Monday, January 7, 2013

How to Sign Up for an Ironman

Signing up for Ironman Florida (IMFL)

The place for the race in November 2013

Many ask why do an Ironman in Florida(which is held in Panama City Beach (PCB)) when there is one in your backyard (The Woodlands).  Why add about nine hours to your drive to the race site, not to mention the added cost of hotels, meals, fuel, etc?   Well, I can think of a few.  

1.  Swimming in Lake Woodlands for over an hour doesn't appeal to me.  Murky water and finishing the swim in a canal thats about 3 feet deep isn't cool.  I much prefer the ocean even if that includes the risk of some waves and jellyfish. 

2.  Running a marathon after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112 miles in May in Texas is not something I want to attempt for my first Ironman.  I will take running a flat course in November. 

3.  The Woodlands (the town) seems to be developing an attitude against the event there.  After the second Ironman there in 2012, there was lots of press about how the businesses around the race and residents were complaining about the race.

Signing Up for the Race

There are 13 Ironman races in North America and 4 of those races are not in the United States and one of them requires qualifying.(A little race referred to as "Kona").  That makes eight races..factor the ones inside of driving distance from Houston and you are left with Ironman Florida if you don't want to do Ironman Texas.  (Ironman Louisville is in August and was not considered.  See #2 above.  Not to mention that tacks were thrown on the bike course this year by the locals, see #3 above)  

Ironman Florida is a popular race for beginners since its a flat course for the bike and run. Add that its in November and its one of the most popular races to sign up for.  This makes getting registered for it a little bit of a challenge.  Sign up for the race happens fours ways.  

1.  On the day before the race, current year participants can sign up for next year's race onsite before anyone else.  

2.  On the day after the race, current year volunteers can sign up for next year's race onsite.  

3.  On the day after the race and after all volunteers have signed up that want to, anyone can sign up onsite. 

4.  If spots still remain, online registration starts at 12pm on the day after the race.  (Online registration sold out in 2 minutes this year)

Online registration lasted about 15 minutes for signing up for 2012 IMFL, so knowing that I wanted to do the race in 2013 (the boss had signed off on an ironman race for 2013, to be discussed in another blog on its own) I knew that I had to go volunteer at the 2102 IMFL to be able to sign up for the 2013 IMFL.  

Thankfully I was able to talk a couple of good friends of mine in doing this with me, so I wouldn't be doing this alone.  One friend lives in Houston with me and the other is in Colorado.  So me and my Houston buddy drove across four states on Friday to Florida, volunteered at the event on Saturday, and then signed up for 2013 event on Sunday.  My Colorado buddy had to be a little more creative in getting to PCB.  He was at disney world the week before, so after getting his family on the plane on Saturday (race day) he drove from Orlando to PCB, volunteered Saturday night, signed up Sunday morning, and then drove back to Orlando to fly back to Colorado on Sunday evening.  

Panama City Beach 

I was curious on what the city was going to be like when we arrived their on Friday evening since I had never been there before.  Upon arrival I immediately thought back to my spring break trip in high school to Myrtle Beach, S.C.  
Did someone say spring break ?  
There are lots of miniature golf course in really a lot.

One of the many....
There is also a Ripley's Believe or Not that makes for a cool sight...

The other attraction...not sure if its a part of Ripleys or not  

So with that you know what PCB has to offer you should you choose to go their on vacation.  That and some pretty awesome beaches.  Too bad all the high rise condo buildings put a damper on its beauty.  

The Volunteer Experience 

Since we were kind of late getting to sign up for volunteer spots, we didn't have a lot of duties to choose from.  The one place that had room for three volunteers was the medical tent shift from 5:30pm to 11pm.  I thought this would be a somewhat easy job with little hassle.  

However, upon the start of our shift I was a little shell shocked when I walked into the tent.  

Inside the medical tent
Our shift started at the time when the "fit" athletes were finishing.  This is were the folks that really push it and put themselves in some serious danger when things don't go right.  I saw one dude being rolled in that was just shaking uncontrollably and several others hunched over a waste basket throwing up.  My first thought after seeing all of this was "what have I got myself into"... 

The hurt

We were quickly put to work.  Cave got to sit behind a desk the whole night and surf the internet while he checked participants in.  Lance and I were assigned the duty of security.  Security for the medical tent means that you are placed at the exit of the medical tent and get to tell worried family and friends of the participants in the medical tent that they just have to wait till their loved one comes out and they are to remain on the other side until they do.  The porta-johns were also in the back, so in addition to the pleasant smell that developed over the evening we had to tell several participants that just finished twelve hours or more of exercise that they couldn't use these porta-johns since they were for the medical tent only.  This was hard since several folks literally hobbled away to the other restrooms across the parking lot.  All in all it wasn't too bad and I got to speak with several participants to get tips for 2013.  

Highlights from the evening 

1.  Dude that literally slept in the medical tent for over two hours.  At one point, I asked one of the nursed to check on him to make sure he was alive.  He miraculously awoke around 11pm and walked away with his very worried wife.  

2.  The verbal altercation between two strangers.(PG-13 material below)  Worried mom comes up to us telling us that her daughter was released and she has no idea where she is.  We tell her that we have no information about who comes in or is discharged, we only know that everyone that goes in the medical tent comes out here.  She starts to freak out a little bit when some random dude waiting for someone else looks at her and says, "Whore".  The lady is kinda of startled as are we.  The guys says it again and the lady answers the second insult with, "well, you are a jackass".  She then walks away and Lance and I look at each other and thinking did that just happen.  Needless to say we were shocked and glad it didn't get physical.  

After our shift was over, we saw the final finishers and then we went back to the hotel and went to sleep.  We got up early to get in line for sign up.  We arrived about 2 hours before registration opened and there were about 200 people in front of us.  Thankfully, they opened registration early and we signed up by 9:30am.  

With that Lance picked up some new socks for the ride home and we made it back to Houston.  

Lance's New Socks

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