Early on Sunday Ironman announced the cancellation of Ironman Lake Tahoe and 70.3 Tahoe, and while it was not a popular decision for some, it was the right call. Sometimes the correct decision may simply not match our wishful thinking or personal agenda.
That the races were cancelled is a bummer indeed for everyone involved, especially when considering all the time and money spent to get ready for the the big day at Lake Tahoe. But as we speak over 80,000 acres have been burned and around 3,000 folks had to evacuate their homes from the King Fire that apparently started on Saturday, September 13. Firefighters have since risked their lives daily and many people have lost their homes, hopes and dreams, and there is still no sign of reprieve. On Thursday, September 18th the area burned was around 24,000 acres, but unfavorable winds reportedly pushed it to over 70,000 acres by Friday morning.
Folks who complained about the cancellation seemed mostly annoyed by the late notice, but in all reality telling folks a day prior would not have changed much. All the hotel rooms were already booked and paid for and likely athletes had moved in before the fire got larger, and no one really wants an early call when there is a chance for the situation to blow over, especially after preparing for this race all year and having already traveled there from a good distance. Had Ironman announced the cancellation on Saturday morning or Friday evening, people would have been super annoyed that Ironman did not give it a chance to clear up. Plus what would have been the alternative? Flying to Maryland on Saturday? Nature can be very cruel and was indeed, and apparently with some human arson assistance.
The day before the race, according to Ironman, it still had looked reasonably promising that smoke and particulate matter would not impact the event on Sunday, but "fire behavior and wind patterns changed significantly on Saturday afternoon with air quality at Squaw Valley, Truckee, and Tahoe City deteriorating rapidly through the course of the evening. Smoke models predict little relief on Sunday with smoke accumulation increasing as the day progresses, according to the anticipated shift to a southwesterly wind."
In the end it was the Placer County public health officials who forced the hands of WTC on Sunday morning when high levels of particulate matter were being recorded early in Lake Tahoe, creating unsafe and unhealthy levels for athletes and the public. Even bystanders reported difficulty to breathe and the desire to get out of there.
As I said earlier, I truly feel bad for the athletes who had their dreams crushed with the cancellation, but I also feel bad for all the race organizers and the many volunteers who all likely would have preferred a nice sunny and calm day and a great race. Blaming WTC won't change a thing, plus it really is not their fault. We should feel lucky that many of our big daily problems really are minor when put in perspective. Being infected with the Ebola virus, captured by ISIS militants or having a family member dying is on a completely different level, plus some folks are lucky if they have one daily meal if any at all. So let us keep it real.
The King Fire in El Dorado's National Forest is the largest of several fires currently burning in California with a area of over 80,000 acres now and various news sources have since reported that Wayne Huntsmann of Pollock Pines, CA is allegedly responsible for setting the fire that has grown to become the largest fire on record in the last 20 years in that county.