The Best Laid Plans…
It’s easy to criticize the big guy. It’s especially easy when the big guy is slack on communication.
WTC and IRONMAN take a lot of criticism: some of it deserved and some of it just hot air. I’m not going to judge which is which.
Many races have been canceled or rescheduled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and most of us are looking at WTC (the IRONMAN company) to see how they handle it. I’m signed up for the 70.3 Chattanooga race which was initially scheduled for May 17 and is now scheduled for August 23. If that race does not get canceled, it will be the first IRONMAN production in North America since the start of the pandemic induced moratorium on races.
Will this race actually happen? Let’s take a look at precedence, shall we…
Mike Reilly’s adventure from San Diego to Lubbock and back
IRONMAN 70.3 Lubbock was expected to take place several weeks ago. Mike Reilly even drove there from San Diego so he could announce. An hour after arriving he was told the race was canceled.
Did the race directors just hope that it would proceed or did they have a plan? I assume they had a plan, because this pandemic had been with us for over 3 months by the time they pulled the plug on Lubbock. The main reason for the cancelation according to the press release as it appears in a slowtwitch.com article was,
“…it would not be responsible to host the event at this time.” IRONMAN Press Release
Obviously, I cherry-picked that sentence, but the gist of the message is that IRONMAN is taking responsibility for the decision to cancel the race. I’m guessing the city of Lubbock would have retracted the permit if IRONMAN had not canceled. Muncie Indiana just went through the same process (with perhaps a bit more notice).
My insider connections tell me that the directors for both races were amazingly confident in the staging of their events. So what happened?
Well, Duh! COVID-19 happened.
But COVID-19 has been happening for several months. Did the race directors not plan for it? On the contrary. They must have, because according to the press release mentioned above they were planning to implement the new safety guidelines established by the CDC and the WHO (the organization, not the band). I have a feeling that they didn’t anticipate the impending proliferation of COVID-19 cases that caused the governor of the big state of Texas to take a stronger stance against the virus.
I’m not blaming or shaming anyone. I’m building a case for my argument that companies need to be a bit more transparent with their plans for dealing with COVID-19.
As stated before, I am registered for IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga. My insider sources tell me that the race directors swear up and down this race will happen.
Given what happened with Lubbock and Muncie, should I have faith in their optimism?
I’m not the only one asking this question. Check out one of the 70.3 Chattanooga Facebook pages. Everyone who is signed up for an upcoming race this year is wondering what to do. I’m sure there will be many nervous athletes at packet pickup ready for the giant loud speaker over Chattanooga to announce in God-like fashion, “Sorry. This year’s race has been canceled. Thank you for coming. See you next year.”
If the optimism I hear about is based on hope and faith, perhaps I should cancel my hotel reservations now. Hope and faith are great for individual guidance, but when dealing with 1000 plus athletes, there needs to be more than someone else’s hope and faith.
One tiny link on the race website points to any mention of how races might deal with COVID-19
On the other hand, if they have a plan to deal with escalations of COVID-19, then I’m in and I’ll be perfectly fine if they have to cancel at the last minute due to unforeseen factors. Therein lies a problem. I see no evidence of a plan on the race website. As of this morning (2020-07-13), the athlete guide has not been updated and there is little mention of plans for dealing with COVID-19. I found only one tiny link to the WTC protocol for handling races in our pandemic environment.
I realize there is no easy way to deal with the pandemic and changing health policies. There is also no easy way to deal with all the athletes who are registered for this event and expect it to happen. My heart goes out to these race directors and I have faith that they are doing everything possible in the interest of the athletes.
It would be nice if IRONMAN and their race directors were more transparent with their plans. It would instill a bit of confidence in us athletes that they are planning something… even if it may lead to cancelation. WTC has always been tight lipped about the fate of their races and I guess that’s just how they do business. For my $300 entry fee I don’t expect to get personal texts from race directors telling me their exact plans every morning. However, I do expect to be kept informed through official IRONMAN channels (email, website) as to the current plan for upcoming races.
Athlete guide status as of July 14, 2020.
Last I looked, the race website said the athlete guide would be published 6-8 weeks out from the race. Here we are at less than 6 weeks and no athlete guide for 2020. If you want to show your customers (us athletes) that you care, then communicate with us: update your website, email us what you know about the host city’s intentions for us. Things are not going to get much worse for you or us so it won’t hurt to divulge your plans: at least part of your plans.
And if the race does get canceled before I’ve already traveled to Chattanooga, you can be sure I’ll be racing the TriRiot 70.5 again (by myself in my home county).
Until next time…