The Prevalence of Cheating at Races

tswedensky / Pixabay

I’ve talked about cheating at races before, including about the people I’ve seen cheating at Disney races. But it seems to be an ongoing problem. If you aren’t already following Marathon Investigation, you should. Derek does an amazing job calling out cheaters at races. While his articles do typically focus on people who are cheating and winning awards or cheating to get into the Boston Marathon, he does also post about the average cheater, the person who wasn’t going to win anyway, but decides to cheat in some way.

There are a couple of different types of cheating. You have course cutters, who just refuse to complete the distance. You have people who create fake race bibs, either copying a friend’s or finding a photo online and using it to print a bib. Then there are the extra creative cheaters, like the people who turn a race into a relay, so one person starts the course, then they sneakily swap bibs, and another person finishes.

In this kind of information age, I’m always shocked by people who try to cheat and then deny it when they get called out. Not only should there be tracking data from a timing chip provided by the race, but frequently there are photos, and oftentimes, runners also have GPS data from their watches or phones.

Timing chips are never perfect. In recent years, I’ve had two different races where timing chip data was an issue. In one, my chip just didn’t register. In the other, I lost my chip taking off my wetsuit and didn’t realize it. But in both, I had GPS data to prove that I completed the entire race. I was never questioned on it, but if I had been, I had the information to back it up.

(I used to joke that no one would look at my results and think I was cheating, but I’ve come to see that that isn’t true – people aren’t just cheating to qualify for awards, they’re cheating just to get a finisher’s medal, which seems absolutely insane.)

The question is what should races do about these cheaters? Many of them are ultimately disqualified in the results, but if you’re just cheating to get a medal, you probably don’t care about that at all. Should they be banned from future races? For the repeat offenders, absolutely. And maybe the threat of banning after one incident would also stop some of the cheating.

Disney has tried to make it harder for people to get Goofy and Dopey medals. There are wristbands. There are photos (or so I’m told – I’ve never run either). But people can still cut the course or jump on to the course late in the race and still “finish.” Apparently, this year during the Disney marathon, there were runners seen on the monorail and runners jumping into the race at the Beach Club, which is just a couple of miles from the finish line. I really wonder Disney actually cares. What’s the harm in a small percentage of runners cheating the system, if the vast majority are doing what they’re supposed to do? Shouldn’t their focus be placed on making sure that those runners have an awesome, safe race?

While I’m not a huge fan of public shaming, I do enjoy seeing these cheaters getting called out, specifically the ones who have bragged about their “accomplishment” online. They did something wrong, they know they did something wrong, and maybe this will force them to see the truth.

And maybe it will help convince others that a DNF is worth so much more than a fake finish. There is a ton of integrity in fighting through a race, not giving up, but not being able to finish. At the end of the day, a medal is a fun shiny object, but knowing you did the right thing carries much more weight.

January Recap

KSAC Pool with slide
This pool is so nice and so stupidly hard to get to. Where is my hovercar?

You know those people who start off the year with banner workouts and then fall off throughout the year? Yeah, that’s not me. January was a low mileage month for me. I blame Disney and getting sick. Disney was totally worth it. Getting sick was way less fun, but probably also the fault of my Disney trip. Either way, I expect things to go up from here. And hey, if nothing else, I ran way more miles than I did last January!

January Miles:
Swim – 3.7 miles
Bike – 126 miles
Run – 22 miles

Yep, behind on all counts. Whatever, I’ll get there, I’m sure. (As I write this, I can envision my coach reading this and laughing, Mr. Burns style.)

But I set goals other than just mileage goals. This year, I wanted to cook one new recipe a month, read 50 books, and get back to strength work. (And budget better, but this is decidedly not a personal finance blog, so let’s just assume I’m always working on that.)

This month, I tried two new recipes, Miso Butter Salmon from the Run Fast, Cook Fast, Eat Slow cookbook and Millet Pizzas from the Run Fast, Eat Slow cookbook. The salmon was FABULOUS and I will be making it again. The pizzas were… okay. They were a lot of work and not so delicious that I am desperate to make them again.

I also read 6 books this month! (Okay, I finished 6 books this month. Two of those books were things I started to read previously and hadn’t gotten through. So I picked them back up first thing this year.) If you’re interested in that sort of thing, you can check out my profile on Goodreads, but I think from this batch, the book I’m going to recommend is The Forgotten Hours by Katrin Schumann. It wasn’t quite a book that I couldn’t put down, but it was darn close. I definitely looked forward to picking it back up.

