This weekend was a hard three days of training for my upcoming Ironman Coeur d'Alene race.  Spending as much time as I can learning the bike and run courses ... bummed that Lake Coeur d'Alene was way too cold to test out the waters.  The bike and run courses are going to be tough.  You don't really know by just looking at the route map and queue sheet on the Ironman website.

It's going to be a good challenge.

Day 0
Getting the legs ready for the pain, and stretch everything out from the 4 hour car ride.

Riding out to Hayden Lake.  Getting through town was a little sketchy ... mainly riding on N. Government Way where the bike lane ends, and you enter a fairly busy four lane road, with cars going at a pretty high speed.  I'm sure there's probably a better approach to Hayden then taking that road, but this was the route provided by one of the coaches of the training camp.

Once you get through Hayden, and out into the open space sprinkled with farms, homes, and absolutely gorgeous wilderness.  The views out there were amazing.  I also had the joy of running into (well not physically running into, haha) some wildlife; deer, wild turkeys, and some wild animal out in an open field (it was mid size, and either black or brown ... too far to really see for sure.)

The ride isn't particularly challenging, a few good climbs, and some really fast down hills.

The weather on Friday was fantastic.  Some good cloud cover giving some protection from the sun, and in the mid 70's.  Perfect cycling weather really.  I couldn't ask for conditions to be any better.

A fun little route, and experience.  I think next time I'm going to just go around Hayden Lake, I'm sure that would be beautiful.

Day 1
The weather turns for the worse, and takes its toll on the group...

The official start of training camp.  Saturday was all about the bike course, and getting familiar with it.  It was also a brick (doing a bike ride and then immediately a run) day for me.

I don't think I've ever experience a drastic change of weather in my life.  Yesterday it was beautiful and in the mid 70's.  Saturday's forecast showed for overcast and mid 50's ... so naturally I dressed for that expected weather.  Well, it never reached the 50's, in fact it barely broke into the 40's ๐Ÿ˜ฆ, and rain.  Talk about complete opposite, and it caught a lot of people at the training camp off guard, me included.

Let's just say it wasn't optimal conditions to be riding a bike, or really to do anything.  The weather didn't show the need for winter cycling gear, so I didn't bring any ... ugh.  Also didn't help that I forgot my "water proof" shoe covers at the hotel ๐Ÿ˜ข.

None of that was going to stop me from at least getting one loop of the bike course done.  I was originally planning to do the full two loops, but the camp as a whole pretty much decided to shut things down after one loop.  Thank you god, haha!

Coming into the camp, I was already familiar with the first 13 miles of the course, from a previous cycling trip I did in Coeur d'Alene.  So I knew what I was getting into in the opening miles, and didn't really have any surprises.  The Higgins climb, and turn around was exactly how it was when I first rode it.

The rest of the course, I was going into blind.  I didn't expect it to be as hilly as it was.  Sure, pulling up the the route map and elevation profile on the Ironman's website will tell you stuff, but you don't really realize what that info is telling you until you're actually riding it, haha!

Majority of the ride is on Highway 95, and that's where most of the climbs are for the entire route.  It really reminded me of the last 100 miles of the Seattle to Portland bike ride.  Not super technical climbs, just (at least it felt like) never ending climbs and rollers, the entire way out to the turn around - we moved the turn around up a little mainly for safety since we would have to cross an entire highway for the return.  Obviously on race day, half the highway will be closed, making it a lot safer.  Coming back from the turn around, it didn't feel as endless climbs and rollers as coming out.  On the return back to town, you can recover a good amount of energy, or push a little bit to make up more time on the descent.  I enjoyed the downhills, you can really open things up ... easily pushing into the mid 30's to 40 mph.  Can't wait to try those downhills on a closed road!  It was a good learning experience, and it also showed that I can do some minimal attacking on the climbs ๐Ÿ™‚.  

By the Highway 95 turn around my feet were ice cubes.  I couldn't feel my feet, or my peddles, and putting power down instantly brought pain.  Pretty much the only way to know I still had feet was to look down at them, haha!  There was a slight thought that I could muscle through a second loop, but after going to the Higgins turn around I knew my day was done, and it was all about nursing back to my car.

I spent a good few minutes sitting in my car with the heater on full blast pointing to my feet, but that didn't really do anything.  So why not get my running shoes on the feet I can't feel and go run.  I was supposed to go for six miles, but that didn't happen, haha.  I at least did 3 miles.  I couldn't feel my feet, or the ground when my feet landed.  Let's just say it wasn't my best run ๐Ÿ˜„.

Day 2
Great weather returns, and ending camp strong!

The last day of camp ๐Ÿ™.  The last day of any group function like this is a bit of a bummer ... meeting so many new people, learning so much about triathlon's and Ironman's.  Just having other like minded athletes to train with is always fun and motivating.

Today was all about learning the run course, but not before a little group swim.

