Thursday, June 30, 2011

Anti Media Rant #2

Another media ‘expert’ on track and field. This one actually writes for an Oregon paper.

‘decline in relevance as a spectator sport (since the early 1990s)’ . Brilliant observation!! He’s basing his whole article on the well-known fact that TnF lost ground in the ‘90s. He does not cite the last 4-5 years and how much more exposure we’ve gotten.

“Difficult for the casual fan to follow…” ok, so pay attention!!!

‘It’s metric’; God forbid people actual learn what a meter is, and it’s easier to multiply by 10 than by 12, isn’t it?

‘Difficult to televise..too much happening at once…’ Are you kidding? The writer would rather sit through a 4 hr 1-0 baseball game with most of the time spent idling in between plays? The Prefontaine is an awesome meet because there is no wasted time for the spectators.

“The sport becomes numbers driven…a football game has a (more) definitive outcome…” Tell that to Khadevis, who lost an Olympic slot to Christian Smith by 0.06 seconds. Not a clear outcome? The writer  disparages the Hayward Crowd because they knew the significance of a high schooler running an 8:29 two mile.
And how can something be 'numbers driven' without a definitive outcome? I'm an engineer, and this one puzzles me.

“NCAA Prelims… treats the general public as an afterthought….the best athletes deliver throttled down performances to qualify with minimum efforts.” So, baseball/football/basketball players don’t do the same thing just prior to the playoffs so they can ‘save’ their best performances for when it counts most? They call them PRELIMS for a reason.

“…I tried to set up an interview with a local athlete…was told the athlete wasn’t doing interviews until after the championships.” More sour grapes; this sounds just like another writer who thinks the sport revolves around himself. Tough beans, Mr. Reporter, the athlete needs to keep his head on straight before the race. He’ll give you the world after the race, but leave him alone before. 

Let me make a suggestion; start a relationship with the athlete BEFORE you want something from them. Or do you show up only when there's something in it for you?

‘’…wouldn’t happen in the NFL with Media Day (reporters getting stiffed). Ok, Mr Reporter, pay T&F athletes what the NFL gets, and we’ll make sure they do your interview.

“Track and field is run by participants, for participants…a bubble of self-absorption."  Yes, it’s a sport that requires commitment and individual performance, with no one else to help you on Race Day. No, it might not a great spectator sport to the average guy sitting on his couch. if you’re not a fan. But a spectator who doesn’t know the sport doesn’t know what it feels like to negative split a race or to set a PR.

Athletes need to pick and choose their events. In T&F, you can't compete at a high level every week because the body doesn't work like that. In football and baseball, there is much downtime during competition in which to recovery. No rest to be had during a 3000m steeple.

I simply cannot stand ignorant people who think track should be more like other sports. It’s inherently different.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Homemade Energy Gel

It's not that I mind the store-bought stuff, but a buck and a half for one ounce?
And I like doing things myself. But I'm also lazy...

So I do a search and find an interesting recipe online:

1/4 c rice syrup
1/4 c malt syrup
2 oz honey or blackstrap molasses
2 oz agave nectar
1 tbs peanut butter (melted)

Mix 'em up and taste: awfully sweet. To counteract, add a small amount of coffee grounds and sea salt. Not bad. Then I put a little bit of soy milk or water to thin it out; otherwise, it flows like 40 weight oil.

Enough to fill a couple of flasks. I tried the recipe during my first tri of the year and rocked it, no stomach issues and plenty of late energy.

A few other recipes I found:

7 tbs honey
3/4 tbs blackstrap molasses
sea salt

2 parts rice syrup
1 part carob powder
sea salt

  • Salt (sodium) and blackstrap (potassium) will help electrolyte depletion
  • Agave nectar is among the best for long-term energy (low glycemic index)
  • Dates are good for quick energy, though they have some fiber. Will investigate further
  • You'll need to wash this potion down with water
Kinda fun to play around with this stuff. And it seems to work.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A model student

The wife of my daughter's 1st grade teacher just happened to mention wanting to complete a triathlon, with no racing experience or any idea how to train.

Nick (grinning): "I'll write a comprehensive and customized training plan, and it will cost you exactly.....nothing."

Boy, I can sell 'em, can't I?

