Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Mike Downey is an Idiot or We Are Stupid

For those of you that caught Mike Downey's editorial in the sports of section of the Chicago Tribune probably know what I'm talking about. For those of you that have yet to see it check it out here.

I would love to write a long commentary on the poor organization of the race and how the race director keeps shooting himself in the foot......but I am uber busy with my upcoming conference presentation and getting ready to go to Germany AND getting Jason ready for his defense in 2 days. So needless to say I don't have time. My dad on the other is retired...and so does. He sent the following letter to the Chicago Tribune this morning in response to the Downey article.

Mike Downey calls everyone who ran the Chicago Marathon stupid. There are several obvious problems with this simplistic conclusion. First he claims that their were 10,000 "smart" people who didn't run but he offers no data as to how many of those didn't run because of the weather. Moreover how does this year's 10,000 compare to how many typically don't end up running the marathon for whatever reason in previous years.

Having helped Mr. Downey with his math let's get to the stupid part. A basic marathoner has trained 25 weeks after paying $110 for the privilege of running in this prestigious event. As a former runner and a close observer of my daughter and her husband's training regime I know what smart runners do. Upon seeing the weather report they instantly give up on running a personal record. My daughter knew she would not qualify for Boston (her goal) this year due to the weather. They expect to run slower and perhaps even walk some of the race. They know that they will have to take on more water (and yes perhaps splash some on their heads) than they normally do. Is it not reasonable then to expect that the race committee could also be as smart as the runners and put out 5 to 10 times more water than normal? This should have been doable for the nearly 5 million dollars collected in entry fees not to mention the support offered by the sponsors. We're talking water here not champagne.

The weather didn't get hot the day before. This weather had been predicted at least a week in advance. Indeed the race committee sent e-mails to all the competitors warning them of the weather. Here's that e-mail receive 3 days before the race.

Heat Advisory

Attention LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon Participants:

The weather forecasts for race day – Sunday, October 7 – are indicating that we could have a warm and humid day with temperatures expected to be in the 82 F / 28 C range on race day (according to
weather.com). We recommend you stay tuned to local weather forecasts to properly prepare for the race.

Medical Director George Chiampas suggests the following preparation for race day:

* Dress appropriately – avoid cotton fabrics, long sleeves and long pants. Wear lightweight, breathable fabrics that will help to keep you cool.

* Wear sunglasses and waterproof sunscreen. With the amount of time you will be on the course, you want to be sure to protect your skin and eyes.

* Pay special attention to hydration. Drink plenty of fluids the day before and morning of the race. Drink enough fluids to maintain your baseline body weight, but be aware of overhydration. If you begin to gain weight above your baseline, you are drinking too much water and depleting your sodium level which is important to maintain.

* Be sure to stay hydrated during the race. Make note of aid stations and prepare to utilize them. You will need to drink more to compensate for the rapid depletion of your body's fluids in the heat.

* Plan to adjust your pace for the weather. The humidity and heat will require more of your body so a slower pace than planned is recommended in order to get you to the finish line without overheating.

* Most importantly: PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BODY DURING THE RACE. If at ANY time your body gives you signals to slow down or stop, abide by them. Be aware of your heart rate, body temperature and hydration. If you feel light-headed, dizzy or overheated or experience chest pain, visual disturbances, cramping, vomiting or headache, slow down or stop and consult the medical personnel on the course immediately.

There will be a cooling/misting tent next to the Medical Tent at the Finish Line to assist with post-race cool down.

We want everyone to enjoy race day and that means being in the best possible condition to complete the course. Take it slow, pay attention to your body's stress signals and be aware of medical staff and aid stations to help you along the way.

Notice that nowhere in here are the runners advised to skip the race altogether. They offer important and helpful advise especially the advise to take on plenty of water during the race. How can you offer this 'tip' and then not have enough water? That's a mean trick!

According to race officials, each of the aid stations was outfitted with 50,000 to 70,000 servings of water and 37,000 servings of Gatorade, said Shawn Platt, a senior vice president of LaSalle Bank. That's about one Gatorade per person and 1-2 cups of water per person. That's not exactly rallying the troops for the heat. Should have been a LOT more. Moreover, race director Carey Pinkowski, is quoted as saying that they didn't anticipate people pouring water on their heads. How can you not expect this little cooling effort on such a day. Have we not all seen runners pour water on themselves?

