More local triathlon cancellation news
Not a good way to start off National Bike Month. WSEM announced yesterday that the inaugural National Harbor Ironman 70.3 race has been canceled. That had been scheduled for August 5. No word on whether there will be a 2013 race or not. No explanation for the cancellation has been given so far.
This comes just days after it was announced that the Washington DC Triathlon will be canceled permanently, after just a two-year run. (There was a separate Int'l Triathlon Union race in June 2009.) The uncertainty of whether the National Park Service would issue permits in the future for WDC Tri was too big of a risk to continue with that race.
So in one year, Washington D.C. has gone from being TriTown USA to a single-triathlon city (the Nation's Triathlon in September). Many triathletes were anticipating the 2012 season, with 3 local open-water races. Now there is concern that even Nation's is in danger of being denied a permit by NPS. (No evidence that this is the case, but you can't blame people for being gun-shy right now.)
We can't be TriTown USA, but I guess we can still be Nats Town, with plenty of Natitude. It's still a bummer.
Some are speculating that it has to do with the fact that Adrian Fenty is no longer the mayor of D.C. He was noted for being an avid triathlete and runner. Triathlon really took off during his time in office.
But there was considerable backlash from some quarters in D.C. against cycling, especially bike lanes. Bike lanes actually became a major issue in the campaign, with some of the campaign ads hinting very strongly that it somehow had something to do with race (even though both major party candidates were African-American). I don't think too many people were surprised when the bike lane project ground to a halt during Mayor Gray's first year, though it is starting to pick up again.
Bike lanes/bike commuting are not the same as triathlons/racing, but maybe not in the minds of some officials and voters.
Some of the public statements that NPS made after denying the permit for the WDC Tri were very confusing. They could have simply said that there are regulations that limit road racing during the summer months in D.C. (actually starting from the cherry blossom season through the end of summer). But they mentioned Father's Day and the new MLK Memorial, which is somewhat strange. I don't think there are any special events at the memorial on Father's Day. There are also hints that the operator of the bookstore at the MLK Memorial may have raised objections to the race, but that's unconfirmed. The WDC Tri would have taken place early on a Sunday with most people finishing up before noon. Thus, the bookstore would have been inconvenienced for maybe a couple hours on a Sunday morning. I would think that a financial or promotional arrangement could have been worked out. Instead, the situation reminds me of when NPS used the former exclusive Tourmobile contract to bar Capital Bikeshare from expanding to the National Mall in 2010 and early 2011. It was only after the problems with the no-bid monopoly Tourmobile contract were revealed did NPS change its mind about CaBi on the Mall.
The National Harbor race would have taken place entirely in Maryland and the Potomac River. I don't think NPS had any veto power over that race. So if it was another permit issue for NH, then it could have been Prince George's or a Maryland state agency. No details are available yet.
It's a frustrating situation although I think I'll adjust personally. Everyone will receive refunds and a $50 discount if they choose to register for a different Ironman 70.3 race this year. However, many people paid for hotel rooms at National Harbor or elsewhere in anticipation of the race. Out-of-town participants also purchased plane tickets.
It kind of makes me want to set aside triathlon this year and focus more on running (although I would still do a lot of cycling as part of my training, and also for fun). But I already transferred my WDC Tri registration to the Nation's Triathlon. Now I wish that I had chosen to get a refund. With all of these logistical headaches, I'd prefer to simplify everything and just focus on the Marine Corps Marathon in late October. That will be my first ever marathon, so I want to be focused and prepared for it, mentally as well as physically. As it is, I'll do a lot less swimming this year than planned, and I wouldn't do as many formal bike workouts, though I would still ride a lot no matter what.
Last edited by PotomacCyclist; 05-05-2012 at 10:26 AM.
Very sorry to hear this -- as I replied the last time you posted similar news, this is disastrous and disruptive for athletes who have been training and preparing for a particular event.
I'm not sure the National Park Service action/inaction stems from any anti-bike vibe from local politicians. However, I think having a very high level advocate for triathlons and cycling in Adrian Fenty when he was mayor may have made them more favorably disposed to grant the required permits during his administration. It's probably more the lack of high level attention than any perceived antipathy on the part of the current DC administration.
The athletic community needs to get organized and make their displeasure known through their local elected officials.
I sent an email to Congressman Jim Moran. I heard back about 6 weeks later. He didn't really offer much support. He merely pointed out that NPS had multiple reasons for denying the WDC permit and suggested that people work with NPS on future races. I recommended that others write to their local representatives as well, through the tri club forum. I don't have any idea if people actually followed up. I get the impression that many didn't. For some reason, many triathletes don't care that much about bike infrastructure and bike advocacy issues. Some do, but I don't think it's the majority.
The speculation re: Fenty/Grey/bikelane backlash is just . . . ridiculous. There are plenty of criticisms to be made about all of those things, but they're irrelevant, here.
Also, the behavior of the organizer here (zero useful explanation in cancellation notice, now deleted FB page, etc.) leads me to give them zero benefit of the doubt. In fact, given their - in my view - very poor judgment in using National Harbor as a race location*, I'm inclined to think this cluser()@# is almost entirely their own fault.
Yes, I think it's important for local athletes to let their reps know how important sport is to them. But I don't think this is the event to make a point over.
*DCRainmaker did a nice job of illustrating how little thought they put into their run. And a bike course down Indian Head Highway? Christ.
+1 Anyone who did the Hot Chocolate 5k/15k in December might say that the cancellation of a National Harbor race is a blessing in disguise.
Originally Posted by Mark Blacknell
I think the problems with the National Harbor race might be related to the Washington DC Tri cancellation. They either had to process refunds for WDC or transfer registration to NH or Nation's Tri. Or at least it might explain the silence this weekend. Things don't look very good for the race organizer in general, so now there is concern about the sole remaining WSEM race, the Nation's Tri. Some are already wondering about the fate of that race. WSEM no longer owns the Nation's Tri. They manage it on behalf of Competitor Group. At this point, I'm more disappointed than angry, unlike some of the commenters on the now-deleted National Harbor 70.3 Facebook page. (I understand the anger but one guy in particular seemed very close to calling for violent action.)
As for the NPS issues, NPS has not been forthcoming either. They have stated various reasons for denying the WDC permit. That behavior is going to lead to speculation, because they have not stated exactly why the permit was not issued. Yes, there are regulations about road races over the summer in D.C. but why was this not a problem for the 2009-2011 races in June. Why did they create a new rule in 2010 regarding road races on the GW Parkway and Rock Creek Park, after the 2009 (ITU) race and as the June 2010 race was being planned? That rule seems to have targeted the WDC Tri specifically. It would not have applied to any other major race organization. I'm not absolving WSEM for their silence and mishandling of the situation, but I am still disappointed with the actions of the NPS over the past 3 years in relation to triathlons and cycling in general.
One of the main problems with the Hot Chocolate race was the number of people they tried to squeeze into that area on race day. The Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon has been able to use National Harbor as a finish area for their race without the major problems that RAM Racing had. National Harbor has its problems, but that doesn't mean it's impossible to have a successful race there.
Originally Posted by txgoonie
I'm pretty much the last person you'll see defending the NPS. That said, I have to say that a lot of the speculation I see around their decisions seems to glide past what I see as the obvious reason - they're an agency that seems to hold maximizing car traffic throughput as their primary goal. There's no targeting/maliciousness involved.
Originally Posted by PotomacCyclist
And yeah, at this point, I'm guessing that WSEM is about to implode. That's about the only sensible explanation for what's (not) happening.