My Ironman Coeur D’Alene Race Plan

Sorry about the bad formatting– I’m in a rush getting ready to travel to CdA tomorrow and I wanted to put this up before I left (note to self– don’t draft blog posts in Google Docs & try to paste into WordPress).

I’m coming into this race with more confidence and than any of the other 4 IM races I’ve done, which puts me in a great position to have my worst race yet! Probably for the first time ever I’m strong enough on the bike to destroy myself (in previous years I’d probably feel uncomfortable if I spent much time above my target IM watts, but this year I could easily fool myself into thinking I can sustain suicidal watts for a long time).   For that reason I’ll carefully study (AND COMMIT TO!) the bike portion of the plan (in particular I need to focus on easing off my watts at higher speeds.)

To paraphrase David Allen, a good race plan allows the smart me (the one sitting in front of my laptop sipping coffee) to set the stupid me (the one who refuses to let his average watts fall in the middle of the race even though he started out too fast) up to succeed.  The stupid me needs a very clear plan (e.g. eat 1/6 of a cliff bar every time my watch beeps, coast every time I’m above 30 mph, finish my aerodrink by the next aid station, don’t go faster than 6:50 / mile, drink a bottle of IM perform every 4th aid station, etc.) or he’ll screw everything up!

The plan below is based on #s from my rehearsal workouts as well as heart rates and effort levels that have worked for me in previous IM races.  That’s the real value of the big rehearsals we do late in the season– they give us the data to create pacing and nutrition plans that will work!
Some people like to mentally prepare for their race by visualizing themselves carving thorugh the water and coming out in less than an hour, effortlessly pushing 250 watts and finishing the bike under 5 hours then running a 2:50 marathon. I think this is a bad idea for many reasons, not the least of which is that you’ll be disappointed if you’re off track and you’ll be committed to pursuing those time goals despite evidence that you need to ease off your effort.   In my experience if I relax, have fun, and focus and commit to the best process, my times take care of themselves.  Conversely, when I’ve been super pumped up and serious about a certain time or outcome, I tend to have my worst races.   Of course, I have some idea of what sort of times I’d like to do, but I keep them from from my mind on race week.  That’s why I never include goal times in my race plans.

Race Day

  • up at 3:45 like it’s Christmas morning–a sense of expectancy like I’m going to have one of the most fun days of my life; relaxed fun attitude; play music
  • immediately drink coffee, drink water, eat breakfast (1.5 peanut butter & banana sandwiches on food for life sprouted bread w/ protein shake (plain soy milk, play whey isolate), more coffee & water
  • get partially dressed
  • 4:50 go down to transition, drop off special needs bag, pump tires, put food/drinks on bike& into run bag, check that brakes aren’t rubbing, put garmin on bike & turn it on (turn off map, heart rate alerts, etc)
  • 5:40- back up to room- drop off pump, *final bathroom stop*, finish dressing, if relatively late put wetsuit on
  • back down to transition, jockey to get close to beach so I can warm up/adjust to cold water
  • 6:25 pro start, have part of cliff bar w/ some water
  • ASAP get in and warm up
  • 6:50 get out and get ready to start– keep moving


  • warm up!!!!!,
  • line up inside and behind the aggressive people,
  • don’t go crazy at the start,
  • have fun and enjoy it!
  • draft 100% of the time (go from one set of feet to the other),
  • sight well,
  • check my intensity w/ cycles of 4 stroke breathing


  • jog easy through transition (even walk a little if I feel like it)
  • helmet on, glasses on, shoes on, stuff cliffs in shorts, (maybe arm warmers over wrists, maybe vest if cold), then jog to bike
  • mount bike & go— gradually accelerate up to speed- no rush!


  • Gradually ease into things for first 20 miles (out to the hills) and exaggerate my coasting a bit if necessary to let my HR come down (I like to see my HR come down to 143 or below for most of the race).  Smooth,easy pedal strokes & let my watts go up as I warm up and get into it.   (In rehearsals it felt good to start in the 220s and to gradually increase average into the 230s).
  • Watch my watts! hit my lap button often on my garmin; for the first loop don’t go harder than 230-235ish watts on flats; if I feel good on the 2nd loop I can push up closer to 240 if I want,  BUT ONLY AT 24 mph or below.
  • Relax & Have fun! Until the 2nd half of the marathon the race should be fun and relaxed! Enjoy the crowds, the atmosphere, the beautiful course, and having the roads to ourselves without cars!  Smile!  Scan my body for unnecessary tension & let it go.
  • Mantras when I’m feeling too aggressive… loop 1 “save it for the 2nd loop”, loop 2 “save it for the run”
  • If I’m feeling bad… fuel, take the watts down a notch and exaggerate my coasting and soft pedaling at higher speeds.
  • BE SMOOTH OVER THE HILLS- NO STRUGGLING OR AWKWARD PEDAL STROKES! Avoid high torc / awkward pedaling on the hills (don’t get caught in too hard or to easy of a gear- shift smoothly); it’s not the effort that zaps my legs– it’s stuff like getting out of the saddle in too easy of a gear, or pushing big watts in too hard a gear– awkward/ straining pedal strokes;  BE SMOOTH!
  • BE ABSOLUTELY METICULOUS about easing off my watts when over 25 mph & coast over 30 mph; this is going to make or break me.  PAY ATTENTION!
  • FOLLOW MY FUELING PLAN (watch beeps every 10 min- eat ⅙ cliff bar; drink full aerodrink of IM perform by every aid station; ease off cliff bars if stomach is having trouble.


  • take garmin off my bike and put it on my wrist before then take my bike
  • get out of the tent as fast as possible! dump my bike stuf, put run shoes on and tighten laces, grab hat and bottle & go!
  • resest garmin, put into run mode and start garmin when I hit the run course


  • “Jog” the first loop (ideally HR will be 160 or slightly below- if my HR is high, then carefully evaulate my effort; no matter what keep the first 2 miles slower than 6:50 / mile).   Leave plenty of room to raise my effort.
  • carry 3/4 liter bottle in my hand and drink 1 bottle of IM Perform every 4 aid stations (1 full bottle is approx 200 cal, so that would be over 400 cal/ hour, but I’ll probably fill approx ¾ the way which would be a more reasonable 300 /hour);  I’m not going to want to fuel, but do it!!!!  Fuel when I see an aid station, when my watch beeps and any other time it comes to mind!
  • raise my effort in the 3rd 10k but leave a couple more notches (I still have to get over the hills!); – it should feel like I’m working, but leave room get over the hills strong!  KEEP FUELING!!!!  If my stomach feels iffy, switch to water for a couple aid stations, but always resume fueling!
  • Keep the same effort on the hills (i.e. slow down on the hills!) unlike on the bike, there’s nothing to be gained by pushing harder on a hill; if I’m hurting on the hills, take 20 steps of power walking– I know that even when I struggle to run uphill (quad fatigue) I can still fly on the downhills and flats; FLY down the hills!
  • If I bonk… then stop at the aid stations to chug 2-3 cokes, then power walk while I chug 2 more cokes, then run to the next aid station & repeat until bonk is over (at IM switzerland it took 3-4 stations until I was back running 7:10 miles).
  • Back into town to the finish be willing to die rather than slow down or stop pushing all the way to the finish. I’ve put so much effort, sacrifice (and money) to get here– no amount of pain can get me to let myself down now.  Keep fueling all the way until 2 miles left then ditch my bottle.   I’m willing to sustain any amount of damage to get to the finish– this is not negotiable (I’m talking to you, mind) so don’t bother trying to persuade me to slow down.

About Coady

Lucky to be coaching some really awesome & fun people!
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