It’s the Monday morning after IMAZ 2016.
It’s 04-dark thirty. I’m trudging my way through Tempe Town Lake Park, looking for any sign of a registration line for next year’s race, when I see a line of people moving through a fence to an area hidden behind trees. They look haggard, but focused. Between the coffee cups, the chairs, and blankets slung over shoulders, I can tell these are my people: people desperate enough to sit in the cold for hours waiting to spend over $700 to sign-up to race Ironman Arizona next year. Some of them were up late last night volunteering at stations that didn’t shut down until midnight. Some were like me, who volunteered earlier in the day, and spent the rest of Sunday cheering for almost every single person that raced by, all while calculating the time our own loved one should pass by.
We all volunteered somewhere yesterday as a requirement for access to the registration line this morning, before sales open up to the general public and race entries sell out in a mater of minutes, in some years.
Most of these people are from out of town, here for the sole purpose of registering to race next year.
These People All Look Like Tri-Geeks!
I follow them, but I don’t feel much like I belong here. I am not covered in layers of Ironman apparel, with insignias from various races across the world. Places these people have raced. I am as athletically built as most of the people surrounding me now. I see people with so little body fat, I could outline the muscles in their legs.
It’s funny, in my head I feel like I’m one of them. But I have been injured for so long, raced so very little, that I feel like I’m watching everything from the outside.
I convince myself to go ahead and sit in line anyway. I got up this early, I might as well. And I’ll see how I feel when the registration booth finally opens at 8 am.
Hey, now! No cutting.
It looks like the line was moved from some other part of the park, because as I join the line, folks are reorganizing, remembering who had been first and second, wherever the line had previously formed. They’re all nice about it. But clearly no one is willing to risk being placed farther back in line than they originated. Even by a person or two. No one wants to risk having the race sell out before they get to the front of the line and register.
It’s not supposed to. We all volunteered yesterday for the privilege of standing in this freaking line at 430 am. We’ve been told there’s a place for us in the race. But no one believes that enough to risk it. So I make sure to plunk my chair down at the back of the current line so as not ruffle any feathers. Thankfully, only about 10 people are in line before me.
And Where Did I Leave My Coffee?
I settle into my chair and pull a blanket over me. It’s cold. And that’s when I realize that my coffee, the one I had made the extra stop for on the drive here so I could keep warm, is sitting back in the van. I could go get it. The van in parked about a 10 minute walk from the park. What if the park rangers move the line again? Will anyone keep my place for me and how would I find the line again? I look around- there are already over 100 people in line, with steady lines of blanket -wrapped, coffee holding people still trudging this way.
We have stretched the capacity of this small area, and the chairs are now forming a line of concentric circles, wrapping around the field and back into itself for a second circle. Lots of people are taking chairs from a stack at the end of the field- stacks the race crew took down only a few hours ago after the race closed down at midnight. Someone is going to have to restack them all again.
People are literally everywhere. Some are laughing, some look serious. Thankfully, by the time everyone settles into their chairs for the long wait, conversations are picking-up, while we all watch with some amusement as new arrivals try to identify the back of the circular line.
I Meet James Bond/Jack Ryan-
To my left is an ageless looking guy. Dark skinned, clean shaven, a possible hint of grey at his temples. He keeps me entertained for most of the wait, and I forget for a while how nervous I am.
What a character. If everything he says is true, he’s led a pretty crazy life. His bio reads like a James Bond wanna be: an ex-special ops guy who spends his time teaching skiing at some Colorado fancy resort. And he’s done like a billion Ironman races. Since Russ has done so many (14 or 15 at last count), I’m able to chime in on the discussion, without actually admitting I haven’t even done one myself. Like when I shared how the farmers tossed nails on the road at Ironman Wisconsin, really messing up the day for lots of people on the bike leg. Evidently, the year the special ops ski guy did Coeur d’Alene, some locals had poured oil on the roads and a bunch of cyclist crashed. Other than that, he said, it’s a pretty race. I’m glad we have never had a problem like that here in Arizona. Our biggest enemy is the weather. The race has either been cold and rainy, hot, or so windy that people can’t finish the bike course.
