Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ironman Access Program

Yesterday the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) announced the launch of an exclusive program for ironman athletes.  It's called Ironman Access and, according to the Ironman Access webpage, it allows ironman athletes the opportunity to register for popular ironman events worldwide before online registration opens to the general public.

Part of its supposed appeal is the popularity of ironman events these days and the speed with which they have been selling out. The program, therefore, shunts you to the front of the ever extending queue of people willing to submit themselves to the ironman challenge.

But get this - if you want the privilege of committing to an ironman event a week before anyone else, you have to fork over the princely sum of $1000 to the WTC for a year's membership to Ironman Access.

And that's in US dollars!

So what does $1000 give you?  In addition to the privilege of entering your selected ironman event(s) a week earlier than everyone else there are a number of additional benefits that are supposed to make this an appealing proposition.  Here's a quick run-through, and actual cost outside the program:
  • 2 entries into the Kona Lottery (available already through the lottery and passport program for US$90)
  • A year's subscription to LAVA magazine (US$19.95)
  • The 2010 Kona DVD (estimated at US$34.95)
  • A 20% discount on partner merchandise and on-site event retail stores (of no value unless you spend more money, but good value for money if you're planning to fork out over $5,000 on ironman stuff.)
  • 2 VIP passes per registered event
  • Membership ID card.
The actual value of those products comes to $150. So, for another $850 (US) you get 2 VIP passes for each event you enter, membership card and a 20% discount on merchandise.  It doesn't pay your entry fee to ironman - that must be paid in addition to the Ironman Access Program fee.

Oh, and the privilege of committing to ironman a week before everyone else does.

I don't think that represents particularly good value for money.

In fact I struggle to think why anyone would want to take up this deal.  Yes, the WTC are in the business of making money, and all power to them.  But to my way of thinking they’ve got this decision around the wrong way.

As far as I know, ironman events, while popular, aren’t yet selling out in seconds the way tickets to rock concerts do.  It’s not a situation where you sit on your computer, connected to the internet, waiting for entries to open and hoping you’re going to be lucky enough to get in and secure a spot within the first millisecond.  Even if that were the case, bands and ticketing agencies don't charge exorbitant amounts of money for people to secure tickets prior to general release.  At worst you'd pay a nominal amount to be a member of the band's fan club.  At best you simply join the mailing list for the ticketing agency or it can be even as simple has possessing a credit card.

The people that are missing out on an ironman entry are those who wait a few days or weeks before being ready to take the hit on their credit card.  If they are that keen, then, and they know it is an event that typically sells out, then they will be ready and will get their entry in in plenty of time.  Being a member of Ironman Access isn't going to help that.

What the WTC should have done is reserved places at each event for later entries and make the Ironman Access program available for those spots.  That way people who don’t/can’t/won’t enter early still have a choice of paying an additional premium to use the Ironman Access program to secure their spot.

Whichever way they do it, though, $1000 is still excessive and anyone who goes for it needs their head read.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

After the Earthquake - A Ride to Methven

So we survived the earthquake and what better way to get back into training than with another overnight bike ride. This time to Methven, the weekend after the shaking events of September 4.  My training had gone out the window over the previous week so this was a welcome opportunity to get out into the fresh air and get the heart and lungs working again!

Damage to roads around the region meant that the route had to be slightly altered, and two of our team had to pull out - Kate had been relocated to Auckland as her Christchurch office was out of action and Marcus was heavily involved with the earthquake recovery as part of the Police comms team. However the rest of us were not to be deterred!

Anna and Chook contemplating the day's ride
Dave, Chook, Anna and I loaded the bikes onto the trailer and headed just out of Christchurch where we met Alicia, Budgie and Curly for the start of the ride. 
Alicia and Anna
My steed, ready to go

The peloton made its way inland, first stop Oxford where we sampled some of the fine muffins and coffee on offer at Jo Seager's cafe "Seager's at Oxford".  Of particular note was Jo's hot chocolate, of which Alicia appeared to be a connisseur, and the rest of us looked on green with envy as the tray of decadence was placed before her.  A large glass of steaming hot milk plus two shot glasses.  One shot glass contained warmed, liquid milk chocolate and the other glass contained white chocolate buttons.  You could then mix the two types of chocolate according to preference.  Many of us were vowing to return at a later date to sample what looked like a divine drink.

Toni and Curly enjoying the ambience by the fire at Seager's at Oxford

Much as we would have liked, we couldn't sit around the fireplace all morning so back on the bikes it was, next stop Hororata for lunch.

On this leg we saw some more of the effects of the earthquake.  For instance the damage suffered by the historic St John's Church at Hororata.

After lunch it was my turn to drive the support van while the peloton completed the final leg into Methven.  My total ride for the day was a shade under 80km and 2 hours 44min riding time - pretty cruisy.

Next stop, Methven.
One of the great things about heading uphill on your outward journey is that the homeward leg is .... DOWNHILL!

Home was 110km away and Sunday morning we were out bright and early.  The Rakaia Gorge was the only blip in the otherwise steady descent and we got a great pace going.  Andi rode out to meet us and so we had a welcome addition to the peloton for the rest of the journey.

Google maps in use - out in the middle of nowhere...

We rolled into town mid afternoon - another great weekend completed.