There are only two ways to be guaranteed a spot for the following year. 1) You have to race in the present year (see aforementioned issue about this point of entry) or 2) you can volunteer to work this year's race for 4 hours or more. If you volunteer for a qualifying shift, you get a bracelet that allows you to register for the next year before the online registration opens. Well, I chose option 2.
I signed up for a 6-hour shift as a "Finish Line Grabber" from 6pm to midnight (the race cut-off time). I thought this was a great gig because these are the hours that the bulk of the age-groupers (people like you and me, not the pros or elites) would be muscling down the finishing chute and crossing the line after an 11-17 hour race day. In addition, I knew several people that were racing, so having the opportunity to see some of my training buddies at the finish would be a great experience.
The slots to race IMLP sell out quickly. The hotel rooms and lodging options sell out only a few hours later. By the time I was able to register for the volunteer job, the only place I could stay was a campground 13 miles outside of town. In fact, they only had "no-hookup" tent sites available. Basically, you get a piece of dirt, nothing more. That was OK, because I was planning on doing this solo, and I can rough it pretty well.
|Our accommodations for the weekend.|
We drove up after work on Friday night, not getting to the campsite until after 1:00am. We brought our bikes and planned to ride the bike course (one loop of 56 miles) on Saturday morning. Since I had to be at a 12:00pm volunteer meeting, we were up-and-at-'em on only 5 hours sleep. The campground was located right around mile 40 of the bike loop, so we started there and headed into town.
We made the turn onto Route 86 and were stunned at the beauty of the area. It was absolutely spectacular. Mountain views, running streams and all the greenery the Adirondack region offers. We could not have asked for better weather and the skies were a stunning blue. Our route actually started at the most difficult part of the loop. We climbed and climbed and climbed some more until we crested Papa Bear (the third of three consecutive climbs just outside of town). Within a few minutes, we were in the town of Lake Placid, making a stop to pick up another friend who was going to ride with us.
|The Ironman attitude is unmistakable!|
Transition was located inside the Olympic Speed Skating Oval. Around the perimeter were huge tents to be used as a medical station and athlete changing areas. The size of this event and all the equipment, people and apparatus that comes with it was awe inspiring. I knew this was a big event, but it is hard to appreciate it from pictures alone. This was one hell of a production, and Ironman does it well.
We proceeded to complete our 56 mile loop and was able to experience, firsthand, what it will be like to race this event next year. Although it was a tough course, I had planted in my head that this would be like an Alpe d'Huez-Col du Galibier stage of the Tour de France. It wasn't, so I was pretty happy about that. The run course, on the other hand, scares the crap out of me.
After a shower and a nice lunch at the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery (highly recommended), John and I attended out volunteer meetings and browsed the expo in the transition area. A dinner, quick campfire and some calls to home and we turned in early for a busy day at the race.
We got up at 4am (nothing unusual about this for either of us) to get into town by a little after 5. The entire town is closed off for the race, so we had to park on the side of the road, about a mile out of town. Not terrible, but it still meant a decent walk to get to our car (aka base camp for the day). We made our way towards Mirror Lake and the swim start. We saw a few people we knew who were racing, so we wished them luck and got in position to see all the action.
|John Graziano and Scott Leslie just before the swim start.|
Later that day, Scott was deemed and "Ironman" by Mike Reilly.
|New "rolling" swim start. This continued for about|
15 minutes until the last athlete was in the water.
|Andy Potts leading the pack out of T1!|
|Andy still leads the way out of T2. At this point, he|
accumulated over a 10 minute lead.
|The women rocked this race also.|
|John G in a sea of carbon fiber, earning his 2014 slot.|
|Andy Potts coming in for the win!|
|Not your typical pro athlete. Andy takes time for photos|
and autographs with volunteers. He stuck around for almost an hour.
|"Catchers" working the finish line.|
At about 11pm, I came to the realization that I had been on my feet all day. Literally all day. I had not sat down at all, since 5:30am when we parked the car. I was both exhausted and energized by the the day's events. John and I worked till the end, when that last athlete was proclaimed by Mike Reilly to be an "Ironman". We headed back to the campsite, ready to take on the challenge we just witnessed by signing up for 2014 the next morning.
|The infamous Mike Reilly. Every athlete in an Ironman wants to|
hear this man shout their name and proclaim their status as an Ironman.
We waited in line for 2 hours the next morning, meeting even more interesting people along the way, but we made it official.....John and I are now officially in Ironman Training! Lake Placid 2014, here we come!
|The private beach for next year's accommodations. A slight improvement|
over the piece of dirt we had this year.
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