O Log - More on E-punching and Mishung Controls

[24-Oct-04] 

    Awhile back I wrote about mihsung controls, and, in the case of e-punching, removing the affected splits rather than throwing out the whole race. I remember being more in favor of throwing out the whole race rather than the affected legs. This, I think, concurred with Vlad's opinion and recommendations of the IOF, but is otherwise seems a minority opinion among those who think about these things (which I don't imagine is all that many people).

    At today's club champs, there was a mishung control with e-punching. I got to the correct feature before anyone else and found no control, but was fortunate enough to figure out the probable mistake of the flag hanger and find the feature where the control was actually placed. I thought about re-hanging it, but it was well over 2 hours into the race, and I figured there was a risk that my mind was bonked, so I let it go.

    Anyway, I finished, and asked Eric W. to go check the control. It was mishung, and fortunately, corrected by Eric such that only my race was affected. So I thought about all this -- what should the remedy be, especially since I wasn't going to place (but normally may have been expected to, having won silver the past two years)?

    It obviously didn't seem right to throw out the race (as the error was corrected), but it didn't feel right to do anything with the splits either. I just asked for an SPW, it seemed the right thing to do. In particular, it seemed the right thing to do because that's what we'd do if we didn't have e-punching, and because of my belief in not furthering the precedent of monkeying with the splits in these cases.

    I was told the e-punch software could not handle an SPW. I could take a DNF, or take Wyatt's splits for the affected legs, or wait and get an SPW later by hand.

    I wanted to take the DNF, but ended up taking Wyatt's splits for the affected legs. I was running slower than Wyatt, so that wasn't really right, but it seemed easiest for everyone involved, and I'm not one to stand on principle if it makes more work for volunteers. But I regret the decision in retrospect as the idea of just using the splits to patch up a race doesn't sit right. Its a race, not a collection of smaller races. Otherwise, I can't put any sort of logical or objective thought behind this feeling. But this experience has made me feel even stronger against using the e-punch software to doctor races with mishung controls. It just don't feel right.

    Well, this is just a story, no real point. The ultimate remedy decision was ultimately mine, and it didn't affect whether or not I placed. I care more about the principle and body of precedent on this issue than this individual race. And "It just don't feel right" isn't going to win any awards for logical and clear thinking, and writing mountains more on this heads into 'counting the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin syndrome' (and I think my previous entry on this issue was more logical and well thought out).

    But there is more to write, sort of as an inane appendix. Looking at the splits would indicate problems with specific control(s). But that would be wrong. The real problem is with circumstance and the game plan I took out of necessity. Its hard to explain, but analyzing splits would be wrong, which leads me to the hunch that throwing some of them them out with e-punching could be wrong, at least sometimes.

    Also, on the mishang, I lost two minutes on the control, and four minutes on the next leg. But as the control was only off by about 100m, and the next leg was a 1500m leg, and by happenstance I knew where I was when I found the flag, how could this be possible? Its possible because I forgot the control was mishung after I punched (it was 2:20 into a long race on a shot body -- and that is not part of my rhythm), and left from the original location in my mind, and got confused en-route when nothing lined up. Other runners would not have been affected, but my style does not deal well with loss of contact at any time. Not my fault it was mishung, but someone else analyzing this situation would be tempted to conclude losing 4 minutes on the following long leg was not a result of the mishang (but since it was the GO control, I obviously did not boom it). Just the perils of possibly allowing this sort of thought by race officials into this sort of situation (this didn't happen today, both legs were adjusted), and the need for an objective, a priori standard rule beforehand. I mean, this situation was handled pretty ad hoc, and I don't fault Val for it, but a standardized rule would be nice. Had I been in shape for the race, the 6 minutes in question really could have ended up determining medals.

    (Of course, I brought this up to the USOF BoD once (that is, the need for intelligent debate on the issue of e-punching/mishung controls and the need for a clear rule before it comes up in a big race), and, well, nevermind).

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