10/29/2013 7:46:33 PM)
I want everyone to that is interested in the @IronmanTri Austin 70.3 to fully know about this race - I wish that I knew this information before I paid my IRONMAN sized entry fee. If you ever plan to race Ironman Austin 70.3, I suggest that you read this summary. You may decide that other options are more desireable. My question to myself - "Do I regret racing Ironman Austion 70.3?" - My Answer: No. It is a race that is close to my home, and I wanted to experience it since it is so close. However, Ironman Texas 70.3 (in Galveston) is much better planned, has higher quality accommodations and production, has a MUCH better & safer course, and is a much higher quality product for your entry $$$.
I want to preface this summary by saying that the WHOLE reason that I prefer Ironman Branded events, and am willing to pay a substantially higher entry fee for an Ironman Branded event is because of its QUALITY of the experience. I feel like Ironman Austin 70.3 just didnt stand up to the quality of typical Ironman branded events.
Unfortunately, Austin had a horrible thunderstorm that blew through town at about 4am on race morning. This caused a lot of problems ranging from bad traffic to the race site to poor course conditions and poor transition conditions). A better organized race would have still have had issues due to these bad storms, but a better thought out execution beforehand would have had only minor setbacks. As you will read below – this race was poorly thought out and planned which allowed the storms to continue to wreak havoc on the racers hours after the rain had stopped. There were a few good aspects of this race, which I will also point out - But the poorly planned model of Austin 70.3 unfortunately overshadowed the good.
So here is THE GOOD:
1) The voluteers were awesome.
2) The race director didn’t scrap the race (which rumor had it that, at 5am, they were considering cancelling the swim and the bike due to the bad thunderstorms that had just blown through town).
3) The swim – I liked the lake layout, the lake entrance area was uncongested and easily accessible - allowing family and friends to enjoy the swim event with their racers while they waited to start - and the Swim entrance and exit were located at a large hill where all of the spectators could watch (and easily see) the entire course.
4) The finish line is in a convention center (though it isn’t a glamorous convention center – it was still different and kind of neat).
Let me start off by saying that this race had TWO different locations for T1 & T2 – This was a total nightmare, and it caused a lot of pre-race stress for the racers. Additionally, the race was a "Clean Transiton" race - which means that you have to keep all of your gear in a transition bag (tied & hanging from the rack at all times - and no laying out of any gear the morning before the race - and everything must get cleaned up nice & tidy before you leave transition for the next discipline) - NO EXCEPTIONS, and the race announcer was bluntly honest about the do or die policy. I can honestly say that I will NEVER do a race with two transition locations again - This concept just sucks in my book.
Bike transition (ie: T1) was on grass full of sticker burrs in the grass – the race organizers were aware of this beforehand, because volunteers were telling all of the racers to “carry your bike through transition because the sticker burrs have caused flats”. Carry our bikes through transition? Really??? This is not a new problem either - I read about about the sticker burrs on postings from prior years. The fact that the race director(s) didn’t either cover transition with artificial turf or change it to a nearby area that wasn’t grass is ignorant in my book. There was an additional 100yd stretch of grass between the “Bike out” chute to the "Bike Mount" surface (concrete). This 100 yd stretch was incredibly muddy and full of small pebbles. On race day, MANY racers (including me) had a very difficult time clipping into their bikes because our bike shoes were CAKED with mud and pebbles - which cause major delays (over 10 minutes for me) - trying to clean our shoes & pedals, just to get clippled in.
Run transition was uneventful, which is a good thing - but the "Clean Transition" policy still sucked and took extra time.
RACE DAY MORNING
The parking area had only one entrance from one street with a very poorly execution of traffic flow by the Austin Police Department - which caused the most amazing traffic jam of racers and spectators to get into the parking area - the line was literally backed up for TWO MILES. Some racers ended up parking and leaving their cars on the side of the road and walked over a mile in an effort to make it to the transition areas before they closed. The two different transition area locations were 1-2 miles apart. Parking was only allowed by T2, and everyone had to take a shuttle to T1 (which was by the lake) – This caused a crazy backlog of racers and spectators to not make it to T1 before the transition area closed. There were so many racers that didn’t make it to T1 before the closure that the director actually reopened it for “3 Minutes” with threats that they would “cut off your wrist band, and you will not be allowed to race” if you didn’t get in and out within the 3 minute allowance. I was lucky enough to make it to the transitions in time to get my gear bags hung and my tires pumped - but I was very organized before I got there, which allowed me to finish before the threatened to cut my wrist band off - YES THEY WERE THREATENING THIS. For those of us that were lucky to get to the parking lot in time to get into transition areas to drop our bags up and double check our bikes & pump up tires, this worked out OK, but was anything other than stress-free. For the many that got stuck the the unavoidable traffic jam, some finished their race before it ever started - closed transition meant no race for the late arrivals.
