Ironman Tri, Ironman Lake Tahoe, Lake Tahoe Ironman

Ironman forgot their priorities…and their roots.

9/25 Update: We have received a communication from the CEO of Ironman, Andrew Messick: “Appreciate your feedback. Understand your frustration. we [sic] can agree to disagree on the rest.” That’s all he’s got? Talk about tone deaf. That must have taken him a long time to write such a thoughtful note. Clearly he forgot much of what he learned while getting his MBA from the Yale School of Management.
Originally Posted on 9/22: There are few things I am prouder of than being an Ironman. And it’s not just the pride one carries with them for finishing the 140.6 mile race. It’s about being part of a community of people who attempt the ridiculous — those who dare to do what the vast majority of others may deem impossible. From the 75 year-old woman attempting her tenth Ironman to the Iraq veteran attempting to complete his first on a prosthetic, the Ironman is for the dreamers among us. Over the past few days, the Ironman organization forgot their mission statement. They operated as a business squarely concerned with their bottom line. They let slip that they are in the business of making dreams come true.

This past Tuesday, an arsonist ignited fires in Lake Tahoe, endangering lives of brave firefighters and residents across the region. Over the next few days, the fires would spread and on early Saturday evening, the night before the Ironman Lake Tahoe, smoke filled the air across the region. The Ironman, which was set to go off at 6:30 AM, was canceled only a few minutes before the start of the race. Ironman had called for swimmers to report to the water and it was in the water, moments later, where we were informed that the race was canceled. Triathletes who came from 49 states and 65 countries would not be able to compete that day. And it was the absolute right call. The smoke’s spread had made the event dangerous to human health.

But while this was the right call, the call should have been made on Saturday night so that Placer County health officials could have been focused on what really mattered — fighting fires and saving lives rather than devoting their limited resources to the race. Ironman also dropped the ball with respect to their communications. Not once in the days prior to the race did they directly communicate with the event’s participants about the smoke. So when Ironman did inform the racers at the very last moment when we were all pumped and ready to go, it came as a shock. But it shouldn’t have. Ironman was aware of the developing smoke across Tahoe since Tuesday and made several comments to the local press. But Ironman athletes shouldn’t be expected to read the local press. Ironman had a responsibility to update their athletes directly via email, text, or Twitter. Their only direct communication about the race was to state that it was canceled.

The Ironman is a boon to Lake Tahoe’s economy. It certainly has the appearance that the Ironman organization was primarily concerned with participants — and their families and friends — potentially leaving Tahoe early or canceling their trip outright, thereby hurting local hotels, restaurants, and businesses. It’s unsettling that most of the communication to the press by “Ironman Lake Tahoe organizers” in the days leading up to the race was handled by the Chief Marketing Officer of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, and not the Ironman organization itself.