Update for 2017 from Justin Daerr:
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.
- 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: Cycling is best done outside of town. Riding from the venue requires a good bit of urban navigating so it is advised to drive outside of the city for any extensive riding. If you do ride from the venue, use Lake Woodlands Blvd as opposed to Woodlands Pkwy.
- 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.
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 trial 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.
The course is new for 2017 and features two loops, much of it on the Hardy Toll Road. While it will be mostly flat, it will also be slightly elevated and exposed, meaning there could be some winds that you’ll have to face. This course will reward the disciplined and focused. Remember to hydrate in the back half and prepare for the run.
In the early and late sections, there are some turns to negotiate.If you are a triathlete, chances are you haven’t practiced cornering much while racing. Cornering carefully requires a quick look over your shoulder to make sure the path is clear. You don’t want to be hit by someone trying to pass you into the corner. Unfortunately, there are competitors that will make poor choices on this technical course.
Enter the corner wide but stay in your lane as you lean into the turn. Sight through the corner as you come out the other side close to the edge of the exit. Always keep your inside pedal foot up when turning and watch your watts! Have a cap in mind that you will not exceed when exiting whether you are standing or sitting. For added excitement expect railroad track crossings in this race. Remember to take them at an angle between 45 and 90 degrees. Keep pedaling over them and sight ahead; never down.
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 has one section you have to run up on uneven dirt terrain about 5 to 10 feet. It isn’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!
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!