USA — More than 3,000 competitors were warming up, and ready at Kings Beach, when the announcement came: “County air quality officials have recommended that the event be cancelled,” said the announcer, followed by gasps, groans, boos and even some weeping among the Ironman athletes.
“I had tears too, and then my husband came, and comforted me, Sabine Bokslopper told KTVU, as she unpacked her gear bags in Oakland Sunday evening.
Bokslopper was one of eight members of the Tri-Valley Triathlon Club, trained and ready for the 140 mile endurance race: swimming, cycling, and running. “I was hoping to finish in 16 hours,” she added.
Participants pay between $800 and $1,500 to enter. There are only a handful of sanctioned Ironman events in the world, so qualifiers plan in advance and travel far.
“I think it is the right call, but it’s really unfortunate and really sad,” club president Liz Elliott told KTVU, “when we left at noon, one o’clock, it was really bad, you couldn’t see in front of you because of the smoke.”
The Tri- Valley racers took a group picture before leaving, not the finish they wanted.
“If this was really your race you were trying to qualify for, that makes it difficult,” noted club vice-president Lael Heinig, “There are other races, but they’re in other parts of the country or other parts of the world.”
Some participants didn’t let the cancellation stop them, and took to the water anyway, intending to accomplish as much as they could in spite of the smoke.
“We’ve been up here all week and it’s come and gone,” noted Bay Area racer Richard Brock, “We’ve been practicing in the nasty smoke, so we’re doing it anyway, going for a ride and a run!”
“It’s just a really expensive swim workout,” smiled racer Joe Lovell of San Leandro, “you have to have a positive attitude, and so I can say I got to swim in Lake Tahoe when the sun was rising.”
Many others though, took the health warning to heart, and didn’t risk it.
Bosklopper, stowing her bicycle away at home, said the wisdom of the cancellation was evident as she drove from lake level to higher elevations.
“It’s very bad,” she observed, “it’s like walking around a campsite all day, but without the s’mores!”
The San Francisco Triathlon Club sent 30 racers and 20 volunteers, and some of their contingent posed at the finish line before leaving, a final memento of an event that didn’t happen.
This was the second year for the Lake Tahoe Ironman. Last year it was unaffected by the Rim Fire, which sent smoke over the Tahoe Basin in August, and forced cancellation of the Lake Tahoe Triathlon.