Saturday, August 31, 2013

What's Really Wrong with Leadville

I've been thinking a lot about what happened at this year's Leadville 100-Mile Run and the criticism that's been directed at Lifetime Fitness. As we all know, Lifetime, a publicly traded company based in Minnesota, bought the storied Leadville Race Series in 2010. Up until that time, the race had been owned and operated by two Leadville natives, Ken Chlouber and Merilee Maupin.

Before I share some thoughts and observations, I first want to tell a story that I've told only a few people. A few days after the 2010 race, my first Leadville, I realized I'd left behind one of my drop bags. So I called race headquarters and left a message about my bag, not really expecting to ever see it again. A few hours later, I got a call from Ken Chlouber. Ken was standing in front of a huge pile of drop bags that had been left behind and ultimately began fishing through the rubble in search of my belongings, which included an expensive pair of Salomons. Finally, Ken found the bag and he shipped the contents to me. I, of course, paid for the shipping (as I should have). He couldn't have been nicer about it. Mind you--this was Ken Chlouber, founder of the Leadville 100, fishing through a pile of left-behind bags in search of my Salomons--only a few days after the race, when he must have been exhausted. It left a lasting impression on me. Ken cared about every detail.

Now let's fast-forward to a few days after this year's race. With lots of anger swirling among Leadville nation, I chose to call the race director. When he didn't answer, I left a voice mail for him, expressing support for the race and confidence that Lifetime would fix the problems. I kind of expected a return call. To date, I haven't heard back from him, and a few others I know who have reached out to him also haven't heard back. In a sport where virtually everyone knows everyone, I find the lack of response to my inquiry deeply troubling. This never would have happened in the Ken and Merilee years. I am certain about it, because I can personally attest to the dedication that they put into their races. I mean, Ken fished through a pile of crap in search of my Salomons!

In order to understand what's happened to the Leadville 100 over the past few years, we first need to understand Lifetime Fitness, its business model and who it serves. Lifetime operates indoor fitness clubs in cities across the nation. There's one here in Parker. I remember a few years ago visiting the Parker club, when we were interviewing for jobs and trying to figure out if we'd move here, and they wanted me to shell out something like $30 for a day pass. Needless to say, I declined to pay and walked out. (For $5, you can get a day pass at the Parker Recreation Center, which is super nice and has an Olympic-size swimming pool.)

It's important to note that Lifetime is a publicly traded company. That means Lifetime has shareholders and trades on the New York Stock Exchange. Its shareholders are people wanting to make money. Lifetime has a CEO and a board of directors. The board is full of rich guys and gals with companies of their own. The company's mission is: "We’re here to provide an educational, entertaining, friendly and inviting, functional and innovative experience of uncompromising quality that meets the health and fitness needs of the entire family." Lifetime describes itself as "the healthy way of life company."

Here's the cold, hard reality: At the end of the day, Lifetime's goal as a publicly traded company--even if it doesn't say this--is to deliver "shareholder value." In other words, Lifetime wants to make a lot of profit that will then translate into high stock prices and happy shareholders. How do you make a lot of profit? Well, you sell lots of memberships, make people pay through the nose for one-day passes, keep costs as low as possible and invest only in what makes you the most money (this is called return on investment).

Another important part of delivering shareholder value is avoiding public relations crises that might threaten your brand and cause your stock value to go down. What happened with this year's Leadville 100 likely won't cause Lifetime's stock value to go down, mostly because A) very few people in the non-ultrarunning world know about it, and B) the media isn't onto the story (yet). Hell, I doubt even the Lifetime board of directors knows what went down in Leadville a few weeks ago.

Despite the town of Leadville's well-documented economic struggles (it was these struggles that led to the creation of the Leadville 100 in the first place), Lifetime bought the Leadville Race Series in 2010 because it obviously saw a cash cow with tons of profit potential. Some of that was because of The Book. But let's be honest here--the big cash cow was/is the 100-mile mountain bike race. We're talking about a race that guys like Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer and Dave Wiens have won.

