Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Running Problems and Their "Ultimate" Resolutions

Dearest family, friends, and followers -
This post is a multi-part read.  To get the entire picture, unfortunately, you must read the entire thing.  Names and locations have been removed or altered to "protect" the innocent third parties (not me).  Happy reading.  I hope you get something out of it.  I certainly have.

October 12, 2010 
(e-mail #1)


Several people have come forward and have suggested that you may have inadvertently cut out a part of the race course Saturday at the XXXX Run.

I am certainly aware that some people did have a problem with the course markings on the first out and back, the problem was a good faith mistake as far as I can tell. Some realized their/my mistake and still finished the entire distance, some had to run further. A few did not, however, and it has been my unenviable task to DQ them from the race.

So, question: Did you run less than the entire course Saturday? Did you make it all the way down to both aid stations at the end of the two out and backs?

Also, please understand that no one has accused you of cheating. In my running experience spanning more than 45 years, I have sometimes gone off course in trail ultras and other races, sometimes it leads to a voluntary DQ, sometimes you run even further to get back on course and that is just free (extra) miles. It happens in this imperfect world. And if anything happened Saturday, to the extent the course markings were inadequate, then I owe you an apology. The downside is that the race was on the Grand Prix Series and there might be a points issue for some.

I would appreciate it if you would contact me back to discuss further.
  - Race Director

My Response (e-mail #2)
Dear "Race Director",

There was a group of about 5 of us that missed one turn between miles 5 and 6 somewhere and lost approximately 1/2 mile.  That would be the section where we exited the woods; ran across a "dirt" field covered in large tractor-like tire tracks, and then re-entered the woods an had to make an immediate decision left or right and no marker to indicate the correct direction.  There were no runners immediately ahead of me/us to follow.  I followed the footprints that I could readily identify.  I did not ever see the aid station that was near/at mile 6.  I realized about mile 7 that I was short according to the mile markers and at Mile 8 I turned back into the course ran approximately .3 miles in and then back to make sure my Garmin GPS reflected 8 Miles by the time I reached the Mile 8 marker for the second time. I believe several other runners will be able to verify that because they asked me why I was running backwards.  I was quite open and honest about what had happened to those at the event.  And, while, I missed that .5 miles between 5 and 6, I did add on and run a full 12.4 miles before reaching the finish line.

I hope that clears up any questions you may have.  I would never have even turned in my card if I had not run at least the full distance.  While it was not the "same" route, it was 12.4 miles of trails along the path you set forth.  Please let me know if there is anything else I can answer for you.

 Letter to Track Club from Race Director regarding his decision (e-mail #3)

"I have reached a consensus with myself as to how to handle this situation. It is my decision and no one else's and I take full responsibility for it. It appertains to the XXXX Run, and not necessarily how the club handles the GP situation. That is not my call, not directly anyway.
I have spoken with many people whose opinions matter to me, all are runners, many are race directors. I probably have gotten a dozen opinions and opinions on top of opinions. Suffice it to say that people are all over the board on this one. There are extenuating circumstances, but maybe they are distinctions without differences as we lawyers are want to say when it suits our legal argument.

I have heard from Lori twice, it is only fair for her to input since this concerns her. I haven't spoken to any other runners who participated in the Pine Run, with regard to how to decide the issue. I have heard enough.

I am confident that the course was properly marked in this location so that no one should have gone off track (nevertheless we'll do more next year).  Pre-race instructions were appropriate as well. The front runners did not do it, but once a few people did, it made an inviting footpath in the wet grass and dirt for others to want to follow, some did, most did not (I went down there and looked at it post race). Anyone who went off track (for those of us who run trail ultras, these things are almost a given), did so inadvertently and not to gain unfair advantage, which would be another story entirely. From what I have gathered we may be speaking of about 25 runners.

The issue however is not whether it was intentional but whether it happened. And then how was it dealt with by the runners. When one goes off course in a trail race and then recognizes the error, the proper protocol is to retrace steps until one rejoins the race course and then go on from there. If not, the correct thing to do is to DQ yourself at a proper time and place after your run is over. Admit it and move on. In reality, usually no one cares anyway, especially if you do not "finish in the money", and especially if one runs further than the actual correct race length. This is exactly what Steve B. and Manny G. did in our first XXXX Run At Secret Location when they missed an important turn and ran a short course. They ran, they raced, they finished and then came up to me and DQ'd themselves. Class act, those two.

