2012 AON Los Angeles Results

I was definitely feeling sorry for myself this race because I had a bad flu bug which caused me to run about a minute slower than last year, but I felt even worse for the REAL winner, Jesse Berg who is also the REAL new course record holder, because of a travesty that happened that day in our great sport.

It turns out that we had a cheater at this climb.

How do I know Miguel cheated? Well, I have a partial list of reasons below, so check it out and see what you think:
1.) He ran a 7:45, which included passing “Lots of BIG or people” as he claimed. This is DRASTICALLY faster than the fastest climbers in the USA or Mexico have ever done it – in a clear stairwell no less. Thomas Dold (the #1 ranked stairclimber in the world) couldn’t even pull a time like that. No one could.
2.) He reported that the only training he does is playing basketball with his friends once a week and riding his bike once a week. Oh, and he told Brady that he rides 20-40 miles on that weekend ride. Then he told me later that he rides 75 miles.
3.) He claimed in the morning that he practiced in the building for a couple weeks prior to the race. His story a couple hours later was that he ran it once a week. By the time I talked to him, he said he ran the building twice a day, every day. I asked him how he got out of the stairwell (assuming he had a key card since he works there) and he said he just calls on the security phone to get out, “Like my friend here” as he pointed to a companion standing close to him who worked for building security. She was in his posse and was hanging out with him the whole day.
4.) I asked him what his time was last year and he said about 8:30 but he had to stop before crossing the finishing mat at the top because he had to throw up so his time never registered. There was only about 3 feet between the top step and the mat and no one remembers any puke there. After he puked, he must have stumbled around the outside edge of the mat to avoid getting read by the mat from the chip on his shoe…
5.) He’s overweight and out of shape. Soft. Smooth. No muscle definition. No vascularity. To beat the best in the world by that much, you would have to look like a Marvel Comic action hero and then be amped up on amphetamines.
6.) He said he went at 9:30 am with the first wave. When we told him we were in that wave and didn’t see him, he said, “Oh yeah, it was more like 10 am.”
7.) When Jeff and I talked with him about 3 hours after the race, I told him that since we are such students of the sport, we would love to study his technique and would he please run it again with Jeff. He said that he couldn’t because he pulled his hamstring (as he pointed to his groin) at floor 50. I asked him how bad and if it was more of a strain or a distinct popping sound that he felt at once. He said it was really bad and that it was a popping sound. When he walked away from us, he had a huge limp. When we waked up to us for that conversation and for the 3 hours prior to that, he was walking just fine. Besides, we all know that you don’t pull a hamstring climbing stairs and if you did pull one that bad, you wouldn’t be able to finish another 12 floors, let alone shatter any records.
8.) When the awards ceremony came around, he didn’t even want to get up on stage. He looked very ashamed. Head down, shuffling his feet, no celebration, no triumphant jubilation. Just shame.
9.) Every time I talked to him, he never could look me in the eye. He was extremely uncomfortable with my questions and tried to squirm away the whole time.
10.) Brady told him that a documentary film crew was there and would be thrilled to talk to the winner. He immediately declined and said he was leaving. Yet he was back for the awards ceremony.
11.) He said his watch showed an 8:04 when he hit the timing mat at the finish, yet his time was 7:45. We all know our own stop watches are usually off by a few seconds from what the timing company gets, but never by that much. His stopwatch however, could be more inaccurate than that, because as you can see in the picture below of him crossing the timing mats, his wrist watch seems to be invisible. Or maybe he had it in his pocket and it took him 19 seconds to take it out and hit the stop button. Yeah, right.
12.) There was money on this race. He said they had a huge pool going in his office on what his time would be.
13.) The Otis elevator company was bragging all day about “Their guy.” The elevator company? Now it’s just getting funny.
14.) He claims he did this race 4 times before, but he doesn’t show up in the 2010 or 2011 results data.
15.) He told Cody right after the race that he didn’t think anyone would believe his time. Kind of a weird thing to say…
16.) His wife said he doesn’t even start doing any training until two weeks before the race.
17.) Jeff called him on Monday (two days after the race) and mentioned that he thought there were camera crews at certain floors in the building. He was VERY interested to know what floors those cameras were on. He was already working up an excuse for that scenario even before he got off the phone with Jeff. He actually said, “Well I was going fast, so they might not have seen me.” Now you have to admit – that’s freakin’ hilarious.
18.) Also, when Jeff talked to him on Monday, Miguel’s hamstring injury had become a groin injury.
19.) Jeff offered him money and sponsorships to travel to exotic places to do other stair climbs. Miguel wouldn’t even consider it. He didn’t even want to discuss it.
20.) Miguel told Jeff, “If I would have gotten 2nd, this wouldn’t be such a big deal.” Yet another reason his watch said 8:03. He was planning on that time, because he already knew how fast Jesse had run by the time he started (whenever that really was), but messed up and finished too fast.
21.) Also on Monday, Miguel told Kathy Gillespie Smith, a reporter and genius writer, that he got an 8:10 last year. In the video interview with me, he claims an 8:30. He also told Kathy that he trains on the StairMaster at the gym, so it seems he is realizing now that his training story needs some bolstering. He also told Kathy that he doesn’t train on the stairs in the building much (although in the video he claims twice a day), but cycles occasionally. Looks like he forgot to keep that training story bolstered. Then she asked him about his technique  – two step or one step and if he uses the handrail and he said he just goes up any easy he can get there and was very unsure of the question she was asking.
22.) Tommy, one of the timing officials reported, “The finish photos will tell the story. I sat in a chair on the rooftop recording finishers bib #’s and I saw everybody. I did see this man, and spoke to him. When he emerged from the stairwell he ducked the timing mats by turning right (around the barriers). I told him to cross the mats and he replied, “I’m just coming through, I work in the building.” He may have come up before that as well but I DON’T know. The photographer did manage to shoot probably EVERYBODY who crossed the mats. Wait and see if he, had in fact, even carried his own chip across the line.” This hints at something other getting into the system with a legitimate chip swipe, or having someone else cross the mat with his chip, which would get back to the relay theory, but any way you look at it, this guy seems to have a strange habit of avoiding finish line timing mats. Things that make you go “hmmmmm….”
23.) He ran this time in basketball shoes, shorts down past his knees and a t shirt. Wow, just think if he had Jesse’s super light “5 Fingers” racing shoes, our lightweight WCL racing jersey, low-friction racing shorts, no people to pass, some climbing technique, a little conditioning under his belt, 20 pounds less fat and some more race experience? He would be pulling a sub 7 minute time for sure!

