Race Course and Venue Review - IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene - Guest Post by Michael Kraft
When I started triathlon years ago, I always knew I wanted to do an Ironman. In 2015, I signed up for Ironman Coeur d’Alene (CdA) because it was close. I didn’t have to buy a plane ticket, and it was easy to travel to Idaho so I figured, ‘eh. It’s Idaho, but what the heck?’ When I arrived in CdA, I was blown away by what an incredible city it is. Downtown sits right on Lake Coeur d’Alene, which is massive. The resort towers over the lake and the transition area making this resort town one of the best on the circuit. I never thought I would call any town in Idaho a resort town, but believe me when I say that Coeur d’Alene, Idaho should be on your list for next season. Let’s break it down a bit.
First of all, the setup of this race is exceptional. One of my frustrations with some races is having to drive my bike 70 miles outside of town to one transition before the race, drop off my running gear the morning of, then ride a bus yet another 70 miles to get to the swim start. It may seem like a small inconvenience, but there is nothing better than checking in your bike and gear right at the swim start and picking it all up the next day. The convenience of the transition is only outdone by the surplus of volunteers making sure everything is perfect. In CdA this year, there were 3000 volunteers and 1600 athletes. They have to turn people away or split shifts to accommodate all of the people willing to help.
The course itself is solid. The swim start begins right at City Beach and is a 2 loop out and back course. The giant steps provide a perfect place for your fans to sit and take pictures while you roll into the water. Instead of a mass start, the race has a rolling start during which athletes seed themselves into their timing corrals. It’s a lot less chaotic in the water, and there is a calmer environment for beginners but the ever-present ability to fight with your neighbor in the water for the veterans. Two tents await you in transition, which allow those wishing to change completely to do so. The whole transition is surrounded with people cheering for you like a pro as you exit onto Sherman for the bike.
The bike course in Coeur d’Alene is also a two-loop figure eight that starts with an amazing view of the lake. The first lap through town gives you the perfect boost of energy as you head out onto the highway and 3,000 feet of climbing. The big part of each loop is pretty tough with quite a bit of climbing, but it’s just slight enough that it’s bearable even to the newest athlete, and the views trump the heavy breathing you’ll endure most of the way up the mountain. Plus, at every peak comes a large downhill and with it free speed. You just have to earn it. T2 happens in the same place back through the same tent before you make your way out onto the three loop run course.
Bike Aid Stations:
Clif Shot Energy Gels
Clif Bloks Energy Chews
Clif Bar Minis
The run is my favorite. After leaving City Park, athletes make their way down past the Lake for a nice 4-mile out and back on paved trail. As you wind through neighborhoods and down along the water, you can’t help but take in the views as you try to ignore the pain seeping into your legs. It makes it a little easier, but not much because that pain is coming. Each lap the electricity gets more and more intense in the crowd. Yesterday’s volunteers sit along the course cheering you on. Before they can even ask, the shout, “Hey! This is lap 2 for you! You’re on lap 3! Just a few more miles to go!”
Run Aid Stations: (click links for description)
Clif Bar Mini's
Clif Shot Gels
The finish line of Ironman Coeur d’Alene though is the absolute best. I know that everybody thinks their finish line is the best, but turning onto Sherman Avenue is unlike anything else I have ever experienced. The sound is deafening from the time the winner crosses until the last finisher of the night. On average, 90% of the crowd loses its voice, and that statistic can be backed by over 17 minutes of research. The feeling that you get crossing the finish line in Coeur d’Alene can’t be summed up in words so you’ll need to go experience it yourself.
Now for the hard truth because I know you’re asking ‘what’s the catch?’ and there is totally a catch. It’s hard. Like really hard. In 2015, I was defeated by a temperature of 109 degrees. Someone told me that they measured the pavement on the bike course at 127, and I didn’t bother to look into it because I wanted to tell everybody that it was true. Who knows? But it was brutal. In 2016, the headwind on the bike course was what I would describe as ‘annoying,’ but I’m from Montana so I train in the wind everyday. They say that 2014 was like a hurricane, and so people claim that 2016 was the ultimate combo of 2014 and 2015.
But here’s the other thing. When I raced in Palm Springs last year the water was 57 degrees. A certain coach of mine was hypothermic getting out of the water. It sucked. In Texas a few months before, I rode on about 40 miles of chip seal. The woman behind me got annihilated by a construction sign that fell on her. In St. George, it rained the entire time and was under 50 degrees, which was miserable. It took me 7 minutes to tie my shoein transition. In Raleigh, they had us swim in a lake that my Uncle later informed me has about three deaths by drowning each summer. I wasn’t entirely surprised based on the chop in the water. The point is every race, Ironman or not, is going to have battles. I can say without a doubt that Coeur d’Alene is my best race experience to date. It is my goal each year to find new places to race, but something about this town pulls me back. If you’re looking for an awesome place to swim, bike, and run next year, put Coeur d’Alene on your calendar.
About the author:
Mike is an Age Group triathlete currently serving in the United States Air Force. He currently resides in Montana.
He is coached by Paul Duncan with Outrival Racing, and he enjoys soup.
Check out his blog. HERE.