I ran Arrowhead 135 last year, January 2014. It took me a while, afterwards, to really wrap my head around the experience. It's not that the race was bad or poorly put on or anything, it just wasn't what I expected it would be, which was surprising, as I'd read every report and everything ever printed about the race prior to signing up and being selected.
During the race, I broke a race rule. I got in a car at the Skipulk checkpoint to warm up instead of warming up in their heated ice shacks. I didn't intend to break a rule, there was some miscommunication with a race official, but I did break a rule. Thankfully, instead of DQ'ing me, they let me finish, tacking an hour penalty onto my 55:56 finish time.
After the race, the race director (RD), Ken Krueger, started aggregating race reports and photo albums on the Arrowheadultra.com website. I wrote Part 1 of my race report in March, and after I finished Part 2 on July 18, I sent them both in to be posted.
The next day, July 19th, one of the race volunteers responds:
Thanks. Nice write-up. Added to the ‘galleries n blogs’ article. Hope to see you next year.On August 3, the RD, Ken Krueger, after the post has been up on the site for 2 weeks, writes:
Hope your training is going well and you are having a nice summer. I've posted your race report.
Ken3 hours later, Ken writes again:
I wanted to let you know that I deleted your race report from our website. I will re-post it if you delete each non-complimentary reference to our race VOLUNTEERS.
Ken Krueger - AH 135 Race DirectorI replied:
Which comments would those be, Ken?Ken replied:
Those related to Melgeorges, ski pulk, and the penalty. Those volunteers spend a lot of time, effort, and their own money to make our race a success. I will not have them insulted/offended. I have completed this race 7 times and some of my fondest memories are of the help and encouragement I received from the volunteers. The two paragraphs below are from the race rules.
"4. No outside help except other racers or race officials. This means no support crews of any kind, no pacing, and no rides/tows accepted from snowmobilers, trains, planes, automobiles, llamas or other vehicles except of course in emergencies. If you take a ride, you are disqualified but hopefully still alive. Participants encouraged to help each other. Buddy system good way to race dark and cold. We encourage spectators but no assistance allowed any time, no teams greeting you at every possible spot. Arrowhead is about you, the wilderness, your inner dogged spirit and self-sufficiency. Camera crews not allowed to follow the race on Snowmobile except within 1 mile of checkpoints. Racers can be penalized due to actions of their camera crews."
"3rd and final checkpoint: SkiPulk Tent along trail at about mile 111 ~2 miles before last big WakemUp Mtn. Water and emergency personnel here. Spectators allowed, but do not crowd our tent please. Racers do not plan spending significant time here unless camped outside."I replied, still Aug 3 (this one's long):
I honestly don't view any of these comments as offensive or insulting towards your volunteers. If I choose to leave the comments, with that affect my application for AH135 in 2015?
At Melgeorge, I wrote that there were, "understaffed, tired aid station workers." There were. I saw racers at Melgeorge having legitimate medical issues, one hypothermic and shivering uncontrollably, others in pain with black fingers and toes, and none of them were getting any medical attention at all while I was there. When I walked into the cabin, a volunteer was in the middle of yelling at people. It was quite a shock. I asked that same volunteer for a second grilled cheese, and she ignored me. When I saw them handing them out to others that asked after me, I asked again, only to get a, "You've already had two." They weren't going to give me another sandwich. When I told them, "No, I haven't," she said, "Oh. Then you can have one." She wasn't going to give me another sandwich. She purposely skipped me and wasn't going to give me another sandwich or tell me that she wasn't going to give me another sandwich because she'd thought I'd had enough. That was infuriating! I tamed it down considerably for my report. I didn't mention anyone by name, and I refrained from putting all of those details in my blog in deference to the race. I understand that people get overwhelmed and tired, but it's all true, Ken. It may not be flattering, but I published the tame version.
If anything, calling the volunteers "understaffed" and "tired" is more offensive to the race than the actual volunteers. Is that why you're taking offense?
Also, please help me out, as I have no idea what's offensive about the ski pulk description.
As for the penalty and the rules you pasted again above, I read those rules backwards and forwards before the race, and then afterwards after talking to Jackie and Russ about my penalty at the finish. Russ was sympathetic. Jackie was not. She got quite upset at me for telling her that it wasn't clear to me that getting into a vehicle at a checkpoint was "outside assistance." She then told me that she wanted to ban SPOT devices, and that she didn't want families up at the race at all. I purposefully refrained from saying anything negative about that interaction.
At the pre-race dinner, you gave the example of someone getting into a car and getting driven closer to the trail as grounds for disqualification. You didn't say, "It's against the rules to get in a car." You said, "It's against the rules to get in a car and have it drive you closer to the trail." There's a huge difference. If a racer has a newborn in a car at Gateway, and they get into the car to kiss their kid, would they be penalized? What if they lean into the window of the warm car to kiss their spouse? I mean, they got warmth from a vehicle during the race. Is that "outside assistance"? What if they lean against a vehicle during the race? That's outside assistance? Would a DQ or time penalty be imposed for leaning against a vehicle? I wouldn't think so, but you're arguing that it should be. The only thing I said about the penalty is that it wasn't clear to me. Your rules, as written, are still not clear to me.
