Boycott ZOOMA Races – Updated

I’ve posted the comments of Zooma and everyone else who’s commented on this post. I can admit when I’m wrong.

Apparently, I “read” 4 hours for the cut off when it was truly 3.5? Ok, I can’t believe I’d do that, but fine. I bit off more than I could chew no matter what.

And by changing my time to a DNF, and offering sincere apologies, Brae at Zooma has done her utmost to make this up to me. She acknowledges that it was wrong for race organizers to detour runners down an unsafe route, and has been open to critique and suggestions for improvement. I think that pulling racers from the route would be both safer and kinder than letting us trudge on without support or safety measures, and letting us get times for incorrect distances.

To the anonymous poster who said I blew this out of proportion, I can only say this: Yep. I did. You know as well as I do that running is emotional, and I was still emotional even after I got home that night. (Notice the dates on these posts).

Yes, I blew it out of proportion, but frankly, I don’t fool myself into thinking that I have such a burgeoning web presence as to make a dent in anyone’s reputation.

And honestly, I’m still pretty bummed that I didn’t really have a chance to prove to myself that this was something I could do.

****** Original Post Below*******

As you all know, in addition to my duathlons this summer with the exquisite Tri the Parks series, a few centuries, and so on, I’ve been trying to get longer runs into my repertoire.

So, to get a timed half marathon, I signed up for the ZOOMA Atlanta race at Chateau Elan.

I’ve been training for today’s half marathon for months. I’m slow, so the 4 hour time limit was a big deal to me, but I felt ready. I knew I could do it. I paid my $60 entry fee and committed to this.

This morning it was below freezing, and the freeze warning didn’t lift until 9 AM, a cold day to start my run. I was decked out in lots of wicking layers, I had my fuel belt… I had Brett’s GPS (the one that got him through the ironman in the nick of time) set to pace the course at 3 hours and 55 minutes. As long as I stayed ahead of the pacer in the watch, I’d finish in time.

I was nervous, but confident. Excited, but unsure.

We started the race late. The organizers had mentioned in pre-race information to arrive at 6 aM to ensure parking in time. They were still parking people at 7:30 when the race was supposed to start. The racers were freezing, and just needed to get moving, but they delayed the start time by 15 minutes.

What they failed to communicate, and failed to consider is that that crucial (for me) 4-hour time limit included the public road access, police support, etc. If, at this point, they had made an announcment that the time allowed was different, I probably could have changed the GPS to track a faster course. I might not have made it, and I might have hurt myself to pace that much faster, but I could have tried, at least.

By mile 5, I was tracking about 6 minutes ahead of the the 3:55 course time on my watch. I’d gotten over all of the big hills, it was just a matter of driving the vehicle I’d built with all of my training the rest of the way.

I was at the back. Not the last person, but close to it. It was hard for me to see where people ahead of me were going, so I relied on volunteers to point me on the route.

It was a little annoying being followed by the truck full of guys picking up cones as we passed them. It felt like they were breathing down our necks!

When I got to the mile 5 water stop, one of the volunteers said “turn left here, and go up to 53” then he mumbled something like “running behind, had to shorten the course” I said “WHAT?” But I was still moving, and he didn’t clarify.

I turned left onto highway 53, and found myself on a 55 mph road with a ton of traffic, no signage, no cones, no police, no traffic control and NO SHOULDER!

I could see others in front of me, so I kept going even when my GPS lost the course (the map was loaded into it – but it doesn’t have the ability to tell me how to get back onto the course) and said it would take me a while to get back to it.

Then, ahead, I could see a police officer, and racers who had passed me early on in the run crossing 53 from right to left. When my GPS beeped that it had found the course, it was easy to see what had happened.

I’d been forced on a detour, and it shaved 0.76 miles off my run. Suddenly, I was running a 12.24 mile race, not a 13.1… My pacer jumped to being 25 minutes ahead of the clock.

