Of Mice and Ironmen

A bright and crisp Tuesday morning to you all! TACOS. The weather has cooled off dramatically at night here in Reno, with some warm afternoons to boot. Fall is truly my favorite – you get to wear shorts during the day (I hate pants) – and have no qualms with snuggling into a blanket and flannel sheets at night, with a hot chocolate, naturally.

It has been well over 30 days since my last post. I apologize for not coming up with some fun and readable content since then. I have been reading a lot of books and have plenty to share, but my heart was just not in it. Not at all.

Some of you may have heard that IRONMAN Lake Tahoe was cancelled. Not only was it cancelled but it was axed in an uncouth and horrible manner – myself and at least 50 other athletes were already in the water warming up. Honestly, I was ready for a PR. I could feel it in my bones, and sense it in the fiery, sizzling sensation of the adrenaline paired against the chill of the Tahoe cold. I was going to break 11 hours. I had done my homework and was ready for a crushing. Realistically, 10.5 hours didn’t even seem that out of reach and I was gunning for a place to Kona. Too bad the starting line was yanked out from everyone’s feet with a bang.

DonnerThere is never a “good time” to cancel a race that lasts more than 10 hours. A 6:29 AM cancellation for a 6:40 race is just bad, bad timing. Horrendous, in fact. It just would have been nice that instead of getting up at 3 AM and jamming all kinds of carbohydrates into my body that the race would have been cancelled even the day before. Ironically, the conditions were absolutely faultless that Saturday. Bright blue sky, a hint of a breeze, and highs of mid 70’s. It would have been perfect… would have been…

The best laid plans… hmm.

After the initial shock wore off, I kind of wandered back into transition, not really looking for anyone or anything in particular, although I somehow made my way back towards my gear at some point, but only after running into a friend from the university who has ready for her first IRONMAN :( The looks on the faces of athletes said it all –grief, frustration, sadness, anger at the moron who started the forest fire, total loss of words, utter bewilderment, and many piles of sobbing and tearful athletic frames, primed and ready for the day of their lives, and yet looking more like deflated balloons rather than muscular chunks of athletic flesh. There were comforting embraces from friends and family who had traveled far and wide to see their champions, their heroes, compete in the 140.6 blockbuster, and there was sadness on the athlete’s part for those who burned vacation days, spent hundreds getting to the race to watch, and mourned all of the free time that had been used to train instead of spending it with their loved ones. It was a grievous, tragic morning… and the clock hadn’t yet struck 7 AM.

I really wanted to see someone chuck their carboned speed machine into the street, tear holes in their wetsuit, cause a scene by lighting their running shoes on fire, or something, because that is how I felt the situation would best be remedied. I really just wanted to hurl my bottle in the direction of some unsuspecting tree. The entire drive back (note: the race began at Kings Beach but most of our gear had to be picked up at Squaw Valley 20 miles away), we passed many cyclists pressing through the smoke, and yet one cyclist stood out amongst the rest. The poor bloke had a flat on the side of the road… whilst carrying all of his race gear out of transition on his back. That, in a nutshell, truly summed up how each and every athlete felt. I’ve got an emotionally flat tire, how do you want me to deal with the world today!?

There are few things in life that take a year or more to prepare for. Weddings can be knocked out in six months, babies “only” take nine (even though the ramifications last for the rest of your life), and college graduation has breaks in between semesters. No, I spent 365 straight days waking up every morning to the beat of the triathlon drum, staying mentally focused, getting physically prepared, grinding, sharpening, poking, prodding, polishing until my insides hurt as much as my outsides, and every ounce of free time was drained off and anyway into the pool, my bike saddle, or my running shoes. In that moment when Tahoe was scrapped, it all seemed so pointless. So very, very pointless. I skipped tons of social events, went to bed early instead of seeing my friends, and gave up an overwhelming portion of my summer with nothing in return. And yet I still felt worse for those athletes who have never competed in an IRONMAN before. It wasn’t a pity party – my heart truly went out to them. An ROI of -2476% is brutal. BRUTAL! I didn’t even know what to say to the athlete standing next to me who flew in from Australia… FLEW IN FROM AUSTRALIA FOR A CANCELLED RACE! “I’m sorry” is just a cruel joke at that point.

