With shift in weather patterns Ironman race cancellations are become more common-place.
It’s not just triathlons that have fallen victim to inclement weather. I was actually in a hotel in Manhattan about three blocks from the Hudson when Hurricane Sandy arrived.
It was pandemonium. Sandy shut down the entire city. There were no buses, no subway, no air traffic, the Hudson river was closed down, as were all the major bridges.
All the hotels were pretty much full with marathoners from all over the world arriving for the big race. Of course, the race was eventually cancelled for the first time since it’s inception in 1970.
WTC RACE CANCELLATIONS
The latest WTC triathlon to be cancelled was the 2017 Ironman 70.3 New Orleans.
In 2016 Ironman North Carolina was shortened due to flooding from Hurricane Matthew. There was no way the entire bike course could be completed.
In 2015 Ironman Maryland was postponed because of Hurricane Joaquin.
In 2014 Ironman Lake Tahoe was cancelled due to forest fires.
Ironman Utah 2002 had a cancelled swim due to fierce winds. The bike course must’ve been Hell that year.
Ironman New Zealand was cancelled because the area was expecting winds of 140k/h. The Ironman was replaced the following day with a 70.3 race.
Back in 2003 the Ironman Canada course in Penticton was radically changed because of a forest fire. The race was a favorite of triathletes around the world because of it’s iconic single-loop swim and bike and out-and-back marathon course. The swim became two loops and the run three loops.
The good news was that the race took place at all. There were volunteers on the course that day who lost their homes to the fire. The volunteers for that race were amazing year after year.
THE IMPACT ON ATHLETES
What could be worse you might think than having a race cancelled that you have trained for all year?
I suppose it all depends on how you look at it. Sure, there’s the financial investment and that can be tough. You might be on the hook for air travel and hotels etc., but in most cases you will have the option of taking part in another race.
As far as the time sacrificed to training, that’s never a waste. I always thought in the case of the ironman, the journey that leads you to the venue has it’s own set of rewards.
It’s a blessing to be able to train at the levels Ironman athletes train. Your body is running on all cylinders. You get to meet and train with so many amazing people. For many triathletes, fitness becomes a way of life long after they cross that final finish line.
One year I gave everything I had training for Ironman Canada. It was month after month of intense training. On my final ride before leaving for the race my chain flew off and I went crashing to the ground. The doctor said my helmet(that was split all the way through)had most likely saved my life, because I was so far away from a hospital.
At the same time I broke my collar-bone and I was done for that year. I was disappointed for a short time of course, but the next day I began training for the race the following year. I couldn’t swim, but I could run and bike on my wind-trainer.
EVERYONE IS IMPACTED
Don’t kid yourself. Ironman race cancellations are just as tough on the race organizers. They spend months preparing for a race. Most of the work is done by volunteers. There are dozens and dozens of meetings behind the scenes leading up to race day. There are countless hours dedicated to the race.
They want to see the race take place just as much as you do.
Some triathletes have the impression that all the entry fees can be easily refunded, but that’s not necessarily true.
If the race is cancelled at the last minute, most of the money has already been spent on food, medals, t-shirts, porta potty suppliers, and a host of other vendors.
It’s often more feasible to offer triathletes an entry or reduced cost entry in another race or the same race the following year.
THE LUCK OF THE DRAW
These days, whenever you enter a race, you face the possibility that something could go wrong and Mother Nature throws a wrench in your plans.
There is a fairly defined window as far as the Hurricane season goes. If you’re racing in late Summer or Fall in Hurricane country, there will always be a chance that you’ll run into a hurricane.
Hurricane Sandy hit New York on October 29, 2012. That’s virtually the tail end of the season for Hurricanes. Typically, November is when the season comes to an end.
Hurricane Joaquin took place in late September and on into October.
Hurricane Matthew also took place in late September and on into October.
It’s not to say that you should never enter a race that takes place in Hurricane season. Just be sure to go in with your eyes open and are aware of the possibility that your race may be impacted by weather.
Sure, you could pick a race far inland that’s never seen a Hurricane, but there are many forms of inclement weather besides hurricanes that can have an impact the race.
Conditions on race day are part of the package as are the possibility of Ironman race cancellations. Nobody really knows in advance what Mother Nature has in store. It’s really always been part of the mystic of the Ironman.
How hot will it be? How cold will the water be? How strong will the winds be on the bike course? Almost every Ironman thinks about this before race day.
Hundreds of Ironman races have gone on without a hitch. If you happen to be part of one that doesn’t, try and take the high road.
Ironman race cancellations or not, you’re still amazingly fit. In the big scheme of things you’re special for being part of a family of athletes who have the spirit and fortitude to make it to the start line of one of the most challenging endurance races in the world.
That in itself is worth the price of admission.
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