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A perfect day - and night, too He made it!

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | June 29, 2010 9:00 PM

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Thomas Scheer, from Ann Arbor, Mich., was the last Ironman participant to cross the finish line before the midnight cutoff. Scheer, who missed the cutoff by four minutes last year, completed the triathlon with a time of 16 hours, 55 minutes and 26 seconds.

COEUR d'ALENE - Not this time.

Not with 17:04:20 written on his hand as a constant reminder of last year.

Not even with a bloody, blistered foot.

This time, Thomas Scheer reached the finish line of Ironman Coeur d'Alene on Sunday before the midnight cutoff - with a few minutes to spare.

"It's awesome," the Ann Arbor, Mich., man said as he hobbled away from the medical tent about 20 minutes after completing the race in 16 hours, 55 minutes and 26 seconds, the final to finish and earn the official title of an Ironman.

Last year, he missed it by 4 minutes and 20 seconds, the end of a cold, disappointing day in the Lake City.

"I was tired and really sad and bummed out," he said. "This year, I was tired and really happy."

Scheer has already completed the 140.6-mile race in Florida, Wisconsin, Lake Placid and Arizona, and hopes to do all the Ironmans in North America. Coeur d'Alene was No. 5, and it was one of the toughest for the 38-year-old business student.

The 2.4-mile swim went well in 1:37:54, except for the usual battle in the water.

"I was kicked in the face one time. I was karate chopped in the face one time," he said. "Other than that, pretty good."

The 112-mile bike "was awesome" as Scheer stuck to the splits and goals he had written on his arm beforehand. He took it easy on the uphills, and went hard on the downhills and flats.

"It went perfect," he said. "I did exactly what I wanted to do.

On the run, he put on his customary kilt in honor of his Scottish brother, and his camouflage hat in honor of his military friends who died. For 9 miles, he felt strong. Then came the blisters.

"My feet just really hurt, my ankle hurt. And I just power walked the next 17 miles," he said. "I felt good, but I was hurting."

He was covering the course at 4 mph, then slowed to 3. And with an hour to midnight, he was still 3 miles out.

"So I just picked up the pace a little bit. I was worried," Sheer said. "I looked at the watch a lot."

Volunteers remembered him from last year, recalled that he didn't make it in time, and urged him on.

"They were like 'Dude, you've got to finish on time this year,' so they were pushing me. That felt really cool," he said, laughing.

Coming down the stretch on Sherman Avenue, the finish line lights in sight, Scheer heard the crowd's roar and willed himself to run despite a "bunch of big blisters" on his left foot that made each step hurt.

All told, he kept his feet moving for 7 hours, 46 minutes and 24 seconds to cover the final 26.2 miles.

"I knew I shouldn't be running, but I started running," he said. "You just have to run it in."

Scheer, who will next compete in Ironman Louisville in August, said he first saw Ironman on TV when he was 12.

"Always thought it would be something cool to do," he said.

Later, he owned a pizza restaurant and his weight ballooned to 350 pounds. He knew he had to cut the fat for fitness.

"I started doing triathlons to get back in shape. Once I started doing triathlons I said, 'You know what? I think I can make my Ironman goal come through.'"

As the 6 foot, 3 inch Scheer slowly shuffled away from the recovery area about 12:30 a.m. Monday, his left foot was bandaged, a pizza box was balanced in his left hand, hat and shoes in his right. He stopped and glanced toward the finish line already being dismantled.

Erased was the memory of last year's just-miss finish. In its place was a day of sunshine, cheers, and reaching the end with 4 minutes and 34 seconds to spare.

"It's a really good day," he said.

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