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Training for ... registration?

I opened my eyes, did a full body stretch and heard an expletive deleted come from the other side of the room.

"What time is it?" I asked.

"5:25 a.m."


We quickly got dressed and into the car.

We were a bit late ... to stand in line.

See, I took a 28-hour whirlwind trip with my friend Jenny to keep her company as she registered for next year's Ironman Lake Placid and we wanted to be in the registration line around 5:30.

Mind you, registration didn't actually open until 9 a.m.

But this part of the entire Ironman experience.

Let me walk you through it.

See, while there are plenty of races which are considered "Ironman distance" there are only 22 races across the world that can have the label "Ironman" (because it's trademarked, you see). Those races serve as qualifiers for the big race in Kona, which serves as the Ironman World Championships.

With the growing interest in triathlon, and Ironman in particular, more and more people want to register. And for a race like Lake Placid, the only way to register is to do so in person the day after the race.

First, on Saturday, athletes who are participating in that year's race (on Sunday) get first crack at preregistration. Then on Monday, spots are released to the general public. People begin camping out in line about 4 a.m. Seriously. I'm not making this up.

The potential mood buster this year was a new procedure where people who volunteered at Sunday's race got to register first on Monday.

That meant the race, with somewhere around, say 2,300 to 2,500 spots, could be closed out rather quickly.

And the volunteer line Monday morning looked rather long.

There was talk in our line of making up t-shirts that read "I didn't get in, 2009" and forming an entire web community for those who tried but failed to register for Lake Placid.

So yes, Jenny and I were silently concerned that we drove up Sunday night, slept for about five hours then stood in line for nearly four only to not be able to register for next year's race.

Actually, you don't technically register. You get a voucher. You then have about two weeks to go on line, complete your registration form and pay up your $525 for the right to attempt to complete a 2.4 mile swim, 114-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run.

I knew this procedure and went along to offer Jenny moral support (lest she decide not to go), and because, well, I just like Lake Placid. Little did I realize that the endurance and patience needed for Ironman begins at registration.

I should have trained for this.

It starts with waiting in line for the registration voucher, but then Jenny and I took turns ducking out of the line to get supplies. This included waiting in line about half an hour to get coffee. For me, that much of a delay in my morning coffee could cause serious health risks, at least to the people around me.

Then came the line to make hotel reservations for next year. Actually, for Jenny that was more a virtual line since she called the place from her cell phone, but it still took two calls back and a time on hold to get through.

We did our best to entertain ourselves and discovered that driving six hours from Buffalo to register was nothing.

The couple behind us flew in from Arizona because last year they tried to register on line and got shutout.

We also got to hear updates from the race on Sunday. With my trusty laptop, we tracked our friends from Buffalo and Train-This! as they made they way through the course. Then we became very concerned when I got a one line email which said that Mary, our coach, was in the medical tent with a concussion.

In line, we found out that she got kicked in the head several times during the swim, started to see double on the bike course and eventually, through a combination of her own understanding that all was not right and the astute medical care of the staff on site, was pulled off the course.

If you think Ironman isn't a violent sport, check out Mary's race report. At least she's kept her sense of humor.

Back in line, about 8:45 or so, the volunteer line started moving quickly and I sent out as much positive energy as possible that our portion of the line would get in.

Turns out we didn't have much to worry about. Jenny got her voucher with no problem. In fact, when we were leaving, there were still people in line getting vouchers, though there were probably only about 25 left. That's cutting it pretty close.

Happily, I did not succumb to any peer pressure to get my own voucher. I'm still working on moving up to the intermediate distance.

Heck, I'm still tired from just watching Jenny sign up for Ironman.

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