the imaz in-crowd

Thursday, December 19, 2013

As I'm sure you've figured out -- since it's all I talk about all the time (besides cats and poo, of course) -- I got into Ironman Arizona and will hopefully be completing my very first 140.6 next year.

Getting into this race was a feat in itself. Since I'm not a pro triathlete (ha!) and IMAZ sells out in mere minutes online, I bought a plane ticket, got my ass down to Tempe and volunteered so I could secure a spot. And even this was no guarantee -- there were rumors that the volunteers far outnumbered available race spots, and people were freaking out, myself included. (Dear Coach Mark: Sorry for the 5 million losing-my-shit e-mails asking about potential back-up plans.)

The worry escalated to the point where people tried to camp out at registration, but the city ordinance does not allow camping at Tempe Beach Park, so the police made everyone leave.

Of course, we all returned at 4 a.m. to form a huge line outside the park. And registration didn't start until 8 a.m.

(Side note: Can you believe there were this many people who were absolutely, single-mindedly determined to pay half a month's rent to sign away all of their free time for the next year preparing for an event that could involve up to 16:59 hours of non-stop exercise, with possible self-shitting and puking? Dear people in line: Same kind of crazy. Hugs!)

Thankfully, persistence paid off, and as far as I could tell, no one was turned away from on-site registration -- not even the folks who didn't volunteer.

Even though we were all lucky, I definitely learned some things that made the process easier. Here are some tips:

1. First and foremost, volunteer. I cannot stress this enough. If you're serious about IMAZ and this is the race for you, you have to go down there. Unless you have money to burn and can afford the $1,400 Ironman Foundation entry slots (which don't go as quickly, for obvious reasons), online registration is pretty much impossible. Also, being there in person has its perks: You can familiarize yourself with the course and the transition area, watch the chaos that is the swim start (!!) and meet some of the athletes who will be at the starting line with you the following year. (Contrary to popular belief, not all triathletes are stuck-up, self-absorbed snobs. And this race has a lot of first-timers, so it's fun to swap stories of how you got into triathlon and what made you crazy enough to want to do an Ironman.)

2. Choose your volunteer spot carefully. There are pros and cons to every shift -- you just need to ask yourself what you want to accomplish over the weekend. If you want to see the final hours of the race (always the most inspirational, in my opinion -- I cry every time), you'll want an earlier volunteer shift. If the finish line doesn't matter so much to you, consider taking one of the last shifts (i.e., closing down the run aid stations), which also often have the added perk of the "speed pass," a special wristband that gives you priority registration over the other volunteers, so you don't have to go straight from your volunteer shift to standing in line and can maybe -- just maybe -- get some sleep. Other inside tips: Security staff gets a special T-shirt that allows them access to the finish line, which is pretty cool. However, security staff also has to keep rowdy bystanders off of the course and will often get cursed at by random strangers. Again, pros and cons. (Personally, I was very curious about the volunteer spots in the men's changing tent. But then again, I'm a dirty pervert.)

3. Work your entire shift. Because you won't get your volunteer wristband if you leave early. And you won't be able to register before the general public without that wristband. Bonus points: Work your entire shift in costume. Even better if you are cross-dressing. Because there's nothing like making people laugh hysterically while they are in aero position.

4. Bring a camping chair. This was the best advice I received. When you're in that registration line for hours, you'll want to sit down. And the cold, hard asphalt is not exactly the most ideal spot. Also a good idea: Wear layers and a hat, bring a blanket and fill a backpack with snacks and water. A thermos full of hot coffee isn't a bad idea either. Even more awesome: Have nice friends who don't care about sleep and will bring you coffee in line.

5. Don't forget your credit card and ID. This is what you'll need to register. They don't take cash. (What's cash anyway?) Basically, they charge your card $700 and then send you an e-mail about a week later with a link to more detailed registration information. (And I don't joke when I say "more detailed" -- Ironman is serious about your medical history, and they also want your "story" -- any extra info they can announce when you're crossing the finish line. Dear Ironman: I really, really want you to call me "Seattle's most famous cat lady." Hint, hint.)

6. Finally, have fun. Because you're about to surrender your entire social life and all of your money for the next year, so you might as well make IMAZ registration your one final hurrah before you become a poor hermit who passes out from exhaustion every night by 8 p.m. We made it a reunion weekend -- I rented a house with Arvan (who has been my tri buddy since my very first triathlon ever and now we are both IMAZ-bound -- yay!), Layla (best moral support ever and an ├╝ber volunteer who worked not just one but two shifts, even though she wasn't registering) and Adam (local tour guide and resident cross-dresser cheerleader). We drank every night, wore stupid outfits, sang Christmas carols (note: this was pre-Thanksgiving), ate a lot of omelettes, killed a very large cockroach (don't ask) and barely slept all weekend. (You can read more about the amazing-ness on Adam's blog here.) Other hijinks included:

(Thank you, Layla, for capturing my truly stellar aero form. Dear Coach Mark: Look, I'm a real triathlete!)

It was awesome. And I can't wait for next year, though I can skip the cockroach part.


Kimra said...

It's possible I just marked IMAZ 2014 on my calendar. Don't be surprised if I show up with wildly inappropriate signs.

Layla said...

I have concluded that we need an IMAZ weekend every month. And I suppose I should dress up next year, unless I brave the security madness again. Although maybe the slutty cheerleader costume theme would have helped that situation?!

Anyway, I can't wait for your Ironman experience! Here's to awesome training in 2014.

The Boring Runner said...

GREAT tips to get into the race. I'm thinking that next time, you volunteer for womens tent, I volunteer for mens tent and we switch....and then make some friends. that would totally work, right??

I can promise you that I'll be at IMAZ2014 with bells on - and likely some sort of other stupid costume. 11 months left!!

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