Entries for the summer race are still available. And that’s anomalous.
Historically, Ironman Coeur d’Alene has been one of the hottest tickets on the Ironman circuit. The race, known for beautiful scenery and enthusiastic crowd support, is a favorite of U.S. competitors, causing it to sell out quickly every year.
However, registration numbers for the 2016 event have been lagging, prompting Ironman to extend 25 additional slots for the World Championship event in Kona to encourage participation in Coeur d’Alene. A date change, concerns over weather, and economic woes are possible factors in registration tracking behind what’s normal for the race.
Historically held in late June, the Coeur d’Alene event was once the early-season choice of athletes looking to avoid training in the heat of summer. When Ironman renewed its contract with the Coeur d’Alene’s Chamber of Commerce for 2016-2020, however, it was announced that the full Ironman would be pushed back to August and a 70.3 event added to the calendar for June.
“Ironman Coeur d’Alene’s new late-summer race date will feature milder temperatures and with its new August race date, will now serve as the final Kona qualifying event on the race calendar,” says Dan Berglund, Community Relations Manager for Ironman. “It’s an iconic race, and the additional slots give athletes a few more opportunities for their last chance to qualify for the Ironman World Championship.”
Some athletes, however, aren’t sold on the prospect of fairer weather in August, especially given Coeur d’Alene’s history of unpredictable weather and late season heat.
“I did Ironman Coeur d’Alene in 2009 when it was really cold and wet. People were running/walking with the space blankets,” says age-group athlete Shawn Phillips. “I did it again in 2012 and it was absolutely perfect weather. Then I did it in 2015 when it reached a record high of 105 degrees.”
While weather is always a bit of a wild card, August actually tends to be hotter. According to Accuweather, the historical average high for June 25 is 74 degrees Fahrenheit; on August 21, the average high is 82 degrees.
Another factor potentially coming in to play is the Canadian economy. Coeur d’Alene, which is only 90 miles away from the U.S.-Canada border, has seen a large share of Canadian participants in the past. However, with the Canadian dollar recently hitting an 11-year low, many athletes to the north may be more hesitant to cross the border to race.
“I am from Calgary, Alberta so the USD/CDN exchange does have a bit of an impact on my decisions,” says age-group athlete Carla Jackman, who participated in Ironman Coeur d’Alene in 2015.
The date change may also not be ideal for athletes with families whose children are already back to school by August.
For athletes like Jackie McCarthy, however, the changes are a benefit, not a detriment:
“The move from June to August was a huge factor in motivating me to sign up for Ironman Coeur d’Alene. The June race date required a mileage build-up pretty early in the season, which for me, living in DC and Boston, meant lots of long, chilly rides and runs.”
The later date and higher temperatures will also be conductive to a warmer swim in Lake Coeur d’Alene, which is usually in the mid-to-high 50s in June and increases approximately ten degrees by August. Some athletes are also excited about the addition of the 70.3 event in June, which allows for familiarity with the course before taking on the full event in August.
“The date change of Ironman Coeur d’Alene has been received very well,” says Berglund, because “it gives athletes more time to train in the warmer summer months to get ready for the race. They are also excited about having warmer water to swim in on race day,” says Berglund.
“Overall, it is a great race, in a nice part of the country and a nice little city,” says Phillips. “I will watch and see how much the weather really changes from the move.”