The best part of Ironman Coeur d’Alene is the swim! 2.4 miles of bitter cold in Lake Coeur d’Alene. It is two laps (1.2 miles each) with a quick run onto the beach and across the timing mat in the middle.
Here a link to a previous post with a link to the current water temp: Lake Coeur d’Alene water temperature.
The swim starts with the pro athletes 20 minutes ahead of everyone else. This means they will be on their second lap when the rest of the field starts. All other athletes start at the same time in what is called a mass start. I think it should be called a mess start. With approximately 2400 athletes hitting the water at once, it really is a mess. Unless you are at the front, don’t plan on actually swimming for a while, but instead try to maintain and not get whacked by all the limbs thrashing about.
Update: WTC (Ironman) announced today (9 May) that the swim start will be a wave start this year. Athletes will self-seed based on estimated finish time, cross timing mats, and go out every five minutes. The swim will start earlier this year than previously to accommodate the new format. Several other Ironman events will also have new swim starts. They’re calling it “SwimSmart”. Here’s a link to the news story: IRONMAN introduces SwimSmart initiative in North America
The water temp is always wetsuit legal and if you are not wearing a wetsuit, then you are just plain stupid. Most often you will also be wearing a neoprene cap and swim socks too. Swimming in 55F water for over an hour (1 hour 40 mins for me) you are at risk of hypothermia, so wetsuits are really mandatory.
Even though the swim is in a lake, there might be swells. Last year it was windy enough that the water was quite choppy and hard to swim without taking in big gulps of water. It may seem like it is the boats causing the problem, but it’s not.
Another issue that can be problematic is the rising sun. As you are making the first left turn, you will be looking right into the sun. It may be a good idea to have tinted goggles for this one. I have done it twice without tinted goggles and did just fine, but be ready to see the light if you are trying to sight!
All around the swim here is not that bad. As long as you are prepared, you will be just fine. If trouble does pop up, be assured that there are many lifeguards in the water and rescue boats too.
Out of the water, you make a mad dash across the sidewalk and into transition, where plenty of helpful volunteers are ready to peel off your wetsuit. You are done with the swim! Have a great bike and run and soon you will be an Ironman!