A Slow Age Grouper’s Experience on the New Ironman Couer d’Alene Bike Course

I’m just going to skip over the poetic excuses and call it like it is. Life has been way too busy lately. For the first time in a long time, I’ve had those lunches when I feel it would much easier to stay and finish another paper or chart instead of hitting the pool. And if you know me, that means I’m really being clobbered by work and school.

Alas, suffering through these challenges is the spice of life. And I like spice. So, before hitting the sack, I thought I would get a post out, especially with the time sensitive nature of the topic at hand: the new Ironman Coeur d’Alene bike course.

Okay, disclaimers. (I am physician and thus a master of disclaiming). When it comes to Ironman, I am a middle/slightly back of middle of the pack type of guy. I’m a fairly slow rider and that background is my basis for this review of the course. So I’ll  call this post the “slow age grouper’s preview of the IM CDA bike course.” Warning, the IM CDA course review may not be for everyone. Serious side effects include boredom, flatulence….oh wait, sorry, got stuck in my groove.

Okay, now that I have that out of way, let’s get rolling. I met up with my buddy Michael at CDA the first weekend of May. Both of us have done the IM CDA twice, in 2009 and 2011. That was the old course. The course I hated. Look, there was nothing really wrong about the communities and landscape we went through. I just found it kind of boring. I especially didn’t like the part through Government Way. Nothing says fun like strip malls. It had been sunny and warm all week, so naturally, it was a steamy 42 degrees when we started. I have to also give a quick shout out to my buddy and his patience. Of course, I forgot my helmet and I didn’t realize it until 30 minutes before our planned start time. Major FACEPALM. It was painful facepalm too as I had no head protection. Anyhow, after an hour delay, I was able to pick up a new one and off we went.

As prior, the course is still two loops. The initial portion of the course that heads out along Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive to Higginspoint is the same. This was my favorite part of the course. In the morning, it is a good time to get settled in. There a few rollers on this section, but nothing too memorable. As you’re rolling along the lake, the wind has the potential of picking up pretty bad. That will all depend on what Mother Nature has in store for you on race day.

It’s after you head back into down CDA when the majestic new fun starts. Instead of heading north to Hayden, which is pretty sick of us triathletes, you now head south. After passing transition, you will head north west on, who would have thought, Northwest Boulevard. It’s a slight grade up along this road, but not really a hill by any means. From there, you will go up a highway on ramp to get on US-95. I imagine there is going to be an interesting jumble of people at this section on the first lap. After you turn onto US-95, you will cross a bridge that goes over the lake. Be careful here as the pavement is a little rough in sections.

Garmin Profile

After that, it’s into the real hills. The new portion of the course is basically 20 miles out and 20 miles back. After a brief downhill into Cougar Bay, there is a short flat. Get ready here, because its pain time soon. The first hill starts here and is about one mile long with roughly 530 feet of gain per my Garmin. In the old course, there were frequent short hills with some intermittent steep grades. The climbing is totally different in this course. The grade isn’t too bad. It just takes a while. What’s more, the first climb is one of those hills with sweeping vistas. In other words, you get the demoralizing view of how high you have to go from the bottom.

Overall, I think the first hill is the best on the course. It’s not too steep, not too long, and that sweeping vista gives you that feel that you are doing some classic climbing rather than tackling some random foothills along the lake.

The adage that what goes up must come down is especially true for this course. After you crest over the top, there are some false flats. Then it’s time to descend. Just like the hills, the descents are long and you can build up some serious speed. I’m a complete wus when it comes to descending and I topped out at 37 mph. My buddy left me in the dust. If you have good descending skills, you should exploit this.

After the first descent, it’s back up again. This second climb is a more brutal beast. Again, the grade isn’t too bad; it just goes on and on. To make matters worse, after you “crest” you are greeted with a long false flat. This is followed by another, albeit shorter, climb that takes you to the turn around.

On the way back, things were much faster. First, that gradual uphill with false flats that takes you to the turnaround basically turns into a fast downhill all the way to the backside of the first hill. You can see how the speed differs after the flip at around mile 20. And that wasn’t all due to wind, which I’ll get to in a second.

The initial hill on the way out is pretty much the only main uphill on the second half of the loop. Here is a closer look from my Strava page:

As you can see, it starts with the typical climb and then is followed by some good false flats. All together, the entire up is about 3.3 miles. I was hurting coming back into town. Of course I haven’t been training for something like this and this was my longest ride since Ironman Arizona. But rest assured, this climb is going to be a Sufferfest on that last loop of the day.

Then comes the real highlight of the course. After cresting the top of the hill, you get to the fun of descending back into Cougar Bay. This descent has curves, speed, and most importantly, rumble strips (kind of like one of my ex-girlfriends….just kidding…..sort of) If there is anywhere on the course you could bite the bullet, this will be it. When you combine the descent with fatigue and thousands of riders, this is a place you need to keep your wits about you. This is where my buddy reached 47mph.

Once you reach the bottom at Cougar Bay, there are some flats and annoying little bumps. Then it’s time to run.

