Leadville Win Was (Not) Tainted
Started on Facebook via this post. Now I am bringing it here.
While I was at the back of the pack struggling with my own race in this year's Leadville Trail 100, there was something brewing up front. Rob Krar was the easy favorite in the race. Heck, our local RunColo.com even joked about the landslide prediction by making the contest about who would come in second place to him. The talk was Krar all week in town as well. Everybody loves a fresh story.
However, there are a bunch of runners in the next 4 spots that are friends of mine. They work hard. They train on course. They put the work in. So when I saw what unfolded up front by reviewing post race, I felt like somebody had to say something about this.
So what I noticed was that Rob's GPS route didn't match the course on Strava. Specifically around the Winfield turn around. That's odd.
Then I read Ian Sharman (3rd) mention Rob going off course in his blog.
Then I heard Rob on Ultrarunner Podcast and he admitted to this. He just kept his head down and cruised passed a turn. He ended up running the 2012 course that went to the campground at Winfield and then he came back into Winfield from the opposite direction. Ian speculated trail sabotage but nobody else reported as such.
Mike Aish talked about the situation on the Elevation Trail podcast. He is in a tough position. Who wants to win on a technicality? Mike works hard and I am sure he would have wanted to duel in the final miles. He knows Krar was the stronger runner that day. But that's not reasonable in racing. Shit happens. And that's why we run the race. You never know what might happen on any given day.
Talking with crews that were at Winfield during the leader's run through, they confirmed to me that Rob never came down on the road to Winfield inbound where they were crewing. Then he suddenly was going outbound on the road. Where did he come from? The wrong way.
Using Google Earth to roughly measure, Rob's path was 1.77 miles with ~500ft decline and 250ft incline, while the proper course is 0.7 miles 250ft decline and 35ft incline. So it was a harder and longer effort.
People that argue the other side give some reasons like:
1) He is a good guy. Whatever. That's not even a serious argument in competition.
2) He is an honest guy. Then he would have raised this issue prior to hoisting the trophy. If he did and it wasn't publicized, then let us know. But he did publish the Strava and had talked about it on the podcast. So he isn't exactly hiding it either.
3) He ran a longer harder course. So? You don't get to make up the course on your own. There are time and space considerations you avoid by not running the right course. You don't trip on the same rock that everybody else does. The other competitors do not see you and get to feed off your presence. Who knows what you did on the unsupervised trail? You changed the game.
What do the rules say? Leadville 100 Run Athlete Guide 2014, pg 17, Racer Code of Conduct Section:
Rule # 4: Do not cut switchbacks. You must follow the trail as it is has been marked. STAY ON THE TRAIL!
Rule # 15: Violation of any rule will be grounds for disqualification. Race Management reserves the right to bar any runners from competing in this and any future Leadville Trail 100 races
Rule #17: Decisions of the Race Director and Race Management are Final.
I argue that solid determined focus that Rob runs with and benefits him...actually did him in.
What I am calling for? Leadville Race Management needs to address this. You have a runner that went off course and did not return to the place they left. What say you? Its OK because it did not benefit him. Or its not OK under any circumstance. They rules are gray at best.
I am not calling on Rob to do anything.
Screw you if you think I am a spoil sport. This is a great topic as the sport gains credibility. But more importantly Leadville is my town and my race. People talked shit about the quality of the race last year. We came back with a better race this year. But now I feel like a real issue is being ignored. To be the reputable race that this series is and needs to be, issues need to be addressed publicly and openly. Leadville's survival depends on it.
The same day as this post went up, the Leadville Race Series issued a statement about this matter. Here it is. Basically they say the win stands. I commend them for addressing the matter directly. Per Rule 17 above, there is nothing more to see here.
However, I do hope we see some guidance show up in the future athlete handbook above leaving the course.
I will leave the post stand unedited as I still think this was a healthy debate to have. But I have edited the title and added the word NOT into it for clarity for that arrive in years to come.
Congrats to Rob and all the finishers. This was never about them. It was about understanding the rules and how they are enforced so we can have a better race next year.