Loved ones cross the finish line at Canada Ironman

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Lacamas Headhunters Lori and Jason Saunders (left), Stephan Shoemaker (center) and his parents John and Suzi Shoemaker (right) finished the 2011 Ironman Canada.

Conquering an ironman is so much sweeter when you have a loved one to share it with.

Just ask proud Camas parents Suzi and John Shoemaker, and their son Stephan. The trio competed in the 2011 Canada Ironman Aug. 28, in Penticton, B.C. Suzi completed the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run in 12 hours, 35 minutes. Stephan was not far behind at 12:55, and John crossed the finish line in 15:02.

The Shoemakers were part of the Lacamas Headhunters from Camas, Washougal, Vancouver and Brush Prairie who trained for a year together at the Lacamas Swim and Sport facility in Camas. After an exhausting day in 95-degree heat, 30-out-of-the-34 Headhunters crossed the finish line.

“We started together in the water with almost 3,000 other participants,” Suzi Shoemaker said. “I remember this as a touching moment because we hugged and kissed each other, and shared how much we loved our teammates, knowing it would be at least 12 to 13 hours before I saw them, if it all went well.”

Shoemaker and her husband rode alongside each other on their bikes for a while, but she did not see her son after the midway point of the run.

“He was headed into the turnaround, and I was a few miles out of it,” she said. “I was so relieved to see him. There were many ambulances coming and going, and I had no idea if he was in one of them.”

Then, those Shoemaker competitive genes kicked in.

“My heart was very happy to know he was OK,” Suzi said. “However, I also knew he would try to catch up and pass me.”

John Shoemaker stopped on the bike course to help his friend Jason Saunders, of Washougal. Saunders was near exhaustion due to the heat and seemed ready to give up, but John Shoemaker encouraged him and gave him the last of his water. John and Stephan Shoemaker rode alongside Saunders for the last 20 miles of the bike ride, and they all started the run together.

After Saunders found his second wind, it was his turn to help his friend. John Shoemaker has two torn meniscus muscles in his right knee, so he had to walk the final 26.2 miles to the finish line. Saunders did not leave his friend’s side. They walked the rest of the way and completed the race together after 15 hours.

“John saved my life out there,” Saunders said.

When Jason Saunders crossed the finish line, his wife Lori was anxiously waiting for him. She had also finished the race.

“We trained together for this ironman, and developed a respect and friendship for each other,” Suzi Shoemaker said. “We know we will always be there for each other, as Jason and John demonstrated.”

Lisa Wourms of Camas said she would never forget how the event began.

“The swim start was like nothing I’ve ever experienced,” she said. “Thousands of people starting all at once. It was a churning pack of piranhas out there that turned into combat swimming. People crawl all over you to find water to swim in.”

The bike riding and running got much better for Wourms and her friends.

“It was amazing to be in such a huge event and still be able to see so many friendly faces out there,” she said. “I saw almost everyone from our group on the course.”

Wourms’ children Lindsay and Adam were volunteering at the finish line.

“They held the banner when I crossed,” she said. “It was great to be able to share that accomplishment with them.”

Lacamas Headhunters Canada Ironman times: Ian Rogers, Vancouver, 11:00.45; Cara Denver, Vancouver, 11:08.55; Mike Gilbert, Ridgefield, 11:23.55; Alan O’Hara, Vancouver, 11:37.55; Stacey Lake, Vancouver, 12:03.52; Lisa Wourms, Camas, 12:17.12; Anita Burkard, Camas, 12:21.03; Bob Croucher, Brush Prairie, 12:31.52; Suzi Shoemaker, Camas, 12:35.06; Julie Seale, Vancouver, 12:48.56; Stephan Shoemaker, Forest Grove, Ore., 12:55.44; Glen Collins, Washougal, 13:03.11; Gregory Plitt, Brush Prairie, 13:14.10; Cory Duncan, Washougal 13:37.11; Natalie Benzel, Vancouver, 13:40.19; Sondra Grable, Camas, 13:43.42; Karen O’Quinn, Washougal, 13:50.45; Denise Croucher, Camas, 13:59.25; Thomas Wortman, Camas, 14:19.51; Lori Saunders, Washougal, 14:23.06; Terri Anderson, Washougal, 14:31.38; Jeff Macey, Portland, Ore., 14:42.32; Chris Clay, Camas, 14:54.24; Jason Saunders, Washougal, 15:01.09; John Shoemaker, Camas, 15:02.44; Deborah Skalbeck, Vancouver, 15:30.33; Scott Essman, Camas, 15:33.06; Brian Cummins, Vancouver, 15:47.30; Mark Chandaria, Camas, 16:34.06; Denise Edmiston, Vancouver, 16:38.09; and Lisa Engel, Portland, 17:08.