And They Have Coffee-
To my right, two people return to their group of reserved chairs with fresh hot coffee. Man, I wish I’d known they were making a coffee run. I so would have tossed them cash. I’m chilled to the bone. And its 6 am. The sign up table isn’t really supposed to open until 8 am. For the last couple of years, I had heard that registration opened early. I am totally focused on hoping they do that.
It’s 0630 and some official-looking people are setting up a table under a nearby tent. Yes! Everyone starts stirring, putting chairs into carrying sleeves. The people that unloaded the folding chairs don’t seem to be too interested in restacking them. A lady with a clipboard walks down our row, reminding everyone to have their Active.com password ready, because that’s what will be used on the computer to access the sign ups.
How to panic in the registration line-
I have no clue what my Active.com password is, or the username. Two years ago at Christmas break, I signed the family up for a several races, like a New Years morning 5k (for which they have never actually forgiven me) and made an Active.com account. I haven’t used it since. I am scrambling on my phone to get into the account. I have now asked to reset the password like five times, and I am getting no email link to reset it. The line is starting to move- registration is open. I am frantically clicking my phone, and the battery bars are on yellow. Frick. I find myself creating a new account with my work email- hoping my office doesn’t send each and every email to the instant delete folder.
The athlete next to me in line is wondering why I need to make a new account. Haven’t I been doing races? (Because what wacco would sign up to do a full ironman distance race if they haven’t been getting a number of smaller races under their belt. Uhm- well…).
I get my new account and password right before I’m called to the next open registration counter. Literally.
Uhm, Excuse me? I have not idea what I’m doing-
The woman at the registration table is nice, but has clearly gone through the motions of registering people a million times. She has no idea how nervous I am. How utterly scared I am. She is calm, almost bored. My hand is shaking as I hand over my driver’s license. She notices my name doesn’t match the name I’m registering under- I registered to volunteer as Miffie. And that is the name that was entered on the “cleared to register” list. Of course, all my legal IDs have me listed as Mary.
Ironman is pretty strict about having to prove who you are when you register. There’s no transfer of a registration to anyone else, and no signing up for someone else. I feel a little bile enter my throat for a minute.
By now she squinting at my license and holding it up to the “cleared to sign up for the race” list. Now she is frowning. I whip out my work ID- at least it has my picture and my nickname. I hold my breath. I’m prepared with my typical story of how I got this name. She looks back and forth between the two IDs for what seems like forever. And then she points to the credit card machine. “Swipe here, sign here”, she points. “Good luck, “ she nods.
I did it? I really registered for Ironman Arizona?
I’m not sure if I should barf or laugh.
I’m actually panting and holding my stomach to avoid retching, when she hands me a paper and says something about I’m not really registered, that this process just holds my spot and I’ll get an email on Thursday with the real sign up link. But they really did already take my $700 + dollars.
I’m ushered out of the tent.
And just like that, I’m signed-up (kind of), and down a lot of money. I’m pretty dizzy when I get outside the registration tent, between the bile in my mouth and the excitement.
What have I done?
I just registered for the freaking hardest race I’ll ever do in triathlon and I’ve been mostly injured for, oh, lets call it 10 years. My recent race credits can be counted on one hand, and in one of those I just did the bike leg. What the heck. But I feel a burst of pride and adrenaline anyway, as I wander out of the tent. I belong to these people I walk with, even if only temporarily.
I sit in my car in a daze. I really don’t remember getting back there. But I do remember sitting in the drivers’ seat and looking at the little piece of paper that tells me when Ironman will email me with the real sign up link.
It says a totally different day than the lady told me.
And then I realize she said Thursday, which is Thanksgiving. But the sheet says some later date. It also says if you don’t follow-up on the email in some short period of time, you get taken off the registration. Ugh. When is the email is coming? Is it going to my work email? To my junk email? I plan to switch the email to my personal one, as soon as I get the confirmation email. I am too afraid to change it before then and get caught in some email snafu.
I basically spend the next week, and all through the Holiday weekend, checking my email a gazillion times a day for Ironman to send me the precious link. Which I finally do get it and am able to complete without a glitch.
And now all I have to do is train.
Oh- and not break.The