Is IRONMAN In Hot Water… Again?

Before we dig into the meat of today’s post, let’s celebrate a new comment on the TriRiot Home Page.

This one is a single word: Garden. Not as wordy as the last comment, but probably just as meaningful. I think these comments belong to a secret code and once I assemble all of them, I’ll know their true meaning.

Now on to today’s post…

Screw You, COVID-19

COVID-19 sucks.

There. I said it. Everyone else is saying it so I figured I’d better join in. My first A race of the season was rescheduled, but that’s not why I’m using choice words (like “sucks”) in regard to COVID-19. It’s just a devastating virus. That’s all there is to it.

Come On, IRONMAN!

The IRONMAN Group is receiving some negative comments for the way they are handling race cancellations and rescheduling. It’s easy to focus anger at IRONMAN because they are a corporation. Andrew Messick, the CEO, is not often seen or portrayed as one of the rank-and-file. (As a contrast, four billion people just love the Dalai Lama and he claims to be nothing more than a regular monk). So yes, it is easy to take out aggressions on WTC or the IRONMAN Group if you see them as little more than a money hungry behemoth that leaves the little guy drowning in its wake.

The Complaint

The complaint is simple. Complainers want IRONMAN to quickly make a decision as to the fate of their races in the face of COVID-19. I can understand. Athletes want to know if they have to change travel plans and how to modify their training. However, dealing with dozens of cancellations, postponements, etc. is a horrendous task for IRONMAN and all the local race directors.

The Defense

I’m not an IRONMAN insider, so I’m not going to try to defend them with facts and figures and legal precedence. But I do know how difficult these situations are on a race company. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew put many miles of the IRONMAN North Carolina bike course under water and destroyed several communities along that course. It was devastating. The IRONMAN reps worked closely with our race director and course directors to find a solution. They could have easily pulled out and said, “See ya next year.” But they stayed and worked out a modified course. It was 56 miles short, but at least many of us had our day.

Flood Waters Covering the Road
Hurricane Matthew flooding.

During the decision process, social media lit up with negative comments about how IRONMAN should have been more transparent. I’m guessing those comments represented about 3 to 5% of the registered athletes. What those athletes couldn’t see was that many people were working behind the scenes for them so they could have a race. Also, because IRONMAN wanted to make things right, it gave all athletes a voucher for discounted entry into a race for the following year and donated money to the communities most affected.

I don’t want you to think I’m holding them up as a model of good corporate citizenship, but they did try to make things right.

Then, in 2018, Hurricane Florence dropped so much water on the region, that even more of the bike course was submerged than in 2016 and a key area of the bike course was completely washed a way (U.S. Hwy 421). That race simply had to be canceled, but not until all options were explored. These decisions were not taken lightly.

Now What?

So here we are in 2020 and facing the first large scale pandemic since 1918 and IRONMAN has some decisions to make: not just about one race. They have to consider many races across the globe and how to handle them. Then they have to figure out how to help the individual athletes.

I’ve been affected like many others and for me it is IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga. Yesterday, the news finally came out that the race would be rescheduled. I’m lucky because they gave me six weeks notice. They also gave me some choices. I can either stay with the race in Chattanooga on the new date or I can transfer my registration to one of three other races. In my opinion, they’ve gone way beyond what they needed to do to keep me as a customer. There are reasons I don’t like racing in Mdot branded events, but those reasons are outweighed by the reasons I like it. Not only that, registration is a contract and that contract does not require IRONMAN to do much for me if a race is cancelled due to circumstances out of their control.

If IRONMAN is still trying to decide the fate of your upcoming race, I’m truly sorry. I know the feeling. But please cut them some slack. They work very hard to be a big, profit oriented corporation. And they work very hard to give you a fantastic race experience. I see nothing wrong with either.

Until next time…