Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Ironman Texas

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.

Here, we profile Ironman Texas in the Woodlands, Texas, outside Houston.

The Woodlands race site is located on the North side of Houston. George Bush Intercontinental Airport is closer but many people fly in through the Southwest hub located at Houston Hobby. Driving is always challenging with Houston traffic. Make sure your rental car has a toll transponder to take advantage of the faster toll routes.

Accommodations seem to be plentiful in the area although the host hotel sells out early.

Pre-Race Workouts

  • Swimming: The swim course is not open for public swimming until the pre-swim on the Friday before the race. I prefer to use the beautiful local CISD Natatorium with open swimming from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The drop in fee is $4. You can also try the Villasport Athletic Club.
  • Cycling: Part of the race course has quite a bit of traffic. Drive west on FM1488 to Jackson Rd. Park there and bike north on the course. The return ride on this last section can be critical for managing headwinds, heat and effort.
  • Running: Running is very easy to do in the Woodlands.

While IM Texas is usually hot, sunny, humid and windy, if it’s been a cool spring (as it has been this year), it is remotely possible the race will be wetsuit legal. Make sure you pack it.

Race Morning
Get to transition early! You have at least a mile walk from the transition area to the swim start. Give yourself plenty of time.

This is one of the more challenging swims on the circuit. The course is narrow and ends in a canal. IM Texas features a time trail start. If you are fast, seed yourself near the buoy line and at the front.

One of the biggest problems with this race is the narrow entry to the swim. Mike Reilly will be yelling early and often to get into the water. With the TT start, it's likely the contact in the swim will be reduced compared to past races.

Once sorted, think of the swim in thirds. The first third is out, the second third is back and the last third is a 90 degree right turn into the canal. Stay in the middle in the canal. The walls of the canal are angled and it is easy to hit your hands on the sides.

There is usually a nice tailwind on the first half of the bike. Expect fast times and resist the urge to blast watts. Focus on your hydration and nutrition!

The course has some patches of chip and seal but overall is fairly smooth. There is some rolling terrain but no serious climbing.

Around mile 70 the course begins to separate the women from the girls. At this point, you have a headwind and heat. If you paced yourself properly, you should be able to lift your effort here. Stay aero and focus on your nutrition and keeping cool. Please note in years past, one of the final aid stations was not quite where it was marked on the map. Make sure you have enough liquids on board for the final 30 miles.

This is a three loop course part of which is in a canal surrounded by bars and very happy patrons. Resist the urge to join them! The run is the hardest part of the race because of the heat and humidity. Most of the wheels fall off here. It is flat and in 2012 had one section you had to run up on uneven dirt terrain about 5 to 10 feet. It wasn’t a big deal, but be careful not to twist an ankle. Focus on staying cool, hydrated and on top of your nutrition.

There is one part of the course I call “the dark side of the moon” (Panther Creek Drive). In this section there are no spectators and it is totally exposed and hot. Focus on running strong on this section.

If you can pick up the pace the third lap, you will find yourself passing lots of people bragging about their bike splits!

The best part of Texas is the margaritas and the Tex-Mex food. You earned it, now enjoy it!

Your Team
If your friends and family are joining you, the swim is great viewing for spectators. They can even walk the edge of the canal while you swim into the finish. After you leave transition, I would highly suggest to your team that they not attempt to get on the bike course. Traffic is a nightmare and even if they are successful in seeing you on the bike, chances are they will have trouble making it back for the run. The run course is fantastic for spectators and easy to see you multiple times on the looped course. Plus they can enjoy an adult beverage!

Sue started her triathlon journey with a 50 pound weight loss and continues as a multiple Kona qualifier, qualifying twice in Texas. In 2013, she was named the Overall Ironman All World Athlete Champion in her age group and in 2014 won her age group at Ironman Texas. As a successful entrepreneur, she believes that, “You can run your business like your training and your training like your business!” As a coach (USAT Certified), she helps athletes to develop success in all areas of their lives: family, health and work. She blogs regularly at fewoman.com. You can find her on Twitter @fewoman.
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