Ironman Texas 70.3 Race Preview

      Ironman Texas 70.3 is an early season half distance triathlon that takes place on the barrier island of Galveston, Texas.  If you haven’t been to Galveston before it’s a great little town, with  history and character.  Fantastic food, a ton of historic Airbnb homes to choose from, and lots of activities for the kids. 

This race is one of the earliest in the North American race circuit, and not only draws a huge hometown crowd of local triathletes but people fly in from all over the country and even the world to take advantage of the flat and fast course. Often times there is a pro race as well, which is really fun to be a part of.

Professional Triathletes!! Tim and Rinny, not Jen and Liz

The race typically takes place the first weekend of April and the weather is somewhat unpredictable.  Chances are VERY good that it will be hot, humid and windy, but who knows how hot, humid and windy.  There was also that one time when it didn’t get over 55 degrees all day and I got hypothermia, and that other time when a hurricane force storm blew in and the whole finish line blew away and they had to stop the race.  So, it’s unpredictable.  Likely though, it will be hot.  You will want to incorporate some kind of heat acclimation in your last few weeks of training.  Ever since the race was moved to early April several years ago, it has always been wetsuit legal.  Basically you want to be prepared for anything when it comes to the weather.

The logistics of the race are easy and convenient.  The transition and majority of the run course are all on the Moody Gardens property. Check in is very easy, as well as bike drop off.  Plenty of parking.  You can also choose to stay at the Moody Gardens hotel and you’re right on site and don’t need to drive anywhere race morning.

Just look for the Pyramids and you’re there!

If you are driving in race morning, there is a lot of parking but it will be a bit of a walk from the parking lot to transition.  Like a half mile of walking.  You will want to plan for that.  You will also want to remember your sunscreen for race day!!!  Your winter skin won’t be ready for the Gulf sun.

The swim takes place in Offats Bayou, which is advertised as a protected swim.  While this is true, you are not swimming in the open Gulf, the water can be very choppy depending on the winds on race morning.  (Did I mention that it’s windy in Galveston?)  It’s also salty, many people don’t expect that when they jump in.  Like most Ironman races now there is a rolling swim start based on predicted finish time.  You will want to head down to the swim start with plenty of time to spare.  It’s a bit of a walk and the sidewalk is narrow, so if you get stuck in the back of the crowd it’s a big pain to get up to your corral.  Please do not be that guy who is late and shoves everyone out of the way because he planned poorly.

You jump off a dock, about 3 people every 5 seconds, and swim out. Like all Ironman races the course is marked with large orange and yellow buoys, that change color halfway through. You will head out, make a left turn and start to swim back.  There is a giant paddleboat parked at the swim exit which is great for sighting.  Water temp usually varies from chilly to just right, a full sleeve wetsuit is usually a good choice.  Tinted goggles are also a great choice as your first stretch will have a lot of sun in the eyes.


When exiting the swim DO NOT STAND UP BEFORE THE EXIT RAMP!  Sorry for yelling, but there are oyster beds and you will cut up your feet if you stand too soon.  It’s a pretty short run into T1, there will be wetsuit peelers right out of the swim.  Hop onto your bike and you’re off for one of the flattest bikes Ironman has to offer.  It’s a 56 mile out and back course, with very nice smooth paved roads.  This is where the wind will really come into play.  Dominant winds in South East Texas are out of the southeast.  Which typically means you have a tailwind on the way out, and a headwind on the way back.  This is the time to bike smart, use your power meter if you have one, and try not to let the wind destroy your soul on the return 28 miles.  There is one “hill” on the course and that is the bridge that goes over the San Luis pass.  (No, you don’t have to pay the bridge toll)

You may experience some crosswind gusting so just be mindful of that when you’re on the open road versus the sections with some shelter with the houses.  The bike course is really quite lovely with Gulf views as well as lots of Texas wildflowers.  Keep your eye out for Scott Flathouse close to the turnaround and be ready for your race photo!

This bike course is all about staying all aero all the time.  That’s going to be your fastest position with the wind.  You can also run some pretty deep wheels and small cogs in the rear cassette to make the most of your equipment.

Once back in T2 you will be off on your 3 loop run.  Don’t try and memorize the map, you’ll confuse yourself.  It is very well marked and you won’t get lost on race day. (Unless you’re the guy in the very front….That has happened before)

Because of the 3 loops the crowd support on this race is one of the best.  Tons of people out cheering and you’ll get to see them often, with both the loops and the out and backs.  Like most Ironman races there is an aid station every mile.  Again, it’s likely to be hot.  Take advantage of the ice at the aid stations.

There are a few little surprises on the run.  One, are the little “hills”.  You’ll go up and over a bridge multiple times and there are these tiny but super steep climbs right around the Moody Gardens Aquarium building.  There is also a section where you do a bit of off roading and go through a gravel parking lot.  There are a LOT of turns on the course, so you may want to be mindful of your shoe choice.

Keep running and before you know it you’ll be crossing that finish line, hopefully with a big PR!  Galveston is definitely one of the fastest courses out there.  If you’ve got big goals this is a great one to put those to the test.

Recommended Articles