The goal was the Pacific Crest Olympic Tri. She was hoping to finish in 5 hours. I wrote the plan, complete with bricks, tempo runs, and speed work. After 2 months of tracking her progress, I knew she would be well under 4 hrs. But I didn't tell her that.

In training, she went to the 51 degree reservoir, suited up, and got in. The pictures are priceless; her face is toward the sky, no doubt in agony. Then she's running out of the water like she has something better to do.

Then she went all in. Water that cold can do bad things to a body, and we're not talking about just being uncomfortable. She really, REALLY wanted to turn around and get out, but some stubborn coach got between her and dry land and convinced her to keep going.

It'll get better, he said. And it did.

So what does she do the next day? She goes back and jumps in again. And again. Just to be sure she could do it when it counted. Then she rode the bike course several times to get an idea of the hills.

I couldn't have asked for a better student.

Race day; she warms up in the water, and the nerves disappear. Sweet.

I'm waiting for her after T2, not sure what to expect. But here she comes, literally dancing and smiling while running a minute per mile faster than she's supposed to. Slow down, kiddo.

Bricks are the key. So is consistency. She nailed her training plan, and today it shows.

2 miles left and still smiling?

Now she tells me to get lost, she wants the last bit all to herself. I take off for the finish line, and here she comes.

All this, and a sprint to end it all...
She figured on sub-5 hr, hoped for sub-4, and got 3:37.

I wish I could say I was a genius in writing her training plan (and I was), but she did all the work in fine style. And she immediately started thinking about her next race.

6 hours later, she looked fresher than I did.

Nice job, Meg.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Blue Lake Olympic Triathlon

First tri of the year, and second ever.

My one and only marathon last October was a disaster due to a bad pre-race dinner that got me sick and caused me to cramp at 8 miles.

This time, we stayed with friends near the race. Before dinner, Karen laid out some great salami to nosh on. Couldn't help myself. Then dinner, corned beef sandwiches. Just one, please, since I have a big day tomorrow. Maybe all the sodium will do me some good.

If you're thinking that Campbell once again screwed it up big-time....

You'd be dead, dead wrong.

  • Work the 1500m swim hard in about 28:30
  • Cycle 25.5 miles in at least 16.5 mph, my half ironman goal
  • Run 10k in 8:30 pace, slightly faster than my 9:00 half iron goal
  • Hopefully sneak in under 3 hrs overall
 This race is one of two tune-ups before IM Lake Stevens 70.3, so I wanted to really nail the pace. And a much more accomplished friend suggested I negative split each leg to build strength. Good idea, Sean.

  • Swim 30:25   not bad, but thought I was going faster. 
  • Bike 1:16  averaged 20.1 mph. My, my...
  • Run 50:23, averaged 8:08 per mile
  • Overall 2:43 and change.
I didn't know my time or splits until late last night. You should have seen my face.

Race day:
Woke early, found a local Starbucks to get fuel and a newspaper. The day before was NCAA track championships, and the Oregon women were in the lead with the last events on Saturday. But the newspaper is the Sunday early edition, which I don't find out until I've bought it. No results. Arrrrgggh. PS Oregon lost by 4 points.

Drive to the race site, start unloading. Nice to be early, you get a good spot to park your bike in the transition zone. Then I discovered a bad thing about my new bike, having removed the seat cages the day before...

There's no good place to put the saddle bag without the cages attached.  The lack of a seatpost is suddenly a big problem. I spent probably 30 minutes doing a MacGyver fix and strapping that sucker down. Good thing I had some velcro with me.

Into the water for warmups. First time using a sleeveless wetsuit. I jump in, and the water is cool and comfortable. People around me are shivering in full length suits, yet the water temp was probably 65 or so. That trip to Wickiup Reservoir was definitely a huge help in acclimatization; thanks, Shellie and the Deschutes Multisport Club!!

My wave gets in the water for the start. People look nervous; I relax them by patting myself down and saying, "Oh s***, my wallet is still in here." Broke 'em up.

The organizers didn't let us warm up, and I got into slight oxygen debt once we got going. Roll, reach, relax. Things calmed down a bit. Sighting was ok, and I was able to draft a little bit. Thanks for the tips, Dr. John. Good segment.

