THE WOODLANDS, Texas - Thousands of triathletes are scrambling to get refunds and readjust their schedules this week after the Ironman Texas Triathlon in the Woodlands was abruptly canceled due to COVID-19.
Most of the run, bike, and swim race route is located in Montgomery County which is okay with racing events, but part of the bike path goes into Harris County, where Judge Lina Hidalgo has kept the COVID-19 threat level at its highest alert, leading Ironman organizers to cancel the triathlon that had been planned for April 24.
"I was super disappointed," said Danny Boyle, who was registered for the triathlon.
"My jaw kind of fell to the floor, like no way," said triathlete April Ancira, reacting to the news of the canceled race.
Many triathletes were left devastated to learn the race they spent months training for has been canceled due to COVID-19 for the second time, despite races in other counties seemingly going off without a hitch.
Organizers of the Ironman Texas, which draws around 3,000 athletes, say they’re hoping to reschedule the triathlon for sometime in October.
But they canceled too late for Ancira to get a refund on her hotel, let alone everything else she scheduled as one of the many who travel to the race from out of town.
"You’re talking airfare, hotel stay, having your bike shipped," said Ancira.
While the race was approved in Montgomery County, the 140-mile route dips into Harris County, where Judge Hidalgo is keeping the COVID-19 threat level at its highest alert, telling people to stay home.
Ironman sent athletes an email, saying due to this, they had to call the race off.
Boyle says bikers are already required to keep a safe distance from each other, so he was surprised and disappointed that his hours of training each week were all for a race that won’t happen.
"You’re supposed to be spaced out ten feet from another bike," said Boyle. "It was a surprise because it seems like Texas has been opening up a little bit. I had done the Woodlands Marathon, and there were a lot of athletes there."
"I completely understand being aware of COVID and wanting to prevent cases, but at the same time, it’s a little different when it’s outdoors and you’re biking," said Boyle.
He says his $800 registration fee is not refundable, only transferable, not to mention the impact on the local economy.
"There is an economic impact," said Boyle. "I think especially with the Woodlands Township. I think so many people come in."
"When I called Marriot to see if I could actually cancel my reservation, she goes, we really need this revenue," said Ancira.
Judge Hidalgo declined to comment, according to an email from her office.
Harris County’s website data shows the county is averaging 622 new cases of COVID-19 per day.
Meanwhile, Ironman Galveston on April 11 is still scheduled and sold out.
Galveston city officials told FOX 26, "Ironman has met our requirements with the COVID-19 plan, and are allowed to proceed."