TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Those who waited a day to register for the inaugural Ironman Lake Tahoe triathlon waited too long.
The North Lake Tahoe Resort Association announced Friday, June 15, it secured a deal to host California's first full-distance Ironman event since 2001. Registration for the Sept. 22, 2013, race opened last Monday at noon. Nineteen hours later, all 2,600 general-entry positions had sold out.
“Our races sell out pretty quickly,” said Jessica Weidensall, director of Global PR for World Triathlon Corporation, which puts on Ironman. “But it depends. We have races that sell out in minutes, we have races that sell out in days, and others that sell out in months. So it wasn't the fastest to sell-out, but it's definitely up there. Less than a day is definitely good.”
The haste in which the race sold out illustrates the high demand for a full-distance Ironman triathlon in California, Weidensall said. And what better place than North Lake Tahoe?
“We've wanted another event in California just because of the high number of triathletes in the state, so it's been on our radar for awhile, and Tahoe was just the ideal place,” said Weidensall, who explained that Ironman 70.3 California, which takes place in Oceanside, still exists but was shortened to a Half Ironman distance in 2001. A full-distance Ironman consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a 26.2-mile run.
“The obvious reason Tahoe was ideal is it's incredibly beautiful,” Weidensall continued. “So the scenic aspect and challenge aspect with the elevation were big reasons. But we also have a really great relationship with that community, and it's a very sports-minded community and very supportive. A race can only be successful if people want it there, and they're definitely embracing it.”
The contract — three years plus a two-year extension — to bring Ironman Lake Tahoe to the North Shore was a win-win for both parties, said Andy Chapman, chief marketing officer of the North Lake Tahoe Chamber/CVB/Resort Association.
While Ironman gains a world-class racing venue to bolster its lineup, which includes 12 full-distance races in North America and 90 events worldwide, Chapman said the North Lake Tahoe region will experience a significant economic boost during a traditionally slow time of year.
With more than 2,500 athletes coming from out of the area, with each expected to bring three to four guests for five to six nights, Chapman estimates the total economic impact will hover in the $8 million to $15 million range.
“We look at the number of athletes they bring to the area, and number of days they are typically here with check-in and acclimation period. We have the average daily rates for room revenue, and how much people spend a day. And we did a conservative number on that,” he said.
Chapman compared the size of the Ironman event to America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride, which he said draws about 3,000 cyclists each summer. The Lake Tahoe Marathon on the West Shore also draws about 2,500 athletes annually over three days, said Les Wright, director of the marathon.
“It's obviously a big piece of business — it's the right time of year, it really showcases our product up here, and it really matches very well with our branding of the human-powered sport initiative that we have in place,” Chapman said. “We've been working on getting it for probably close to a year in the bidding process, so we're very excited.”
Rachel Crus, an attorney and mother of three from Tahoe City, was one of about 20 Tahoe-area athletes who managed to register before the race sold out, Chapman said, adding that 56 people from Northern Nevada registered, with many others coming from all over the country and world.
Crus said she caught wind beforehand that spots would go quickly, and she acted accordingly.
“I actually thought it would sell out sooner,” she said. “I was told it was expected to be the fastest selling out first-time event.”
Crus will dive right in to what will be her first-ever attempt at an Ironman-distance triathlon. A competitive swimmer since high school, she said she's raced international-distance triathlons in the past and participated in her first marathon this past fall.
“This is definitely my first (Ironman),” she said with a laugh. “I set a goal for myself. I turn 40 next summer, and I wanted to do an Ironman race when I was 40 … It's more of a personal goal for me — a personal journey.”