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Finish with a smile

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | June 23, 2010 9:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - After four years of volunteering with Ironman Coeur d'Alene, Amber Hartman decided she had had enough.

She was tired of watching others swim, bike and run.

"Why be on the sidelines?" she thought. "I don't want to be on the sidelines anymore."

So come Sunday, the 22-year-old will be in the game, along with 2,500 others. She won't be relying on experience to get her through the 2.4-mile swim, the 112-mile bike ride and the 26.2-mile run.

Her longest competitive run is 13.1 miles. She has never completed a triathlon. She hasn't biked the course. Two years ago, she couldn't swim.

But rest assured Hartman isn't rushing in. As is her style, she did her research. She is a believer in the power of positive thinking. And absolutely, she has the guts to try.

"I definitely looked into it. I knew it would not be easy by any means," she said, smiling. "I just wanted to make sure that when I get to the day, more than anything it's going to be fun and enjoyable. I don't want it to be painful or scary."

The daughter of Karl and Loretta Hartman of Coeur d'Alene has reasons for her unabashed optimism and enthusiasm as she tackles what is considered one of the most demanding events around.

She knows how to get things done. Consider her background:

She graduated from Lake City High School with honors in 2006, attended Carroll College in Helena, Mont., where she also graduated in May with honors, earning a degree in biology with a minor in chemistry.

She is an EMT with Montana Medical Transport based in Helena.

She is also a personal fitness trainer at Carroll College and works at a pilates studio in downtown Helena.

Wait, there's more.

She's pursuing a career in orthopedic surgery and sports medicine.

All that adds up to Hartman's knowledge of the science and the psychology that drive the engines of the human body and mind.

"Knowing physically what your body can do and what it can adapt to and the limits you have to watch out for, that helps," she said. "How to get more power out of your legs, the most endurance out of your body."

Hartman also has a family's support.

Her father paddled along in his canoe last weekend while his daughter went for a swim in Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Her mom "looked up every type of energy bar you can eat, every type of electrolyte drink you can have, what types of salts, sugars, everything you're supposed to have."

Mom also checked on the best type of shoes and talked to marathon runners about what fuels work best.

Her brother, A.J., got her a pass to a health club so she could train in the pool while home.

And sister Amanda initially planned to do the Ironman Coeur d'Alene with Amber, but had to pull out due to an ailing knee.

"My family's support has been great," Amber said.

She also did the work, training up to 20 hours a week, grinding out 100 mile bike rides, three-hour runs and endless laps in the pool.

While not wild about biking and swimming, she's definitely a runner.

"I think the running is so much fun," Amber said. "Just to get out and run. It's just you and the pavement and nothing else."

Miles and hours of sweat aside, Hartman will have one more thing on her side Sunday: Attitude.

Success on race day, she says, will come down to the mental more than the physical

"I want to get off the bike and put on the running shoes and be totally psyched to run 26.2 miles," she said. "I wanted to have my training so race day, I would be able to end with a smile and run with everybody and just be chitchatting and having a good time."

A good time? A good time racing 140.6 miles? Chitchatting and smiling?

Amber Hartman just might pull it off.

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