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6 things you need to know before attending The Woodlands Ironman race

HOUSTON – Top 6 things you need to know if you're attending or supporting the IRONMAN race:

1) The Race

The Woodlands will host the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Texas North American Championship on Saturday. It is a grueling triathlon with a course that includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run -- a marathon.

The event will offer 80 age groups qualifying slots to the 2018 IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua Kona, Hawai'i.

2) The Athletes

The event will welcome 3,000 registered participants -- athletes traveling from 50 states and 53 countries.

Anders Broman, 18, from Eagan, Minnesota is the youngest athlete. Francisco Gutierrez, 78, from Winnetka, Illinois is the oldest athlete. Athletes come from backgrounds in all professions -- an airline pilot, chef, firefighter, nurse, police officer, geophysicist, oceanographer, student, writer, etc.

3) The Location

The point-to-point swim starts at North Shore Park and ends in the canal at Town Green Park. The Nike route portion of the event begins in The Woodlands, then Northern Harris County, where athletes will head onto the Hardy Toll Road, taking two loops returning them to The Woodlands.

Starting line: Northshore Park, 2505 Lake Woodlands Drive., The Woodlands, Texas 77380
Finish line: Waterway Square Place, The Woodlands, Texas 77380

4) The time

6:25 a.m. - Pro Race Starts
6:40 a.m. - Age Group Rolling Start
12 p.m. - 5 p.m. - IRONMAN Village
*Approximately 2 p.m. - First finisher is expected to approach
12 a.m. - Official race finishes

5) Road Closures

Southbound Hardy Toll Road and the Westbound Airport Connector will be closed for the race from 3 a.m.- 6 p.m. Saturday.

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6) Where to watch

SWIM

1. Lake Woodlands Pkwy Bridge just east of North Shore Park - this area will give you a great view of the lake and the swimmers. 

2. Hughes Landing parking garage - bring your binoculars for this spot, but it’s still a high vantage point to see the start of the swim portion of the race. Plus, you can walk over to various points in the race from here. 

3. The canal between Lake Woodlands - this is near the swim finish and is best best accessed from the stairs down to the waterway off Grogan’s Mill.

4. The north side of Towns Green Park -  If you watch from here, you can see the transition from swim to bike. It’s fun to see the volunteers helping the participants quickly move from one portion to the other.

There’s a lot of action here.

BIKE

1. North Shore Park - The bike route starts in The Woodlands, heads down Lake Robbins Drive, down Grogan’s Mill and out to the Hardy Toll Road. North Shore Park is a good place for families and kids to watch the race.

2. Along Lake Robbins Drive - The streets and neighborhoods are heavily congested during the bike portion of the event. In order to avoid getting stuck out on the course, the best option for the bike start and finish is along Lake Robbins. 

3. Spring Stuebner and Interstate 45 - If you want to get further away from the action, this is a good location to grab lunch and watch the race. Bikers will wind through this area during the first half of the bike race. 

4. Hardy Toll Road - The bikers say they really enjoy the open route of the Hardy Toll Road in this race. Venturing out and parking along the Hardy Toll Road will give you the opportunity to see athletes sailing at top speeds on the open course. 

RUN 

The 26.2-mile run is on a three-loop course. Runners will go down Lake Woodlands Drive, Woodlands Parkway, toward the mall and then back around. (Map)

1. Market Street - this is a good spot to cheer on the runners! Remember, there are many road closures so the best locations to enter Market Street are along Lake Woodlands Drive, Six Pines Drive and Grogans Mill Road. 

2. South Shore Park - This park has plenty of water fountains, gazebos and covered areas to hang out and watch the runners during the race.

3. Westin Hotel - Get a great view from high above if you have a chance to watch from the Westin. 

4. Waterway Square - This is the finish line for the event. There are also many restaurant options nearby.