Here, some runners did recognize their error, did retrace steps and did carry on, completing the entire out and back. Those runners did the technically correct right thing under the circumstances. I do not know who they are.

Some others, more stubborn or hopeful, followed the incorrect trail that they were on, and it eventually lead them back to the race course, they continued to the right, reached the aid station and eventually completed the out and back. Technically, these runners should all be DQ'd even though they ran further than 12.4 miles and despite the fact that they did reach the aid station at the end of the out and back. It is not a matter of intent, but of following the accepted protocol when one goes off course. I do not know who they are. I know who some are, but not all.

Lori tells me that (as best I can determine), she went down the incorrect trail, but when it came back out on the out and back, she did not know which way to go, so she went left instead of right and did not ever reach the 6 mile aid station at the end of the first out and back. So, she cut the course. But, as she ran, she did notice that her distance was off, and at the 8 mile mark, she ran back to recapture the proper distance, turned around and reappeared at the 8 mile mark now having correctly run 8 miles, but not on the correct course. So, when she finished she had the correct 12.4 miles. I have no independent proof but I have no reason to doubt that she did the entire distance if she says that she did.

Technically, this runner should also be DQ'd because she ran the wrong course even if she ran the correct distance. The competition is on the same course for everyone. Again it is not a matter of intent or purity of heart.

Finally, for me there is another factor to consider. I cannot identify all of those others who went off course and failed to retrace their steps and return to the proper trail and continue to the far end of the out and back. That being the case, I am not going to treat Lori any differently in this case, especially because she did run the entire 12.4 miles. Either they are all DQ'd, or none are DQ'd. There is a technical aspect to this and there is an equitable one as well. I realize that other competitors may now feel unfairly treated, and perhaps they have been. As you have all stated consistently, this decision is my responsibility. That is my decision.  Lori will not be DQ'd in this XXXX Run.

Race Director."

My Response (e-mail #4)
Dear "Race Director,"

I appreciate your forth rightness with me from the beginning, and again I wish you to know that I am not and was not looking for any special treatment.  I felt that at least trying to "make up" the distance was better than showing up short, and I know now that I should have just found you or a course official to take the voluntary DQ.  I would (and will) run the race again if I could.  With that said, if there are grumblings or dissension from within the Track Club community, I withdraw my standings completely from the 2010 Grand Prix competition.

I look forward to receiving my race shirt when they arrive, and to running this event in the future.
 - Lori

October 17, 2010
Phone Call from Grand Prix Committee Chair

I cannot recreate the complete text of the conversation, and in the end I do not believe to do so is not necessary.  Important elements are:
1)  The committee reviewed the complaints of other runners at the event.
2)   The committee "said" they had reviewed my recent run times, and had a member of the committee who claimed to be "very familiar" with my race times and running.
3)  Committee asked me to take a voluntary disqualification from the race in discussion for the distribution of Grand Prix points.

October 18, 2010 (e-mail #5)
My response to the Grand Prix Committee after a night of sleeping on it...

Good Morning,

Let me begin with I am more than just a bit disappointed in the resolution in my participation in the 2010 XXXX Run 20K.  I do not run trails on a regular or even irregular basis for many reasons, and now, sadly I have another to keep in mind.  However, with that said, I do understand the position of the committee with relation to the distribution of points.  Unfortunately I do take offense at a couple of things you said and/or inferred while on the phone with me last evening.

I was under the impression from the race director that "no one had accused me of cheating" and you, in no uncertain terms, absolutely implied that I had.  While I know that I did not intentionally cut the course, as is evident by my attempting to recapture the approximate half mile I lost, it is apparent that the public view is that I did.  And, unfortunately from my position, I have no idea who, how many or in what context the complaints and accusations were made.  Therefore, it was with that limited knowledge I made my original offer to withdraw from the Grand Prix standings.

