No One Does IRONMAN like Texas in The Woodlands

By: Debbie Staton
| Published 10/08/2021


THE WOODLANDS, TX -- It’s here again! This is the time for a fall race. The Woodlands is gearing up for IRONMAN Texas 2021. It has been a long time in the making. We have been waiting for this race for over a year and half. But IRONMAN Texas has finally arrived again in The Woodlands.

IRONMAN is an endurance race like no other. The race consists of a 2.4 mile swim with a 112 bike ride and a 26.2 marathon run. These athletes test themselves several times throughout the day. All of this has to be completed in a 17 hour finish. And you will see finishes as fast as 8 hours all the way to the entire 17 hours. Each one of these endeavors is an amazing accomplishment, regardless of the outcome!

IRONMAN, like everything else, has been impacted by COVID. This race will still be a crowd pleaser and will be done in Big Texas fashion. It will be a different race this year. For starters, this will be an amateur, age group race, with no pro field or pro starts. And it is expected that there will still be some very fast finishes - with quite possibly new pro cards earned.

Woodlands Online had the privilege of meeting up with Sandra Sutherland, IRONMAN Texas Volunteer Director, to get the inside story and learn what IRONMAN Texas has gone through to prepare for this incredible race.

Sandra has been a Woodlands resident for 22 years and got introduced to triathlons through her two young boys - and she jumped in with both feet. Sandra has been involved with triathlons by helping to start Kiwanis; working with the YMCA to bring the kids triathlon to our community; working with Willie Fowlkes to help start the first CB&I Triathlon. Sandra also started a triathlon program called TXTRI that has served both children and adult triathletes in The Woodlands. This was followed by Sandra initiating the first private PE programs in the state of Texas.

The Woodlands is a very active community - and the perfect home for IRONMAN Texas.

A number of years ago, Sandra met and worked with Greg Pennington, IRONMAN Texas race director, and has been involved as IRONMAN Texas Volunteer Director for 8 years. Without a doubt, Sandra does an incredible job and helps to make IRONMAN Texas the huge success it is!

Meeting with Sandra, has given us a behind-the-scenes glimpse of all that goes on to put together a race of this magnitude. It includes everything from organizing and recruiting volunteer teams, to staging all the support areas, to medical teams, and the party at the finish line.

Sandra does not do this alone. She tells us that all the volunteers make IRONMAN Texas possible. Due to COVID restrictions, IRONMAN was forced to reschedule IRONMAN Texas three times, Sandra and the incredible volunteers are now busy putting together an incredible race. It will be a race deserving of all the hard work the athletes are putting in to prepare for that big day. “It’s been fun seeing it all come together.” Sandra tell us.

When asked what were some of the challenges she faced this year, Sandra shared that they lost their title sponsor due to the seriousness of COVID and of the impact this has placed on our medical community. She quickly added that this has not impacted the medical support that IRONMAN Texas will have this year. Sandra tells us that “we have the same medical director and the same number of doctors and nurses that we have had in the past years.” She proudly shared that The Woodlands residents have stepped up to help - and even continue to reach out to support this great race.

For many years IRONMAN Texas has had a big volunteer showing, which continues to this day. We were able to see and meet some of the volunteer captains that make this race possible. There are 65 Volunteer Captains with teams of volunteers anywhere for 25 - 60. These teams do everything from swim course swim spotters, to the run course aid stations, to teams of volunteers on the Hardy Toll Road, to Athlete Check In, and much more.

Texas volunteers, show up and show up in a big way. Sandra even acknowledged that this year 10 Volunteer Captains that have served in this role for all 10 years. Everything is bigger in Texas including the hearts of our volunteers! To this, we give a Great Big ‘Thank You!’

This year’s race will be an amazing race and one you do not want to miss. It will be held in the fall season this year and will have a few other differences. But I promise, you will not be disappointed. Come out and watch and cheer on our athletes. The Texas enthusiasm and Woodlands support is what carries them to the finish line.

The swim start is at 7:15 AM at Northshore Park. Come on out! The party lasts all days! “It’s a great race that can be watched all day long from different parts [of The Woodlands],” Sandra said.

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