Miguel does show up in 2009 results however, with a 9:38, which comes close to my best time. Heck, I need to start playing recreational basketball instead of working out as intensely as I do! Oh, and I also need to ride my bike on the weekends for 20 miles. Or 40. Or 75.

Personally, I think 2009 was the first year he cheated and his plan had some kind of glitch in 2010 or 2011. I think he got it (almost) right this year and had his security friend hold an elevator for him on a lower floor and then let him back off on one of the empty floors in the 60’s. Another way to do this is to set up a relay team, but even with 4 or 5 people in decent shape, it would still be tough to beat Jesse – especially by that much. I think Miguel and his posse botched it however, and didn’t mean to get that fast of a time. I think he really meant to get an 8:03 so he would place 2nd, but he messed up and crossed the mat (if he even did at all) much too soon.

Even though he didn’t get an official time last year due to his “puking incident,” his company still published an article about him, so it seems they just went with what he told them and failed to do any fact checking. It would seem that he also got addicted to the attention. http://www.meansknaus.com/news/2011-05-04-climb-for-air.shtml

The timing company put split mats on floors 4 and 7. Why they took the trouble to wire up mats just on those two floors I have no idea, but when I talked to them, they said as long as his splits show up, they have to leave him in the results. This allows him to only have to sprint up to 7 or 8 before exiting to meet his friend with the elevator.

We all know what a world champion stair climber looks like. Heck, I even doubted Justin Stewart’s time at the Hilton last year – until I met him. He obviously had the physique to pull it off and then some quick research on the web turned up some pretty phenomenal achievements in other sports that made sense. Miguel however, looks like someone who might be able to squeak out a 14 min time at best in the building on a really good day, and has no athletic accomplishments to be found anywhere.

So why is this such a big deal? Because we are tower runners and this is our thing. We feel violated when someone comes in and disrespects our sport like this. Also, it messes up our points and in the case of runners like Jesse Berg, it could even keep him from being invited to certain races or having his trip to Columbia paid for. It’s definitely a big deal.

Jeff Dinkin has his number and will hound him to go do some stairs – anywhere. My guess however, is that his hamstring will be a convenient excuse to avoid that encounter. It would save his job though, because he mentioned to Jeff that is is worried about being fired now, so all he has to do is prove it. In fact, I’ll offer him $2,000 to beat Jeff. Jeff got a 9:31 this year, so that should be easy for him to beat. Heck, I raced with the flu this year and was only a minute slower than my best time. Miguel can name the time and day too. Jeff can film it. I’m sure the AON will allow it. They need to clear their name too. I’ll let you know how Miguel wiggles out of this golden opportunity…

Since Miguel is apparently the fastest tower runner in the world now and smoked this climb by such a huge margin, next year he will have bib #1 and the very first start time. Next year, if he actually shows up, I will follow him up with my GoPro so I can get footage. I know I can stay with him, even if he tries to sprint to his escape hatch, whatever floor that is, because sprinting in my specialty. Since he will have an annoying camera on his butt, he can’t stick with any plan to cheat, so he will have to do the whole climb legit. My money says he won’t be under 11 minutes. And that’s being generous. Very generous.

I hope this will be a lesson to others that if you cheat in a tower with us, we will know and we will not let it go. We are a strange obsessive group of people. We are also certified insane. We are the wrong tribe to mess with.

