Lake Tahoe Ironman

The second annual Lake Tahoe Ironman Triathlon drew thousands to our new home of NorCal. The Guy and I made our commute to Lake Tahoe at the crack of dawn Friday morning to get ready for his upcoming sixth Ironman only to receive heartbreaking news the morning of. IM-Tahoe-2014-T1If you don’t know much about Ironmans or triathlons in general, the Ironman is the longest triathlon race and they have many courses spread all around the world for athletes to compete in. The Ironman distance is 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run, with a strict time limit of 17 hours to complete the race.

Family-portraitNot my idea of a challenge, but my husband is all over it. I mean, this is as “family portrait” as we get.

Smoke-fire-at-IMTahoe-2014Race day was an incredibly sad and disappointing morning. Our athletes were standing in the water suited up in their wetsuit minutes before gun-time, when they cancelled Ironman Lake Tahoe due to unsafe air quality conditions. All the money, all the training — the mental and physical preparations gone all because of one arsonist.

Ironman Lake Tahoe isn’t having much luck with their races as last year’s left a lasting impression on the athletes and spectators with the air temp being a brisk 0° C / 33° F and one of the highest DNF’s in Ironman history. This being the second year was devastating to all participants involved. Early Sunday morning all the racers, spectators, volunteers and staff got ready for the big day. People flew in from all over the world, and luckily we had an easy 4 hour drive (we brought our dog Alfie along too, loving these dog friendly hotels that are around).

IM-Tahoe-Squaw-ValleyMy husband was so dejected, as was everyone else — we checked out of our hotel early and drove back home. Now we can’t help but wonder what is happening to the 50 qualifying Kona spots. My husband wanted to compete at Ironman Lake Tahoe and try to qualify for his dream: to race at Kona.

Ironman-Tahoe-2014WTC/Ironman doesn’t give out refunds and definitely won’t be rescheduling the race. Athletes should not have to take the blow of the cost in something that should have been cancelled long before the morning of.

FB Ironman Lake Tahoe pic by Alex SheehanMany people are ticked off due to the poor communication from the WTC/Ironman officials because everyone including myself felt like the event should have been cancelled before they were lead to the start or simply days before since. What’s even crazier is that they gave out finisher’s medals. A medal that should be earned.

Swimming-IMTahoe-2014My husband was so disappointed as he (like everyone else) received news when he had his wetsuit already on. He ended up doing one loop of the swim regardless.

A quote from an athlete’s loved one that posted on Ironman’s Facebook page that were going to compete at Ironman Lake Tahoe yesterday:

Maria Rocio Reyes The question is not whether it was the right decision to cancel the race. of course it was the right decision to cancel it. As a physician specializing in respiratory diseases, I feel the race would have placed too many people at risk of respiratory events. Having said that, the question is how could Iron Man as an organization have handled this better. At the athlete’s meeting, the organization was unwilling to discuss their contingency plan. Now, the reason is clear–BECAUSE THERE WASNT ONE! Of course it was not in the control that a freak decided to set a fire in the promity of the event, that the fire would grow exponentially so quickly, that the winds shifted overnight to ruin the air quality around the event site. No, those were circumstances beyond the organizers’ control. But, they were in control of their planning. They were in control of the way the decision was announced. They were in control of the timing of the announcement. They were in control of leaving the athletes hanging, still not knowing about refunds, etc. It is mind baffling to me that there was no contingency plan for such a highly anticipated event. As a family we put our life on hold for a year to allow my husband to train for this event. And what we got was an MC making a cryptic announcement a few mins before the race start. Sure they wanted to wait until the last min in hopes that the air would miraculously shift. But why not be honest and say this earlier in the week? at the athlete’s meeting? Where are the higher level organizers? The dignified thing to do would be for one of them to have the courage to stand at the start line in front of all those athletes and their family members and say this was a grueling decision and we are just as disappointed as you are. Dont treat us like we are some expendable thing that you can just toss out the window, bc let me tell you, that’s how we feel right now. The credibility that you have lost by the way you made this announcement and your lack of foresight on how to handle the inevitable has lost you many, many supporters. tweet

Ironman races never cancel. Ironman Canada in Penticton had a similar situation a few years back, where there was too much smoke around certain areas of the course and they decided to change it up and do a ton of bike and run laps around the down town area, definitely mentally difficult but the show went on. I believe athletes should’ve had the option to compete in the event. Locals have been living in this situation for weeks and haven’t been evacuated, so let racers decide for themselves if they wanted to compete in it or not. On the other hand I completely understand why it was cancelled due to hazardous conditions, I’m not angry, I simply disagree with the way it was handled by WTC.

Walking-Bike-to-T1My heart goes out to the athletes who had sacrificed and trained an ungodly amount for their Ironman race. I am deeply sorry.

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40 Comments

  1. This is heartbreaking and I hope the WTC takes a look at their practices and compensates you guys. Sending positive thoughts and vibes to you all and hope that this doesn’t discourage you.

  2. I’m so sorry this happened to all those athletes. I agree with the points you made, that although it is understandable that it was due to safety reasons, better communication could have been made. As someone who went to school with lots of PR folk, I know that the best way to handle crisis is to not wait more than 4 hours to breach the issue. Shame on WTC

  3. What a disappointing experience! It’s just crazy that they’d let the athletes get there and get completely ready and THEN cancel it. I hope they at least learned from the experience and will handle things better in the future.
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  4. I happen to mostly agree with the timing of how the race was cancelled. The air seemed good the day before, but the winds shifted late afternoon the day before. You can make the argument that they should have cancelled then, but there was a forecast for a chance of rain over night, and who knows, the winds might shift as well.
    My beef with the Ironman organization is they did not provide refunds. It is inconceiveable to me that they did not provide the product we all paid for and then kept the money. I wonder how other triathletes felt about this.

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