As for strength work, I did it! I’ve restarted ChaLEAN Extreme. And it’s just as hard as I remember it being. I’m not following the calendar of workouts, just doing a workout once or twice a week as dictated in my training schedule. So it will take me more than three months to get through the cycle, but it’s still a great workout, and a great way for me to be able to track my results. I don’t expect to get swole or anything, but it’s definitely good for my body to get some strength work in addition to all the cardio.

2019 WDW Marathon Cheering Recap

As I did last year, this year, I flew down to Walt Disney World for marathon weekend to hang out with friends, cheer on friends and strangers, and celebrate my birthday.

This cupcake was weirdly filled with sprinkles, and I’m not sure what I think about that.

I got to Disney on Thursday (my birthday) and after I checked in and grabbed lunch, I wandered the parks for a while and went over to check out the race expo. I learned that when you can do whatever you want whenever you want, you can get a lot of rides done in a short period of time. I also took a conference call while waiting in line at the Haunted Mansion because that’s the kind of employee I am.

I wasn’t super impressed by the race expo. I admit, I didn’t bother to go check out the race-specific merchandise because I wasn’t planning to buy anything for a race I wasn’t running. But I just wasn’t impressed as a whole by the rest of the expo. So of course, I didn’t end up buying much of anything. And there was so much less free stuff than previous years! That’s half the fun of an expo!

Because of the course of the 10K, I didn’t go cheer on Friday (and let me tell you, sleeping in was glorious). But Saturday morning, I was out at the Grand Floridian entrance (my standard cheer spot) cheering on every single half marathon runner.

Guys, it was cold out there!

I had some company for part of the cheering, but people had to go get off their feet before the marathon, so I stayed out alone and made friends with the other people cheering. And then I went and had breakfast at the Wave, and went over to Hollywood Studios to ride Slinky Dog. As you do.

Sunday morning, same plan. Up and over to the Grand Floridian to cheer. This time, I had more company.

Yes, I had to get my cowbell in all the pictures.

Hung out at the Grand Floridian and cheered on every runner as they passed, then headed in to grab some quick breakfast before taking the monorail over to Epcot and continue cheering as people left Epcot towards the finish. That’s one of my favorite places to cheer because of the relief you see on people’s faces.

I also got the joy of annoying people with my cowbell. I was standing there, ringing my giant cowbell, when this woman moved a cone blocking the spectators so she could go past me and sit on the edge of a planter. This put her ear not terribly far from my cowbell. Then she proceeded to glare at me and finally got fed up and huffed away. Cowbell wins again!

My forearms were sore for about three days after though. Cowbell arm is no joke.

One common feature of marathon finishers is the various alcoholic beverages people are carrying as they exit the park. However, this year, we saw something new. After the balloon ladies passed, a crew of runDisney staffers came up and started stopping any racers who were carrying alcoholic drinks. They had to finish or toss the drinks – they weren’t allowed to carry them out of the park. Of course, the standard rule is that you can’t bring alcohol out of the park, but all the racers who were within the official time limits didn’t seem to have any issues. Those who were after those limits, however, were stopped. I wonder if this is to encourage people to not stop for drinks if they are behind pace. There’s a general belief that if you make it into Epcot, you’re “safe” and won’t be swept, which is generally true, but at the same time, they do need to get the runners through and finish the race. It will be interesting to see what they do next year.

And of course, I do plan to be back to cheer again next year. This year’s trip was a bit different in that last year, I was injured and wouldn’t have been able to run had I registered. This year, I was in fine form, and I have to admit, I had a little bit of FOMO that I didn’t run. Since next year, the 10K is on my birthday, I think I may have to sign up for the race. I’m certainly not running a marathon, and I’ve enjoyed being able to relax on my training during the crazy that is December, so I think the half is out too. But the 10K? That seems do-able!

Putting Wheels on a Squash is Harder than you Think

I’m just back from an absolutely amazing trip to Walt Disney World to cheer at WDW Marathon Weekend. This was the second year in a row that I went and didn’t race. Last year, I was dealing with a then-undiagnosed injury, so I didn’t really have any emotions tied to not running, but this year, I found myself wanting to be back out on the course. Next year’s 10K is on my birthday – I think it’s a sign.

I also got to attend the Cigna Blogger Event again this year. I really love these events that Cigna puts on. They’re the main sponsor of Marathon Weekend, and I very much appreciate their push towards healthy living.

