Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Ironman 70.3 Texas (Galveston)

Drawing on Endurance Corner's collective years of experience and access to an extended network of some of the most knowledgeable racers, we wanted to provide our best recommendations for approaching some of the biggest races around the world.





Profile provided by Justin Daerr

Travel and Accommodations: Galveston is located on the southeast side of the greater Houston, Texas area. If you are flying into Houston for the race, you have two options of airports: Hobby or Intercontinental. Hobby is a major Southwest Airlines hub and is located on the southeast side of town, making for quick access to Galveston Island. If you fly into Intercontinental, you will be on the north side of town and have to navigate through quite a lot of Houston traffic. Unless you are flying Frontier (no bike fees, but lands at Intercontinental)***, I recommend getting a Southwest flight ($75.00 bike fees as of 2013, no bag fees).

Galveston has endless accommodation options because of tourism. The race itself is located in Moody Gardens and it has a host hotel on site. This would easily be the most convenient, but if you have a large group, consider a beach house rental as a cheap and effective alternative. If you want to stay in a nice, historic hotel I would check out the Hotel Tremont or Hotel Galvez. Both are probably the most expensive options on the island, but very nice. Outside of that, there are countless chain motel/hotel options to consider.

Pre-race workouts: The biggest challenge in Galveston is finding a place to swim. There is a local pool near Moody Gardens, but it is often reported to be very cold and costs about $20 for a drop-in. The race site will not allow practice swims on the bay side of the ocean. I have seen a number of people try and they get chased down by boats or individuals, so I don’t suggest going rogue. You can try swimming in the Gulf, but if the winds are southerly, it’s pretty much impossible to do much more than a bit of body surfing. Basically, swimming might be more of a hassle than it’s worth the day before the race.

Riding can be done anywhere on the course, but I would suggest driving slightly out of town where the road has a huge shoulder. There is a lot of traffic along the Seawall and while you can ride there, I find it to be a bit sketchy with all the cars parked along the drive.

Running is easily done almost anywhere.

Weather: Galveston is usually warm and humid at this time of year. If you get a late season cold front you will have cooler, drier temperatures. Regardless of the temperature, you will almost always have windy conditions because of the proximity to the ocean.

Being along the Gulf Coast, do not underestimate the chance for heavy rains.

Race Morning: Since the host hotel is onsite, I have not encountered many issues with race morning parking. However, almost everyone coming into the park is arriving from the Seawall. If you come in from the other direction (on the same road), you can enter the park almost immediately instead of waiting in long line. That might save you 5-10 minutes, but not a huge deal.

Swim: The swim venue is located on the bay side of the island, so even if it’s windy (which is likely), you will probably be swimming in fairly flat water. If the winds are northerly it might make for a rougher swim, but the general wind direction is south and east. The race starts with a 4-500 meter leg, then a long 1000 meter leg that runs parallel to shore and then another leg similar to the length of the first that brings you back into T2. The water is on the warmer side (mid 70s), but has been called wetsuit legal every time I have raced. When I wore a full sleeve suit, I overheated. I came back the following year with a sleeveless and found that to be much better. I would also be prepared to have a non-wetsuit swim if the Gulf Coast happens to be having a particularly warm spring.

They do not allow a long extensive time to warm up before your wave so I would be prepared to do a dryland routine as part of your warm up.

Bike: The bike course is a straight out-and-back. You ride out of the park to the Seawall (maybe two miles), then ride down the barrier island until the turnaround at mile 28. Every year I have raced, it has involved a strong cross/headwind going out and strong cross/tailwind going back. Some of the structures along the coast offer a little protection at times, but generally speaking, its a bit of grind through the first half of the bike. It is dead flat aside from a slight rise when you ride over San Luis Pass. I would strongly suggest having some sort of aero hydration system as breaking out of the aero position is quite costly on this bike course.

Assuming typical wind conditions (SE), the bike course does favor riding the first half slightly stronger than the second (front-end loaded power output), but keep some reserve. I felt like I overdid this idea in 2012, and while I had a tailwind on the return, I was struggling a little too much in the last third of the bike.

For wheel choice, I went with Rolf Prima TT8 up front (85mm deep) and Rolf Prima disc. While it is windy, I did not find the handling difficult at all. The course is flat, windy and hardly has any turns, so I would go with your most aero wheel set-up.

The course is in pretty good condition aside from the first and last two miles. It’s nothing major, but keep your wits about it so you don’t bottom out in a pothole. There are also a few speed bumps to navigate in this area so watch those rear bottle cages.

I have done this race three times and flatted in two of them. Considering I have only flatted six times in more than 13 years of racing, I strongly urge you to come prepared to fix a flat tire.

Run: The run course has changed every time I have done this race, but it does remain a 3-loop course. For 2014, they are replacing the airport tarmac section with a longer out-and-back at the start of each loop. I have yet to run this, but I can only assume it will be better than running next to an airport runway. The course is entirely flat and hard-surfaced and includes several turnarounds per loop. The main challenge here is keeping yourself cool and hydrated as it can get quite warm on the run. The later your wave start, the more paramount this will become. On the bright side, the course goes near transition numerous times so any supporters you have on the course will be able to regularly cheer you on.

Post-Race: If you stay in town the night after the race, I would head over to the Strand for dinner or drinks. It is an historic part of town and completely different from much of what you see during the race or along the Seawall.

***Frontier is raising bike fees to $75.00 as of June 2014.


Justin Daerr has raced Galveston 70.3 three times with a personal best finish of 4:01 in 2012.

Justin Daerr is a professional triathlete and co-owner of Endurance Corner. You can follow him on Twitter @justindaerr.

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