Shame on Ironman

Ironman Races and Ivy League Admission, Ironman and Ivies, Ironman Triathlon and College Admission

Ironman’s actions in Lake Tahoe this week are a reminder to all businesses how not to conduct business. Whoever is in charge of their PR should surely get the axe! Ironman puts on wonderful events and has for many years. Their race in Lake Tahoe today was not one of them. Their communication before and after the race is indeed shameful.

Update on 9/25: We’re in receipt of a communication from the CEO of Ironman, Andrew Messick: “Appreciate your feedback. Understand your frustration. we [sic] can agree to disagree on the rest.” That’s all he’s got? Talk about tone deaf. That must have taken him a long time to write such a thoughtful note. Clearly he forgot much of what he learned while getting his MBA from the Yale School of Management. See, you like what we did there?…We tied in the Ivy League again! Apparently not even all Ivy League MBA grads know how to communicate well.

Originally Posted on 9/21: For every single day dating back years — including weekends and holidays — you’ll find a blog on our website that has something to do with college admissions. But today, we need a break. You see, Ivy Coach is a family business at the core. Do we have former admissions officers from Ivy League schools employed by us? Absolutely. Do we have SAT and ACT tutors? You bet. But that doesn’t change the fact that we’re a family business. And so today, we’d like to instead write about our experience at Ironman Lake Tahoe. While it may seem unrelated to college admissions, we’ll try and find a way to tie it in. For those not familiar with the Ironman, it’s a 140.6 mile triathlon in which participants complete a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run (a full marathon to finish things off). And it all has to be done between around 6:30 AM and midnight. If you finish at 12:01 AM, you are not an Ironman and your name isn’t announced. It’s a race for the high-achievers among us (like Ivy League applicants — see, we found a way already to tie it in). It’s race for people who dare to do what many deem impossible. In fact, many Ironman participants are high-achievers outside of racing. They’re high-earning CEOs and doctors, lawyers and businesspeople. Many are indeed graduates of highly selective colleges (see — we did it again)!

Anyhow, minutes before the Ironman was set to begin, with participants already in Lake Tahoe in their wetsuits, caps, and goggles, the race was canceled. An arsonist had set fire to Tahoe this past Tuesday and the smoke had spread across the region, making breathing the outside air hazardous to human health. Ironman made the absolute right call with respect to canceling the race. The race could not go on. But as this blog on the Ironman (“Shame on Ironman“) suggests, the way in which Ironman communicated with loyal Ironman participants in the days before the race (and after the race) was wholly inappropriate. In short, Ironman knew about the fires and the smoke since Tuesday. And yet they didn’t send one email to race participants to keep them informed about the developing situation. They didn’t give Ironman athletes the opportunity to make their own informed decisions on whether or not they should spend their time and money to attend the race. It is our deep suspicion — and it is the suspicion of many Ironman athletes as expressed on the blogosphere and Twitterverse — that Ironman waited until literally the last minute to protect their bottom line and the bottom line of the Lake Tahoe community, a community they support with their races (including area hotels, restaurants, and businesses). After all, Ironman wants to have many races in Lake Tahoe in the years to come and thus their interests are indeed aligned.

In addition to Ironman’s poor communication in the days leading up to the race (and on race day), Ironman didn’t even offer participants who paid thousands of dollars to attend the race the opportunity to compete in another Ironman event at no cost. Instead, they offered a few select races to participants to enter and when many participants tried to sign up for these races (for an additional $100), the server was down. And then many of the races were full. So who knows for sure if these slots that they were offering were even legitimate? It certainly begs the question. How frustrating is that? It’s no way to run a business. It’s not the way Ivy Coach runs our business. The poor decision-making and horrendous communication by the Ironman organization is indeed a reminder to us of how not to conduct our college admissions consulting business. While we love the Ironman event and the wonderful community of inspiring people who participate in these extraordinary races, the Ironman organization dropped the ball this week. Big time. Shame on Ironman, shame on Ironman.

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