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« Lottery or Cash Cow? | Main | No Excuses by Duane and Jess »

October 11, 2006

Comments

Andy Murtha

First I would like to address the point of Active.com. Although their average capacity is far less that what can be handled when an Ironman registration occurs, the technology does exist to increase capacity on a temporary basis. Let us remember that Active.com is also charging us a fee to submit our application to the appropriate races, so it is not like they would be necessarily losing money on the few races where they would need to increase capacity.

I also completely agree with you on the second point with odds. This makes complete sense from an economical point of view. I have a feeling the odds on those 100 spots are probably 1 in 2500 or more. Again that begs your previous question..."Is it worth it to pay X dollars and know that you have a 1 in YYYY (or more) chance in getting it?"

I would like to add one more argument to place some blame somewhere else. I think that Ironman needs to do something about this registration problem by the following; 1. Increase the number of entrants if possible. 2. Move venues to accomodate more people. 3. Create more races to accomodate the large demand. Defray some of the entrants who just want to race in an IM from the more popular races, as well as being more convenient location for others, and many other reasons to have another one.

It is pretty obvious that Ironman is going through some additional growing pains due to the popularity of the sport, and the only way to make "the tri masses" happy is to grow with them. I think that putting new races in different countries definately spreads out the entrants internationally, but there just needs to be more races in general.

Justin Macello

2.Why do you hold your registration company to such a low standard of performance? I wondered the same thing, especially after getting 'timed out' by the Active.com server during registration for Ironman Wisconsin. I contacted IMNA who said "sorry - it's not our problem. The only way to guarantee a spot in the event is to be there in person." Ummm...ok. They acknowledged that there were SOME problems with the online registration process, but continued to tell me that these were only a few isolated cases, end even if they wanted to add someone to the race they couldn't. Fine. Lie to me.

So I contacted Active.com and asked what I am supposed to do when the only method of signing up - their computer server - crashes. They tell me that they experienced zero problems during the sign-up process. I ask to speak to a supevisor, and that supervisor's supervisor, and then and only then did I finally understand the whole scene. You see the final person I talked to was Mike Reilly. The same Mike Reilly who works for Ironman North America as the announcer. The same Mike Reilly who is also one of the founders of Active.com.

So, you ask Ironman North America why do you hold your registration company to such a low standard of performance? It is now obvious...you wouldn't actually expect them to fire a good friend, would you?

Jeff

Even if Active.com wasn't having issues, The same number of triathletes would have been frustrated and not gotten in. If 3000 people are trying for 2000 spots, 1000 will be turned away. The only difference is that they might have known they didnt' get a slot in 20 minutes instead of 1 hour.

It seems like these more popular events need a stricter entry criteria. Maybe more slots should be opened to qualifying events like the 70.3 races. Or maybe the most popular races should't be open to first time IM racers?

I have never signed up for an IM distance event, but I wouldn't be offended if Kona wasn't the only race not setup for "open" registration.

Of course adding more full distance races in North America will also help the problem, but I think the most popular races will still need some sort of restrictions eventually.

Jeff

One more quick idea. Maybe a certain number of slots could be opened up for volunteers of the previous years race. If you want to race IMWI in 2008, then volunteer for 2007 and get a guaranteed spot. Give a little, get a little..

Jay

Don't forget the other way to get in: the dreaded COMMUNITY SLOT...for a mere 10,000 pesos (1,000 in US currency!) you can buy one of 150 additional slots. If you're considering that, STOP...those are sold out, too.

Talk about a cash cow! $150,000 was generated through community slots, of which $82,500 ($550 per entry) goes to the Ironman community fund. I don't know how much actually goes to the community.

Now don't give up...you can still qualify for IM by racing one of the other 70.3's. Just make sure you have the $450 handy should you qualify.

I was one of the lucky online IMWI "winners". My stay-at-home wife sitting patiently at our home computer and pre-registering at Active.com helped immensely.

Regarding the 20 bucks for the lottery "gamble". Alotta people gamble; however, what's the reward? Usually money. Not the opportunity to torture yourself for 17 hours.

In the Marine Corps, we say you have to "earn the title." In Ironman, you buy the chance to earn the title. How much is it worth to ya?

