Coaches' Tips: Coeur d'Alene

150 150 Rich Strauss

With Ironman® Coeur d’Alene this week, athletes competing in the event are eager to learn more about the course and how to approach race day given the unique characteristics of the event: variable weather, a cold swim, hilly bike course, and potentially hot run.

Below is our guidance, earned through our expensive personal and coaching experience with the event:

How Can I Deal with the Cold Water Temps?

Response to cold water is very individual, but if you haven’t already done so, pick up or borrow a neoprene swim cap and try it out in the practice swims. You can also try wearing two caps on race day, to provide extra insulation. Just before the swim start it may help to splash some water in your face, so you know what to expect. But, most importantly, attend one or two of the practice swims so you can experience the chill before race day. Last year the water temp rose from about 53 degrees on Wednesday to 58 degrees on race day so….the lake is a little unpredictable. Bottom line, if the water is cold early in the week but the forecast is for sun for the remainder of the week, the water should warm up a bit for you.

What is the bike course like?

2012 will be the first year of the “new” bike course, and the 3rd bike course in the 10 year history of Ironman® Coeur d’Alene. The first 16 miles of the bike course are unchanged from previous courses: out and back along the lake and through town, with a couple moderately long (less than 1 mile) and gentle hills of about 3-4% grade. The course then turns left on Hwy 95 for another long out and back. Athletes will climb about 1.5 miles at 6-7% to the top of a plateau with rolling hills, flip it and come back. Previous iterations of the bike course featured lots of turns and directions changes, so winds were often not much of a factor…because before long you were going to turn and that headwind would become a cross or tailwind. But the new course will have athletes riding one direction for a long time so we expect the wind to have a greater effect. Our guidance: ride within yourself on the hills and, if you’re doing the right thing, many people should be passing you. That’s a good thing! But also be sure to ride within yourself into any headwinds, staying low on your bike (don’t sit up into the wind), and stay on the gas with any tailwinds.

What is the run course like?

In 2011 the race removed the flat and shaded out and back out of T2 and replaced it with a long climb and some rollers at the far end of the course, along the lake. This is unchanged for 2012. The result is that hardest section of the run – a long climb and rollers – comes at the toughest part of your day – after mile 18 when you are farthest from the finish line. If you haven’t paced yourself well you can give back a LOT of time in this section. Our guidance: during race week, drive out to the start of this hill, park your car and run this section at race pace (or easier!). Make a note of your heart rate, pace, and rate of perceived exertion.  Most importantly, put your head into race day and anticipate the mind vs body debate you’ll experience on this section of the run course. Prepare your rebuttals ahead of time!

What Can My Family Do on Race Day?

The layout of the bike course will have you screaming through town 2x per lap. They can hang out down there. There is a playground next to the lake and a swim beach. Volunteering at an aid station is a great way to see the race.

What’s the Biggest Mistake I Could Make?

Digging your average speed at mile 25 of the bike and then working too hard in the hills to keep it. If you do this, your race is pretty much done by mile 40…you just don’t know it yet.

What is the Temperature Like on Race Day?

Temps for CDA are highly variable, with the weather possibly changing a great deal from day to day. Best to be prepared for a hot day and pay attention to the weather forecast once you’re up there. Note that the cold water temps can affect folks swimming 1:30 or slower, so you might need some warmer gear at least to start the bike.

What’s Your Top Swim Tip?

How about two? First, line up in the center, or the right of center. Seed yourself about 2′ faster than your expected time. Second, at the turn to parallel the beach, sight off the top of the hill in front of you (or you’ll be looking directly into the sun).

What’s Your Top Bike Tip?

You’re basically warming up until about mile 40 of the bike. Don’t worry, the hammerheads will come back to you or you’ll see them on the run. The bike course is very unforgiving and they will pay, don’t worry.

What’s Your Top Run Tip?

Run very easy for the first 6 miles, then settle into your pace, preparing for the real race that starts at mile 18. At mile 18, put your head down and get it done. Count the number of people you’re passing and keep your head in the game. You can do anything for 8 miles!

Additional Resources

Four Keys Pre-Race Talk

Rich Strauss will be at the race to support the 30+ TeamEN athletes racing this year, and to deliver the FREE Four Keys of Race ExecutionPre-Race Talk to the public. The talk will be on Saturday, 10am, meet on the “grassy knoll” by the swim start.. Look for Rich in an Endurance Nation jersey with TeamEN flag.

Interested in learning more about how to race the Iron distance?

Take our Ironman® Triathlon Execution Seminar: everything you need to know about how to race Ironman® in 7 FREE lessons! And we’ll even send you a FREE copy of our Four Keys of Race ExecutionDVD, a $37 value!


  • ard

    These are great tips.  I wish I had seen them before race day.   Even though I knew enough to not completely blow myself up on the bike I would have had more gas in the tank for the hills on the second lap if I had been more patient on the first set of hills and back-to-town headwinds (which were worse on the second lap).

  • Francie Van Wirkus

    This tip resonates with many races, including IM WI, whether it is a furnace-hot day or a mild one. Those who don’t follow this advice? see you on the run…

    “You’re basically warming up until about mile 40 of the bike. Don’t worry, the hammerheads will come back to you or you’ll see them on the run. The bike course is very unforgiving and they will pay, don’t worry.”

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