The second thing that really hit me wrong was that you implied to me that your decision was  partially made based on the opinion/input of someone who does not run with me, does not know my capabilities (current run times or training pace or routine) outside a few limited races/events we have in common, and who does not race with me or against me.  That to me was an unacceptable way to justify your decision to ask me to take a voluntary disqualification.  I have taken the DQ.  I offered to a week ago.  But, the final way in which it was handled was maybe at a lesser level on the integrity scale than could have been presented.

I do, truthfully, appreciate the job your committee does and how it handles all of the difficult and challenging situations.  Mine is not different.  Thank you for your time.  I do look forward to running with you again soon.

October 20, 2010 (e-mail #6)
Dear Track Club President,

Thank you for taking the time this week to follow up on what I am sure will be a one-time occurrence within the Gulf Winds Track Club family.  While, no one ever sets out to do poorly, or to not achieve their best, or to slack off during a race, the results are not always what an individual may have hoped for or planned.  And, while I am completely satisfied with my run, my time, and how I navigated the Pine Run course, I think you need to know that after all the fussing and "what-evers" why I told you that I know now I went out to the XXXX Run for the wrong reasons.

I began my running "career" training with a long-time friend of mine, Girl #1 who pleaded with me to be her running partner in order to keep her motivated and focused on her goal.  Shortly after our first half marathon, she stopped running for a time while I continued running half marathons - frequently with my mother.  She eventually, a few years later and nearly 100 pounds lighter, came back to running.  She went into it gung ho for her first marathon while I remained a "halfer" and took on Team In Training as a Team Mate and later as a Mentor and then Team Leader.  Along the way I "picked up" people who ran with me, or I ran with them depending on your point of view, who were looking only for a consistent pace and a positive mindset during the runs.  I became what I call a Companion Runner.  I didn't run a single race for myself or for an intentional PR until I decided to qualify for Boston.  And, even then I had a difficult time swallowing that I was allowed to run for me and for a selfish goal.  Between last September (2009) and the present, I have set out with really only one goal in mind:  Qualify for Boston (and not by the skin of my teeth, I might add), and PR in every distance I can between now and Boston 2011.  Which I have managed to do so far and as a by product have racked up a few Grand Prix points in the process.  Maybe it's time to back off of that goal as I think I have learned.

Girl #2, another friend of mine, asked me while I was training during the winter if she could join me for many of my runs because she was hoping to run a marathon PR in March.  I naturally welcomed the company and really kind of pushed her to work harder so that she could qualify for Boston.  At this year's Snicker's Marathon she did just that and won her age group.  I call her "my first" successful client.  She could have done it anyway, but she asked me to help her.  Then later in the spring Girl #1 (from above) asked me to coach her and train with her to qualify for Boston.  Again, I was back in the companion runner position.  Which, I think is really where I belong.  It was a long, hot, hard summer first rehabbing a badly sprained ankle; training with her according to the plan; and then adding heavy cycling in order to train for my first 2 triathlons.

I say that I sent her off to the Atlantic City Marathon (10.17.2010) well prepped, well trained, well tapered, and completely ready and capable of running a 3:45 marathon to qualify.  Her race, by her description, was a disaster.  Not only did she not qualify, but she did not PR, and she is crushed.  Not nearly as much as I am, though.  I, of course, look at it from the "I must have failed her in some way" for her not to have been successful.  We have not had an opportunity yet to rehash the race.  But she is disappointed, and has said she is not interested in trying again.  Which, again, just crushes me because I know she has it in her.  Truly.  But, right now I have to look ahead and beside me as I recently started working with yet another girl (#3) who wants me to coach her to a PR.  And, then there is Boston in 6 months.

So, that is why I say and believe that I went out to the XXXX Run for the wrong reasons; and why in my heart I know that the outcome is what it is.  My only lasting concern is that the running community that does not know me will cast a shadow on "my" achievements, and view my opinion as less than what it truly is or has ever meant to be.  I am in a position where my talent has been sought out and valued, and I really, honestly, just don't have it in me to try to recreate my reputation every time something negative may happen to be said snidely as some one runs past me or "heaven forbid" I should run past them.

That's it.  There you have it.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  Quite possibly selfish in the end, because no one wants the world to view them as less than who they truly are or what they absolutely are capable of being or becoming.


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