn’t based on performance, but those weird things; I was more captured by some of the races in Japan, where really odd things happened—such as shooting bottle rockets at the hotel and getting busted with Tinley. Or, when an old lady on her bike with one of those big straw hats was riding by us, and Todd Jacobs told her, “Wow, you had a really great swim!”

As a coach, what is your biggest piece of advice for someone doing their first Ironman?

Patience. Ironman can get overwhelming if you’re coming to it for the first time. You may not be prepared for the hype of race week and the last couple days, picking up gear, et cetera. There’s a lot more room for nervousness, which all crescendos when the gun goes off, and somehow people get in their minds that they are going to be the second coming of Lance Armstrong and go way too hard too early and blow themselves up. Pace yourself, and make it feel easy, especially early in the first half of the day. There is no way to convey to somebody the difference in pacing if they have never experienced the pace of an Ironman. It’s a totally different ball game; you need to make it feel too easy.

How did you get your start in the sport of triathlon and then transition into Ironman?

When I started, the whole sport was so new and young, no one knew anything about it. I came from a swimming background, and was a little burnt out on that. In high school I played team sports and, because of a football injury, I started running. I was really captivated by the marathon. I thought that I was a 100-pound Kenyan, but didn’t realize that I was 160 pounds, 6’2 tall, and white. Swimming and running laid the foundation [for triathlon]. When I started college, I had three goals: I wanted to ride my bike across the country, do the Western States 100, and do an Ironman. It seems that I got stuck with the Ironman for 20 years of that process.

I’m 21 and my dad is 50; Cour d’Alene is our first Ironman. Any advice?

Young guy better beat his dad! But it’s really the same for both; don’t expect anything different on race day than in training. If it’s your first time, take off your watch and your speedometer and just go on feel, because a headwind can ruin things.