The stars must be aligned. Lately, I've been reading threads about the Kona lottery. Some thoughts to the effect that the current system is unfair. "I've been doing triathlons for 20 years. I have never been picked for the lottery, but you get people who've never done a single race who win a lottery slot. And then there are the triathletes who are good enough to win their age group at a qualifying race but they enter and win a lottery slot. It's not fair!"
Then there was the DNF rate at IMAZ (17%). "You should have to qualify before you are ever allowed to sign up for an Ironman. In fact, the cut off time needs to be lowered to less than 15 hours so that we don't get these folks who are just trying to fill a square on their resume."
But what really brought things to a head was the recent issue of US Weekly magazine. On one page they were reporting on Andy Baldwin's romantic relationship with Marla Maples. http://www.realitytvscoop.com/tags/andy-baldwin/ On the next page, they had the latest update from Trista and Ryan Sutter. Now, I don't envy any of these people, but I don't hate them either. But there are triathletes who get upset that Andy and Ryan were able to race at Kona.
Get over it. Unless you're a pro, triathlon is just a game. Some of the posts on different threads equate triathlon (and Ironman races, especially Kona) as some kind of sacred religious event, not to be sullied by the unclean masses. "I train for 20 hours a week. I know what it takes to be an Ironman. Kona is special. You can't let just anyone go there! I'm not quite fast enough to make it there by qualifying, but they should save the lottery slots for someone like me. No one who has never done an IM race (and preferably no one who hasn't finished in less than 12 hours) should ever be allowed to sign up for the lottery. And stop letting these grade-B celebrities entry into Kona. They don't deserve it!"
I don't have a problem with anyone plunking down some money to enter the Kona lottery (or to get a Powerball ticket). Heck, the chances of winning either are pretty slim, and everyone knows this. If someone who is fast enough to qualify for Kona (by winning their age group at IMAZ for instance) wins a lottery slot, good for them! They can let their slot roll down at the IMAZ awards ceremony.
And call me cheesy, but it's fine with me if a few "celebrities" get invited to Kona every year. I know your average TV viewer has never heard of Chris McCormack, but they might know Andy Baldwin. (Andy finished Kona 2006 in 9:45, and Ryan Sutter finished Kona 2004 in 11:38. I don't know how many triathletes who didn't get a lottery slot those years would have gone any faster.) Heck, if Paris Hilton and Justin Timberlake were to go to Kona this year, it would get a lot of people interested in triathlon. Maybe we could get a few more folks off the sofa and out on the roads biking and running.
If I ever get the opportunity to race at Kona, I'll jump at the chance. I know just getting registered for an "M-dot" Ironman race in North America is difficult. I think it's a good thing that so many people, including some "average Joe's and Jill's" want to get the IM experience. I'm happy with the current system. If I never make it to Kona, I won't be miserable. And there are plenty of "non-M-dot" iron distance races that would be happy to have you there.
See you at this year's Silverman.