Ironman Coeur D’Alene Tip – When in Doubt, Coast It Out!

Q: Are there any spots on the course where it’s optimal to push a bit harder (or to ease off and save energy)?

There are plenty of hills on the course where your speed will grind to <10 mph and you’ll probably end up pushing relatively hard on those hills without having to plan for it (probably better off mentally preparing not to push too hard).
Easing off the watts:

* the initial out and back along the lake has a few downhills that unwind very gradually– if you keep an eye on your speed and follow the rule of thumb about coasting around 30mph+ and decreasing your watts when you’re above average speed, then you’ll accumulate a whole lot of rest. The road / grades can be a bit deceptive (looks flatter than it is), so you’ll need to glance often at your bike computer to check your speed. On the second time around the course, these downhills will be almost the only opportunity to “get a rest” from nonstop TT’ing during the flat middle 37 miles of the course before you hit the hills for the last time, so it becomes even more important to pay close attention and tune into your speed.

There are also some nice gradually unwinding downhills in the middle hilly section of the course where most people would be inclined to start pedaling / pushing back up to their IM power much too early if they don’t discipline themselves to glance at their speedometer.

Finally, the flat ride back into town at the end of both loops can have significant headwinds. The strategy for how to ride in headwinds has been discussed often here (if in doubt stay a legal distance behind others rather than pushing harder into the wind on your own.) There is also one and only one place to coast as you are coming back into town, and in those situations I tend to coast more than the recommended amount to bank extra rest.

Hope this was helpful. I think last year I coasted / soft pedaled some ridiculous amount of time (something like an hour or more) and it definitely conserved my legs for the run without costing me much time on the bike. I’ve ridden the course on the Computrainer Video Course software many times, so I know it very well- beware the deer about to cross the road near mile 37 😉

Q: How much do you decrease your watts as your speed increases?

A sliding scale is basically how i think about it. To be honest it’s not always so perfect and smooth (it’s often a case of catching myself doing something wrong and correcting quickly). E.g. when I return to pedaling at relatively high speeds after coasting, I’ll typically start putting out MH watts if I don’t pay attention.

My plan for this year would be something like:

Decreasing watts:
Up to 23 mph 225-235 watts
24-25mph 220 ish
26-27- down closer to 200-210
28-29 below 200, or possibly coast if I want a break

If I was concerned about my preparation or if I wasn’t having a great day or if I was concerned that I might have paced poorly early in the ride, etc., I’d try to save energy by adjusting the high mph part of this scale. E.g., coasting much more (maybe whenever above 27mph) and taking the watts down quite a bit more from 25-27 mph. This would probably only cost a few minutes over the course of one loop and would save tons of energy. If I felt really bad I’d coast every time I was above 25 mph– again, probably not too much time lost, but getting complete rest and expending no fuel.

When you think about it, coasting on the bike is the only time during the race you can do NOTHING and go almost as fast as if you were working at your normal IM effort– when in doubt I’ll coast it out!

Last year I “adjusted the sliding scale” on the 2nd loop when I realized that I was ahead of schedule and I saved lots of energy mostly by stretching out my coasting and I think I only lost a couple of minutes v. the first loop.

Middle of the pack athletes might consider coasting at above 27 mph and athletes who are concerned about whether they have the overall strength and endurance to “go the distance” should coast at over 25 mph.  You’ll save alot of energy (and fuel), get some well needed rest and preserve your legs for the run.

About Coady

Lucky to be coaching some really awesome & fun people!
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