Out of the water, grab the bike. Transition was 3:47, not horrible. Couple hundred yard run to the bike mount line, so I had the shoes already on the cleats and didn't bother with socks. Great idea, except once on the bike I couldn't get my feet into the shoes, and I was on the verge of pulling another fubar like last week. So I stopped and took care of things. Lost a couple of minutes.

Then we're rolling. The first couple of miles seemed hard for the speed I was pulling. Wanted to keep heart rate below 155 and see what that gives me; 155 is borderline threshold for me.

Is the term 'borderline threshold' a little bit redundant?

The course goes along the river and the PDX landing approach. I notice planes are going in the same direction as us; that means a headwind for now. At 14 miles, we'll turn around, so we'll be getting pushed. Plus, the planes waiting to take off will be dumping their jet exhaust onto our backs; even more of a tailwind!

I bide my time, keeping heart rate in check. A big guy goes past, he's in my age group, so I stay close. He's probably 6'5" and stout, I figure I can take him on the run.

At the 14 mile point, we turn back. I'm take a quick peek and see I'm averaging 18.0 mph, very cool. See if I can get up a little bit without blowing. Next thing I know, I jump one or two gears comfortably. And I switch back to mileage and heart rate display; don't want to obsess about speed, I just need to know what is comfortable.

Turns out I did the last 11 miles at about 23 mph. What??? And my heartrate stayed tight. Man, it was something to fly up behind another racer and just blow by them with a 5mph differential. Nice thing about being old; my age group wave was the 9th one to start, so I had lots of targets to shoot for.

And I was still keeping the effort in check. Big thanks to Kevin, Joseph, and Riley at DMC for dragging me along on the big weekend rides.

Dismount went ok, was able to unbuckle on the fly without crashing. Brisk trot to transition, then running shoes on. Now, the real test...

First mile felt good. No, great. 7:50 or so. ????? This is nuts. Ok, nice job, but it'll start hurting soon.

Except it doesn't.

I get smart and pull back anyway. Halfway through at 8:15 pace. Way ahead of schedule, but feeling ok. Take a drink, and now it's show time.

Picking runners off, one at a time...When it starts to hurt at 4 miles, do the Mark Allen thing and empty the head. Don't think. At all. About anything.

It works.

Mark won the Hawaii Ironman 6 times, once running the marathon segment in 2:40, still a Hawaii record. He knows what it means to be hurting and to hurt others; his nickname is The Grip, because he would just squeeze harder and harder until the competition imploded.

Into the park, a half mile to go. Three or four people within shouting distance, and I got 'em all. The last one was a 36 year old woman; I came up to her with a hundred yards left and absolutely hit the burners. She saw me coming and frantically picked it up. I swear I audibly said to her, 'no way,' and beat her to the finish.

Over the line to get the chip removed. Almost lost it here (not my cookies); I knew I had a good race, though I wasn't sure how good. There's that feeling of knowing you had a race plan and just nailed it. Pretty emotional without yet knowing the specifics.

BTW, now it hurt pretty hard for a couple of minutes. Breathe, you dumbs***, breathe.
My last three miles were right on 8:00 pace. Hey Sean, I did those negative splits you wanted, and on every leg. Thanks for dangling the carrot.

Great training day. Didn't blow coming off the bike, got great data in terms of pace and comfort level, and the late push on each segment was a huge confidence boost. Kristen and Zoe were there to record the finish: however, this was within several minutes of finishing, and I'm still not sure exactly where I am. Things soon became a bit less foggy.

  • A winter spent riding rollers is gold
  • A winter spent skate skiing is gold
  • Racing according to feel (not time) is gold
  • God loves negative splitters
 That was one good, good day. Must have been the salami.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Another great (?) ride...

Super day of training, thanks the Deschutes Multisport Club. A dip in the balmy reservoir, a 50 mile bike ride toward the mountain, and a couple mile run to get the legs ready.


One of my aero bar pads lost its sense of Velcro and flew off the bike while driving to the swim. No big.

Then I started putting my wetsuit on backwards before I realized it. Duh.

Did I mention the 51 degree water? Anything that cold should have the Titantic in it.

