Sunday, November 23, 2008
Why this race is so extraordinary? Not only up front is there an amazing duel but there are really 3 different races within the same event, each one is seriously a super high-quality clash. It’s going to make for some intense drama. Let me show you what is on deck.
The individual title at the beginning of the season seemed to be a completed contest before it even commenced. This about it: Galen Rupp, an Senior for the University of Oregon, and long-time child prodigy, qualified for the Beijing Olympics and not only competed in the Olympics but ended up getting 13th in the 10,000m and was the first white guy to finish. He’s 22. Fast-forward a few months to the NCAA Pre-Nationals meet in Terre Haute, IN. A lot of people were talking about a guy from Liberty named Sam Chelanga, a kid from Kenya who just played table-tennis until it was time to go to college. That didn’t get him anywhere so he picked up running and turns out, he’s amazing. I had heard about his race at Paul Short where he set a course record, but most didn’t think he had any chance at Rupp. Now, let's go to pre-nats. There are 2 separate races at Pre-nats so it doesn’t spoil the surprise of the real championship. We raced in the first race and did well. Each race had 40 of the top 80 teams in the country. We started running around to cool down and to watch the other race cuz I wanted to see Sam Chelanga try and live up to his name. I’m standing about 3k into the 8k race and my jaw drops. I couldn’t believe it. He was already alone and well off the front of a super-elite field. The order went like this: [pace car]-[Chelanga]-[pace car]-[pace car]-[rest of the race]. It was already over. When I saw him come into the finish, I couldn’t see anyone else. Come to find out, he went through 1k in 2:30 (that’s 2:00 800m or 4:00 mile pace) and through the mile at 4:16. He broke the course record by 4 seconds, on a slow day. He won by 44 sec. He is world-class. Half the country jumped on the Chelanga band-wagon including the famous Let’s Run.com guys saying that they guarantee that Sam Chelanga will win NCAAs.
Right at the peak of the Chelanga-parade, word of Galen Rupp’s training broke out of Let’s Run’s message board. The famous 30-40 workout. Oregon has been doing this since the 60’s, in fact the legendary Steve Prefontaine (the only distance guy non-runners have ever heard of) did this workout back in his prime. The workout is basically a workout of attrition. The whole team starts it and they run a 40 sec 200m (5:20/mile pace) then you do a 30 sec 200m (4:00/mile pace). You keep alternating like that and when you fall off pace, you get pulled. Pre had held the record at Oregon for decades at 20 laps. Rupp went 24. Destroyed a 40 year record. After that news broke, nobody knew what to think. On one hand you have Chelanga who broke last year’s NCAA champ Josh McDougal’s CR at Pre-nats and beat everyone by 40 sec, but then you have Rupp, an Olympian who broke Pre’s 30-40 record. Let’s Run got scared about their guarantee but maintained their position. Later on, Rupp finally raced at Pac-10’s and won the toughest conference in the country by 37 seconds and the West Regional (toughest region in the country) by 51 seconds.
Honestly, my money is on Rupp, the kid is hitting form now instead of in September when Pre-nats was ran. However, obviously Rupp pushed it and Chelanga just cruised his regional meet. So who's fresh?
Ok, I’ve been saying this all year, Oklahoma State will win NCAAs. I’m going out on a limb on this one but I really think it’s gonna happen. Nike U (aka Oregon) is basically like the Yankees of the NCAA XC world. Tons of the top kids go there and get next to nothing in scholarships. Their team is so deep, their second team would be able to compete well with national powers. Last year Oregon won NCAAs fairly easily, they didn’t lose a single person from their top 7 and this year picked up Luke Puskedra from Utah that was one of the top 3 recruits in the country (I’ll talk about him later). You’d think they’d be unbeatable, right? How can the national champs lose when they have everyone back? Well, Oklahoma State finished 3rd last year but they picked up some big talent this year. I would like to throw out a bunch of 5k PRs and XC times for their guys but essentially they got the new 2 mile high school national record holder and the 5th best recruit along with a huge transfer in John Kosgei from LSU. I honestly think the nail in the coffin was the effort each team gave at regionals. Oklahoma St. cruised their top 4 guys and their 5th didn’t even run whereas Oregon basically raced everyone and their guys ran their guts out. I’m a big fan of the underdog, watch for Ok St, they’re gonna run well.
