My Race Was Cancelled...A Season In Reflection
written by Faith (Communications Manager)
The Rain Woman
We’re well into the second half of 2018 and among my triathlon mates, I’ve become known as the rain woman. Let’s take a look at how my triathlon season has panned out…
April Ishigaki Triathlon – cancelled
June Ironman 70.3 Hawai’i
June Okinawa International Triathlon – swim cancelled
July Ironman 70.3 Jeju – swim shortened
…each race is an investment…
Yes, it’s true that I tend to lean towards destination races. If I’m going to race, I might as well make a vacation out of it…I digress.
Only 25% of my triathlon season has taken place as planned. You could say I’ve become accustomed to modified races lately. It’s not ideal but I also understand that these happenings are just part and parcel of events. After all, cancellations and modifications happen for various reasons, many beyond anyone’s control.
Now, to be clear, there are races that are cancelled due to sketchy, fly by night event organizers. Thanks to the prevalence of social media, this happens less frequently. Whether it's a completely new event or you just aren't familiar with the event, it doesn't hurt to do some online sleuthing before you fork out your hard-earned money.
In between my own races, I work races - sometimes, with the company of our interns!
Surprising as it may be, most event organizers usually aren't making a ton of money. It's just enough to keep the books open and people paid. In particular, smaller, regional event organizers sometimes encounter financial problems which subsequently result in event cancellations, often with no refunds.
5K, trail run, Olympic Distance triathlon, mud run...they all take a lot of time, labor, and money. More often than not, successfully planning and executing a race involves hidden expenses and cumulative costs that can sometimes lead to the demise of both the event and the event organizers.
All said, I know full well that for some athletes and/or depending on the event, races can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Whether it’s an A race or “just another training day”, hundreds (if not thousands) of athletes register and train for a day to test themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. I also know that each race is an investment – albeit, some bigger than others.
Now, as someone who works in the niche industry of sports events, it’s also fair to say that I might feel a little more empathy and understanding for the decision-makers. I haven't been a full-blown race director (yet!) but I truly don’t believe that a race director ever makes the decision to cancel or modify a race lightly.
That’s not to say I always agree with the decisions that are made. But I’ve seen life on the other side of the race (the side where you’re not racing…) and it’s not all rainbows and sunshine, either. I can confidently think of several instances when I thought racing would be much easier than working a race – not to mention a whole lot more fun!
No matter the size, planning a race and making it happen is an immense investment for race directors, event organizers, volunteers, etc. There’s no denying that “cancellation” evokes a lot of emotions for the athlete – most of which are decidedly not positive.
We're all making our way towards the same goal.
This is exactly all of us after crossing the finish line.
Is that the sound of your heart sinking...?
Bigger Than Me
It’s easy to get caught up in my personal losses. I spent about a $1,000 for the Ishigaki Triathlon just to not race and "enjoy" poor weather the entire time. I'm out here trying to make ends meet as a triathlete working at a start-up! But to be honest, the race is bigger than me. Of course, I want to race but not with elevated risk of injury and danger to others. I know I am not the only one disappointed, sad, or even a little angry!
Ultimately, I cannot control the weather nor the decisions of the race director…but I can choose how to respond.
So how do you react?
As close as I got to "racing" the 2018 Ishigaki Triathlon
Volunteers spend HOURS before and after the race, just so we can race
Course modifications require a lot of explaining!
You’re that guy. You’re that chick. You fume, you get angry, and you’re tempted to start flipping tables like one of the Real Housewives of New Jersey.
Who's in charge around here? I need to have a word with them. What kind of poor planning led to all of this mess anyways? What is this, your first time organizing an event? Hello!?
If you’re a social media kind of person, you bet I'm going to write about it – I'll throw in a few naughty swear words while I'm at it. That'll show 'em.
It sure feels good to vent and let it all out…hear me roar!
Probably the most common response. You’re unhappy but deep down, you get it. You know that once a cancellation is announced, there’s almost no chance of that decision being reversed. You’re above the public rant and rave but you also need to let out some steam.
Maybe you get a little huffy, a tad irritable, and shoot, you might even w(h)ine about it to people that you assume are listening to you. After all, race cancellations (and most modifications) suck and you want to talk about how much it sucks.
You dwell on the circumstances for a little bit and you'll definitely inquire about reimbursement of some format - but you're also like, totally moving on.
There are also times you kind of wish an event was cancelled...
Shake It Off
Well, you gave it your best shot and didn’t give up but it just wasn’t meant to be! Deep breath. Or was that a sigh?
You might reluctantly admit that after your expert evaluation, the adverse conditions are not conducive for a safe, productive race. Of course, it's disappointing but you tell yourself there will be other races. You're a tough cookie - you shake it off and try to enjoy the rest of your day or stay.
Perhaps later when you get home, you'll write an empathetic note to the race director or drop a kind post on their Facebook page. They (probably) tried their best. But you might not be above asking about a memento of your cancelled race 🙂
The Show Must Go On
Endurance athletes are resilient people. Actually, most athletes are. We bust our butts training before the sun rises, after an exhausting day at the office, even spending our weekends outdoors in the blistering heat to feel prepared and deliver our best effort for that race we signed up for.
Whatever the weather conditions might be, the athlete within might feel prepared to battle the elements.
Just let me swim/bike/run!
It'll be a tough day but I'll be fine!
I came here to race.
Truth be told, you and your fellow athletes really just might be the most prepared folks on race day.
Then again, not all athletes are created equal. The guy next to you is recovering from a hangover. It's the first time the woman behind you is trying this event. The super fit girl up front has been battling a lingering injury. The guy next to her is underestimating the risks of the distance he's about to take on. And what about that other guy who's dressed in as little as possible - there's snow on the ground. Everyone is a liability.
What about the volunteers, the spectators, the timing crew, and race staff? Are they ready to face Mother Nature? Maybe. Probably not. Again, everyone is a liability.
My races were cancelled or modified, and it feels like a tremendous waste of my money, time, and training.
My races were cancelled or modified, and no one was physically injured nor did any one die.
My races were cancelled or modified, but life goes on.
About the Author
Born in Singapore and raised in Malaysia, Faith holds a Japanese passport, a BA from Southern Methodist University, and M.Ed from Vanderbilt University. Currently, she works as the Communications Manager at Samurai Sports where she spends weekdays at a desk and weekends at various races.
In her free time, she trains regularly for her triathlon pursuits and hopes to qualify for her second 70.3 World Championship in 2019. Faith loves dogs, hates celery, and is always hungry. Chances are high that if Faith is going to your race, it will be cancelled or modified.