Austin Tri-Cyclist Blog

Sunday, April 15, 2012

2012 Galveston 70.3 Race Report

by Marla Briley, Snapple-ATC Racing

April 2, 2005, was the first year that I drove to Galveston for their annual triathlon. I don’t even remember what they called it back then, but it was a tiny race of no more than maybe 300 people spread over a 70.3 and Olympic distance race. In the coming years, EndorFUN Sports took over and turned Galveston into LoneStar and into a first-class racing experience that drew participants from all over Texas. It still had the small-town feel to it, though, and I enjoyed racing with my friends, knowing over half the participants. The pro field was small and the race was more about the age groupers and their 70.3 experience. In 2011 that all changed. Ironman took over and LoneStar became the Memorial Hermann Ironman 70.3 Texas and a qualifier for 70.3 Worlds. The feel became more corporate, and the competition got tougher. Pros started showing up to toe the line, and before you knew it, Galveston became a destination race, with participants traveling from all over the U.S. and from other countries, as well. 2011 was the second year that Galveston was to be an Ironman event. This year, the pro field was stacked, and with the announcement that Lance Armstrong would be racing, the race filled as did hotels all over Galveston.

If you decide to sign up and race Galveston, let me suggest getting there the Friday before the race to pick up your packet. This year, due to work obligations, I arrived on Saturday and went straight to Moody Gardens, the fun, family center where the race is held. I had to park over half a mile away and waited almost 30 minutes in the sun to pick up my packet and fill out my waivers. Mandatory bike check-in is on Saturday, so after waiting in packet pickup line, I wandered over to the bike drop-off line. I had to laugh at the number of women, myself included, taking pictures of their bikes hanging lonely from their place on the rack. My business done for the day, it was now time to find my friends and head to an early dinner.

Race day dawned windy and humid, which is typical of Galveston. My friends and I made our way to Moody Gardens, arriving at 5:30 a.m. to a line of cars that stretched around the block. By 5:50 am we were parked and walking the one-mile trek to transition. By the time transition closed at 6:45am, I had everything ready, was at my spot, and was relaxing in the grass waiting for the pros to start at 7 a.m. My wave wouldn’t go off until 8:05 a.m. That would give me plenty of time to watch the pros exit the water and then to meander my way roughly a mile to the swim start. Around 24 minutes after they started, a group of guys erupted from the water and there were some polite claps and “good jobs.” Then Lance Armstrong came out, and the crowds went wild. There were cameras following along as he made his way towards his bike and people rushing along beside him. I kind of felt sorry for him. I’d hate to have that much attention on me while trying to smoothly make my way through T1.

Back to my race... The swim begins with a deepwater start. My wave hopped in and we treaded water, taking our places as well as taking care of last-minute business. Don’t open your mouth in the first 100 meters of the swim. I yelled out a “Have Fun,” and all the women erupted in cheers. Then the horn went off and we forgot our goodwill and started hacking at each other while we fought for our bit of water. The swim starts straight into the sun for 400 meters, so bring your tinted goggles. You then make a very sharp left-hand turn and head west for about 1,000 meters, making another sharp left to head in towards shore. I exited the water and was excited to see wet suit strippers! They got my suit off on the second try, and I was up and running towards my bike.

On went the sunglasses, helmet, race number, then shoes, in that order. I grabbed my bike and un-racked it right into my neighbors transition items. She had set up her transition under my back wheel. Big no-no on her part and a big problem for me as my tire valve hooked her bag. I pulled and when I did it pulled my valve, letting all the air out of my back tubular. With some effort, I unhooked the bag from my wheel, not realizing what had happened. I ran to the mount line, executed my clumsy mount and immediately knew something was wrong. I hopped off again, and the whole time volunteers are yelling at me to get going. This is when I wish triathlon were like road racing. I’d really like a neutral wheel, and someone to help me put it on, about now. I'm desperately hunting for a bike mechanic. One volunteer pointed me back into transition where the mechanic tent was set up, on the complete opposite side from where I am now standing. I start hobbling back that way, as fast as my bike shoes will let me go. Halfway there I realize there is no one in the mechanic tent so I turn around and hobble back out, again. Note to Ironman - I was not the only one having issues at this point. I believe it would be a good idea to have more than one bike mechanic in bike transition. A volunteer tells me there is a SAG vehicle about 100 meters around the first turn. Side note - I do have the Fix-A-Flat can on my bike, but I run tubulars and I only have the one can. I’m saving it for a possible flat out on the course. As I’m heading to the SAG vehicle, which I’m just hoping is there, I see a spectator on the side with a pump. I ask to borrow the pump (yes, I know this is illegal) and pump my tire up. I send up a quick prayer to the tire gods and off I go.

The Galveston bike has and always will be windy. There is no real headwind or tailwind, just a constant side wind. I think it must be a little bit like Chinese Water Torture except instead of a constant drop of water, it’s the constant blowing of the wind. The course is as flat as a pancake so be ready to be aero the entire 56 miles. With around 10 miles till the turn around, I started noticing the bumps were a little more pronounced and realized my tire was going flat again. I figured I’d make it to the halfway point, find a volunteer with a pump, and pump it back up. No such luck, though. There was no pump or SAG and I decided it was time to pull out the Fix-A-Flat. The Fix-A-Flat shoots air along with some sort of miracle foam into your tube. It helps to plug up leaks, which I obviously still had, and air up your tire, all in one. It didn’t get me back up to my 120 psi, but good enough, and like the Willie song says, I was “on the road again.” The tire held and I made my way back to T2 and the 13.2 miles of hell to come.

Back into Moody Gardens, off the bike and onto the run course. I want to make a comment here. I really wish that they would let us run along the sea wall. Not only is it cooler out there but to have the chance to run along the Gulf would be spectacular. Instead, they force us to run three loops around buildings, through parking lots making a funny “L” shape turn, out in the middle of the air field. It is hot, with not a breath of air in parts, boring, and fairly unimaginative. The volunteers are great, though, and there are areas where the crowds are thick and their cheering spurs you on. By the third loop, I was cooked. The salt water having removed my sunscreen, I was sunburned and could feel the multiple blisters on my feet. I shuffled my way towards the finish line, crossed it to the incorrect pronunciation of my name, and got my finishers cap and medal. At the end of the day, what mattered most was that I traversed the obstacles before me and finished. Actually, what mattered more was that there were margaritas and great seafood ready to be eaten in celebration of another race done!


  1. Awesome job at the 70.3. I don't think I saw your finishing time, how did you do?

    Also, as a side note, you don't need to pump tubulars up to 120. Getting them to 90-100 provides less rolling resistance and a softer ride!

  2. It was the Lonestar Triathlon Festival back in 2005!