Coeur d’Alene, Idaho has hosted, on and off, an Ironman event for the better part of twenty years, making it one of the venerable races on the long-distance circuit. The western Idaho city took a break after 2017, however, hosting a 70.3 race on its traditional calendar spot in late June. The Ironman returns in 2021, giving many athletes a chance at a race long thought departed. Coeur d’Alene has retained its homey, Northwestern charm while hosting Ironman events, with many participants from away remarking on the laid-back nature of the town. For residents that relaxed attitude reflects their values, and Coeur d’Alene might be one of the calmest places to either complete your first IM or punch your ticket to Kona. If you love the heady and motivated atmospheres of places like France, Arizona, or Hawaii, CDA might not be for you, but if you treasure a mild atmosphere in which to achieve your goals, give this race a look. “Ironman CDA was my first Ironman victory,” our pro (and American legend) Andy Potts says. “You always remember your first. I made a lot of mistakes on the day but I did enough things right to pull out the win.” Andy will return throughout the piece to give us some more suggestions about one of his favorite racing towns.
Ironman Coeur d’Alene
The perfect lower-48 Ironman
Travel to Coeur d’Alene is relatively easy, although not as simple as some of the more metropolitan destinations on the circuit. Spokane International Airport provides the closest mid-sized airport, and Seattle/Tacoma or Portland International are good second choices, although you’re looking at a substantial drive if you choose either of those two. You’ll most likely want to rent a car, since Spokane is at least 45 minutes away, or grab a rideshare. Once you’re in CDA, however, you can probably get around on your bike or on foot, so if you’d like to skip the car, it’s easier here than at a more spread-out event (looking at you, Ironman St. George!).
Where to Stay
You can try The Coeur d’Alene Resort, which is spendy but convenient to transition (being able to stroll to the start on race morning is a very nice feature). You’ll have to hit a four-night minimum, though, and expect prices in the $300/night range. A range of more standard hotels and motels exist in the area, but you should book sooner rather than later, since CDA is a small town and supply is limited on Ironman weekend. When you’re looking for a place to stay, try to stay on the south side of I-90, as that will keep you in the town proper and make it easier to walk or ride to any of your pre-race errands. Airbnbs are relatively plentiful in the area, but remember to book early! Again, supply is limited in CDA, so you can end up with eye-popping prices if you wait. Expect folksy charm in CDA rather than slick and modern, with extras such as fresh vegetables from the house’s garden.
Ironman Coeur d’Alene, due to its single-transition-zone status and the town’s small size, makes for a fairly easy weekend from a logistics perspective. The vibe is laid-back, and you shouldn’t experience too much in the way of impatient racers or locals (two caveats: you’re dealing with triathletes, who tend to be type A, and Idaho is also a fiercely independent/libertarian place, so be prepared for some local push-back). If you managed to book a place to stay on the south side of I-90, you’ll be able to ride or walk to the expo for your packet and check-in. If you need to drive, there is a large public parking lot on the east side of the Couer d’Alene resort.
Checking into the race will be different, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the CDA expo is on the smaller size, squeezed in between the beach and the transition zone. Depending on how Ironman runs their expos in a post-COVID world, you may want to give yourself some extra time on your way to transition. The expo, however, sits underneath a large stand of fir trees, so you don’t have to worry about baking in the sun two days before your race.
TREK Bicycle Store
1104 N 4th St, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814
A good bet for triathletes, since you know that any TREK location will speak road bike.
Coeur d’Alene Bike Co.
314 N 3rd St, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814
Their website skews toward the MTB side of things, but you probably just need some CO2, yeah?
Lake City Bicycle Collective
Basement Of First Baptist Church, 424 E Wallace Ave, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814
Don’t turn your nose up at the “Church Basement” address—places such as these often have strange parts that you need at the last moment. Cross-threaded your proprietary derailleur hanger? We’ve found that places such as these, although not as polished as stores such as TREK, often have someone who wants to help.
1323 Sherman Ave, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814
A do-it-all shop that partners with the local triathlon club, which is a good sign for us.
Mountain View Cyclery
8933 N Commerce Dr, Hayden, ID 83835
Technically not in CDA, but if you’re staying a little farther away, or none of the shops in town can help, give them a try. They also lean towards the MTB, but their shop is beautiful and neat, which often suggests thoughtful mechanics.