At this point, I spent the following 6 miles on sheer anger management. I cried. A lot. I wanted to smash things. And I said “screw it”, and I walked. My average of 16 minute miles dropped to 20 minute miles, and I stopped caring.

Now, had I had someone level-headed with me to keep me running and pacing ahead, I would have probably doubled back and done another 0.76 miles on my own to get my real time. But by the time I thought of that I’d walked so much that the time was shot anyway.

Instead, I was unable to run off the snit that this caused. I felt like the race organizers who made this decision didn’t think I mattered enough to give me a choice, I felt like they didn’t care about the integrity of the race times for everyone else who had run the full course, (I came in with other racers, whom I might have beaten, had I chosen to, but it would have been cheating!)

I walked it in, because my “race” had suddenly been demoted to a very expensive training run, and it wasn’t worth the bleeping blisters.

I didn’t buy a 13.1 sticker at the expo, because I still haven’t done one yet.

I beat the 4 hour time limit by 15 minutes, even with walking most of the last half. And that’s with getting to all of the water stops after they shut them down (because I’m at the back, and clearly don’t matter.)

Advertisements

10 thoughts on “Boycott ZOOMA Races – Updated

  1. I just read and I am so sad for you! Sad that your first half marathon was marred by their completely unthoughtful highjacking of your race- ugh!!! I want to scream for you. You are amazing and they suck and it pisses me off that the majority of the running community still thinks that everyone under a 10 minute mile pace should “get out of their way”…

    Here's hoping you sign up for another and have a great experience- you deserve it… xo

  2. I'm sorry, sweetie, that is so rude and wrong! It's like the sport clothing makers who don't make them for larger people – what the heck are we supposed to wear while we try to get in shape? I know I already feel bad about how I look, and having to wear clothes that are really too small (because they don't make them big enough) is even more embarrassing. They sure don't give much motivation to people to start getting into shape.

  3. I just got a reply on Active.com that the race time limit was 3.5 hours on the website. I wonder when they changed that?

    I wouldn't have signed up in the first place had it been 3.5 hours. And it was never communicated to the runners!

  4. It is such a shame that you were treated like you didn't count. You deserve consideration, communication and support as a participant if you paid to join the event. If you have the option, please inform them that their leadership and crew has a responsibility to their runners to keep them safe, supported and informed. If they intended to change the plans mid-way through the event, they may also be have breached their contracts with the group of people as a whole. They failed to provide the event they sold you and failed to support you on many levels. I'm sure you are dissapointed but you may be the voice for many who aren't as eloquent or equipped to deal with the conflict. You are a person who is capable of being a squeeky wheel, so that others may never have to go through such a crushing and emotionally draining time in future events. I certainly hope that you never have to go through this again and applaud your efforts to improve yourself one step at a time. Sorry you had such a bad time… next time will be better and you'll be able to complete the goal you've set for yourself. Keep looking forward…

  5. I was unhappy for you yesterday and enraged when I read this!!! I don't care where you are (place-wise) they owe it to the athletes to conduct an event properly! I am sad and I really don't know what to say that would help. Want me to send my big hubby up there to kick someone's hiney?

  6. This is Brae Blackley – Founder & Executive Director of ZOOMA Women's Race Series. I started ZOOMA three years ago with the mission to inspire and motivate women to live healthy and actives lives. My company is small – but we work hard with the limited resources we have to try to accomplish our mission and provide a supportive, well-organized and fun race experience for new and experienced runners.

    Alicia – as I wrote to you via email and said via voicemail today – our posted course time limit is, and always has been, 3.5 hours. We do our best to accommodate all participants, but your race pace was well below the pace that would allow you to finish within the posted course limit. When police and local authorities allow us to close roads and divert traffic in their communities, we promise we will have roads cleared by a very specific time. This is the reason that we post course time limits in advance of race day. Unfortunately, this means that, occasionally, if an athlete is pacing well below the established course time limit, we must ask the athlete to move off the course, or take other measures to ensure that we can open roads to traffic as promised.

