We’ve been looking forward to this past weekend for quite a while. The Ironman Texas is raced a few miles from our house. Last year we happened upon it, and therefore made it a point to watch the race this year. Now that we have interest in triathlons, we put time aside on Saturday to spectate. As you read about it in the next couple of paragraphs, keep in mind how incredible it was for us to see swimmers still fighting to finish 2.4 miles within time only to get out of the water and mount a bike to ride for 112 miles, and then have to finish by running a marathon.
We started our morning off early and made it to the race just after 7am. We weren’t there in time for the start, but we were able to see the leaders of the swim make the turn and head back toward the canal. Racers came through slowly at first, but what followed was crowds of participants who had to make a turn and swim in a congested area. By the time the crowds entered the canal we had moved and were right on top of them. We noticed quite a few people that don’t do so well with spotting and had gotten off track several times. From my view, it is amazing that there aren’t more injuries from being kicked or beat in the head during the swim. Apparently people are nicer than they appear from outside the water. We walked along with the swimmer to the T1 area where we witnessed the wetsuit “strippers” unceremoniously ripping garments from people’s bodies so quickly that I would assume there were some rug burns later. This is also the time where we probably saw some of the best signs of the day meant to inspire the athletes.
We moved along the transition area. People were getting everything in order to begin the bike portion of the race. We saw people yanking sleeves onto their arms, eating ham sandwiches, and running out of the area with their bikes. At just over 2 hours, there were still quite a few bikes remaining in the area, which I am sure lead to a lot of disappointed athletes when the 2h20m time was up for the swim. Walking along the start, the riders were getting on their bikes, many not even in their shoes yet, saving time by strapping in once they got moving. Some were trying to get food down, and on one bike we saw 8 gels taped to the frame. As more and more people filtered through it was quite impressive to see how dedicated these folks were to not only have finished a grueling swim, but then, with energy, get on their bikes for 112 mile course that laid ahead.
At this point we took a break. There would be several hours that we would have before a bike came through to the finish line. We walked around a bit, grabbed a bite to eat, and then returned to the final straightaway to catch the finishers on the bike.
The funny thing about this part of the race is that it was apparent that there were some folks in the area that were either unaware of the race, or didn’t care that it was going on. Several people walked through the path of the race and a few were riding bikes in the path. When the leader was about to come through a guy strolled through the path, luckily he was out of the way before the leader arrived. At first there were sporadic groups coming through, then more, until finally it seemed like there was large groups consistently coming in. We spent a few hours watching bikes come in until we finally decided to head over to the finish line because we were sure that the first finishers would be coming in.
Surprisingly enough, we made it to the finish line about 10 minutes ahead of the first finisher. We were able to cheer him on as he completed the race in just over 8 hours. We were impressed. What a great race the first finishers must have had, though they were the elites, so I guess it was to be expected. I watched through the first 10 to 12 finishers then decided my sunburn gave me reason to go home for a bit.
Throughout the day we talked to people who were out watching family and friends, many of whom had already completed an Ironman or two themselves. We realized that an Ironman is within our capabilities. There was something about watching these athletes that inspired us, what a feat they had accomplished. We enjoyed the day and it gave us further motivation to start adding distance to our bike and run. While I still think we will complete some short races first, followed by a 70.3, I am now sure that I want to complete a full Ironman.