Ironman North Carolina

I received an email yesterday that the PPD Beach to Battleship Ironman distance race had been bought out by the Ironman branded race corporation. This next year’s version of the race would now be under the ownership of the Ironman and be available for qualifying to the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. I had already planned on this being a race that I came back to. I felt like I had a great race in 2015 and wanted to try and better my time on a great course in 2016. With this news coming across, I had some decisions to make. One of the biggest decisions was whether or not I wanted to sign-up again at a more expensive rate for this race. I also may need to look at moving my timeline up for my next 5 year goal of qualifying for Kona.

Affordability

In Triathlon racing there are 4 different distances that you can participate in, Sprint, Olympic, Half Ironman, and Ironman distances. Just as you might figure, there are more sprint races than there are ironman races. Moreover there are more companies or race organizers doing sprint races than there are ironman distance races. In fact the first three distances usually have independent owners that provide multiple opportunities to race throughout the year. There are very few ironman distance races on the schedule, moreover, there are very few ironman distance races that are not Ironman branded races. You can find a few brands such as HITS that provide a couple of opportunities but they do not race near where I live. There is the Great Floridian Ironman distance race in Claremont, Florida and a few others around the state of Florida. In North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee etc. there are just not any ironman distance races offered. This is why the Beach to Battleship was so enticing because it was close and offered an ironman distance race. So, I have to make the decision whether I am going to do an ironman race this next year or not. If I am going to do an ironman distance race in 2016 then with this recent news of the Beach to Battleship getting bought out, I would need to look at the Ironman branded races.

One of the other difficulties with the Ironman branded races for me is the cost. The average cost of doing a full Ironman branded race is around $700. Whereas the independent Beach to Battleship was $375 in 2016 for the early bird rate which I used last year. This is a significant increase in money. My total racing budget for the year is usually less than $700. I knew that I would need the warmup events such as the White Lake Half in the Spring and the Lake Logan Half in August. I think both of these races prepared me well last year and I wanted to compete in them again. This was going to stretch my budget for sure. After getting the email from the race about the sale, I began to look at my options.

I first searched for any other independent ironman distance race within 8 hours drive of Asheville, North Carolina. I could not find any that were not already Ironman branded races. I then began to look at my options for Ironman branded races. I found that I really had 4 options. One was the Ironman Florida. I have had my mind set that this was the Ironman branded race I would do first when I wanted to kick start my goal to qualify for Kona. I looked at the cost sheet and they had already passed the Tier 1 cost and were into Tier 2 at around $750. The Ironman North Carolina was going to start at $700. I ruled out Florida and was surprised it was not sold out. I figured it would have sold out some time ago.

I then looked at Ironman Chattanooga. This race looked intriguing as it has a 116 mile bike ride. I looked at the cost sheet for it and it started at $675 but they were already past that marker and in fact as I looked harder they were already sold out. This does look like a race I might want to look into for 2017. I also looked at Ironman Louisville. This race is one that I have heard is a good one even though it has some challenging climbs on the bike ride and a challenging run course. I eventually came back to looking at Ironman North Carolina. The cost was $700 and it would start sign-ups on December 18th. I decided that if I was going to do an ironman distance race this year it would be this race.

I have had a good year financial and God has blessed our family. My Christmas bonus was more than I had expected and we had not spent as much in the month as predicted. I knew we had some expenses coming up, but also knew this was a unique time to register for a race that I had already completed and felt good about that might give me good shot to qualify for an elusive Kona slot. I noticed that this race would be given only 30 Kona slots. This means I will need to finish in the top 3-5 places in my age group to have any shot of getting a Kona slot. My wife has been incredibly supportive of this effort as well which makes it easier. She was a little disappointed last year when I finished and there wasn’t someone announcing “You are an Ironman.” She wanted me to complete one that is Ironman branded! She also would like to go to Hawaii!! I sent a text to her to ask if I could register and we both agreed that I would even though I am not sure she knows how much it costs.