The last main battle this year is among the n00bs. This year’s incoming class has to be one of the best to ever come to the NCAA if not the best. It’s insane. I could go into their respective history to really show what we’re dealing with, but there’s not enough time. I have a test tomorrow. The top 3 ranked teams in the country got at least one of the top 5 freshmen. Oregon got Luke Puskedra (8:40 2 mile, sub 4:10 indoor mile), Oklahoma State got German Fernandez (2 mile NR holder, 4:00 mile) and Colby Lowe (sub 4:10 miler), and Stanford got Chris Derrick (13:55 5k). These three have been battling all season, especially Derrick and Puskedra. In the Pac-10, Puskedra beat Derrick by just a few seconds, but when they moved to 10k at regionals, Derrick won by less than a second. German Fernandez has been flying all season, in fact he beat 2-time NCAA 10k champ, Shadrack Songok at Big XII’s. Many say that he could pull a 3rd place finish. Nats is going to be interesting cuz it’s the first time that all of them will face each other.
That’s about it. It’s gonna be amazing, if you have CSTV, watch it tomorrow starting at 10 am. If not, go to NCAA.com and watch it there.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
This one has been on my mind for quite a while now, but I’ve never been in the mood to really write it down for the great preoccupation of my mind on previously mentioned topics. It all really started with my return to the world of Cross-Country. I came into this season once again recovering from a lingering injury and so I was pretty much way out of shape. Running at the D1 level doesn’t exactly allow one to just jump in and be even remotely competitive. So, needless to say, I was behind in a big way and it was rough, mostly physically but also a little mentally. Every one of my workouts felt like a race, not one time did it feel good or even enjoyable. I dreaded every day of it. Close your eyes and do this for me: Imagine needing to go to work every day and it required you to drive yourself into complete exhaustion and extreme hypoxia and vomiting. Eventually it would get old. Such was my running. But after the passing of a few weeks, I started to hit my stride (yes, pun intended) and close the gap between me and the rest of the team. We do a workout called the “Canyon Run” that is essentially a 3 mile time-trial up the canyon road, and then the run back. It’s brutal and we do it on alternating weeks. By the third time I was doing ok again, not good, just ok (I never have done good in XC fyi, so relatively I was doing good) When we finished the TT, we stop at the top, regain consciousness and run back to the school. Slowly, mind you. But this particular time it was really hot and I had just moved up to 50 miles per week so I wasn’t looking forward to the extra distance I had to cover. Connor and I decided that we need to cool off cuz we were dying. We left the road and went down to the waterfall along the river in the canyon and he stuck his head in there. I just walked into it and stood there. It was pretty cold water but it was amazing. I just stood there, facing downstream holding my arms straight out to the side letting the water pour all over me. I couldn’t get myself to leave. I ran all the way home soaked and with squishing shoes but I hadn’t felt that good in literally years and I don’t mean physically, emotionally, it was elating. I’m not exaggerating in the slightest. This brings me to the point of this blog post. Contrast.
Life can suck at times. It seems that we only recognize our condition in life when things aren’t going very well but I’ve lived long enough to figure out that life always rebounds no matter the circumstance. It’s just difficult to see very far when you’re in a hole. I read part of a talk from this last General Conference by L. Tom Perry that basically said this same thing. He started off saying that “Those of us who have been around a while—and Elder Wirthlin and I have been around for a long time—have recognized certain patterns in life’s test. There are cycles of good and bad times, ups and downs, periods of joy and sadness, and times of plenty as well as scarcity. When our lives turn in an unanticipated and undesirable direction, sometimes we experience stress and anxiety. One of the challenges of this mortal experience is to not allow the stresses and strains of life to get the better of us—to endure the varied seasons of life while remaining positive, even optimistic.”
I’ve decided that it’s the contrast in life that makes life even worth living. I think I’ve vocalized this to some before, but it’s true. I knew Ashley would enjoy her summer being in Hawai’i but I also knew she’d want to get back home toward the end. I lived in resort towns on the Mediterranean Sea and on an island in the middle of the Atlantic and despite the exotic locations, it eventually became normal and I got bored. I needed a change. What makes things exciting in life is the fact that they’re different than what is currently happening. I believe that’s exactly why I suck at XC, I get sick of the constant agony that seems to last forever over 8k. On the other hand, I love the mid-distances of track because the pain is excruciatingly intense, but it doesn’t last very long. It changes. There’s variation. I wish it were possible to perfectly recall this when life gets tough, because honestly sometimes it almost makes trials enjoyable just for the sake of switching things up. Not always, but sometimes. In fact I think one of the most important things in the world is “perspective.” Our lives and our attitudes toward our circumstances totally and absolutely depend on our perspective. I mean, on my mission it was the most evident because people would curse God because they couldn’t believe that He would allow people to commit crimes and hurt other people, when really they lacked the understanding that right now, in this sphere, it seemed like a blatant injustice. How? They asked. If they had a larger perspective and comprehended that we don’t just exist here in this life, that wrongs will be righted, it would make sense to them. I need to work on this myself, but gratitude is lacking when it comes to the variation that God gives us here on Earth. He allows the good times to exist by giving us the rough ones.
If I were to jump into that same waterfall while I was cold, there’d be no enjoyment, I guarantee you, simply because of the lack of contrast.
