Thoroughly planning ahead is pivotal to race management of HMF Events – that means we plan for the expected but also prepare for the unexpected, as much as possible.
Weather is often the culprit behind race-day course change decisions, which fortunately are pretty rare. Since 2013, we’ve used a color-coded Event Alert System to communicate with participants about the impact of weather on race day. This colored flag alert system is more than simply communicating the temperature, we calculate what’s called Wet Globe Bulb Temperature (WBGT). Sounds fancy, right? It’s far more accurate than temperature (the reading on a thermometer provides ambient temperature, like you hear in the weather report).
Wet Globe Bulb Temperature factors not only ambient temperature, but also relative humidity, solar radiation (the “sun on a black car hood” thing) and the cooling effect of any wind that might be occurring. So, the WBGT Index can be quite a bit different from the ambient temperature reading you hear or see.
Sunday was hot and humid, so we were regularly checking WGBT at the Litchfield Hills Olympic Triathlon. Before the race, conditions were moderate, or “Less Than Ideal”, marked by the Yellow flag with suggestion that participants slow down and be prepared for worsening conditions.
When participants were out on the bike course, new calculations indicated the high alert “Potentially Dangerous” Red flag conditions. Within 5 minutes of the reading and before the lead bike came into transition, we made the decision to change the planned 10K run route to a 5K. Utilizing a back-up plan to follow the first run course of the Duathlon, we re-routed runners to include paths through shaded areas in the woods.
Overwhelmingly, participants were appreciative that we put the consideration for their safety first. For anyone that was upset about it, we’d rather have you a little irked and walking out on your own than chance what the alternative could be.
As race organizers, our primary goal each and every event is to have every single one of our participants make it to the finish line upright and smiling. Whether you earned a personal best or even had a bad day, that’s all secondary to your safety and being able to brag about your medal (and complain about your aching muscles) the next day.