With the mountain bike race being king, it's no wonder that one event continues to get rave reviews by entrants, while the 100-mile run has continued to deteriorate in quality and, I would add, runner safety and experience. To be sure, this year's run race was dangerously overcrowded with many novices on the course who had no business out there. I was nearly killed by an idiot who almost caused me to fall down Mount Hope! And many of these novices fell behind and found themselves facing aid stations without water and other essentials.

But, one might ask, why are so many novices out there in the first place, especially given that Leadville is hardly a race you want to do without some solid experience? The answer to that question lies in who Lifetime is marketing to. They aren't marketing to you and me, save the occasional ad in Ultrarunning Magazine. No, they're marketing to their club members--a very big and cheap audience to reach. And that's a major problem. You see, Lifetime has for years operated indoor fitness clubs. By contrast, ultrarunning is an outdoor sport with participants who, for the most part, don't find much enjoyment in a gym. Ah, a cultural clash!

There is a place in ultrarunning for corporations. Consider the Western States/Montrail model. Montrail has a major stake in the Western States 100, but Montrail is an outdoor sports company. It gets the outdoor way of life and it understands ultrarunning. So it makes sense for Montrail to be involved in Western States and have a qualifying series. It makes sense for The North Face to be involved in its own ultrarunning series. It doesn't make sense for a chain of gyms to get involved in ultrarunning and try to run one of the world's most storied 100-milers, especially when a small mountain town's very livelihood is at stake.

As many of us know, there's a huge cultural difference between trail runners and, say, folks who drive to the gym a few days a week to burn some calories on the elliptical trainer. I have nothing against the elliptical folks--I think it's great that they work out. What concerns me is that Lifetime is getting them to sign up for a race that they have no business--from a fitness and experience standpoint--participating in.

So what we've been increasingly seeing in recent years--especially this year--is a sea of novices who've signed up after being aggressively marketed to in their local Lifetime club. And that has created a bloated field and led to catastrophic failures in meeting the basic raceday needs of the runners and their crews.

As for whether or not Lifetime fixes the problems that undermined runner safety and caused all kinds of problems for crews this year, we'll see. Lifetime has been mum so far. But this we do know:
  • Lifetime is a publicly traded company that wants to deliver shareholder value.
  • It bought the Leadville Race Series because it obviously saw a huge cash cow.
  • It's making a boatload of money on the race series.
  • It holds huge power over the town of Leadville, which depends on the dollars that the race series brings in every year in the form of money spent on food, lodging, etc.
  • The quality of the 100-mile run has gotten worse every year, even as Lifetime's profits have most likely gone up.
  • It has yet to acknowledge what happened this year, which leads one to believe that Lifetime simply doesn't care.
Among the many things Lifetime can do to help rescue the Leadville 100:
  • Hire a race director and team that understand how to execute 100-mile foot races. Lifetime is asking too much of its current team, which has to manage a full range of races and two major events on back-to-back weekends. As it stands, the current team may understand bike races, but it doesn't understand 100-mile foot races.
  • Stop marketing the race to rank-and-file Lifetime club members and start marketing the race to athletes who are prepared for the challenge.
  • Engage the Leadville nation in getting the race back to where it needs to be. Lifetime needs to admit that it can't do it alone--it needs help. I'm glad to lend a hand!
  • Figure out a way to make the field smaller. Maybe consider a qualifier. Definitely forewarn aspiring entrants of the monster they're going to take on. I think too many entrants don't understand what they've gotten themselves into and are caught off-guard on raceday.
  • Ban crew access at Winfield and shuttle pacers into and out of the area. This will make that critical section of the race more manageable.
  • Ban crew access at Mayqueen outbound (mile 13.5). The congestion at Mayqueen outbound sets a bad tone for the rest of the day.
  • Establish a new aid station--without crew access due to limited parking--at Tabor Boat Ramp inbound (mile 93). This will enhance runner safety.
  • Do everything you can to thank and show appreciation for the wonderful volunteers who man the Hopeless aid station. This year they were set up for failure. As I hear, they knew they'd run out of supplies and, sure enough, they did. Having to transport supplies up a mountain via llamas, they can only do so much. Take care of them because, short of a helicopter drop, there's no other way to get supplies up there.
  • Get the aid station volunteers into the race by having a contest to see who has the coolest aid station. Let the aid station volunteers create their own themes. Of course, we'd want all of the aid stations to have some basic stuff, like tent cover, water, sports drink, PB&Js, soup, heaters, cots, etc., but allow the volunteers to get creative and have fun. Admittedly, this idea came to me via Footfeathers.
Those are just a few suggestions. I would encourage Lifetime to focus on the big problems and don't worry yet about the little things, such as "goody bags." Focus on the big things: runner safety, runner experience, crew experience, aid stations and traffic control.