The bike ride: my water bottle cages are behind the seat, making it hard to reach for a drink. And a triathlon bike by definition is unstable when one hand is off the handlebars. And I've been on this particular bike exactly three times. And I was trying to keep up with strongmen Riley and Joseph.

You can see where this is going. An unplanned swerve off the asphalt.

That ain't strawberry jam...

Good news; no damage to the bike, and my brand new club racing outfit remains unscathed. Well, maybe a bit scathed. The 'no bike damage' part was really good, since we were 25 miles from nowhere and the car.

Kinda wish I took a picture of the trench I involuntarily dug in the gravel ditch. I was spitting rocks for miles, but all teeth are intact. Too bad no pix of me flying o'er the handlebars;  just as well, since I forgot to do the less invasive somersault. Instead, I used my face to slow myself down.

Kids, don't try this at home.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

2011 Prefontaine Classic

Awesome meet.

Had a friend flying in from Nashville on Friday night, but she was all in to see her first track meet. So I roused everyone at 0530 Saturday so we could hit the road (I needed to be there at 0900 to get lined up with the other officials).

Sat at a McDonald's for 15 minutes with no one in front of us while the help tried to harvest the last remaining McMuffins remaining in the world. Put us behind schedule.

Normally not a big deal except this is a huge meet on international TV. In the US, the Pre is second only to the Olympic Trials. So I call the head umpire and tell him I'll be about 10 minutes late, but still 20 minutes early for the march-on. "No problem," he says. "Now we're going on after the National Anthem, not before. Plenty of time." So I decelerate from warp speed and enjoy the drive.

Also wanted to get there early so 8-year-old Zoe could get a front-row seat. Last year, she and Kristen were way up in the nosebleed section. This time, 3rd row from the track. Not much better than that. And the head umpire positioned me directly in front of her, about 15 yards away. Since this meet was so important, I had to be subtle while making faces at her. Didn't want to cause an international incident, you see.


Mo Farah (GB) held the lead into the last lap of the 10,000, when the Ethiopians and Kenyans were poised to pounce. Then Mo just ran away from them, smoked 'em good. Something like 6 or 7 guys under 27 minutes, just insane.

Oscar Pistorius finished last in the men's 400, not notable except he's a double lower leg amputee. His time was under 47 seconds. No wonder they call him the Blade Runner. The winning time by a double Gold Medalist was slower than OU freshman Mike Berry ran this season. Disclaimer; it's early in the pro season, and it's not an Olympic year, so the pros are using this meet as a tune-up. But still....

Carmelita Jeter took the women's 100m, convincingly beating the Jamaican Olympic gold medalist and running close to Flo-Jo time.

Can't say enough about David Oliver (110HH):  he was undefeated last year while running all over the world. Today he was head to head with the 2004 Olympic gold medalist Li Jiang and took him down. David was 0.07 off the world record in an awesome race. He's built like a linebacker, shoulders as wide as a car. And he sounds like a genuinely nice guy who is grateful to have such an opportunity. Go get it, DO.

China's Li Jiang is a HUGE celebrity in his country, and today he had a rowdy group of countrymen and women cheering him on, complete with indecipherable banners.

After Beijing, I had thought that Bernard Lagat was pretty much done. He was 34 or 35 in 2008, didn't have a good Olympics, and Father Time appeared to have him sewn up. So all Bernard does is hang close during the two mile, get into perfect position going into the last turn, and hit the jets while running smooth like butter to finish with a 54 second lap. He made it look easy, like he erased 8 years from the calendar.

But the story of the race was in last place. 18 year old Lukas Verzbickas, an incoming UO freshman, tore 5 seconds off the national high school record with an 8:29. He looked as smooth as Bernard did, no visible strain until the last lap. Lukas was a world junior triathlon champion or some such thing, but has evidently decided to do all his talking on the track. Lucky for us local folk.

The final event, the Bowerman Mile, is named after the former head coach at UO and co-founder of that little shoe company that sounds something like Nicky. Bill B was also the guy who convinced Steve Pre to run at Oregon back in 1969 or so, and Pre's mother received a huge ovation at the meet. In the Mile, pretty much everyone finished under 4 minutes. Nice way to finish.