Nancy Toby

I'm very curious to find out what happened to that stillborn lottery. I'll bet that they suddenly encountered legal problems (that they should have foreseen) related to . . . let's guess . . . offering a public lottery for revenue generation.

Brent Buckner

Nancy Toby: great point!

Justin Macello: thanks for posting your findings!

BTW, tough to publish in advance odds of winning when the number of people who would enter the lottery for a fixed number of slots is not know. Clearly, the historical numbers would be of interest.

Roman Mica

Brent you are of course right that it would be hard to post odds when you don't have the entries, but this is an easy fix.

Take the raceAthlete poll on the right and you'll know immediately what the results are so far.

Ironman could do the same think and publish entries to date and of course WTC knows how many people on average enter the lottery each year.

Brent Buckner

Roman:

Point well taken, but publishing current numbers wouldn't help those who enter and then get swamped by later entrants.

I agree (and stipulated) that historic numbers would be helpful.

Laird

I don't agree with lottery spots that somehow appear after the registration has closed. If they have room for 100 more spots then give those spots to 1/2 Ironman Qualifying events so athletes can earn their way to that particular race. I know of a couple of races that won't be getting qualifying spots for IMC this year because of demand (being IMC'c 25th Anniversary).
Why would IMNA set aside 100 lottery spots? Sure sounds like a cash cow when looked at from this perspective. And how about the people who found out on the 1st day of registration that the event was full. I'm sure they were disappointed when their request was slowly processed by active.com then find out it's full, then find out 100 spots are now available. IMNA should clarify this lottery blunder.

Iron Pol

I guess I get to chime in as one of those who tried like the dickens (what exactly does that mean) to get into IM MOO, clicked Submit, and got an error message.

First, Roman, you must remember that many of us didn't even have to set up an Active account. We already had THAT. So, all we had to do was complete the registration. One major hold-up I encountered was the bike ship. If I removed it, it indicated I had to select a location (even though I removed it). When I selected a location, it added the fee, which then had to be removed. Start to finish, the process is fubar.

The server issue affects all the same, so isn't really a factor.

Finally, I don't believe IMNA claims to be a "losing" proposition. They seek to generate money. So, holding a few slots for a lottery seems reasonable. But why not make it like Kona. Sign up and take a chance. Nancy's right. The fee is probably what shut them down. But if they had 100 slots, where are they now?

Because I was going to pay the $20 for a shot if IM Louisville doesn't pan out. Given the results of Wisconsin, I have to keep open as many options as possible.

Wrenching winz

It sounds like its partly cash cow. But it also stinks of poor planning. If the organizers at IMNA know that the races will sell out in less than an hour for the more popular races, they should have taken percautions. One suggestion would be to host registration on its own server/page/what have you per event. Active not only does the IM's but smaller tri's and also runs the Triathlete Mag page. Do they not have a predetermined number of lottery spots before registration opens? Adding more races is a great idea, but more races = more planning = more $$. Perhaps we should have the IRS audit IMNA to see where the community fund clams go.

TR

I would like to know on the day registration opens, are so many slots available online versus in person? You could easily fill the race online before the people in person could register.

Do they allocate 500 slots for online and the rest for people in person? If that's the case, the extra slots could have been from the slots reserved for in person registration that weren't sold.

I don't think it was a legal issue. Remember that Ironman uses a lottery system for Hawaii and the NYC Marathon and the St George Marathon both use lotteries.

I think the bigger issue is the increased demand for a limited supply of slots. I think that was the reason for adding IM Lou.

Maybe they have to add qualifying requirements where you have to complete a half-iron event to be eligible for an Ironman race. The concern I have is that WTC would make you complete a WTC sanctioned event.

Brent Buckner

TR, there was a recent change (i.e. within the past month)in U.S. legislation respective of on-line gambling. Any critical component of the registration system could have gotten cold feet (e.g. Visa or Mastercard).

jwm

Seems like much of this online registration silliness could be avoided by streamlining the registration process. I was one of the lucky ones.. But, before I could pay, I had to register with all my info. I had to get an active and/or IronmanID. Then I was asked about bike transportation and tons of other details that could be taken care of AFTER you are in the race. I have 2 ideas as relate to this.

