Iron Dreams: First You Have To Sign Up!

Iron Dreams #4

First You Have To Sign Up!

Marc Saucier - [email protected] - 978-314-7325

For many people the hardest part about doing their first Ironman is signing up.  Not because it cost nearly $600 and commits you to hours and hours of training.  No, the hardest part is just getting an entry.  Ironman races are so popular that entries sell out faster than a Justin Beiber concert!   As of this writing, of the 11 Ironman races in North America, only St. George, Louisville and Texas still had openings.  And just like a Beiber concert most entries don’t even make it to the public.  The 3000 thousand spots for the 2011 Ironman Lake Placid race literally sold out minutes after opening up to on line entry.  Well, not really 3000.  Actually only a handful made it to the general entry opening on the Monday after this year’s race.  Most of the spots were already taken well before this.   Where did they go?


Many are held by the organizers and distributed to pros, VIP’s, and sponsors such as travel and coaching companies as well as for international distribution. Some entries are sold at other Ironman races.  Entries to the 2011 Ironman Lake Placid were available to competitors of the Ironman 70.2 Rhode Island race held in June.   Most entries for the following year are taken at the race site.  Entries are available for the following year’s race to participants in this year’s race the day before.  The day after the race entries are first available to those who volunteered at the race and then to anybody else who’s physically there.  Only after all these requests are filled does it open up to on-line entry, by which time there may be only a few hundred or dozens left which is not many for the thousands sitting at their computers waiting for it to open up.


So, if you really want to do an Ironman how do you get in?   The easiest is to go after one of the “less popular” races such as St. George, Louisville, or the newest Ironman in Texas.   Entries for these are still available on line although they are going quickly.   For the more popular races like Ironman Lake Placid and Ironman Florida the best way is to volunteer for this year’s race.  Volunteers are first in line when onsite registration opens up the day after the race.  The next best is to come as a spectator.  In either case being at the race site is a great way to watch the race and it also gives you a chance to check out the race course.  I worked at this year’s Ironman Lake Placid and I was surprised how many people dropped out after the first loop of the bike course.  Several I spoke with had signed up the year before having never seen the course and weren’t prepared for the hilly bike route.   However even if you’re at the race site plan to get to the registration tent early.  At this year’s Ironman Florida people were camped out in front of the tent the night before to make sure they got in when it opened.


If you can’t get to the race site then you’d better have a fast internet connection and be ready when the remaining spots open up to online registration.  Make sure you’re already registered with and start hitting the refresh button well before the announced opening time.   Check out the race website well ahead of time so you know when to go online.   Oh yeah, make sure you know what time zone the race is in.  I was hitting the refresh button for an hour for Ironman Florida before I figured out that Panama City is on Central time.


In addition to General Entry spots many races also have “Foundation” or “Community” spots available.  Ironman raises funds for local charities by selling entries.   For an additional $500 - $600 contribution you can get one of these entries.   It nearly doubles your cost to enter the race but at least the contribution is tax deductible and it helps out the local community.  Although these spots also sell out they still tend to be available for a few weeks or months after the general entries are sold out.


If you’d rather get more for your money than just a deduction you can also sign up for one of the Carmichael Training camps.  For $1800 you get a three day training camp at the race site and an entry to that year’s race.  Spots for this year’s Lake Placid race are still available through Carmichael. Another way to get in is to use one of the two Ironman “approved” travel companies that include the race entry in their travel packages.  Endurance Sports Travel and Hannes Hawaii Tours both have ground travel packages with race entry for $2000 - $2500 per person. 


Another pricey way to get in is to apply for the Ironman Executive Challenge.  This gives you entry into the race, VIP access to all race activities and finish line, first class accommodations, and you get to run shoulders with other VIP’s, the pros and past Ironman legends.  If you have to ask how much it cost you can’t afford it.  They don’t even tell you what the fee is until after you’ve applied and been accepted but it’s typically between $4500 and $7000 per race. 


Recently Ironman tried to start a new membership program called Ironman Access.  For a $1000 per year membership fee you could register several weeks earlier than general entries.   It created such an uproar in the Ironman community that they quickly cancelled it after issuing a public apology for “misreading their customers’ desires”.


In addition to registering in person, on line or paying big bucks, other potential entries to Ironman races are available at some of the Ironman 70.3 races.  As I mentioned above, limited entries to the 2011 Ironman Lake Placid race were available at the Ironman Rhode Island 70.3 race this past June.  In addition some 70.3 races will have “qualifying spots” available to winners for select full Ironman races.   Several years ago Timberman 70.3 in NH has had some qualifying spots for Ironman Florida.  Since many of the 70.2 races are also selling out you may not find out about these entry opportunities until it’s too late to register for that race.   However it’s still worth checking out the various 70.3 race websites to see what’s available


Forget about buying an entry on eBay or Craig’s List.  Entries are not transferable and they have strict photo ID requirements at registration.   With that said Ironman has sold a few spots to the Hawaii Ironman World Championships on eBay after getting winning bids in the $30,000 to $50,000 range.


So there you have it.  Registering for an Ironman and completing an Ironman race are very similar in that you need a plan, persistence and a little bit of luck.  Put it all together and you can be on your way to realizing your Ironman dreams.