    In this case, you must have misread our race policies. I do regret that you had such a terrible experience that you have felt compelled to attack ZOOMA via every outlet available to you, including notifying our sponsors via Twitter that you were “forced to cheat.”

    Since you have not posted a follow-up to your original post, I would like to offer an explanation to your blog friends… The race official did not, in fact, “force to you to cheat.” I believe his intention was to allow you to continue on the course by giving you the opportunity to catch up to the rest of the field, rather than force you to completely abandon the race. I believe he was trying to be helpful to you by allowing you to stay in the race, and for you to attribute malicious or condescending intent to him or ZOOMA is unfair. Every race with a posted course limit removes or diverts participants who are pacing below the course time limit. Indeed, that is why course time limits are established in the first place!

    Your official time has been adjusted to “DNF” per your request, so there is no illusion of your having cheated.

    I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you over the phone and have emailed you my personal mobile number.

    Again, I sincerely regret that you had such a bad experience. ZOOMA was founded to encourage, not disappoint, athletes just like you. Although you may never participate in another ZOOMA event again, I do hope you will continue with your fitness journey and have a better experience in your next race.

    Regards,
    Brae Blackley
    Executive Director, ZOOMA Women's Race Series

  7. This is Brae Blackley – Founder & Executive Director of ZOOMA Women's Race Series. I started ZOOMA three years ago with the mission to inspire and motivate women to live healthy and actives lives. My company is small – but we work hard with the limited resources we have to try to accomplish our mission and provide a supportive, well-organized and fun race experience for new and experienced runners.

    Alicia – as I wrote to you via email and said via voicemail today – our posted course time limit is, and always has been, 3.5 hours. We do our best to accommodate all participants, but your race pace was well below the pace that would allow you to finish within the posted course limit. When police and local authorities allow us to close roads and divert traffic in their communities, we promise we will have roads cleared by a very specific time. This is the reason that we post course time limits in advance of race day. Unfortunately, this means that, occasionally, if an athlete is pacing well below the established course time limit, we must ask the athlete to move off the course, or take other measures to ensure that we can open roads to traffic as promised.

    In this case, you must have misread our race policies. I do regret that you had such a terrible experience that you have felt compelled to attack ZOOMA via every outlet available to you, including notifying our sponsors via Twitter that you were “forced to cheat.”

    Since you have not posted a follow-up to your original post, I would like to offer an explanation to your blog friends… The race official did not, in fact, “force to you to cheat.” I believe his intention was to allow you to continue on the course by giving you the opportunity to catch up to the rest of the field, rather than force you to completely abandon the race. I believe he was trying to be helpful to you by allowing you to stay in the race, and for you to attribute malicious or condescending intent to him or ZOOMA is unfair. Every race with a posted course limit removes or diverts participants who are pacing below the course time limit. Indeed, that is why course time limits are established in the first place!

    Your official time has been adjusted to “DNF” per your request, so there is no illusion of your having cheated.

    I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you over the phone and have emailed you my personal mobile number.

    Again, I sincerely regret that you had such a bad experience. ZOOMA was founded to encourage, not disappoint, athletes just like you. Although you may never participate in another ZOOMA event again, I do hope you will continue with your fitness journey and have a better experience in your next race.

    Regards,
    Brae Blackley
    Executive Director, ZOOMA Women's Race Series

  8. I think the part where you said you “just stopped running” the race says it all. Someone who is truly trying to improve would still truck on. The race is not about the 13.1 sticker, it is about pride and goals. Sorry you are upset you didn't get the sticker but that is no reason to be so upset and try to ruin the reputation of a race organization with a good cause. I suggest you read the rules a bit more carefully. I am not saying the organizers are perfect, I just thin you are blowing this out of proportion.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s