Just a side note, I wish there were more independent ultra distance races available in the southeast region. There are several half-ironman distance races, but we need more of the longer course races here. Hopefully, this will continue to be something that is worked on in this region.

Registration

I noticed that the race site had been built and included much of the information from the Beach to Battleship website, including the same course instructions. I knew that the course would be the same as in 2015. I did notice that the aid stations would have some different nutritional needs. I enjoyed my heed last year, so will have to adjust to some of the products that are placed at Ironman branded races. I was intrigued by the different ways you can sign-up for a race on this site. You can of course purchase your slot outright. You can also have a straight foundation slot purchase of twice the early bird rate to support the Ironman Foundation or you can become a part of the Ironman Foundation team and raise a minimum of $3500 for the foundation and you get your spot for a $100 joining fee to the foundation. For a fleeting moment, I thought about going the route of the foundation fundraising slot, but thought better of it when I noticed that whatever you do not raise up to the $3500 is charged to you credit card. Yikes! I do want to use this next year to raise awareness for a cause and to raise money for a cause such as Living Water International or Compassion International. My brother-in-law has Cystic Fibrosis and has been a huge inspiration to do all of this racing because he can’t. I could raise money for the CF Foundation. I will make this choice later. With all of this being considered, I just went ahead and decided to register the regular way and purchase my early bird slot.

I went into the site when it opened at noon Eastern Standard Time (EST). This was when the registration icon was available to click. The registration icon took me to the Active.com site to register. I wonder why Ironman doesn’t have its own registration site for this and avoid the fees Active charges. Of course maybe Active doesn’t charge them anything since they have their own processing fees. I clicked through the different registration screens including to certify that I was 18 or over and sign the waiver electronically for a release of liability. The main registration page included some medical questions such as medications, emergency contact, etc. There were also radio buttons that I was to click if I understood the cutoff times for the swim, bike, and the run. You then had to click that you understood the World Triathlon Federation’s release of liability. I also had to input my USA Triathlon ID number. I then click the complete button. The site referred me to an error that my USAT number would be expired by the time the race occurred so I would have to either purchase a pass on the site for the race or renew my membership today to extend past the race deadline. I always renew my USAT membership in the spring of each year. I was frustrated by this development because this is an additional $45 fee on top of all the other fees for the race. I did indeed, though, go to my USAT site and renew my membership. I then reentered the site and it let me past that particular spot.

I also indicated that I would like the $90 insurance policy of the return of all fees if for some reason that was indicated such as illness, injury, job relocation, etc. that I could get these fees back. I think this is like travel insurance. You never think you will not be racing on that day, but $90 is not too much to ask to get all of the $700 back if some unforeseen occurrence happens. This Full Refund Plan seemed like a logical agreement, so I went ahead and added it to my purchase. The Active.com fees came to $42 which seemed steep to me. I noticed they have a membership plan called advantage and so I checked into that. If you joined even on a trial basis you could get your processing fees back. I began to investigate and the reality you do not get all of the $42 back but up to $10. I did agree to pay the 99 cent trial fee. I also got $10 knocked off of the processing fees. It may seem small but on an over $800 bill, the $10 was a welcome change.

I had my total and had entered all of my data for the registration. I entered my Credit Card information and pressed complete! I got a bit excited inside and a little nervous. This was not registering for any old race, but this was an actual Ironman branded race. At the end they will announce “You are an Ironman.” There is the very real possibility that with the right training in this next year, I could end up getting a slot to Kona. This registration just seemed to have a bit more energy to it then some I have done in the past. This race being bought out by Ironman may be the best thing that has ever happened to this triathlete. It has forced me to compete against the stiffest competition and to go for a Kona slot.

I had not planned on going for a Kona slot for maybe another year. This decision has definitely been forced upon me and I am ready for the challenge ahead. I will write about my 2016 goals and race schedule later, but for now this day gives me a lot to think about in terms of the intensity of my training, my nutrition (got to get to 175 pounds or below), and my overall outlook for 2016. I guess I have also let a little bit out of the bag of another of my triathlon goals, make it to Kona!