Just so we are clear, I absolutely 100% agree with the decision to cancel, as painful and inconvenient and gross and bad and nasty as it was. You could see all of 30 feet in Squaw Valley – trying running a marathon.

The true (bitter) icing on the cake was how IRONMAN (the corporation) decided to “make it up” to the athletes. I must say, I do appreciate the email sent out by the IRONMAN CEO just a few days after the race, granted, it fixed literally nothing, but it was a step in the right direction. And that is where my warm, fuzzy feelings died in this entire ordeal. We were presented with three options:

  1. “Attempt” to register for one of seven remaining IRONMAN events this year (mostly international).
  2. Register for Tahoe 2015 for $100.
  3. Get 50% off a race next year.

Option 1:  These were the race options available for $100. I applaude their efforts for trying to squeeze people in in 2014, since with a multi-week taper we were ready for the gun on September 21stand  considering most of these races were at capacity by the end of 2013, but that didn’t help me out. I do know one athlete who is heading to Florida though so I’m glad someone was able to take advantage. Obviously an international race just wasn’t practical, and flying across the country wasn’t either, since airfare and lodging would not be covered. Strike one.

·         IRONMAN Chattanooga (9/28/14)

·         IRONMAN Barcelona (10/5/14)

·         IRONMAN Florida (11/1/14)

·         IRONMAN Fortaleza (11/9/14)

·         IRONMAN Arizona (11/16/14)

·         IRONMAN Cozumel (11/30/14)

·         IRONMAN Western Australia (12/7/14)

 

Option 2: Seriously? They actually thought that after freezing temperatures in 2013 and the race being cancelled in 2014 that people would want to come back and race? PAH!!! Even for $100 (which I would argue is still wrong that they didn’t give us free entry) it was a poor option with weak knees and a broken back. For the sake of the race, because it is a great venue, I hope it survives. I, however, will not be participating for many years. Strike two.

Option 3: Ok, this sounds at least decent in theory but there are a few problems. We dropped a crap load of money ($700+) to race Tahoe so let’s summarize: A) they cancel the race and “only” make us pay 50% for a race next year. Again, why don’t we get free entry to a race? Even if we have to pay, $100 seems reasonable, so why are we paying $350 for an additional race? B) Why the heck can’t we choosewhich race fits our schedule best? They gave us a predetermined list, granted with the race that I wanted to do next year, but then C) they promptly removed that race as an option without telling anyone. Good game – strike three.

·         IRONMAN Texas

·         IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene

·         IRONMAN Canada

·         IRONMAN Boulder

·         IRONMAN Mont-Tremblant

·         IRONMAN Wisconsin – this was my first choice and was promptly removed from the registration list without any communication as to why

·         IRONMAN Maryland

·         IRONMAN Louisville

 

Overall assessment on handling the cancellation of Lake Tahoe? D+

I don’t blame IRONMAN for needing to be run like a business; however, they burned a lot of bridges pretending to take care of the athlete’s needs. $100 isn’t a perfect solution, but a blanket $100 entry would have made a lot more people happy. I do appreciate that they need money to run the race infrastructure, rent lights, porta potties, provide food, order the clothes, etc. but they don’t have to pay out the professional purse because there was no race. Where did that money go? That, and historically anytime a business takes care of their customers instead of worrying about their bottom line, the results tend to speak for themselves. They maintain customer loyalty, they do the right thing, and everyone wins eventually. In a sport growing as quickly as triathlon, everyone knows that IRONMAN will be around as a business for a long time. They survived since 1978, why stop now? Why the lackluster response to a cancelled race? I may never know. I did write a letter to the CEO of IRONMAN – I shall report if I ever hear back.

That being said, Michelle from Colorado (IRONMAN employee) has been a hero in helping me get registered for next year’s race. Hurdle after hurdle has been presented, and one day before the deadline I am officially signed up. Whew… kudos to her.

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As for me, IRONMAN Canada awaits in 2015. See you there (481 hours of training later).

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