This year’s focus was preventative care and knowing your 4 health numbers:

  • Blood Pressure
  • Cholesterol
  • Blood Sugar
  • BMI

At the expo, Cigna had their Health Improvement Tour van where you could get a ten minute screening to get these four numbers. Of course, I went. I’m fascinated by biometrics and knowing my numbers. Also, I’ve been working to improve my cholesterol numbers, and I was curious to see how things were looking.

(On the down side, it was my birthday, I was on vacation, and I definitely had been enjoying the Disney snacks.)

The screening was super fast and super easy. The lovely, lovely nurse took my blood pressure, pricked my finger to get a drop of blood to put in a fancy machine, weighed me and measured my height, and also measured my waist circumference.

I wasn’t surprised by the BMI (though I was pleased the scale wasn’t higher), but waist circumference isn’t something that I had considered. Apparently, this measurement is important because belly fat is a good way to estimate the fat around your heart and other organs. Women are at risk with a waist circumference of more than 35 inches and men with a waist circumference of over 40 inches. While I generally try to not worry about weight and BMI as a number and focus on being healthier, my waist measurement is right on the line, so there’s something to work on.

I was pleased by the cholesterol numbers. Don’t get me wrong – they’re still not good, and this is very likely due to heredity. But they’re improving. One thing I really liked here was that the advice focused not on lowering my bad cholesterol (because many of the tips are things I already do), but how to raise my good cholesterol by adding certain things to my diet. I always appreciate advice that is about adding things rather than taking things away.

And thankfully, it wasn’t all bad news. My blood pressure and non-fasting glucose were both in good ranges.

At the Cigna Blogger Event, we got to meet some of the Cigna staff and learn from a dietician about how diet can really improve all of this information. And of course, they always make a point to make learning fun.

After lunch, we got divided into teams and then participated in a Spud Racer event. We had to make a car out of fruits and vegetables and then race them. But it wasn’t just about fun. We had to make a poster and presentation about our assigned health topic. My group got assigned Cholesterol.

I have to say, making a car out of fruits and veggies isn’t easy. Our team went for weight and worked with a butternut squash as a base. This was not the wisest choice, because have you ever tried to chop a butternut squash? Sticking an axle through it is even harder.

After some serious time spent building, we realized that our car was very likely to crash, so we went for beauty over brawn.

We were the only car with green zucchini flames, that’s for sure.

If you’re ever in a spud racer event, the key here is that you want something that will drive straight. The winning car in our competition was actually a simple small zucchini with wheels. Nothing fancy, just simple elegance.

Honestly, that’s probably a metaphor for healthy living, though I didn’t think of it at the time. Keep it simple. You don’t need to do a fancy, expensive diet plan. You don’t need crazy tools or crazy rules. You just need the basics, and I think a lot of us make it too hard for ourselves.

In terms of the presentations, I’d say the winning group was the one who emphasized “Know Your 4,” highlighting the four key health indicators. Excellent work, team!

However, “Out of Our Gourds” didn’t come away empty handed. No, we were awarded the prestigious Lemon Award for our fabulous presentation and car crash and burn (with zucchini flames, of course, no roasted veggies here).

You better believe I wore it proudly

I really enjoyed this event and hope that people take advantage of the Cigna Health Improvement Tour if it visits your area. I promise, it’s almost entirely painless and knowing your health data is so important. Barring that, schedule a visit with your doctor for a physical. Preventative care can save you a ton of stress down the road.

2018 Mileage Review and 2019 Goals

ImageParty / Pixabay

One of my goals for this year was to faithfully log my bike and swim mileage (as well as my run mileage) so that I could set 2019 goals. Until this year, I had no idea how far I biked or swam in a year. This year’s bike miles include outdoor miles and Zwift miles, so it’s not an exact science, but it’s data nonetheless.

So how did I do?

Final 2018 Mileage
Swim – 58.1 miles
Bike – 1651 miles
Run – 314 miles

And you know what? I’m pretty proud of those miles. My run mileage is the lowest it’s been in years, but look at all the miles I got in even with an injury and surgery! I set my goal for the year at 500 miles, and considering that I wasn’t able to run until mid-May and then had to build up from zero, hitting 300 miles is awesome.

Of course, since this year was an aberration, I’m still not sure what good mileage goals might be. So I’m just going to take a guess at a good challenge, try to push myself, but most importantly, have fun and stay healthy and uninjured. I apparently logged activities on Strava 230 days this year. I wonder how many active days I will have in a healthy year!

2019 Mileage Goals
Swim – 75 miles (maybe this will inspire me to actually GO to the pool)
Bike – 2000 miles (this one scares me too)
Run – 500 miles