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Have you raced it before? Thoughts on the beach parts? My on hesitation to sign up for it, I don't like sand in my shoes!
A lot of people remove their shoes on the sand
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I did Santa Cruz this year, it was an awesome race. Would have been better if the swim wasn't shortened due to fog, but there was nothing anybody could do about that.
It was not a mandatory donation to the military. $35 of every entry goes to the Ironman Foundation, which after it takes its administrative cut, some fraction gets sent to the Navy SEAL Foundation. There are also some permitting costs for running parts of the race on military property, but nothing more than normal permitting costs. Don't try to pin the $350-$500 on "the military." That's pure Ironman/WTC.
200.00 of the entry fee will be a tax deductible donation to the IRONMAN Foundation, a U.S. registered 501 (c) (3) organization. The donation portion of this entry will be used to support military and local charities including The Navy Seal Foundation, The Optimist Club of Coronado and the Islander Sports Foundation. Athletes will receive their tax deductible receipt at as part of their registration receipt." Originally from: http://www.ironman.com
The majority of the run was on sand, a good amount being deep soft sand. Even the sand along the water was pretty soft and slow (high tide). Just go in knowing you are not going to have a fast run time based on your effort. This is what the race is known for and just the way it is. I think that practicing on soft sand the month before helped me in my race, both technique and conditioning.
I had a great time at this race and recommend it, just don't expect a smokin run split.