Okay, let’s summarize. These are my take away points from my experience on the new course:

  1. Less steep climbing, but longer.
  2. Two big hills on the way out.
  3. The 2nd hill on the way out is followed by a long false flat.
  4. The beginning of the ride back into town is mainly downhill for a long time. Plenty of speed.
  5. There is one big hill on the way back in. It is followed by a false flat as well.
  6. There is a fast, curvy, rumble strip laden descent back into town. BE CAREFUL.

There is one last thing you should know about. WIND. The wind on our ride was gusting moderately; nothing enough for the weather guessers to warn about. But out among the open spaces of the farm lands, the wind was horrendous. You should pray now for no wind on race day.

For those that are planning on heading out to try the course before the race, it’s a pretty friendly road to ride. There is a wide, clean shoulder pretty much 90% of the time. For God’s sake, don’t be a jackass and ride in the middle of the road. That is how we get a bad rap. If we keep it up, the course will get changed to loops around the Silver Lake Mall. Also, about half way out on the loop, there is gas station that looks to have plenty of refreshments if you need to refill or to take a potty break.

All and all, I think the new course is awesome. It has some great climbing and it will be nice to be able to see the other riders for most of the course. Ironically enough, just be ready to go downhill. Have fun and best of luck on race day!

Great place to stop for lunch and beers is The Mill Public House in the Riverstone Complex. We rolled right up and they graciously allowed us to keep our bikes inside. I highly recommend the “Irish Death” stout on tap.

About Ironvan

From couch potato to Ironman triathlete in 2 years.

Posted on May 15, 2012, in Training and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. Just found your blog today. GREAT read! I love your sense of humor (both in this post and your bio post). Thanks for the review of the CDA course – seems like fun..no scratch that. Looks brutal (but of course, I live in Florida, and the only hills where I live are bridges). Againk, great read!

  2. Thank you for your review. I am just like you as far as biking but may be a bit behind you. It is nice to get a review of the course as I won’t be able to ride it before race day.

  3. Thanks for the bike course information! I live in Oklahoma, so wind is the norm, but hills are only present if a fat guy falls down in front of you! Good luck and thanks again!

  4. Great review. Thanks.

  5. Love your description! It was quite helpful. I’m a first-time Ironman hopeful for CDA 2013. One random question…do they shut down 95’s traffic that morning? I ask because the hotel I’ve reserved is 30 mins down 95 from the start, and I’m realizing I may need to find an alternate route to the start.

    • Hey Alison. First, thanks! Second, knowing that Ironman wants to not upset the locals, I very much doubt they would shut down 95 completely. I think they push the traffic to one side. In any case though, I would plan to leave with plenty of time to get there. It will be much better to get there ahead of time then rushing at the last minute. Bring something warm to wear in case you end up sitting around for a while.

      I’m really glad that you find the post helpful and I wish you the best of luck in the race. Please keep me posted!

  6. Great post, thanks so much. I’m originally from Post Falls (been in Chicago for the past 10) and CDA 2013 will be my first IM distance. Awesome review of the course, thanks!

  7. Thanks for the information. We are new to the Seattle and doing Cda 2013. It sounds like we can ride the course on a weekend? US-95 doesn’t prohibit bikes? We plan to drive over but are trying to make sure the course is accessible on a regular riding day?

    • Hi Heather!

      Tanks for dropping by. Yep, its open to bicycle traffic all the time and the shoulder is great…at least when I was there last year. Traffic wasnt a problem at all in the morning hours. The community in CDA is used to the bike riders so I think you should be fine. Best of luck in CDA this year and please let me konw how it went after you crush it. Its a great race!

  8. Thank you for this info! Loved it! Fun to read and helpful too. IMCDA soon! I live in Florida and this course frightens me. 😉

    • Hi Lisa!

      Sorry for the delay replying. Thanks for your wonderful comments. I was just in CDA this past weekend and the weather is looking GREAT! Best of luck out there! You got it!

  9. Great review. I was looking for something like this since I’ll be doing CDA 2014.

    I have two questions that I’m hoping you can answer.

    1) I’ve been training for hill and I’m trying to compare the grade of what I’m training vs what CDA will be. Do you have the grades of this hills and how long they are?

    2) Is the 2012 course the same as what 2014 will bring?

    • Hi Thomas!

      Unfortunately, I don’t have any grade data for the climbs. What I would so is check Strava for the route and there should be grade info available. Overall, I don’t recall anything being very steep at all. Just long. As for the course changes, I haven’t heard about anything new, but I haven’t look at the course since 2012. Best of luck with your training and thanks for dropping by!

      • Thank you for the quick reply.

        I’ll check out Strava (thanks for the info) and compare to what I’m doing to what will be.

        If I may ask, other than Wind, what was the weather like? Cold, hot? Average in June is about 72 but the record is 90. I’m going to train for 90 and if is 72 then great, but better prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

      • CDA can have weather all over the place. I would definitely count on a cold swim and start to the bike. The first year I did it I was frigid on the run. Second time was plenty one. Bring layers you can shed without littering. So in summary, be ready for a cool morning and everything between rain and 50 and 92 with humidity. 🙂

      • So prepare for every possible scenario 😉 Got it!!!

        CDA should be something to remember. Thanks for the advice. I appreciate your article and your replies.

      • No problem! Please let me know how it goes! Good luck!

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