I am back to reality today after 5 days in The Woodlands for the North American Championship Ironman Texas!
I’ll be putting together a Foodie Fuel post soon before I forget the details of the fun week we had, but for now, let’s focus on spectating the race!
Since IMTX is a Saturday race, athlete check in ends Thursday with gear and bike check-in on Friday. We stayed at the Embassy Suites at Hughes Landing which was convenient to the swim start, but not so convenient to transition/Ironman village. If Jon races there again, I would consider the Waterway Marriott.
Let’s get to race day! All three of the guys (Jon, Shaun and Mike) raced so we had our support crew of Sara, Angie and me.
A.M. and Swim: It was actually unclear what time transition was going to be opened. We had three papers from Ironman and they had 5:00, 5:15 and 5:30 a.m. so we left the hotel at 4:50 to walk to transition, headed to swim start and it was the typical Ironman morning chaos of throwing a wetsuit on and racing the clock before the race clock even starts! We went down to the left of swim start and there was a clear area to see the rolling start. After visualizing them each getting into the water, we were off to scope out a spot along the waterway. We ended up being at a nice spot where we could see the guys in the water just as they were finishing and then see them again at Swim Finish where they grabbed their T1 bike gear bag.
Bike: After seeing Jon getting out of the water, I sprinted to his spot in transition (only because he was ~6 rows from the front on the right side when looking from Bike Out) and he saw me there, then I sprinted to Bike Out but just missed him. Mike & Shaun’s transition spots were on the left so Angie/Sara went straight to bike out after seeing them.
After all three were on the bike, we walked back to the hotel to rearrange our bags, eat and regroup. I typically pack to be gone for the whole day (you never know if something would happen!) so I could have gone without getting the extra two miles in but it was nice to have some breakfast that was not just a granola bar. We headed back and set up camp near Run Out.
Run: The best place for the run is along the Waterway/canal. If it was just Jon running, I would have stayed on the left side of Run Out and then you can easily pivot to see them across the canal. We were on the opposite side of the run course so had to keep crossing the course, which was honestly fine every time. I was surprised at the smaller number of spectators in this area. I ended up seing Jon at Run Out, Mile ~5, Mile 9, Mile 14.5, Mile ~18 and then I headed to the finish line! I took Lake Robbins to Six Pines and then found stairs down to the waterway… I was on the race course though once on the waterway so I would recommend taking Lake Robbins to Waterway Ave. You’ll want to be on the left of the finisher chute to have easy access to your athlete post race (there was a cross walk across from Baker St Pub & Grill); however, you mostly need to be on the right side of the finisher’s chute to have a closer view of your athlete. I stayed on the right and then ran down to Lake Robbins to get onto the other side.
Post-Race: The hardest part is figuring out how to find your athlete! I crossed over to the other side of the race course/Waterway Ave and just kept walking straight until you got to where the Ironman village was. This turned into the post-race area with athlete food, medical tent, etc. There weren’t any chairs so the towel I had with me came in handy!
Overall, I thought it was a nice run course for spectators given the three-loop design. The bike was similar to other fulls where you watch them bike out and wait the 4+ hours until they return. There are many restaurants at Market Street and Waterway that you could easily have breakfast/brunch/lunch at during the day and the HEB store came in handy for buying water. If you stayed at the Marriott, you could easily go back to your room or spend time at the shops nearby while your athlete is out on the bike course.
From the athlete’s perspective, Jon enjoyed the swim, despite being kicked/elbowed more than normal (he has a black eye!) and said the run course was nice. The guys all agreed that the bike course was frustrating in the way that it was officiated, seeing as none of them saw any officials/marshalls or anyone handing out any penalties for the huge pelatons found multiple times on the course. I heard so many athletes talking about the amount of drafting going on and it was really unfortunate. A very different bike experience from Mont Tremblant, it seemed.
The best part? WATCHING MY IRONMAN BECOME A TWO TIME IRONMAN AND TOTALLY CRUSH HIS GOAL!! He ended up with a 52 minute PR and one over the moon proud fiance!
Stay tuned for a Foodie Fuel post of our adventures in Texas!