The Ironman coeur d’alene Race Course
By Coach Mike Ricci
In June 2004, I went to ID to watch IM coeur d’alene. What a great experience it is to watch athletes battle all the way to the finish. First I will break down the course and then explain my thoughts on how to race it.
I always leave an Ironman with an incredible amount of motivation to apply all that I learned. While it may seem to be a hilly course, I think this is somewhat based on what geographic region you are from. Coming from CO, this was a pretty flat course, and therefore pretty fast. Some of my athletes from the West Coast thought it was one of the hillier courses they have done before. While reading my synopsis, please take into that I am coming from one of the hillier parts of the country.
I arrived on Thursday and swam one loop of the swim course. It was bit choppy and the water was cool, but the right temperature for a full suit. On Friday I rode the bike course, which initially I thought was somewhat hilly. After I rode the course, I drove it. And that gave me another perspective, which was that the course was pretty flat and fast. Still unconvinced, I rode the course again (backwards this time) on Sunday just to get another perspective of what the course was all about. Here is my breakdown:
Swim: The swim had a wider beach start in 2004, then in 2003, which helped, but it?s still a tight start. The course is clockwise and it can get choppy when the temps rise and the winds pick up. There are 100m flags on the course if you feel the need to look at your watch to see if you are on pace. It?s a 2 loop course.
Bike: From miles 1-19 ? pretty flat with a few rollers, and some turns. There is nothing to get out of the saddle over, just a sustained effort over the hills. From miles 20-25 this is where the hills are! First set of hills are up and down, but once again, nothing to get out of the saddle. After the first set of hills you turn left and into the big hardest hills of the day are, but as long as you are patient and conserve energy you will be AOK. Gearing on these hills? For someone looking to go 5:40 or better on the bike, I would suggest a 12×25 and for anyone slower then that, try a 12×27 ? you will need it. Just stay on your seat and spin comfortably. From 25-40 there are a few rollers, some paved bike trails, and some wind, but nothing that you can?t be in the aero position for. The last 16 miles are flat to downhill, nothing challenging, and you can certainly have a solid cadence here with a low HR, but be moving at a relatively fast clip. The course repeats itself again over the same course for lap #2. The hills that were easy on the first loop will certainly be more challenging on the second loop ? especially at mile 81 ? where the last bit of climbing occurs ? there will be some wind after this section but nothing too bad. If you paced yourself, you are still sitting and spinning up these hills. Continue to stay aero on the flats and save yourself time. Sit up if you have to, but you are giving away time. This is the time to be disciplined.
The run: the run starts out heading along the water front on a narrow path for a few hundred meters ? once you hit the street, it?s shaded and you can certainly start out too fast on this section. Calm yourself and control your HR. This out/back section is about 1 mile out/1 mile back ? then you come back through the crowds and head up the first slight upgrade. You will hit mile 3 here and then you run down for a bit, turn some corners, another slight uphill, more downhill and then mostly flat until right before you reach the turnaround which is an slight grade up. You turn around and re-trace your steps back to town, and now there are some uphill sections. Be patient the first 10k, and on the return trip, just roll up the hills and save heart beats, it?s not the time to push it just yet. Heading out on the second loop, you are pumped due to the crowds and you ?only? have 13.1 miles to go. Once you get past mile 17 or so, you realize that you are alone and it?s just you and your thoughts. This is the time to stay strong and focus on nutrition, HR, pace etc. Keep your thoughts off the pain in your legs, mind and body. It?s just pain. The last 10k are tough due to those hills again, but since you are about to become an Ironman, you need to earn it. Once you crest 25.5 miles, it?s a downhill shot to the finish.
My thoughts on racing this course: Depending on experience of course, the swim should be done at a steady effort, nothing too taxing and certainly not at LT. Moderate steady is appropriate for most. Once on the bike, settle in the first few miles, get your stomach settled and Heart Rate down. By mile 18, be ready for those upcoming hills. Be strong on the hills, spin up them, and focus on cadence ? stay aero on the flats and slight rollers. Eat every 15 minutes. Drink often. Keep the HR in check. Smooth pedaling. Keep repeating these thoughts to yourself. On the second loop at about mile 65, start to bear down, as you need to get through those hills again. Stay down if you can and continue to spin up these hills. Keep your focus the last 20 plus miles and continue to hydrate and spin, keep those legs loose. Once you hit the run, relax and think about nice form, a low HR, and getting in some calories. The run isn?t very hard, but it?s hard and those hills can get you on the 2nd loop if you don?t pace the bike or the first run loop well. Pace yourself on the bike and 1st loop of the run, if I don?t say it one hundred times, I haven?t said it enough.
Overall it?s great course and it has beautiful scenery. Prepare by training on hills with shallow grades and hills with steep hills, on both the bike and the run. This course has a little bit of everything, so be prepared!
The story of 393: I have an athlete that I coach, let?s call him Sean, and have been coaching for two years. I met Sean right before he finished his first ironman in 2002 in 13:01 ? the Vineman. Last year, he went to coeur d’alene and didn?t finish. It wasn?t lack of training b/c Sean trains hard. It was lack of pacing that finished him. This year I had Sean work on his cadence on the bike, and of course his bike volume ? lots and lots of bike volume. We did two-three cycles of biking specific training. He hated me during it, but loved his fitness during the race. Taking someone from 13:01 to 12:01 in an IM is big undertaking, and I am not tooting my own horn here, just spewing the facts. An hour improvement would mean a 30 minute improvement in both the bike and run if there were no improvement in the swim. Sean worked his butt off and it paid off on race day, but more importantly he learned how to pace himself. His swim was around 1:10, he biked 6:12 ? never getting out of his seat and he spun up every hill at 80+ RPMS ? and he ran a 3:55. Sean finished in 11:31? an incredible improvement! The most important fact that I think people miss is how big the number 393 is?which is the number of people Sean passed on the run! Think about the fact that he passed almost 20% of the field at some point over 3:55 ? it goes to show you what patience can accomplish.