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Memorial Hermann and IRONMAN Texas

Together they bring a world-class triathlon to The Woodlands

In the wee hours of April 27th, more than 80 professional triathletes, followed by 2500 amateurs, will dive into Lake Woodlands for a 2.4-mile swim, bike 112 miles in The Woodlands and on Hardy Toll Road, and finish with a full marathon of 26.2 miles. The marathon course, named 2023 Athlete’s Choice for Best Run in North America, takes runners around Lake Woodlands, along spectator-lined streets, and through Hippie Hollow on The Waterway. Anyone with the strength, stamina, and fortitude to finish the grueling race before midnight will forever be an IRONMAN.

Each competitor has trained countless hours to reach the triathlon. Despite all the preparation, some will face obstacles during their eight to 17-hour race. If the obstacle is a medical one, Dr. Kevin Schulz is on hand. He is the Medical Director for Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Texas. As an emergency room physician at Memorial Hermann TMC in Houston and an expert in pre-hospital medicine, he excels in this role.

Dr. Schulz says professional triathletes can complete the course in about eight hours. “I’ll be at the finish line for the pro finish at 2:30 p.m.,” he says. “It’s exciting and it’s an honor to be there, but I almost prefer to be at the finish line at 11:30 at night for the people who’ve been out there for 16 and a half hours.” To witness the victories of everyday people who accomplish the unimaginable is truly inspirational. To see a father with a disabled child in tow, a cancer survivor, or a blind competitor guided all the way to the finish line underscores IRONMAN’s motto that “Anything is Possible.” Dr. Schulz shares, "It’s even more special now that I’ve been on the other side.”

Yes, you read that right. After watching his fair share of IRONMAN races in The Woodlands, Galveston, and Waco and having triathletes encourage him to compete, Dr. Schulz accepted the challenge. He admits his thinking progressed from “Those people are a little crazy. I could never do that,” to “I wonder if I could do that if I tried?” When his daughter was born five and a half years ago, he got in shape and lost 60 pounds in the process. His wondering was over when he completed an IRONMAN in Florida last November. As he crossed the finish line, he heard four incredible words: You are an IRONMAN! “It was a special feeling,” he says. “To be on the athlete’s side was very rewarding.”

His 10 years as the Medical Director of Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Texas have been equally rewarding. In a typical race, medical teams care for several hundred patients from sunup until well after midnight in the aid stations along the route and the 60-bed air-conditioned medical tent at the finish line. Dr. Schulz’s priority is to provide the best possible care and experience to the athletes and visitors. The volunteers — 300 to 400 Memorial Hermann employees, as well as physicians, physician assistants, and healthcare workers from the community — help make this a reality. Dr. Schulz jokes, “We run our own IRONMAN on the medical team!” The day is a long and tiring one, but their dedication and quality of care have earned them recognition as IRONMAN’s cream of the crop.

Along with caring for athletes and spectators during the race, Memorial Hermann’s sponsorship of the triathlon aligns with its vision to create healthier communities now and for generations to come, says Justin Kendrick, Senior Vice President and CEO of Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center and Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital. Memorial Hermann is associated with several race coaches for those interested in competing. It also hosts the IRONKIDS Fun Run and Doggie Dash on April 20th to inspire the next generation of athletes.

For the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Texas, the IRONKIDS Fun Run, the Welcome Banquet, and the Awards Ceremony to run smoothly, it takes months of planning. Memorial Hermann brings the necessary people and agencies together to host an event of this magnitude, says Mr. Kendrick. Dr. Schulz, the Montgomery County Hospital District, law enforcement, ambulance services, and elected officials are several who come to the table. “I rest better at night knowing that we've got a completely integrated system of resources that work really seamlessly together to keep everybody safe,” he says.

Everyone associated with planning the weeklong Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Texas festivities recognizes that none of the events would be possible without the dedication of the community leaders, commitment of the various agencies, and passion of the volunteers. “This is a world-class community,” says Mr. Kendrick, “and a world-class race that attracts the top professionals in this sport from all over the world.”Last year’s triathletes came from all 50 states and 67 countries. Organizers expect April’s roster to again include competitors from around the nation and the world.

