As with a theme park ride, the gift shop waited on the other end of the Ironman 70.3 Augusta registration table.
Inside the Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center, a mobile shopping mall was assembled for the 3,466 race participants who began arriving in Augusta on Friday. First, they checked in and signed a waiver. Then, they pulled out the credit card.
St. Louis athlete Julie Ellis and her training partner, Kierstin Coovert, filled several shopping bags with gear. A trophy for their efforts was the official Ironman Augusta race shirt that includes every preregistered participant’s name. They squinted their eyes to read the tiny writing.
“You busted your butt all season training,” Ellis said. “You know you got to get it.”
Mobile vendors sold running shoes, bike racks and tires, energy food, hats, shirts, wetsuits and anything with an official Ironman logo. Some lined up for a stretch with a chiropractor.
Dennis Geiser, the mobile store manager for Inside-Out Sports of Cary, N.C., said the products available have advanced far beyond what was on the market when he began triathlon training in the early 1990s. Jelly beans were his energy source then, not the endless variety of power bars he sold Friday.
“You don’t need any of this stuff except a helmet and a set of clothing to cover yourself up,” Geiser said.
The most popular item in Geiser’s store Friday was a $3.99 cartridge of carbon dioxide used to inflate bike tires. The tiny bottles don’t pass security regulations at airports.
Geared up and ready, Nick and Barbara Vetere, of Pennsburg, Pa., pedaled from the hotel entrance for a 17-mile bike ride. With the race Sunday, athletes are shortening their exercise time.
“It’s hard not to train hard. The body is used to it,” Nick Vetere said.
His strategy for the swim, bike and run: one leg at a time.
“Just like a workout,” he said. “Hope I make it through the whole thing.”