4/3/2012 UPDATE:
Building management found the evidence necessary to disqualify Miguel. Here was their email and apology (even though it was no fault of their own):
PJ – Thank you for being patient while we investigated the incident. All of us wanted justice in this situation, and I’m glad that Jesse and the others that worked hard got what was due them, even if it was a few days late. I’ve already been in touch with Jesse, and he has been nothing but a class act and very gracious. Unfortunately for us, the actions of one individual has embarrassed us all, and even if we had no part in it, it still does reflect on our building team. Hopefully it will be conveyed to all that we won’t tolerate what occurred again, and we look forward to hosting the stairclimbing community for many more years to come. The American Lung Association does some great work and we definitely do not want to see them hurt because of this.

Now that was classy. Hats off to MKP (Means Knaus Partners)!

The timing company has reposted the final results.

Let this be a lesson to anyone who decides to cheat in one of our races. We will know and we will expose you. It will go very badly for you indeed.

A lesson we learned on our side, was that any questions or potential disputes should be taken to the highest ranking official on site, who in this case, was Jill Arnstein, the regional director for the ALA. This would have expedited the process even more, so we know that now in case this ever happens again. Jill was “on it like a bonnet” and really came through in a big way. Another point she wanted to clarify, is that this is really a fundraiser and not an official race. This is a great point and one that we should remember. For USA tower runners, these fundraiser runs are all we have, so to us they are definitely races, but her point is one that we should all remember and be sensitive to. In Europe, they have competitive races that aren’t fundraisers and we are discussing the possibility of these events right now, so that is another great take-away that resulted from  this whole fiasco.

Hats off to Mark Trahanovski, our “Step God-Father” and founder of our mighty WCL team, for all the work he did to get this resolved too. As our tribal leader, he is very protective of us and the bulldog in him really came out to find a quick resolution. He also reminded us that now that it’s over, forgiveness is not just the right thing to do, it’s the healthy thing to do – in spite of the fact that Miguel is still trying to stick to his story, just like Rosie Ruiz is still trying to stick to hers.

My offer still stands to Miguel: Just run up the AON with Jeff Dinkin and simply stay within his Go Pro camera shot the whole way up at the pace he chooses. That should be easy for you since Jeff’s time of 9:31 (7th place overall) is almost 2 minutes slower than your claimed time. Do this simple request and I will pay you $2,000. Plus, you will get massive apologies from everyone. And fame and fortune, including sponsorships and prize money for other races. It’s a no-brainer – an offer you shouldn’t be able to refuse, right?

P.S. I had a video posted here of us interviewing Miguel after the race, which clearly showed his dishonesty, but since justice prevailed, I removed it. I actually feel sorry for the guy now. It’s now time to move on and put it all behind us. We learned some great lessons, and got some good ideas about how to prevent this in the future, so there was some benefit to all this drama. It also pulled us closer as a tribe, so everything worked out for good.

HOWEVER, I just had to post the picture below because it gave me such a great laugh. My good friend Javier (from Mexico – like Miguel), who consistently places in the top 3 in the world each year (when he doesn’t have a pulled hamstring like last year) sent me this picture comparing himself finishing with a time of 8:03 in this building, side by side to the picture of our little elevator boy, who tried to claim a time of 7:45. I bet you can guess who the real tower runner is…

Comments

  1. I get that this was a big deal to you. And I fully get that this was not right of Miguel. And that what he did was unethical and wrong. But I believe he got fired from his job because of this!

    This guy may have gotten FIRED from his job of 11 years as a simple building maintenance guy because he cheated in a stair climb event. So I know you’re incredibly passionate about this.. but do you really think he deserved to be fired from his job for this? Making a very poor decision during a fundraising event is one thing. But loosing your job is another entirely. Where do you stand on this?

    • From what I understand, since he was an employee of the building management company, rumor and hearsay indicates that they felt he breached security and/or abused his privileges as an employee with security clearance to pull this off. I’m sure there were others involved as well, and he may have been the ringleader to the whole posse, which would indicate he is a bad influence to co workers. Since this climb only happens because off close cooperation between the ALA and building management, it’s a bigger deal than if he had been an employee with a company that was not directly affiliated. Heck, he said himself the very next day, that he was worried about losing his job, so that indicates he even thought his actions could be grounds for termination. Personally, if I had an employee who cheated like this in a climb, I would question his character and would find it hard to trust him after that. This was more than just a funny prank. It was an elaborate scheme to cheat the system. It clearly demostrated an obvious and major character flaw in my opinion. I suspect that he had successfully done this once before and attempted it unsuccessfully a couple other times in previous years, so there seems to be a pattern of this kind of deceit. Personally, I would not want to employ someone like that in my company. The management company is being understandably confidential on the facts, so I’m just going on personal hunches here, but they obviously felt strongly enough about the facts that they do have to make that kind of a decision.

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