Galveston’s toughest triathlon takes to the streets Sunday when more than 2,500 professional and amateur athletes swim, cycle and run their way through the Memorial Hermann Ironman 70.3 Texas.

The race begins with a 1.2-mile swim in Offatts Bayou, followed by 56 miles of cycling and concludes with a 13.1-mile run to the finish line at Moody Gardens.

While that may seem like about a month’s worth of exercise to many people, last year’s champion, Australian Richie Cunningham, finished the event in 3 hours, 48 minutes and 24 seconds. British pro triathlete Emma Kate Lidbury was the fast female competitor, clocking a 4:13:52 finishing time.

While the professional triathletes will be competing for a $15,000 prize purse, many of the amateurs, also known as age-group competitors, have a lot riding on the race as well. Forty of the top age group times will qualify for an entry to the 2014 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in September.

The chance to compete in the championships isn’t the only factor luring competitors from 45 states and 28 countries to the island. Many participants have chosen the Galveston race instead of the other nearly 70 races in the global Ironman 70.3 series for the flat profile of the cycling and run courses, which top out at an elevation of around 20 feet.

The flatness can make the course look, on paper, a bit easier than it is, since it doesn’t account for the strong winds that often bedevil riders as they bike to the western point of the island across stretches of road with little on either side to serve as a windbreak.

The triathlon is spectator-friendly, with excellent vantage points for the swim at Palm Beach, which will be partially open for race viewing, and at the transition area west of the Colonel Paddlewheel dock. The run portion will also be visible from Palm Beach, and since the runners make three loops of their course, there are ample opportunities to cheer on the competitors. Spectators may view the cycling along FM 3005 or on 83rd Street as well as at the transition area at Moody Gardens.

For an even closer look at some of the top competitors, the public is invited to Pro Tri Night at FitTriRun, 528 23rd St., in Galveston, where 2012 champion Kelly Williamson, international competitor Joszef Major and members of the Zoot racing team will be in attendance from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m.

“We’ll have an informal panel discussion, where anyone can ask questions, and some time for a meet and greet,” FitTriRun owner Kim Bachmeier said. “These triathletes are very friendly and down to earth, and it’s a great opportunity to meet some outstanding competitors and learn from them.”

On Saturday, the focus will be on the triathletes of the future. The Ironkids fun run will give children ages 3-15 the opportunity to run along part of Sunday’s Ironman 70.3 course. The race is open to all children and their families whether or not they have a family member competing in Sunday’s 70.3.

The fun run begins at 10 a.m., and on-site registration will be available for $15.


At a glance

WHAT: Memorial Hermann Ironman 70.3 Texas

WHEN: Sunday, with a Ironkids fun run beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday

WHERE: The race begins with a 1.2-mile swim in Offatts Bayou

Bernice Torregrossa is a five-time marathoner and a water exercise instructor. She can be reached at bernice92@aol.com.

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