With Ironman Coeur d'Alene just around the corner, 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 extensive 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.
In 2009, 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 Can I Expect From the Bike Course?
2012 will be the first year of the "new" bike course, and the third 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 to 4 percent grade. The course then turns left on Hwy 95 for another long out and back. Athletes will climb about 1.5 miles at 6 to 7 percent 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 longer periods of time so we expect the wind to have a greater effect.
Our advice: ride your own pace on the hills and, if you're doing the right thing, many people should be passing you. That's a good thing! Also be sure to ride your own pace into the 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 remains unchanged for 2012. The result is that the 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.