At this point, it's hard to be hopeful about the future of the Leadville 100-Mile Run. And that's really sad, because ultimately more than a great race is at stake. It could be the town that pays the highest price of all.

24 comments:

  1. Leadville has never had race entry requirements. I've never had a problem with that, and I think it's actually a good thing. The problem is the number of people they're letting in. The course and crew logistics can handle it. Doesn't matter if the runners are "qualified" or not.

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  2. I've never done the 100 (only the 50) but I saw Ken out on the course the day I did S.R. and he was beaming. I know he still speaks at some of the pre-race pep rallys. Is he at all involved still in the race? Maybe you could try to talk to him first-hand so he could relay everyone's message to Lifetime as he's got to have higher-up connects in that company (I'd hope). I'm sure Ken knows the woes circulating, but maybe someone could talk to him directly in a constructive criticism manner. Just a thought.

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  3. Great thoughts Wyatt. Thanks for putting them down. I read of all these issues and wonder if I still want Leadville on my bucket list of runs to do. Hope Lifetime gets their act together.

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  4. One thing that has been rankling at me is that we have a profit-making corporation in Lifetime that is raking in money off the backs of volunteers. I find that odd. I think the volunteer concept in relation to the normal non-profit race (whether officially registered as such or not!) makes perfect sense, and I enjoy the heck out of working aid stations! :) But I am having a problem reconciling a company making a profit because they're they're not paying for labor (not only that, at least from some sources, it didn't seem as though they were even appreciating their volunteers!). It seems as though this is going to have to be a question for the community to ask itself, if companies are going to turn races into profit-making enterprises, whether we are going to make them actually pay for the labor they use to make that profit, or whether the experience in helping runners is worth the donation we are making to the shareholders' wallets.

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    1. Ding ding ding ding! Jen hit the nail on the head. Without understanding everything behind setting up and advertising a race, I'd think the city of Leadville should own the race and use sponsors, entry fees, concessions, and volunteers to bring in the revenue. This philosophy reminds me of the uprising of the infamous zombie runs. They're pretty expensive to run, people can pay to be a zombie, spectators must pay, concessions aren't cheap, all labor is volunteer. ...basically, the organizers pocket everything minus the any land use and advertising overhead. Kind of disgusting!

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  5. I've commented about this before here on your page. I know what I have to say obviously doesn't hold much weight as a non-participant, and a non-ultra runner (yet), and certainly not elite.

    However, I am a Lifetime member here in TX. And I can substantiate your observation that Lifetime is marketing the crap out of Leadville to it's members.

    Further, the dichotomy that you describe in the company extends beyond just this race. In talking with the local club manager, he actually admitted to me that Lifetime makes the majority of it's money on those members who pay for a membership, come a few times, and then never come back but continue to pay dues so they feel better about themselves. He told me, and I quote (as best I remember), "You should be thankful for those members, because they subsidize the services that we provide to you." This profit off the backs of others sounds suspiciously similar to the volunteer experience at Leadville.

    In my daily visits to Lifetime here, I usually see maybe 1 athlete that I would judge to be in shape enough to even consider Leadville. The vast, vast majority of people I see on a regular basis would be ill-equipped, if not completely unsafe in attempting a race such as Leadville.

