The national ironman triathlon championship race is in Oklahoma this month. But just three months after harsh winter storms, literal potholes must be fixed.
When cities host triathlons, marathons, criterions, and other mass outdoor athletic events, it’s a smart draw for those municipalities to welcome visitors. The athletes and their families and friends often spend a weekend – as well as their tourist dollars at hotels, restaurants, and local attractions. It’s a time to spruce things up for the thousands of guests, of course.
But for any such large events that are staged on public streets and roads, the quality of the pavement is about more than just making the place look nice. Potholes in the streets it can affect the competition – slowing down a champion, or possibly causing serious accidents for talented athletes on expensive bicycles. One city that is addressing that in this moment is Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is hosting the Ironman North American Championship race on May 23, 2021.
The race is sold out at 2,500 athletes who will swim 2.4 miles in Keystone Lake, bike 112 miles through two counties (Osage Creek and Tulsa), and run a full marathon (26.2 miles) in downtown Tulsa. Originally scheduled for 2020, the race was postponed due to the pandemic.
As reported on Fox-23 News in Tulsa, another type of race began several weeks prior to the triathlon. City road crews had to patch or pave over a significant number of potholes on the race route. This Oklahoma city was affected by the deep freeze a few months earlier, in February, that famously knocked out power in the neighbor state of Texas for nearly a week. A series of severely cold winter storms swept through the region, dropping temperatures below zero (Fahrenheit), which was made worse as the frigid air was accompanied by snow and ice.
Particularly in regions where temperature dips like that are uncommon, such conditions can lead to pothole formation rather quickly. Tulsa, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston were all affected by those conditions and are now engaged in road repair this spring and likely into summer.
As much of America emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, public events such as triathlons are back on the calendar. Athletes who spent a year off from racing are coming back – but are the roads ready? And what about the places where they train, all over the country?
In June alone, there are five other triathlons scheduled in Texas (in Austin, Lakeway, Fort Worth, McKinney, and Pflugerville). Four more are planned for July (Navasota, The Colony, Waco, and Denton), and another four in August (Rockwall, Denton, Austin and McKinney).
That’s a lot of roads, a lot of potholes, and a lot of potential flat tires and accidents if the potholes cannot be fixed in time.