This year’s triathlon has been designated as the North American Championship. It’s also an IRONMAN Pro Series event for professional athletes. “To be named the North American Championship right here in The Woodlands is really cool and noteworthy,” said Brad Bailey, Chairman of Visit The Woodlands, the convention and visitor bureau for The Woodlands. The race may be one of the larger Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Texas races, with upper-echelon triathletes vying for spots at the World Championships later in the season.

An estimated 8000 to 10,000 athletes, family and friends who accompany competitors, and spectators will be on hand for the race. “Every event has some type of economic benefit to The Woodlands, some more than others, provided the participants are staying in The Woodlands hotels, dining in our restaurants, and shopping in our retail locations,” Mr. Bailey said. “Money from visitors makes up a major component of the Township’s hotel tax collection and sales tax collection. Both of these taxes combined make up over half of The Woodlands Township’s annual revenue.” So, what’s the bottom line? Nick Wolda, Chairman of Visit The Woodlands expects the total economic impact of the 2024 Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Texas to be $15 to $16 million. In addition, The IRONMAN Foundation will donate to a local charity or nonprofit organization.  Since the race launched here in 2011, the foundation has contributed over $1 million to area charities and organizations.

Considering this tremendous boost to our community’s economic health each year, Memorial Hermann recently extended its partnership with The IRONMAN Group through 2028. According to The IRONMAN Group, Memorial Hermann’s support has helped this event become one of the most popular full-distance IRONMAN triathlons in North America. The partnership is a win for everyone.

As a prestigious and award-winning race, Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Texas generates a lot of buzz for The Woodlands. The event is covered on social media, reaching tens of thousands of people. With over 7.3 million engagements through pre-race videos, live streaming of the competition, and social media posts, people all over the world saw The Woodlands virtually in 2023. Since professional triathletes are competing this year, the triathlon will be covered on several global platforms.

The race has benefits for both the township and the people within our community. “To have world-class events right here in The Woodlands is great for residents,” Mr. Bailey says. “There are so many opportunities to volunteer and participate.” More than 3000 local volunteers helped make Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Texas a tremendous success. As one athlete said, “I have done MANY races, and this was top-notch. I felt very supported throughout my entire journey. I will definitely tell everyone I know that IRONMAN Texas is a great race! I’ve also never seen better volunteers at any event. They were all so friendly and helpful.” 

Thousands of spectators do their part by cheering on the athletes, as well. Many gather around Lake Woodlands to watch the swim in the morning. It is a rolling start with professional athletes diving in first, followed by groups of amateur triathletes. Even more residents and visitors line the marathon route to support and encourage the competitors. Hippie Hollow is a section of The Waterway with tie-dyed banners, sparkling lights, ‘bongo’-playing beatniks, and enthusiastic cheerleaders who dress for the occasion. The volunteers manning Hippie Hollow year after year make The Woodlands run a festive and spirited one.  “From an athlete’s perspective, having people cheer you on is one of those things that really does matter,” Dr. Schulz says. Our community’s commitment to rallying around the athletes in every aspect of the race makes the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Texas a huge success.

Mr. Kendrick adds, “My advice to anybody who hasn't experienced this race either from a volunteer or spectator standpoint, make it a priority to come out and witness the race on Saturday. Witness the run and witness the finish line,” he says. “You see these amazing inspirational stories, with people accomplishing the dreams that they never thought were possible to accomplish. You'll have more inspiration for your life moving forward than you could ever imagine would be possible.”

By the Numbers:

2.4-mile swim

112-mile bicycle race

26.2-mile run

80 to 100 professional triathletes

2500 amateur triathletes

7.3 million views on videos, live streams, and social media posts

$1 million donated to local charities and organizations

$15 to $16 million economic impact

  • The 2.4 mile swim starts the day.
  • A bird's eye view of the marathon.
  • Hippie Hollow is the last hoorah! to get our athletes to the finish line
  • The finish line victory
  • At a great pace..
  • A bird's eye view of the swim in Lake Woodlands.
  • More than words.. the finish line
  • First place winner shown from 2023!
  • Running the Marathon
  • Memorial Hermann doctors taking care of our athletes facing some challenges
  • Dr. Schultz ironman tattoo customized to represent his medical background
  • Justin Kendrick, CEO Memorial Hermann at Waterway
  • Dr. Kevin Schultz ready for action
  • Great conversation between two professionals, Dr. Schultz and Mr. Kendrick and two Ironman

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