    In my impression, the marketing that Lifetime does sells the Leadville experience as a lifestyle experience, not as a 100 mile experience that many elite athletes are simply happy to finish.

    The dichotomy of generating an image that appears to support and champion health, wellness, and elite athleticism and the need to profit from the poor unfortunates runs deep. I would say to very core of the company.

    One has to wonder if a company so disingenous really cares about Leadville beyond the bottom line.

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  6. Some good stuff here.

    I'd like to see them keep the race open to everyone. I was once a novice mistake prone rookie (unlike the grizzled mistake prone veteran I am now) and it was nice not having to jump through too many hoops to run a 100.

    I'd also like so see no pacers before Twin inbound. They could market this along the lines of "are you man enough to take on the Hope double crossing alone..." or some BS like that. Maybe even think of getting rid of the Hopeless AS since it's so hard getting stuff up there. Once you get to Hopeless it's pretty much downhill to the next aid station anyways. And there is a stream there if things got really bad for a runner.

    The lottery is definitely coming, mostly because they can squeeze another $15 out of the runners.

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  7. Robert: I greatly value your thoughts as a Lifetime club member. Just because you haven't done Leadville doesn't mean your opinion on the current state of the race doesn't count. It does count--a lot! You're seeing the marketing firsthand. Lifetime has a right to do what it wants, as we'd all agree. I just want to see the race marketed to the right people.

    Also, in fairness to Lifetime, gym members who join but never/rarely show up are hugely profitable for clubs across the board--not just Lifetime. I used to be a personal trainer at a club many years ago and that was true there and then, as well. Those who actually show up daily aren't really "profitable" from a dollars and cents standpoint.

    Thanks for sharing your experience as a Lifetime member.

    Wyatt

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  8. Wyatt, this has to be your best blog entry ever.

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  9. Wyatt--

    Point taken about all gyms drawing from a non-user profit base.

    I will say that I have seen more community type groups/functions from Lifetime than other gyms. For example, a social running club, mountain bike rides with cookouts at the trailhead afterwards.

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  10. Interesting read.

    I'm curious how you come to this conclusion: "So what we've been increasingly seeing in recent years--especially this year--is a sea of novices who've signed up after being aggressively marketed to in their local Lifetime club."

    Ultrarunning in general has undergone a rapid growth the past few years - and I would guess that the increase in participants at Leadville correlates pretty well with this growth. I believe there have been similar increases in other races; e.g. a race like the Dirty 30 (which had 92 finishers in 2010, and 259 finishers in 2013).

    So how do you disentangle this effect from the efforts of Lifetime to sign up members?

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  11. This is a nice post -- a lot of interesting stuff to think about.

    With respect, though, I think that you are well off target regarding Lifetime's ulterior motives to milk the LT 100 mile run side of the house for profit. In particular, the idea that Lifetime is trying to pump up the number of participants for the purpose of making money is ridiculous.

    The registration fee is something like $300 or so, right? That means that the aggregate fee for all 1000 or so participants is $300K. $300K is a lot of money to me, and perhaps is a lot of money to you. But it is an utterly negligible amount of revenue to Lifetime, which had 2012 revenues of $1.1 billion, and profits around $110MM. I highly doubt that Lifetime makes any profits from the race itself, unless it is getting huge advertising dollars from someone, and that seems very unlikely. And the incremental profit from squeezing another 1000 partcipants into the race (an impossibly high number itself) is negligible, if it is positive at all. It is not like there are no marginal costs per participant -- if you bring in an extra $300K for another 1000 participants, their profit on them would be maybe half that, if anything. And that incremental profit is absolute peanuts -- less than the change in the cushions for them, and definitely not worth the PR pain from operational screwups because too many people are out there.