Marathoners sacrifice a lot for their sport. They don't go out when their friends do. They may miss some important events (Cubs game!) because their training dictates their schedule. When you've made a commitment like this to excel and to challenge yourself, it is not so easy to suddenly become "smart" and not run at all. No. The smart runner just runs a different race. Some likewise support from the race organizers and sponsors would have been much appreciated.


Firefly's Running said...

What a idiot! People gave their hearts out during the race even though the conditions SUCKED ASS! I feel for those who suffered as the result of the conditions no matter how much they prep for it.

Susanne said...

Wow, that guy is a bad writer *and* an illogical idiot. Nice response, Leah's Dad!!

Pat said...

I doubt that Mike Downey is a runner. But, as runners we do need to be prepared to think health first. I'm glad I got to read your posts on the race. I'm glad you finished ok. Good luck on your next race.

Garou said...

Yeah, I need to fire off a pointed response as well. I'm trying to hunt down a copy of the .pdf where the race officials mentioned the misting tents, etc - all toward the end of the race. Apparently, they didn't think anyone would need them before mile 16 (or whatever).

Good response, but Downey needs to see thousands like this.

Bob said...

What a horrible article, Mike Downey is an idiot. I have never been a fan of the blame game which for some reason it seems this is turning into.
Kudo's to Leah's father for calling him on his condescending article. I want the facts! And hopefully everyone can learn something.
Count me as one of the 10,000 who did not run and who's decision had nothing to do with the heat.

Garou said...

Oh, for those interested:

Cooling buses will be provided at aid stations 10 (mile 19), 12 (mile 22) and 14 (mile 24).
Water-soaked sponges will be available at aid station 11 (mile 20).
Mist will be available at aid stations 11 (mile 20), 13 (mile 23), 14(mile 24) and 15 (mile 25) as well as the finish line.

Providing no official relief from the heat until the race was 75% completed (in terms of mileage), in a race where many participants are first-timers, charity runners, etc is just stupid. The runners weren't to blame; whomever decided that no one needed relief for 20 miles is to blame.

(I'd have made it if I could have gotten cooled off in a misting tent.)

Running Jayhawk said...

I :heart: you, Scott! Well said!!!!

Full Metal Lunchbox said...

Kudos to your dad, Leah, for saying what we've all been thinking!

P.O.M. said...

Your dad is awesome!

Obviously Mike Downey has never trained for anything and being the juvenile that i am, he's probably a big, lazy turd.

With the obesity problem in our country, you would think that runners would get a little more support than that. I know I would have tried to run it.

Bubs said...

Good commentary.

Downey and the spuds who agree with him are missing, in my mind, a major point when they call runners crybabies:

Every runner in that race paid an entry fee, and the organizers agreed to provide water and gatorade as part of that registration fee.

It's like paying money for a dinner and not getting what you ordered and paid for, and then having the restaurant manager call you a whiner for questioning why you didn't get what you paid for.

I ran on Sunday, finishing 40 minutes slower than I had trained as a result of delays at water stops and being forced to walk the last 4.5 miles. I also slowed my pace to handle the heat, no big deal.

I think that what's going on here is that the race organizers and their corporate sponsors, assisted by people like Downey, and city officials, are circling the wagons to protect their income and prestige. The race brings something like $20 million into the Chicago economy. As another example, race organizers are saying 24,000+ runners "finished" but that figure includes runners who were stopped and then bussed back to Grant Park, and allowed to walk across the finish line to register a chip time.

Sorry for ranting on your comment page. I should keep my ranting to my own blog. Good post!

Anonymous said...

Hi Leah,

A friend sent me this post. I ran a much slower pace and was one of the ones that did not have water/gatorade for the first 3 aid stations. Your dad made an excellent post. This was my 2nd marathon but first in Chicago. I truly had no idea I would go through anything like that - one would think they'd get water in a marathon. Anyway, I was feeling fine after the 10-mile mark, but got diverted down Jackson after the 16. Very frustrating. Especially since I traveled up from Dallas. I read your race blog, too, and it was great. To see how we did, you can check mine at http://rrawlinson.blogspot.com

Thanks for posting this to the Trib guy...


Vendelascity said...

Mike Downey is a douche!