Friend of a friend worked on the restoration of Hayward Field back in '74 (The Pre Classic began as the Hayward Restoration Meet). The friend remembers sawing away while Pre was doing a Bill Dellinger workout. Namely, 12 x 400m in 60s with 15s rest.  Pre would cross the line, jog a small circle, then hit it once more.

Read that again, track fans.

We found out that our daughter's second grade teacher Kay was at Pre's last meet, the night he died. And her husband was at the party where Pre was last seen alive. Surreal.

RIP Steve Prefontaine

Friday, June 3, 2011

Anti-Media Rant #1

Alan Abrahamson is a T&F blogger for NBC Sports, and he recently penned a diatribe entitled: Track and Field, going nowhere fast in the United States...
It's hard for me to take any professional critic seriously when all they do is comment on the alleged shortcomings of others while not pitching in to help the cause themselves. It's oh so easy to say what's wrong without being responsible for actually fixing the problem.

Much of Abramson's agita seems like it's concentrated on his belief that Eugene/Nike/USATF don't do enough to cater to the media!!! He says that we need more cameras on the infield to see the athletes up close. I don't know; I saw cameras literally 2 feet from the pole vaulters at the Pre, right in their faces. Hard to concentrate on clearing the bar when the cameraman won't give you any space.

Abramson also mentioned that he couldn't get a newspaper job in Eugene or Oregon when he left college. Is his entire premise based on sour grapes?

Now he wants a reality show based on sprinters all trying to make the team while living under the same roof? No, no, no. Part of the reason our country has lost stature is that we've become 'way too much sizzle and not enough steak.' I don't want the Kardashians on my track!!!

Then he says we should capture athletes talking smack to each other like in basketball and football. Two reason why I disagree completely:

 #1 see previous paragraph, that's just more of the dumbing down of America.

#2 Shawn Crawford already tried it and got blasted. In the Athens 100m semis, he and Justin Gatlin were side by side and blowing away the field by 60 meters. Shawn turns to Justin and starts talking smack in the middle of the race. Ok, fine. No put downs, no belittling of opponents, just two friends celebrating their success. I loved it. But who didn't love it? The NBC announcer on the telecast who said it was a classless act. That's the same NBC that employs Alan Abrahamson, the writer of the article.

Abrahamson complains about parking in Eugene. Dude, it's a college town. Park at the football stadium and take the (free) shuttle like the rest of the fans. Or bring a bike like I do, and ride to the track from South Eugene High. And is it really that big a deal to bring your own ethernet cable?
No, it's not the Super Bowl in Dallas, where the media complains about the weather because they can't play as much golf as they want. The New York/LA media didn't send anyone to the Pre? Darn. They're too busy watching the NFL and NBA self-immolate; billionaires and millionaires fighting about a couple percentage points. Good riddance.
Yes, USATF has its issues like any large organization. They looked outside the sport when they hired  Doug Logan. So how does USATF deserve derision for lacking 'out of the box thinking?' To have an outsider say that USATF is cursed with myopia and won't try anything new makes no sense.

Track/Eugene/Nike has always been about the athlete, not the media. According to Kenny Moore, Bowerman was on the infield during the '72 Trials when he heard the TV producer over a walkie-talkie telling the cameraman to get on the track and take shots of each 200 m runner so the network could run a commercial. Bowerman stood on the camera cord so the guy couldn't move, and ordered the race to start on schedule.

When we're comparing track to other major sports, consider this: USATF and Major League Baseball were invited to appear before Congress to discuss doping policies. Craig Masback, USATF CEO, arrived with a binder 4" thick, complete with testing protocols, verification requirements, adherence policies, etc...

The baseball lawyer had a 2 page memo.

So, which sport cares more about the sport itself, and which sport cares only about its image? If major league baseball and football had track's drug testing requirements, there would be no major league baseball and football.

And let's talk 'All Star' teams. Baseball, football pick their all-stars via popularity contest. It's not uncommon for players on the disabled list to get selected! USATF picks its Olympic and World Championship teams in a very democratic and straightforward manner: show up and place 1,2, or 3. No ifs, ands, or buts. It's put up or shut up, and 'reputation' or 'experience' don't count. It's who gets to the finish line first. Very clear criteria.

Now that I've got my blood pressure up....