    I don't know what the economics of the bike race are -- maybe Lifetime is making some money on it, maybe not. I think that the bigger reason why Lifetime bought the race series is for the image and prestige benefits. It makes us all feel better about going to Lifetime to know that Lifetime is a leader in physical fitness and helping people reach their full potential, yadda yadda. And in that regard, if Lifetime is crapping the bed on execution, it is definitely a problem for Lifetime and can defeat the purpose of this whole endeavour if negative media attention comes out of it. So that is the reason why they are incented to not let it get too bad. I agree that the general public will mostly not be interested in ultrarunners whining about not getting enough heed at mile 70, but if there is crap left all over the mountain and some sort of unsightly ecological mess is there, that will resonate in a negative way with a lot of people.

    I think that some sort of qualification system is the way to go, either a (mostly) pure one like Boston, or a blended one like NY (where if you are very fast you get automatic entry, and otherwise you go into the lottery). Leadville is clearly not a great 100 miler for the novice -- it is a little like taking up mountaineering and saying "you know, for my first mountain i think i am going to climb everest." It is one of the great races, and I don't think it is inappropriate or elitist for there to be some more robust qualification requirements.

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  12. Scott: Good question. Based on what I'm hearing from people like Robert (see his comment), it sounds like Lifetime is aggressively marketing the Leadville Race Series in its clubs. I just don't think gyms are the place to market races like the Leadville 100 run. The Leadville Marathon? Maybe. The Leadville 100 run? No.

    Also, as I acknowledged in my post, I definitely think the McDougall book, Born to Run, has contributed to huge growth in interest in Leadville. I would say the interest in the race as a result of the book contributed to Lifetime's decision to buy the race series. Simply put, the book increased interest in and the value of the Leadville 100.

    Finally, yes, I think the larger growth going on in ultrarunning has for surely contributed to increased interest in Leadville. But, as someone who has done Leadville for four years in a row, I can tell you that I'm seeing more and more runners who have no business being on that course. I can't say for sure where they're coning from, but I have to think it's from all three factors above. Lifetime can't control the latter two but it can reign in its marketing.

    Wyatt

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  13. Wyatt -

    Thanks for the response. The reason you are seeing more and more runners who have no business being on the course is because, well, the race has more and more runners! But overall, the quality of the field (judged by finisher rates) hasn't changed over the past several years. If Lifetime were responsible for recruiting hoards of runners who had no business being there, then the finisher rate would decline as the number of participants has increased - but that's not the case. Here are the stats for the last several years (I couldn't find the number of starters for 2011):

    Year Starters Finishers Finisher Rate
    2013 944 497 52.65%
    2012 795 364 45.79%
    2011 347 N/A
    2010 623 362 58.11%
    2009 491 274 55.80%
    2008 444 186 41.89%
    2007 477 210 44.03%
    2006 457 199 43.54%
    2005 388 213 54.90%

    So - who cares who they market the race to? If someone from a Lifetime club in Florida wants to come run the race, then as long as they meet the qualifications (which right now appear to be only financial) then let them run! It's not as if Lifetime is promoting some super secret vacation spot that everyone wants to visit. Most people have absolutely no desire to run 100 miles. For those that do, bring it on! When we start subjectively judging who should be allowed to do the race and who shouldn't, that seems to contradict the very spirit that the race was founded on.

    Now, I do agree that if Lifetime is going to let X number of people into the race, then they should have the logistics in place to support that number. I'm fine with taking Lifetime to the woodshed for failing on race logistics, but let's not criticize the runners themselves. I guarantee to you there is someone who you would classify as an "elliptical folk" who committed themselves to this race just as much as you did.

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  14. Everyone keeps yelling about these runners who look like they have no business being out there. Is there a dress code now? Will I always remain unprepared with my baggy shorts and floppy hat? Will Hawaiian Shirt Ray continue having zero success in the sport?

