Friday, June 14, 2013

What to Expect When You're Syracusing: Pre-Race

My intent is to pass along knowledge based on experience for any and all those who are planning on doing IM Syracuse 70.3 (even if you have no intention of ever doing this race, maybe you'll find it interesting). If, at any point along the way, please feel free to raise your hand and ask questions. (I suppose you could also leave a comment.)

Links to other posts in this series
Pre-Race (viewing)
The Swim
The Bike
The Run

Signing up
First and foremost, you must sign-up for the race in advance. There is no race day registration. Sign-up is done typically on-line via a link through their website, which will then take you to, which will then force you to fill out about four hundred pages of questions, and charge you accordingly. Active will also tack on an additional fee just because they can. Sadly, there's no way around it. The race is expensive, as are all WTC events.

(Keep in mind that I have never had a bad experience at a WTC event that could be blamed on the race instead of my lack of training or my pansiness. Yes I believe that their races are pricey. I also believe that they put on a high quality show.)

Please note that you are expected to be a member of USAT (the official governing body of everything triathlon). Not only do you need to be a current member, but your membership expiration date must be later than the date of the race. If you are a current member but your card expires before the race, you may be forced to renew your membership for an additional year (USAT only has full year memberships or longer) or pay for a day pass.

To the best of my knowledge, the race has never sold out. Still, expect that there will be 1000 plus people on the course at any given time.

Picking Up Your Race Number
The race is typically on a Sunday. You cannot show up on Sunday morning and expect to race. You must do "things" on Friday or Saturday before the race. Bring a government issued ID and your USAT card.

Tip: Some people take a picture of their USAT card, store it on their phone, and use that instead of the physical card itself. Saves space in your wallet and is 100% acceptable.

List of required things
  • Go to the Host Hotel* (this location changes annually) and check in
  • Sign Waivers 
  • Pick up your race packet, which should include but not limited to:
    • Your bib number(s)
    • Your race stickers (there's about 8 thousand of these) 
    • Several coupons or advertisements for products that you have no interest in
  • Pick up your timing chip
  • Get an official wrist band that must stay on until the end of the race
  • Get any swag
If they stay consistent in relation to years past, this will be done efficiently and by many happy volunteers. (Be sure to smile, joke and have fun with these people. They are there out of the goodness of their hearts with the sole intention of pleasing you. If anything goes wrong, don't be a jerk. Your problem will be solved.) They set it up factory-line style. You go to the first table and take care of that business. Then the second. Then the third. Repeat ad infinitum or until they run out of tables.

You'll recognize when you have finished the process because you'll magically end up in the Official Merchandise Store where you can spend more of your money on stuff that has the "M-dot" logo should the desire hit you.

*Note- The Host Hotel might actually be a tent on the race site. 

List of non-required things
(also available, depending on your timing-schedule of these things is usually posted in the Athlete's Guide, which will be emailed to you or posted on the website)
  • Mandatory Athlete Meeting**
  • Chat with Pros (depending on availability)
  • Browse various booths or vendors that have set up shop
**Yes, I know the title says 'Mandatory'. They don't take attendance nor do they penalize you in any fashion for not going. They answer any questions you might have. They go over some of the commonly broken triathlon rules and the consequences/ procedures should you break those rules. They tell you what to expect on the course, if there has been any changes, or if there are any special rules. For example, in 2012, there was a no-passing zone during the last mile of the bike. The only way to know this was attend one of the meetings. Will that be the case this year? I have no idea. I might have to go to the meeting. Or, talk to someone who went to the meeting and was friendly enough to share. The risk is that if you don't go to the meeting and miss out on something, it's fully your fault and you may be penalized for your ignorance.

Bike Check-In
Sorry, but you cannot get around visiting the race site before race day. You have to physically drive to the race site from the Host Hotel (assuming they are separate places). The race site is a few miles southeast of Syracuse proper at:

Jamesville Beach County Park
4110 W. Shore Manor
Jamesville, NY 13078

Why do you have go to the race site? Because you must leave your bike in transition overnight. It must be in it's place before the posted deadline (most years, the deadline is 7:00 pm but be sure to check the Athlete's Guide or ask the question at the optional Mandatory Meeting).

The course is open to any athletes and all motorists who wish to be on the course. You may opt to ride some of the bike course or the run course. You may go for a run in the park. You may not swim in the reservoir (for some reason).

The transition area is controlled by security and will remain so for the duration of the event, including all night long. Remember that annoying wrist band thing from the Required list? That's your entry ticket into and out of transition area. It has your info, including name, your race number, bust size, astronomical sign, and an analysis of red flagged genes based on your DNA analysis.

You have to label your bike before leaving it in transition. In your race packet, there are a bunch of stickers. At least 2 of these must go on your bike. One of the stickers goes on your helmet. The other stickers are available just in case you have a nice sticker collection to which you'd like to add.

Tip: Some of the bike stickers are rather large. I bring scissors and cut those puppies so that they fit nicely on my seat tube and down tube. Otherwise, you'll have to figure out where to put them on your bike without interfering with your comfort or aero-ness. I also cut the helmet sticker down to a smaller size.

The racks are assigned seating based on your race number. They are the 'long pole' types that are meant to hang your bike by the seat or handlebars. Typically, even numbered bibs are on one side of the rack while odd numbers are on the other.

You are not required to leave anything else in transition other than your bike. You will have full access to your bike on race morning (assuming that you get to the race before transition closes, which is not a good assumption for the Banter).

I would suggest checking the weather forecast before making any major decisions about what to leave in transition. If the weather is predicted to be mostly clear with low levels of wind, I would personally leave most of my gear (shoes, helmet, glasses, wetsuit, goggles, bodyglide, etc.). In fact, I'd try to leave as much as possible minus nutrition. I keep food separate as I believe that even the most skilled security guard isn't going to stop a mouse, bug, or other varmint from eating my fig newtons or drinking my punch. Basically, if it's essential gear for the race, I leave it near my highly secured bicycle.

Now, before you start to argue, I have good reasoning for this. Before the race, you get to park your car close to transition. On race morning, your car is likely nowhere near transition. Last year, in 2012, I had to walk a good 1/2 mile to get from my car to my bike. The more I leave on Saturday, the less I have to carry on Sunday.

I've seen some people try and wrap a bag around their seat or cover their bike in copious amounts of plastic for it's overnight slumber party. I personally don't see the point as condensation will still form under the plastic. Further, you are going to be soaking wet from the swim the next time you ride. I can't imagine that your bum will notice if the seat has a couple of dew drops on it race morning.

From here on out, you should be ready for race day. Go home, get some food, get some sleep, and come back to the park in the morning. In the very near future, I'll walk you through race day.

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