April 22, 2017
An Ironman race is tough. The long days of training seem to go on and on. The actual event – the reward – is a long day. But wow, looking back now, I see what a great experience it’s been.
IM Texas takes place in The Woodlands, a master planned community just north of Houston. All things considered, I say it’s a good location for the event. It’s relatively easy to get around the town, the Athletes’ Village and transition area all fit nicely. It works. I chose to stay in a VRBO house in the near by town of Shenandoah – a 5 minute drive from the event; very convenient and easy.
The swim takes place in Lake Woodlands. Lake Woodlands is a man-made lake in the center of town. The water is dark and murky; almost zero visibility. Water temp at the race start was 78 degrees, so it was a non-wetsuit swim.
The swim start is a “rolling start”; you are supposed to self-seed based on your estimated swim time (e.g., under 50 minutes, 50 – 60 minutes, 60 – 70 minutes, etc.). Your time starts when your timing chip crosses the mat to enter the water. I went in with the 80 minute group, but people seemed to start “whenever”. I was swimming over slower swimmers from the start. But, I much prefer this type of start to the more common mass swim start at most IM events. The rolling swim start is a good way to get 2000 people into the water in a somewhat organized way.
The swim is an out and back course and finishes with a short swim up a narrow canal, under a couple of bridges. The water smelled bad in the canal (eck!) but it was nice seeing people on the edges and bridges cheering us on.
Done with the swim and on to the bike!
The area around Houston is known for having difficult weather – primarily hot and humid. Race day was somewhat of an exception as the temperature stayed in the high 70s. But, the wind blew – hard. The bike course is mostly an out and back course on the freeway. Not much in the way of scenery. You just put your head down and go. It’s probably about 15 miles to get to the freeway, then its 20 miles out, 20 miles back, turnaround and 20 miles out and 20 miles back, then back to T2.
On the second 20 mile loop heading out, we had a good tailwind that felt great. But, then we turned to head back and it became survival mode pedaling head-straight into the wind.
One highlight on the bike course is that the pros go by because of the double-loop nature of the course. Those guys (and gals) have different gears! Fun to see.
Back into town, hand-off the bike to one of many friendly volunteers and it’s on to the run.
The run course is 3-loop course through town. The run course is definitely the highlight of the day. It’s flat for the most part (like Texas). The crowd support was unreal, fantastic. Running through “hippie hollow” was great; many signs made me laugh out loud; aid stations every mile.
Because it’s a 3-loop course, there’s a point on each lap where you come to a mark on the path that says “Laps 2 & 3, this way” (with an arrow pointing to the left) and “Finish” (with an arrow pointing to the right). Oh what a feeling it was to finally turn right.
It’s good to have an IM in the books. As more experienced athletes like to say, “The reward is the journey”. And, that’s so true. It was fun (it was also a lot of work) to get through the long rides and long runs. I enjoyed the whole experience – but, I’m in no hurry to do another one of these!