The Swim - (41 Minutes)
Let's just say it was like swimming in a cold swamp - Lots of long swamp grass floating around at the start and was murky. But, all in all, the swim was OK - aside from the sticker burs on the grass from the Swim Out chute into T1 - which could have been alleviated with a long turf carpet between the Chute & T1 (aka - poor planning or appathetical planning (which is usually not representative of an Ironman Branded event).
The bike (3 hours 7 Minutes)
This bike leg was a huge disappointment for me. As I mentioned earlier, there was a 100 yd stretch between transition (aka Bike Out) to the Bike Mount line. Once I got to the bike mount line, I realized that I had a BIG problem - My shoe clips were loaded with mud from the 100yd stretch and couldnt clip into my pedals. Once I tried to clip in, my muddy shoes caked my pedals. Then I was totally screwed. I had muddy pebble infested shoes AND muddy pebble infested pedals. I wasted 10-15 minutes standing several 100 yards from Bike Mount just trying to clean & clip – UUUGHHH!!! (So I could have realistically finished this bike leg around 2hr50min if the transition surface issues were better addressed. This could have been alleviated by a simple one of two ways: (1) move transition a little closer to the street (so there is no 100yd muddy chute to bike mount OR (2) lay some fake turf in the Chute to alleviate the muddy issue. The sticker burr issue caused an amazing # of racers to have flats on the bike - I fortunately was not one of them. It seemed that I saw at least one racer every couple of miles changing a flat tire – That is WAY too many racers for the race director to not recognize the issue and resolve with a change of T1 layout. I also saw a couple of really serious crashes, which I am not sure if they were due to flats or not – but this bike course is hilly (and to have a flat on a downhill going 35+ mph could be potentially fatal). I broke 35mph on a few downhill sections, and the thought of a flat freaked me out at those moments. Additionally, these roads were in HORRIBLE CONDITION –
HUGE CRACKS – which also could have caused serious injury. The final 10 miles of the course were DANGEROUS. There was regular car traffic allowed on this strip, and the cycle lane was max 3' width, which caused drafting at best case scenario, or dangerous passes with the threat of getting hit by a car at worst case scenario. As far as the scenery of the bike course is concerned – To put it bluntly - It was ugly. There are so many beautiful parts of Austin, and I was envisioning riding through the more beautiful parts of the city (more like the western side of Austin). I have never been to the eastern side of Austin before, and I didn’t know what I looked like – now know, and don’t care to do it again. I am really disappointed with the course – it doesn’t give Austin the recognition that it deserves for Austin’s beauty & charm.
The run (1hr 59mins)
The run was through Walter E Long Park – but don’t be fooled by the word “Park” – this is an old, run down park, with broken down roads full of big cracks & pot holes, and some parts completely disintegrated into dirt/mud. This course is a triple loop, and was pretty hilly. The mile around the Walter Long Convetion center was good, well paved, and quite festive with large crowds - but the remaining 3 miles of the loop were sparse and quite drab with broken down roadway.
Total time: 6hrs 2 mins
So in summary - I am disappointed in the poor quality of what I thought would have been more representative of an Ironman event. This race just didnt make the bar in my book. I love Ironman events, and was really surprised to see this. There is another Half Iron distance in Conroe, TX that occurs in the same month as this Austin 70.3 - and the ride covers some of the same road as Ironman Texas - and is MUCH prettier. The swim and the run of this Conroe event have comparable/better conditions also - and the race entry for this Conroe race is a FRACTION of the Austin 70.3 price.
I have Ironman New Orleans 70.3 in April 2014 coming up - and am hopeful that the Ironman brand will get redeemed in my head. If not, I may need to rethink paying these higher fees, and race the cheaper Iron/Half Iron distance races that are not branded by Ironman.