Places to Train
We don’t suggest heading out onto the bike course before race day. Sure, you can, but it’s pretty straightforward, and it’s a state highway: there are trucks that go FAST. Remember, this is Idaho. Instead, buck the crowds and head up along Fernan Lake, on a road that climbs steadily for 7-8 miles. Flip around and return to town with your pre-race efforts taken care of.
For running, we suggest getting out onto the run course. Start near the start line, head out Mullan St. (not Sherman, the main street in town), and then turn south along the lake.
For a pool, look no further than the Salvation Army Kroc Center, a veritable athletic oasis on the northwest side of town, 1765 W Golf Course Rd, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83815. Day passes are slightly on the spendy side, at a strange $11.32 per adult, but the pool alone is worth it. Two huge upsides: purchase your day pass online, ahead of time, and the lap swim schedule is wide-open.
Lake Coeur d’Alene is one of the best open water swim spots you’ll ever get to enjoy, with clear and clean water for literal miles in all directions. The lake does get quite choppy as the day progresses (it’s windy here), and the temps can be cold, so make sure you buddy up. In general we’d suggest staying close to shore, because on days other than race day there can be a lot of traffic.
Where to Eat
523 Sherman Avenue, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814
Crafted Taphouse is solid, as is Fire Pizza,” Potts tells us. You can find Crafted at 523 Sherman Avenue (the main drag in town), pretty much right across from McEuen Park.
517 Sherman Avenue, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814
Right next door to Crafted at 517 Sherman Avenue, and satisfies the “I could eat a pizza” thing that happens after you finish an Ironman.
309 Sherman Avenue, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814
is one of those Jack of all Trades spots where you can get your day-before pancakes and then return for a post-Ironman burger. It’s bright, clean, and excellent.
305 E Appleway, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814
If you want to get off Sherman Avenue, or get some solid food without heading downtown, try Surf Shack, which is on the north side of I-90. For burgers, dogs, fries, and onion rings, all for 1980s prices: (208) 446-3229
Where to Drink
1710 N 2nd St, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814
Focuses on “Carefully crafted Northwestern-style brews,” which means be careful! The lowest ABV is their golden ale at 5.5%, and they range up to 9.86% for the Josiah’s Revenge Imperial Stout. If you go after the race, when you’re dehydrated and hungry, make sure you eat one of their reubens as well, or you’ll be looking at the ceiling after your fainting spell.
3850 N Schreiber Way, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83815
Sits on the “other side of the highway” and can provide some respite from the (admittedly pretty chill) downtown crowd. Trickster skews a little more in the classic direction, with blondes, lagers, hefeweizens, pilsners, and browns on the tap list. It’s the Northwest, though, so there is definitely an IPA.
5785 N Government Way, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83815
Hews a little closer to the British style than Trickster’s more “Continental” vibe, with the traditional array of Blonde, Pale Ale, English IPA, NW IPA, Amber, Scotch, Brown, Porter and Stout. We don’t think they serve the beer room temp, but it’s possible.
“Figpickel’s Toy Emporium is a hit with the kids, and Mrs. Honeypeeps is an ice cream store for the kid in all of us, too,” Potts says. “You can also take the family for a hike on Tubbs Hill, which is chill and quiet. Don’t overlook McEuen Park, either, just because it’s right at the start. It has a water park, a jungle gym, and open spaces, and our kids loved it there.”
“The best feature of Ironman Coeur d’Alene,” says Amy VanTassel, another of our pros, “is the single-location transition in a colossal public park. You and your fam can plant yourself within a half-mile radius for the entire day, bouncing among the beachfronts, playgrounds, bathrooms, food stands, and endless patches of green surrounding the race start and finish. If you need some fries, ice cream, or beer, downtown is a few minutes’ walk. Most importantly, however, you can catch your athlete during each transition, and for multiple points on the bike and run. Pack some SPF and a few chairs, and you’ll be set for 8-17 hours of the easy livin’ while your athlete does the hard part.”
“If you go on that hike of Tubbs Hill,” Potts says, “there is an epic cliff jumping spot up there. It takes some navigating, but just ask a local. It’s on the south side of the park, overlooking the swim course. Bring an extra pair of shoes to jump in!”