So, this is where it gets interesting, Ken. Between the two posts, 1200 people have already read what I wrote. I don't need them up on your site. This isn't my livelihood, it's just a diary of these things I do. It's more for me than anything else, but I also think it's important for others to get honest accounts of what these events are like. If someone would have done that for me, maybe I wouldn't have been so surprised about how the race is actually put on. When I wrote that, "The organizers want a remote, solitary challenge between you, the other participants, and the trail," I think that's entirely true--but nobody explains what that means. I knew that John Storkamp and Jason Husveth's families don't come up for the race every year, but I never knew why. Now, based on my experience, I think I do (though I haven't talked to either of John or Jason about this). Do you really want everyone else to learn these things the hard way?
I really don't want to upset anyone, Ken. The last thing I want to have happen is any of this to affect my ability to enter your race; I really think you put on something quite unique, and I'd like to do it again. I want to be very, very clear here; I honestly didn't intend to personally offend or insult anyone with my article, and even scaled purposefully scaled back my comments in an attempt to give an honest perspective without upsetting anyone. One thing I understand more than anyone, though, is that it doesn't matter what I intend, it matter's how I make people feel, and that I have no control over. If I personally offended any of your volunteers, please let me know, and I'll personally apologize to them. Really, I will. I understand that the race cannot happen without them, and that many of them are donating their time truly out of the goodness of their hearts.
I don't know if you're asking me to lie about your race and say everything was great and all the volunteers were happy and helpful and smiling when they weren't, or if you just want me to censor every bad detail about the race, but in either case, I'm really taken aback by it. You haven't even tried to talk to me about any of these things, you've just said taken my posts off your site and told me, "Delete each non-complimentary reference to our race VOLUNTEERS." It's your website, Ken, and you can post whatever you'd like. I thought it was really neat that you'd aggregated all the blogs about the race, but now I have no idea which blogs you've put up and which have been taken down because they have something in it you don't like.
I'm more than happy to chat about any of this, Ken, but at this point, I'm going to kindly just let my blog not be posted on your site.
Again, and this is most important to me, and I'd really like you to respond: Will any of this affect my application for AH135 in 2015?A week goes by and I get no response. On August 9, I write:
I would really appreciate a response.On August 10, Ken replies:
We are taking veteran racer applications starting 9-1-14. We limit the roster in order to maintain the solitude/survival aspect of the race. We do not, can not accept all of the applications we receive. Feel free to send in your application.
Thanks,On August 11, frustrated with the non-response, I write:
This is frustrating. You entirely neglected my actual question, whether or not my race report will affect my entry into your race, and failed to respond to any of the other issues you raised with my "insulting and offensive comments" in my report.
I'm sorry you didn't like my report, but I'm not going to censor it to make it more flattering to you.
I'm trying to figure out if this difference will affect anything else, and hoping it won't, but when you ask the question I asked, and you get a, "we can't accept everyone" in response, you're posturing like it will.
I know that putting on this race must take enormous amounts of effort. Running them does as well. The gear, hotel, travel costs and time investments are huge, and being able to plan for them is a big deal. Similarly, if you're going to keep me out because of your thoughts on my race report, I'd like to know now.I got no response. Unsure of where any of this stood, I applied for the race in September. On October 10, 2014, I got the following letter:
At this point, I wasn't sure why I'd been denied. It could be the August race-report nonsense, but maybe I'd just gotten my application in too late. I posted the letter on my Facebook wall with the status, "Was just turned down for Arrowhead." I wrote Ken:
What's the selection process for admission to Arrowhead? Is there a reason I wasn't admitted? I'm trying to not find the letter I received today odd.
Please do me a favor and explain this for me.The next day, Saturday, October 11, I hadn't received a reply, but their website said they'd have the roster up that weekend, so I wrote again:
Could you please elaborate on Arrowhead's selection process? For qualified applicants, is it first-come, first-serve? If you have an abundance of qualified applicants, is there a lottery? Do you have entry quotas for veterans and rookies? Are finishers given any deference? You had applicants list experience in cold weather and long distance events. When there is an abundance of qualified applicants, are the difficulty of those races considered? Or does that only provide weight for qualification? How do you make roster decisions?
I was notified that I was not selected this year, but I wasn't given any reason for not being selected. I'd like to know why and also what I can do in the future to improve my odds of being selected. I imagine others, especially others that didn't make the roster, are curious as well. If the answer's as simple as, "Get your application in sooner," then fabulous. It'd be nice for you to share that information. Just please let us know. The website doesn't offer any guidance.On Monday, October 13, they posted their roster and made some comments on Facebook. With still no response, I posted my last inquiry on their wall.
Yesterday, Tuesday, October 14, with still no response to anything since August, they deleted the above post from their page. At that point it was pretty clear--and I'd gotten some other confirmation. I posted the below on my Facebook wall:
The response to that post has been pretty interesting. So many people are missing the point and focusing on my breaking the rule or think I have a problem with the rule itself. It's not about that at all. Ken, the RD, called my race report insulting/offensive, took down my report from the race website, and asked me to change my report. When I tried to talk to him about it, he wouldn't respond. Now he's keeping me out of the race because of this. I think that's wrong.
Like I said in my post, he can keep his race. Now that I see how he runs the thing, I'm done. I've spent way, way too much energy on this. I just thought everyone should know that this is how that race is managed.
Time to focus on something more positive.