Training for Ironman Coeur d'Alene has introduced me to swimming, something before I started I've never really done before.  So it's been a learning experience for me.  Today's swim was just another stage of new stuff.  All my swim training has been by myself, in my own lane (occasionally needing to share it with someone else.)  I've never swam with more than a handful of other swimmers in the same lane.  Not going to lie, it threw off my game big time ... not to mention also being in a different pool, etc...  Choppy water, splashing interrupting your breathing, dealing with different swim paces, etc...  Eye opening, and a good learning experience.  I need more training in a group setting, as well as in the open water.

After the swim, a few of us made our way to the Coeur d'Alene City Park, and walked the start/finish, and transition areas.  We then went off on the run.  Some had different workout goals, I needed to complete 14 miles on the run course, just around one and a half loops of the three loop course.

Each loop is about 8.6ish miles, give or take a few.  Where the second/third loop begins was a bit difficult to see with out it being marked like it will be on race day.  But, it's about that.

The only challenging areas I found was mostly getting through the neighborhoods to get to W Coeur d'Alene Lake Drive.  Granted most of that challenge was simply because nothing was marked, and I hard to rely on my preloaded route on my Garmin Fenix3.  So, it was a lot of distractions looking at my watch, pulling up the bread crumb trail map, etc...  Side note, I really wish the Fenix3 did turn-by-turn navigation.  That would have alleviated most of my distractions in that area.

Once you hit W Coeur d'Alene Lake Drive, you get a pretty steady incline with a pretty moderate grade ... I think it peaks at about 1.7/1.8%.  Not too terrible, but if you go too hard I can see it kicking your butt.  Coming back on the same climb on the return to town is a different story.  The elevation profile is slightly different coming back.  It's a little fooling.  While running it didn't really look that much different, but reviewing the Strava data, it is a lot steeper.  Getting to about 4.5% grade at one point.  Thankfully, it's much shorter ... sadly it's a bit of a misleading kicker.

Going back through the neighborhoods, you encounter a couple of short, "steep" inclines.  Nothing too terrible, but if caught off guard, could cause some problems.  For me personally, I think this area on the return is going to make or break my run, so I'll need to adjust my training a little to be better prepared.

So pretty much getting through the neighborhood, and W Coeur d'Alene Drive, are the two major things to look at and prepare for on the run ... In my opinion of course.

Another take away I had from the run course was the views.  On the bike, you can easily miss the views.  But, on the run, you get the opportunity to take in all the beauty Coeur d'Alene has to offer.  Fantastic views of the lake, beaches, downtown.  Simply stunning.  It can either hurt you by distracting you, or help you ignore the pains of doing an Ironman ๐Ÿ™‚.

Take aways

If you aren't incorporating climbing in your bike/run training, you are going to be in a great deal of hurt come race day ... unless of course you are the well trained triathlon machine, haha.  Seriously, it's hilly.  If you aren't throwing in hills with a decent amount of gradual climbs and rollers, you should be.  Coming out of this training camp I totally need to adjust my bike/run routes to incorporate more climbing.  Even more so for me, because I'm not use to riding your traditionally heavy triathlon bikes.  Before training for this Ironman, all my riding have been on a super lite S-Works Tarmac.

Starting elevation ... I live and train at or below sea level.  Coeur d'Alene, ID isn't at sea level, and that may or may not cause a problem.  Your starting each stage at about 2,000+ feet.  This effects people differently.  I know when I first road in Coeur d'Alene, it was a factor for me.  I noticed a performance dip.  Luckily at this training camp, my second time riding in Coeur d'Alene, it was less of a factor.  I would occasionally experience that sensation of, 'hey there isn't the same amount of oxygen available like I'm used to.'  This is hard to incorporate into your training, unless you happen to live close to areas that closely match Coeur d'Alene's altitude.  There's a few areas near me that can match it, so I'll have to plan a few road trips in the coming months.

Unpredictable headwinds.  It's annoying, and there's nothing you can really do about it.  It seems like it changes directions on the fly.  If you roll with deep aero wheels on your bike, it can give you a couple of scares ... blowing you across the road.  Just something to keep in mind.  If one of your training rides/runs happens to have windy conditions, maybe don't skip that workout, and get out there.

After talking to a few locals about the race day, I got a lot of the same responses ... 'It's fucking hot in August.'  I guess last years race the temperature hit into the 100's and higher, and it seemed to be the same story for the year before that.  Awesome.  Now I can deal with heat, but once it breaks 100, it's a different ballgame, for me at least.  So that's something to keep in mind, and not really sure how to prepare for that beyond training in extreme heat conditions.  Sadly, here in western Washington, it doesn't really get that hot in June or July.  Might have to make a few trips to eastern Washington.

Specifically in our group, Highway 95 on the bike was torture for peoples tires/tubes.  Many people encountered multiple flats on this stretch of road.  I'm not sure if the race organizers clean the course prior to race day, but you should probably carry the necessary equipment to fix a flat.

In a funny way, I kind of wish I picked Ironman Arizona for my first ever Ironman.  That course looks WAY more flat ๐Ÿ˜.  Oh well, I'm never the one to back down from a challenge, and I love (hate actually) climbing.

Happy training!