1. Pre-register.. sure it sounds a bit overkill. But everyone gets on a list of "I want to sign up".. Then come 10am or whenever, you just put in some code and pay right away. I would think IMNA would like this for 2 reasons.. They would get an actual count and list of folks that want to participate. I'm sure they have some idea already. Future lotteries could be based on this list, if need be.
2. Once "you're in", then go to the page where they talk you into bike transportation, hotels, extra T-shrits, carbo dinner, and whatnot. I understand active trying to get you all on one bill, but there is no reason you need to sign up for bike transport at 10 AM one year in advance. Sure, nice to get it out of the way, but not at the expense of gumming up "getting IN the race".

Marc

Looks like it won't be long before you'll have to qualify for an IM event in order to register for one. Is it fair to have race-day sign-up for these races in person? Why should local or prior-year competitors have first dibs to a very limited number of slots? The number of IM owned events will continue to climb, but probably not at a rate that will meet demand - putting IM races at a premium and at the pinnacle of IM-distance races across the country.

I used to feel like having cutoff times for IM registering was akin to an "elitist" attitude, but now I'm not so sure. Let un-tried but motivated full-distance wannabees race and qualify in 70.3's and non-IM full-distance events. If the number of IM races ever catches up with the sport's demands than the qualifying requirement can be relieved, but likely it would remain to keep the IM races' esteem at a high level.

Race day registration should be taken away - qualification times should be unique to each event and change from year to year based on overall performances; it should take some time and consideration to determine the following year's qualifications. Active will continue to be IMNA's point company for registrations because IMNA really doesn't need the computer programming and hardware headaches - plus they have a friend in the business. At the end of the day, with all the complaining and customer service issues aside, IMNA has a full race and will for years to come.

We (the tri-community) need to find a way to release the stranglehold that IMNA and the WTC have on Iron-distance events - yes, we do have other choices with many well run, immensly popular Iron races across the country. There's just something about that M-dot though. Until we do, expect more of the same.

I'm still a full season away from a full Iron distance race ('08, yea baby) and I just know I'll be having to qualify to race in an IM race, and that's alright. I'll give it my best shot in Florida 70.3 or Steelhead or another half. If I don't have it in me, there are plenty of awesome non M-dot races in which I can earn my "Ironman", (the distance earns the title; cross the finish line after 140.6 and you've earned it!) plus, 45-50 AG is right around the corner....I'll have to be fast on the keyboard and fast enough on the road. So be it! I know of folks who got lottery slots to the 70.3 Championship here in Clearwater - they didn't earn it - I'd feel out of place racing around folks who busted thier backsides to earn the right to compete there. In a qualification system, I'm definately against Lottery slots - and I really feel like that's the direction IM is headed.

Dawn - Pink Chick

I'm a long ways from ever thinking of entering an Ironman. In the meantime I can still understand the frustration of getting into a particular race. We have local races that are popluar and can sell out shortly after registration opens.

I like the idea that someone mentioned about volunteers of the previous year getting the opportunity. I'm on a marathon committee locally and every year we struggle to round up the required volunteers.

Another idea came to mind. What about advanced signup for some athletes, not sure which critera to suggest. But a local radio station gives a secret password out (via email) to members so that one can buy advance seats to big concerts before the tickets are open to the public. Perhaps something like that would work.

I can also understand certain races having a pre-qualifying time. Perhaps something like if you last full Ironman time was under x hours or say your half Ironman was under y which should give you the ability to finish under the x hour limit.

The Boston Marathon is based on a qualifying time and New York is a lottery. As Ironman races become more popular, I definitely agree that options have to be looked at.

Kyle

I like the suggestion about volunteering to get an entry.
And let's not take it out on IM or active. Regardless of how fast their servers are, if 5,000 people are signing up for 2,500 spots it doesn't matter what website they use.

Easy for me to say as I'm in. But I did it the old fashioned way. I took a day off of work, drove up from Chicago to watch IM. I camped out in a tent on a cold and rainy weekend with my dog and woke myself out of my sleeping bag at 7am to be one of the first ones at the door in IM village.

For those of you wondering how they worked the live registration, here's how it went. Hundreds of people lined the walls of Mona Terrace and at 9am you stood in line to sign up on a piece of paper. This gave you an official IM number and then you had a weeks time to actually pay your $450 on active.com Then at 10am the rest of the spots were open to the internet. So theoretically, they could have filled all the entries before the website opened up had 2,500 people lined the streets of Madison. I wondered that and e-mailed IM NA weeks prior and asked them where I had the better chance of registering. They told me go there in person, so I did. There were a few other campers that were there for the same purpose.