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  15. Wyatt, this is a good summary of some problems at Leadville.
    It's funny and somewhat ironic, though, if you consider the brouhaha regarding the Lifetime CEO's aided "finish" of 2 years ago. I remember being disappointed when you defended him as being "one of us," because I was particularly annoyed that he received special treatment while my friend Alex was pulled from the course despite being ahead of the CEO. At the time, I recalled negative stories that I knew about him from Minnesota (including punching a high school kid's car), and I was annoyed that he smugly said he hadn't run more than 20 miles before the Leadman. And then they started with all the corporate challenge BS to buy your way into the mtb. race...So it seemed like it was jumping the shark in 2011, even though older vets told me Leadville was a circus before that.

    Anyway, I'm glad you've seen the light! =)

    I agree with JT and others about not needing to blame the runners. I think there are 28-29 hour solid finishers out there that might be considered more prepared then someone capable of running faster, who DNF's because of bad pacing. Some folks are really focused physically and mentally on finishing and actually run a smarter race. Others might DNF but be humbled by someone twice their age that does finish and see what they need to do next time.

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  16. Good points, Mike. Reading my mind.

    To add to your last paragraph, there are also runners who have certain performance goals that may be the priority over, say, just finishing the thing. I think of Brandon a couple years ago - determined to run the race he knows he has in him. He went for it and paid the price with a dnf. I'll take a dnf any day over playing it soft.

    The CEO is a knob.

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  17. Mike: Regarding the Lifetime CEO, I wasn't necessarily defending him after the 2011 series. What I was doing was basically saying it was important for the facts to come out and for people to avoid accusations regarding him getting assistance and being named a Leadman despite his 30+ hour time at the 100. I believe he was ultimately not an official Leadman finisher, so things worked out on that front.

    I don't want to take Lifetime to the woodshed. What I want is for Lifetime to step up and get control of the race. If it doesn't do that and things continue, then you'll see me moving on to other races.

    Wyatt

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  18. Yeah, things ultimately worked out with the Leadman thing and the CEO back then, and I got over the whole debacle despite being pretty upset for a few days -- kinda like how I felt about the Grand Slam controversy last week! I was excited at first about Lifetime's involvement, but I think it's easy to be blinded and see what we want to see, especially when we're emotionally invested in the race. There's also sometimes a feeling that ultrarunning can "do no wrong" because it's a happy community of runners, blah blah blah but is still subject to human problems and squabbling like anything.

    In that respect -- a nod to Tim -- Elevation Trail (unlike irunfar) and some of Tim's parodies in the past is better at tackling the "hard" questions and issues in the sport.

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  19. Thanks Mike!
    Aside from the death threats, it's been fun.

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  20. Just wanted to add to what Wyatt says about total novices coming out and running Leadville. In 2012, I came across a young girl lying on the side of the trail, halfway up the outbound side of Hope Pass. The girl was just lying there, totally lethargic and practically unresponsive. I was a seasoned ultrarunner and definitely wanted to finish that race, but I could not leave her there in that kind of shape. I was a practicing EMT from NC and I knew she was in bad shape and needed immediate help. Myself and 5 others (4 of us were doctors, EMTs or Paramedics) stopped and tried to help. We called 911 and were told there was no way to get immediate help, so we would have to carry her down the mountain. We took turns with one person on her legs and one person holding her shoulders and carried her down to a waiting ambulance. They got an IV in her and when she "came back to life", she was mad that they had given her an IV because now she wasn't going to be able to finish the race (imagine that). The real kicker in this story, is that the young lady was from some big town in Texas and had heard about this race and paid her money and she was gong to run her first 100 miler. Yes, her first, at Leadville. We found out later, that she had NEVER done any altitude training at all, she flew in from Texas the day before the race, she was sick and nauseous all day before the race and the next morning before the start, and she was extremely sick at Twin Lakes and threw up three times, but her crew fed her some more food and sent her on her way up Hope Pass like that. Now I ask, where was the medical staff at Twin Lakes that was supposed to be checking people? I certainly didn't see any when I went the TL. By stopping and taking care of the lady, I had to forfeit my race, as did the others that helped carry her down the hill (Leadville DID offer the 5 of us free entry into the race in 2013). IMHO this kind of situation puts others in harms way. And that is why there should be some kind of qualifying that has to occur before you are allowed to run Leadville (at the VERY least, have finished a 50 miler in <10 hours). Almost all of the other races require it, so why shouldn't Leadville (one of the toughest) require it? Leadville is worried about getting enough people to sign up for the race, but they don't seem to care about people's safety on the mountain.

