Sometime during the summer of 2013, I was offered an entry into Ironman Lake Tahoe. My boss had put some money into sponsoring the race and had access to some entries. I was back to into training, after 10 months off running due to a wicked case of plantar fasciitis. My swim was strong, I had just done the Seattle-to-Portland ride (152 miles one day, 52 the next). My runs were up to 10 miles in zone 2. I decided there was enough time to bump up the run build and get in some bricks.
Ironman Lake Tahoe was my race dream come true. See a few blog entries back for the race report. I paid for the entry (PayPal directly to my boss) when I claimed it, and it came through about a month before the race. Doing it this way was a little nerve wracking and when I finally got my bib number it was a huge relief. To his credit, my boss was incredibly supportive during this time and helped me out with schedules race week. He also got VIP passes for my family, which was really awesome. Like I said before, my boss has the capacity to be an excellent coach and has done some nice things for people. Which makes some of his actions really baffling. There are two sides to him and you never really knew which side you were getting on any given day.
One of my athletes wanted an entry to Ironman Arizona for 2014. It sold out quick and he did not get an entry. Having had a good experience with Tahoe, I called my boss and asked if he could get an entry for my guy, for IMAZ. He said of course and I was thrilled. It was great to text him and tell him he was in. He was sent an invoice, which he paid right away. This was November 2013.
I left the company in August 2014 and at that time, my athlete and I were getting the brush off when we asked when his entry would come through. I assured him it would be okay, after all I got my Tahoe entry, it was just really late. And I knew people who did Boulder 2014 also got their bibs very late in the game. After I left I just happened to be talking to another athlete/acquaintance. I told this person I had left the company. It was then I heard that there were at least six athletes who had paid for Ironman Boulder entries, and had gotten nothing in return. No entry. I believe they are/were involved in some kind of legal action to get their money returned, the details, I do not know. I was floored when I heard this. Apparently he had some Boulder entries, but not enough to cover everyone who paid him. This was the first time I had heard of entries being promised, athletes paying (directly to his PayPal account) and no entry being received. My heart sank to the floor. I had not one but two athletes with outstanding entries. Entries they paid for in November 1013 and here it was late summer of 2014 and we had nothing to show, so far, for that money. I had to tell my athletes what I had heard about Boulder, and that was not a conversation I wanted to have. I suggested that they contact Ironman directly and find out the status of their entry. Both were told, by Ironman, that my boss had "no entries to give." I was furious. Why would he take money and promise entries when he had none? The feeling of incredible confusion was followed by one of hurt and betrayal. Ultimately, one of my athletes decided not to do the race. The other pursued the matter, contacting my boss directly. He was told the entry was coming, but that it would now be a charity entry, through a larger, very legitimate charity that he had ties with. At that time, the entry was going to be retroactive (i.e., his own, smaller charity was working with the larger one to sponsor some races). He was told not to talk about it to anyone, as it was a sensitive subject. Over the weeks, the "charity" entry morphed into him purchasing an entry, for twice the initial rate, from another coach. There were many vague emails back and forth between him and a third party. What exactly happened, I am not sure. Bottom line, my athlete did get his bib a few weeks before the race. We both breathed a huge sigh of relief when that entry came through. What did really make me mad was how my old boss held himself up to be this big "hero" for fighting with Ironman and this other coach, and finally "won the battle" and was able to get an entry. My boss was not a hero in that situation. He took money for entries, an entire year before the race, money for entries he knew he did not have. That is the opposite of heroic.
Around this time, I learned of countless other athletes who had issues with race entries. It was always the same story. Something got "messed" up, or somebody was dragging their feet about getting the entries to come through. It was never his fault. He always acted like he was doing people a huge favor by fighting for their entries. How about NOT offering entries to races that you don't have entries for? Did he ever think of that? The entire thing was such a huge mess for so many people. Let me tell you, training for a race you aren't 100% sure you are really into is not the place to be mentally.
The bottom line...it is a bad idea to pay directly into someone else's PayPal account for gear, entries, donations, or anything else that comes through a third party. No matter how much you trust them. How much money was lost this way, I do not know, but I suspect it is a very great deal of money. Hard earned money, that people paid in good faith. Money from real people, with families. Money saved, maybe in a jar on the counter. Money paid with the dream of reaching a running goal, or becoming an Ironman. Money that means something to somebody. All the broken promises, all confusion and hurt. This is my story to tell.