Is IM a cash cow? Yeah.
Do we love it? Yeah.
We all want to see IM prosper and be around for hundreds of years to come or we wouldn't sit by the computer like rock fans to try and get "tickets." If a company isn't out to make a healthy dollar in this country you'll end up in bankrupcy. Look at Oldsmobile. No profit, no car. Sure, more long distance events would pop up and in fact they already are. But how cool is it to hear and say "John Doe, you ARE and Ironman." Yeah, that's what we all live for. It's a small group that we all feel a conection to. And I know those people that didn't get in this year will find a way hell or high water to get in next year.

Good luck to those who want and those who have.
-Kyle

Al

From a purely economics perspective, the issue is that demand totally outstrips supply. The solution, and we won't like it, is to raise the price until supply and demand are at equilibrium. I think we probably should consider that for someone, this is ultimately a business decision and as long as demand continues to overwhelm supply, perhaps, in their eyes, there are no major issues to resolve - only some slight irritants. It is similar in many regards to purchasing tickets for a Rolling Stones concert. It is difficult, irritating and very expensive, but as long as they continue to sell out night after night, there are no major reasons for making any major changes, except to continue to increase the prices.

tarheeltri

Anyone should have a chance to race an Ironman. Lotteries and pre-qual times would make it impossible for the common man to get in, something the original founders of the race wanted to preserve.

Everyone complained about not getting into Wisconsin and now you have Louisville, probably not much different in travel expenses than Wisconsin (unless you live within driving distance). You got another chance, people?!?! What more do you want?

PS, Al is right. Fees must go up, so my advice is to stop complaining and sign up for Louisville or next year this post will be about the price!

marathoner31

Of the 3 issues listed, the one that really gets to me is the Active.com issue. I think there should be an alternative way to register for these events that don't include having to be there. Having multiple ways to register for the event seems to be the most fair way to do things. We have a local event here in Colorado Springs that got fed up with the Active.com fees and set up an alternative way to register through Paypal. The participant had the option to use either one but didn't have to pay the ridiculous Active fees if they took the Paypal option. The race organizors strongly urged participants to use the Paypal option to send a message to Active. I think a large organization like IMNA could come up with their own system for online registration at a lessor cost to their customers. Active could still be an option but now it's up to the participant as to how they want to enter the event.

As far as the money that a lottery or creating extra spots creates...I'm not against that at all. They are a business and entitled to conduct it any way they want. The only way to stop this practice is to have a majority strongly oppose this practice and enter other non sanctioned iron distance events. Try these out. There are a lot of these and some have been around for a lot longer than any sanctioned IM event in the continental U.S. If people stop filling up these IM sanctioned events so fast, IMNA will have to stand up and take notice.

An argument I hear is that it's not fair that a faster finger on the computer for one allows them a better opportunity to qualify for Kona since that individual can get into the qualifier. My answer to that is if you are truly that gifted, you can easily qualify for the qualifier at a 70.3. Those slots roll down just like Hawaii slots do so if you're that good, you can get in if you want to. It's just going to cost you. Let's face it. Nobody who enters this sport should think they are going to get by on a shoestring budget. It's the nature of the sport. This hurts me tremendously as I haven't ben able to do everything I want but I accept the reality of it.

Brad Hefta-Gaub

I just finished my first Iron distance race this year. And I am proud to say it was not a WTC/IMNA event. So instead of having to deal with all the headaches of long lines, online registration errors, and ridiculously high prices; I got to enjoy a very challenging course(>5500ft of ascent on the bike); in a welcoming community; with a relatively competitive field (new course records set 3 years in a row; 50% of field completed in sub 13 hours).

In my opinion, WTC is likely to lose it's grip on the hearts and minds of Iron distance competitors if it's not able to scale to the demand in the market.

don

And why are so many lottery slots for Kona reserved for Americans? Is it not the WORLD Ironman Championship? Not the American Ironman Championship. Last year there was like 100 lottery slots for Americans and 20 for the rest of the world. That is totally whacked.

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