I didn't do everything I should have in preparing for Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2008, but I did do one very smart thing: ride the bike course the fall before the race.
My buddy Dan and I drove up from Portland in October 2007. The day we rode was cold and raw, and even a lot of classy Larry Craig wide-stance quips—this was six weeks after the scandal broke and we were traveling in Idaho, often relying on public restrooms, after all—couldn't take the edge off the weather. I had it in mind to do two loops, a real Ironman bike, but after one, we were done.
It was pretty funny: All winter and spring after that ride with Dan I saw posts in the tri forums from people looking for insight into the CDA bike course. There were maps and profiles available, but those abstractions can only get you so far. The 3-1/2 chilly hours Dan and I spent out there showed me exactly what that early climb was like, and how those hills in the middle can make it difficult to get in a rhythm, and what a tedious stretch it is back into town to finish the loop. But more important than all that, doing the course beforehand removed the fear-inducing mystery of it. I was busy getting all irrational and flustered about the lake swim; that was enough.
What brings all this to mind is that this morning I was back out on the CDA course—on the Computrainer, using the newly arrived Real Bike Course video. I didn't do the whole loop, just 35 miles of it, but that got me through the early out-and-back along Lake Coeur d'Alene, then up to Hayden Lake and the biggest climb of the race, along with a few of the rollers that follow. It was fun seeing the course again and that definitely made the ride go quicker. Also, riding a "real" course (instead of the simulated 3D one) somehow pulled me deeper into the real-time data. For instance, I noticed I give up too much power early on a climb, and need to stay strong at the end of my descents and maintain cadence going into the ascent. I also tend to take it easy on long, mild declines where maintaining power wouldn't cost me much but could give my average speed a boost. Cool insights. Plus, I rode for two hours, and that's always a good thing.
Then, right after the ride, I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to do my first run in six weeks. It was just 1.3 miles to see how the Achilles would feel—during the run, immediately afterward and a day later. Tomorrow, more about that.