Race Coverage

Canals, Hippie Hollows & the HTR...


By Julie Pagano

Ironman Texas (4/24) Race Report - Like many triathlons that athletes have been training for, this race was nearly 2 years in the making. After completing Ironman Wisconsin in 2019, I targeted Texas as my next full Ironman race. Unfortunately, COVID took over the world and it was unclear when or if IMTX would be a viable option again. After registering for another race, TX popped back up and I transferred my registration as soon as I could. In late fall of 2021, training kicked into full swing to prepare for the early season race. With all my training being done inside, thanks to our cold and snowy upper Midwest winters, I attempted to create some heat acclimation and prepare myself for a warm TX race. Lots of rides and runs done with no fan and wearing sweats made for some hot training days. After a series of solid build/recovery phases, I felt ready and packed up my bike and gear to head to the land of heat and humidity…The Woodlands, TX.

Stepping off the plane in TX, the warm, humid air hit like a welcome blanket given the sub 30 degree temps we left from in Minneapolis.
The days leading up to the race went by quickly, I reassembled my bike, did the shake out swims,  rides and runs, met up with friends, went to check in, bought some of my favorite IM apparel, checked out the course, packed up gear bags and relaxed. Having the experience of a previous Ironman race was so beneficial. I felt very confident and calm about my preparation and plan for race day. 

In the blink of an eye, it was race morning and I was consumed by the final preparations, checking in with friends and loved ones and getting to the swim start. As the gun sounded for the AG start, I inched toward the starting coral with so much excitement, anticipation and nervous energy. ...

After being away from open water for almost 9 months, I really loved being back. Water temp was warm, nearing the wetsuit cut off temp at 75 degrees but I felt comfortable. I settled in and was able to easily sight the buoys in order to take the straight line around the lake. The last part of the swim is in the canal, which is so cool as people are lined up on both sides of the waterway. Although it was a warm swim, I picked up a 2 minute PR. 

Coming out of the swim and into T1, I made quick work of throwing on my bike shoes and helmet, grabbing my bike and getting settled into the longest part of the race. Winding through the first 20 miles throughout The Woodlands clipped along, however when I entered the Hardy Toll Road, the wind hit like a ton of bricks. I was in for 20 miles battling 25-30 mph headwinds so I tucked in and worked on keeping my mind calm. As I came around the first turn around, just after mile 40, it was like I entered a totally different course. A glorious tailwind pushed some big speed and I made up some ground. Bad news was right around the corner though, at mile 60, it was time to turn around and face the headwind again as it was a 2 loop course on the HTR.


Unfortunately, due to pushing through the headwind, my back started hurting around mile 70. I was taking every opportunity on the overpass climbs to get out of the saddle to stretch my back. With quite a bit of pain radiating across the lower back, I had to push just to get to the dismount line and believe me, it was a welcome sight. I am so grateful for the volunteers throughout the entire race, however I am especially thankful for the T2 volunteers who helped me get my run gear on and got me out the door. Even with crazy wind and heat, I gained another PR of 1 hr and 5 minutes on the bike.

I knew I had plenty of time to finish the run so I took my time and started slowly by alternating between running and walking, trying to stretch out my back. It certainly was warm, about 85 degrees with nearly 90% humidity, so I took advantage of the ice and cold water at each aid station. Coming around for the back half of the first loop, I encountered the amazing crowd support along the waterway and felt like I was actually flying as I went through the famous Hippie Hollow. Lap 2 was most of the same, but felt good enough to run more than I walked. I enjoyed the amazing homes along Majesty Way, the shaded trails and soaked up all of the energy from the spectators. Finally on the 3rd and final lap I knew I could put my head down and run. It flew by and soon I was entering the finishing chute, hugging my husband and friends, and Mike Reilly was once again saying those magical words “Julie Pagano, You are an Ironman”! 

With nearly a 90 minute personal record at the Ironman distance, IMTX ignited a fire in me. I now know that Ironman racing is something I can do and truly do enjoy. I liked the process of building fitness leading up to the race and this course was so amazing to race at, even on a windy day. I know I will be back for another cruise down the Hardy Toll Road soon!