Clay has done Galveston every year that I have known him. He actually hoped that after watching the race in 2012, that I would want to do a triathlon. Wrong! It was super hot and everyone looked like they were in so much pain! Fast forward to this year, and I would say that we were as prepared as we could have been.
So, a few of things to consider when preparing to spectate Galveston.
First, do you have friends or family there at the race, competing or spectating? If so, think of how you can divide and conquer. We stayed a little further out this year (Thanks, Ace!) so we were able to see Clay on the bike course from our condo. But that's only bc we had friends with us that Clay could ride with to the race. This is the first year we didn't go to the swim start and here's why. Two boys, two and under, and transition closes over an hour before his actual swim wave begins. We would have had to rush to get everyone up and out in time for Clay to get to transition and then wait around for an hour so we could watch him jump the water, then run by as he exits the water to get on his bike. It just wasn't worth it. I'm crazy about our children's sleep habits and they get cranky when they are tired! Don't all children?! So, I got up with Clay and started to get everything packed and loaded, and the boys were able to wake up naturally at their usual 6:30-7:00. We had everything in the car so when Clay passed us for the first part of the bike course, we could then head towards Moody Gardens to get ready for the run. Don't be afraid to ask for help or trade off with people so that the day can go a little more smoothly. This is the hardest thing for me to do!
Second, are you staying within walking distance of the race or will you be driving in and parking? Basically that's either staying on site at Moody Gardens or somewhere else. The hotel at Moody Gardens fills up quickly and it's pretty expensive. We always stay off site so you need to allow time to get to the race site and get parked. Once the race has started, they will not let you park in the regular parking lots at Moody Gardens. This isn't a terrible thing. There are plenty of places to park near Schlitterbahn and it makes getting out post race fairly easy. It's about a half mile walk from those parking lots to where we usually watch the run portion of the race. It's all paved so it's stroller friendly.
Additionally, do you have children or babies with you? Galveston is so family friendly. There is a lot to do and the island is so laid back. That's one reason why we do this race each year! As for race day, Moody Gardens (the facility) is open but the exhibits are not open until 10:00 am. There are bathrooms inside and a couple places to eat if needed. I always have a backpack full of snacks and small things to do, a blanket, and a portable charger for my phone. Did I mention snacks? There are also a couple of playgrounds on the run course, one behind the merch tent and one near the water park.
Last, have your athlete give you segment estimates and download the Ironman app (click the picture below to download). For example, typically, Clay will swim a half in 28 min or less. I know he will average at least 24 mph on the bike. And then we will see him half a dozen times on the run course. If you have a good guess at your athlete's pace, you can figure out how long it will take them to get from A to Z. The Ironman app is so good! It used to suck, if I'm being honest but now it is truly helpful. Keep in mind that the app is gives estimates depending on the athlete's pace between checkpoints. This year, the bike course had a tail wind on the way out (fast!) and then a headwind on the way back (slow!). The app had given everyone false estimates that were much faster than they were going to be. I had to explain that to a group of people who were worried, waiting around for their athletes to get back to transition. Keep the conditions in mind.
(Course map images do not belong to me and can be found on the Ironman website.)
You are able to see the athletes as they start and then exit the water and enter transition OR you can watch them as they mount their bikes to leave the transition area. Once they get going in the water, you can't really distinguish one person from another, so you might as well head to where you're going to see them next.
The bike is an out and back and the road is a two lane road with a good amount of traffic. They have one lane blocked off for the athletes and most intersections have officers tending to the traffic. It isn't easy to go out on the bike course and get back in quickly, and it is dangerous. Traffic really picks up between 9:00 and 10:00 am and that makes it hard to get back to the race site in time to see your athlete start the run. My advice, find something to keep yourself occupied for the time they will be on the bike course in the opposite direction. Go have breakfast or go to the beach. Visit the shops on The Strand. Or go back to your hotel/house/condo and take a nap! The traffic is normal as soon as you leave the race area.
This is the best part of the race to spectate. We set up in front of the Visitor Center and were able to see Clay 3 times on each lap (they do 3 laps). From the Visitor Center, on the last lap, after we saw him the second time, we had plenty of time to get to the finish line to watch him finish. You can go right up the steps into the Visitor Center and use restrooms or get food, and this spot is near a playground so the kids were happy!
(Photo from Jason Reinhardt )
Get with friends and ask for help if you need it!
Allow plenty of time to park and walk.
Bring snacks and entertainment for the kids!
Download the Ironman app and get segment estimates from your athlete!
Swim- you can watch them start and exit the water
Bike- you can watch them leave and come back into transition
Run- you can see them up to 3 times each lap!!
Most importantly, have fun! Spectating is hard work but such a good time!
Any questions? Let me know and I'd love to try to help!