A Staten Island triathlete and endurance coach ventures into the ultramarathon realm where there are seemingly no limits to human endurance. In 2013, he successfully finished the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (picture of 2013 Grand Slam finishers above; I'm second from right), becoming only the 282nd person (since its beginnings in 1986) and only the fourth New Yorker to finish four of the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile ultramarathons in the U.S. in only 10 weeks.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Are You Lucky? Your Chances of Getting In To Your Favorite Race - Part 2

How Races Use Online Registration and Lottery Systems to Determine Who Gets In

Click here for Part 1

Click here for Part 3

In the last post I started to examine the registration process for many popular races and looked at how each race selected the participants in a given year. I started off with a very large race like the New York City Marathon, what their intentions were, and how it was manifested in their lottery system. I then looked at a race in the opposite end of the spectrum, the Western States 100, how they needed to cap their participants to a field close to 369 people, and how they handled their selection process.

In this post, I will deal with the ever popular Ironman races and how they handle their registration processes.

Ironman Hawai

Ironman Hawaii is just about the hardest popular race to get into in any endurance race to date. The organizers of this race, the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), officially call it the Ironman World Championship, so there is a reason behind why it is difficult to get in. The race is really meant for the creme-de-la-creme of long distance triathlon, or those who excelled at one of the only 22 Ironman qualifiers in the world. Each qualifier has an extremely limited number of qualifying slots available in each age group determined by the size of the field in each age group. The goal is to earn the coveted slot by winning the age group, or coming close to the top of the age group enough to grab one of the other slots OR, have a slot roll down to you. This roll down does happen rather frequently because either a) the person who originally one the slot already qualified for Ironman in another qualifier, or b) declined the Hawaii invitation altogether. The slots keep rolling down until someone accepts it.

Since there are only 22 Ironman qualifiers in the world, these qualifiers attract the Best of the Best from the far corners of the world. Unless you are at the top of your game and one of the best amateurs out there, the chances are that you will not get an Ironman slot this way.

For some people, there is another option, although the odds here favor you getting struck by lightning over gaining entry. But there is always hope for the everyday average triathlete. The Ironman does hold a general lottery. There are 200 slots in this lottery and the cost to enter this lottery is $40 non-refundable. If you want, you can add a second entry into this lottery via the Ironman Passport Club for an extra $50.

Granted there are thousands of triathletes all over the world entering this lottery for those precious 200 slots, so the odds are definitely not in your favor. But, as one state lottery says, "Hey, you never know." I do know a couple of people who gained entry this way, so it might be worth a shot.

And if you happen to actually win a slot, you might not be in just yet. Since Ironman is an extreme sport, you will need to prove your fitness to the WTC by finishing at least a half-ironman race within one year of Ironman Hawaii. That might just actually be the easy part for most of these lucky people!

If you think that this lottery just isn't worth it, have no fear. Ironman started to expand its races in the late 90s to a multitude of venues to get your Ironman fix in. And although the entry process is still a hassle, you can definitely get in to these races with the proper motivation. I'll do Ironman Lake Placid as an example, although most of these other Ironman Triathlons go by a similar process.

Ironman Lake Placid

This race was the first official Ironman Triathlon in the US other than Hawaii. Soon after, other race venues for Ironman started popping up in response to the desires of triathletes who want to test themselves against this distance. This race continues to be so popular that entry usually fills mere minutes after opening. But never fear, a diligent triathlete can get into this race easily if he/she works at it.

First off, I need to remind everyone that next year's race is sold out. Booo! But if you really want to get into the race for 2012, you'll need to be very vigilant and be very mindful of certain dates next year. For these Ironman races, there is no lottery here. It is first-come first-serve. The first thing you need to do to enter Ironman Lake Placid, or any other Ironman in the US for that matter, is to know EXACTLY when the date is for next year's race. In this case, Lake Placid is on July 24 next year. Likewise, if you want to get into Ironman Wisconsin, note that date as well. All the dates for the Ironman races can be found here.

Once you have the date, remember that the VERY NEXT DAY, in this case July 25, registration will be open for next year's race. Now you have a big choice here. The BEST situation, and one where you will assure yourself of entry, is to PERSONALLY go down to the venue and register in on-site. If you really, really want to get into the race, be prepared to work for it, because they will make on-site registration entries top priority. Whatever is left (and it isn't much) will defer to online registration, where you will need quick fingers, a super-fast Internet connection, and a lot of luck to get in ahead of everyone else trying to enter online. If you do intend to go to Lake Placid, make a nice weekend of it, help volunteer in the race, do some nice training up there and get to know the course. I volunteered the first 2 years of the race and I absolutely enjoyed it! But the day after the race, make sure you know when and where registration is, and get on the line. You'll definitely get in to 2012's race that way.

There is also another way to get in. It avoids the lengthy hassle of going down there yourself, but it is also the most expensive. All Ironman Triathlons in the US (except for Hawaii, I think) have Ironman Foundation slots available. Since these are charity slots, you'll need to part with a cool $1,150 to enter Ironman Lake Placid this way. The slots don't close out for days after registration opens, so you do have ample time to register this way. But they DO close out, so be mindful of time if deciding whether or not to enter this way. But hey, since the money is going to a charity, you can deduct this off of your taxes.

Bottom line is this, if you're willing to go out of your way to get into this race, you will make it in.

My third and last segment will examine one more race, the Massanutten 100. It is a very fascinating lottery process, and in my opinion, the most fair. Then I'll look at where the Boston Marathon might try to do for next year's registration.

Until then, happy trails!

Click here for Part 1

Click here for Part 3


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