Ironman Texas, The Woodlands
Note: The Bike Course for the 2016 Ironman Texas has been impacted by weather and Ironman has announced that they have had to change and shorten the bike course. Please see the Ironman Website for the updated course.
2011 was the inaugural race for Ironman Texas and Mother Nature welcomed the event with relatively open arms. The weather was decent and the event got high marks from most of the participants. Add to that the fact that some think the bike course was a tiny bit short that year and you can see why this race may have a reputation for being “fast”. At least relative to other Ironman Races.
However, as you may know, first impressions can be deceiving. Because, while the course at The Woodlands isn’t packed with thousands and thousands of feet of climbing, the heat and humidity can make for a very tough day if you’re not prepared.
But hey! You’re a Coeur Girl, so we know you’ve enough heart and courage to take on this race and of course you’ll be prepared.
The Woodlands is a planned community just north of Houston, Texas. One of our Coeur Girls raced it in 2011 and says that the area is just beautiful. It has a resort feel and is conveniently located near Houston Bush Airport (IAH) and Houston Hobby (HOU). IAH is about a 25 minute drive from the race venue and is the closest. If the airfares are better, Hobby is definitely an option since it is only about 45 minutes away.
The city has its share of hotels, so finding a place to stay shouldn’t be a challenge if you plan ahead. You’ll find the standard assortment of chains including Marriott, Hilton Garden Inn & Hyatt. If you’re looking for something a bit more boutique, you might want to check out the Avia. It’s part of the Hyatt group of hotels but we’ve heard it feels more like an independent.
The 2.4 mile swim is in Lake Woodlands and the water can be warm, so save room in your luggage and don’t bother packing a wetsuit. To get to the start, you’ll have about a 15 minute walk. We always think it is a good idea to have a pair of disposable flip flops for the walk to a start like this. You don’t want to bruise your feet before even starting the race. The water can be a bit murky so mentally prepare yourself if you’ve spent all pre-season in a pool.
There’s a good bit of room at the swim start but the course does seem to narrow after the right turn heading in the direction of Town Green Park. Then again, toward the end (approximately the last ½ mile), there is a noticeable narrowing of the course. The result of this funneling will likely be an increase in contact with your fellow athletes. We're not coaches (and we don't play coaches on TV), but to the extent it is helpful, we'd encourage you to just stay calm and swim on. If you've ever watched an Ironman swim from above (like the second bridge at Ironman Arizona), you'll notice how clusters of swimmers form and then break up. It reminds of us of how traffic on the highway builds up and then dissipates for no apparent reason. To the person in the middle, it must seem like there are bodies everywhere but then after a few minutes, they are miraculously in clear water again.
The bike course is a one loop affair that sends you out of the Woodlands into East Texas. Eventually, you make your way into Samuel P. Taylor National Park. The ride through the park is fantastic. Not only will you get a change in scenery, you’ll also get some much needed shade. File this away under the category of “Blinding Flashes of the Obvious” but Texas in May can be hot. And humid. The shade found in the park will probably be very, very welcome. In general, the bike course is fairly flat and it doesn’t contain any really tricky sections. Consequently, you can stay in the aero position for much of the race and a bike PR isn’t out of the question…if you can handle the heat. If you can handle the heat? What the heck are we talking about? Of course you can handle the heat! Forget we said that.
If we had to select three words for the run, what would they be? Hhhmmm…how about “Flat”, “Hot” and…well…let’s just use “Hot” again. If it didn’t have the potential to be so darned hot, we would have used “scenic” as our third word.
The course is three loops that meander through The Woodlands. It is on pavement, so be prepared for some pounding. The good news is that there is very little elevation gain and shade is abundant. They use the path system for much of the course and that adds to the enjoyment factor since the paths were designed to be winding and scenic.
One thing to keep in mind however is that the people who made the paths probably didn’t contemplate having several thousand runners on them at the same time, so you may have to weave through people if you’re really dropping the hammer on the run.
The run ends up on one of the main streets in town called Market and the vibe at the finish is fantastic.
To wrap it up
We mentioned the heat…right? Ok, if you’re prepared for that, then you’re all set. Overall, Ironman Texas gets good marks and we're super excited for everyone. We've got a lot of Coeur Girls racing, there should be a big 50 Women to Kona contingent present, and the course can be a lot of fun. At least as fun as it can be given that you’re racing 140.6. We hope you all have a great day. We'll be cheering and sending positive vibes!
Heart and Courage everyone!
Your friends at Coeur.
p.s. Send us pictures!