    -Dave

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  21. Well put Dave. My question on the finishing % staying steady is - How many of those that didn't finish were in a dangerous situation on the mountain and seriously undertrained? That is a bigger concern than the finishing number. I agree with Wyatt and gang on this issue. Market the ones that can run it and take some responsibility for who signs up. It seems like that would be the starting point to demonstrate a real concern for the runner's safety.

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  22. I personally know that the current Leadville race director has worked for Ken for years and was hand picked and groomed by Ken to replace him. When I was at the 2013 MTB race, Josh and Ken were everywhere together - Ken has more mountains to climb (literally), and Josh is as able as they come. Life Time uses the race series as a feather in it's cap, to associate itself WITH the brand of Leadville and enjoy lots of PR and media coverage through the races. As one person pointed out above, the entire Leadville budget must come in at about .001% of the company as a whole.

    While I appreciate your knowledge and awareness of ultrarunning, you certainly are no expert in business. The CEO of Life Time knew Ken was looking to sell the race series, and Life Time had the financial backing to keep it going WITHOUT the need to make tons of profit. If it was sold to someone who needed to make money on the event (the other party looking to buy it back in '10), it would probably already be gone. Because of the backing of this successful health company, it will be around for decades more. Ask some of the people who have done the race (be that running or MTB) over the years and see if they see a heavy hand from the corporate overlords.

    When you have guys like Bill Finkbeiner (30 year finisher) and the trio of cyclists who have never missed a cutoff in 20 years (John Callahan, Tood Murray and Ricky McDonald), there is still a lot to be said for Ledville as being a bucket list race. Thanks for the interesting thread, sorry I'm so late to the party.

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    1. Anonymous: Thanks for your comment. With all due respect, the fact that you commented as "anonymous" means your credibility is in question. Put your name to your comment and then you'll have credibility. Until then, what you've said, while interesting, has limited value at best.

      Also, how do you know I'm not a business expert? For all you know, I run a Fortune 500 company (which I don't). In fact, I'm not a business expert but it's presumptuous of you to make guesses about me based on zero facts. What I do know a lot about is PR and protecting your brand when it's under fire.

      When I wrote that blog, I was upset with Life Time Fitness because they hadn't yet responded to all the criticism stemming from the 2013 LT100 run. They've since responded and are making improvements--all of which I support. I have gone to the mattresses defending Josh and his team. Josh has contacted me a few times since this particular blog post and I appreciate his doing that and I appreciate the dedication he brings. I have said all along to the naysayers, including one goof who describes himself as a "sherpa" when he's not even from the Himalaya region, that it's wrong to throw Life Time under the bus for one race that didn't go as planned. Let's give Life Time some time to correct the wrong. But too much time passed between the actual race and when Life Time spoke up--they lost control by being silent and that resulted in a lot of poor PR in the ultrarunning world (e.g., Hardrock's removal of the LT100 from its qualifier list).

      I realize that the Leadville Race Series, in the grand scheme of things, doesn't make Life Time a huge amount of money, but you are simply wrong in suggesting that this is just about brand association and nothing else. Brand association happens when there's financial gain to be made. Life Time is making lots of money off of the series and I think that in part explains why the town is souring on the series more than ever. Did you hear about the petition that's made the rounds in Leadville? The LRS still has a lot of cache but its cache was undermined after 2013--it's now up to Lifetime to bring the LRS back and I believe Josh & Co. will because they're dedicated.

      I realize that no one in Leadville was in a position to buy the series from Ken and Merilee. Life Time bought it and it is what it is. I am hopeful about the 2014 races and excited to be lining up for them.

      Wyatt

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