P.S. If you were wondering what the last one was about, this song was going to be part of it (mostly the last line):
Boxcar Racer – There Is - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVmraPwCPEk
Heidi, that’s why you need to keep the referrals coming…
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Sorry guys, not exactly sports related this time. More of an observatory rant. It all started when Graham and I were discussing a few things one night and we began identifying all the different “genres” of dudes down here at SUU. On occasion one of us would come home with the discovery of a new species of douches and end up laughing for like 30 min about it. Sooooo funny! Now, some claim that I'm a hater and very opinionated (Ashley, mostly because I'm talking about the dudes always at her house), but let me explain real quick. I'm more of an observer instead of being constantly lost in the confusion of life, running around with my head cut off. Because of this, I tend to formulate opinions and theories concerning my surroundings. Other times, people think I float through life without an opinion at all and that I'm completely indifferent about anything and everything (my parents). In actuality, I'm very much a combo of the two, not a hater though, I just happen to see things people don't a lot of times. They'll figure it out someday. Ok, so, to the topic at hand. Today's douchebag genre of the week. (there's more of these to come)
“Tacoma w/ Dirtbike Always in the Back Guy.”
I find that I am able to look beyond people's actions frequently and see their motives behind their actions. For this reason the Tacoma w/ Dirtbike Always in the Back Guy is so freakin' funny/ridiculous because I know why he keeps it in there, and it's not to ride.
Crucial Fact: Girls are suckers for guys with motorcycles.
The opinion of the majority of girls is that all guys are stupid. Now, this is the case for a few, but don't tag all of us as stupid, oft times we actually use that to our advantage to get out of the weird situations you and your posse of friends put us in. Also, the dudes with the dirtbikes aren't as stupid as many girls may assume (referring to their intelligence). They use this technique for many reasons: To show how hard-core they are cuz they ride dirt bikes. To start up conversation with chicks about the fact they have a dirt bike. To be like “hey, we should go on ride sometime...on my dirt bike.” "It's right there." "In the back of my truck." "See it?" In fact, I'm sure the majority of them are hunters/fishers (I'm not gonna use the term “outdoorsman”) and they definitely have learned to lure in whatever they're hunting pretty well. But the thing that bugs me about these dudes, is the fact that they do it. Another thing I don't like is falsity, these guys just walk around with a giant façade in the back of their trucks. What's great is that these dudes come with options too. Tacoma with dirt bike. F-150 with four-wheeler. Silverado with 2 dirt bikes. Switch em up if you'd like. But they NEVER TAKE THEM OUT OF THEIR TRUCKS! Unless of course it's on a “date.” They're always just strapped in there. I mean, can't you store it until you use it?
It's so easy to see and girls don't see it and I don't know how. How the tables have turned. We're the stupid ones? Seriously? It's like when I'm out fishing, I'm like “how the freak don't the fish see the huge hook jetting out of that worm??” Now, I'm in this situation, and I'm thinking “how the freak don't these chicks see this dude just waiting for girls to come ask him about his bike, that is always sitting there, in the back of his Tacoma?” Seriously kids.
Friday, August 29, 2008
Now that the Olympics are over and the dust has settled, it's time for me to look back and give my own synopsis of the proceedings. One of the biggest stars of the Beijing Games was, as you probably guessed, Michael Phelps (and his mom, but do not get me started on that one). He did some great stuff, I mean, 8 gold medals is absolutely amazing and obviously setting 7 world records in one competition is nothing to be forgotten soon. However, there's a line, and when NBC started to advertise their new DVD touting Michael Phelps as the “Greatest Olympian of All Time,” they crossed it. (P.S. Don't get me started on NBC and how they single-handedly destroyed the Olympics for this whole country either). I mean, I don't even consider Phelps' performance as the greatest performance of this Olympics. Whoa, put down the pitchfork for a sec, I'll explain. I know it might be hard to fathom at first. “How can that be possible, he was on TV so much??” you say. We all know that NBC did so well at covering everything this Olympics but surprisingly there were a couple [billion] things they missed, so let me fill you in. Let us turn to the marquee sport of the Olympics, Track and Field. Surprised? Shouldn't be, it's where the greatest performances of the Beijing Games occurred. Lemme introduce a kid named Usain Bolt. After the waves calmed at the Water Cube and most the nation was worshiping Phelps for his “inhuman” speed and endurance, other sports commenced and most forgot to pay attention. A kid from Jamaica named Usain Bolt won 3 gold medals and set 3 world records. But how on Earth can I claim that Bolt > Phelps?? How is is 3 bigger than 8? [looks confused while holding hands mimicking a scale] Most of the comparisons across the sports are done by using raw numbers, like, 8 golds vs. 3, which turns out, is completely flawed. Sports also differ in the facility that one can earn gold medals.
Let me illustrate the difference between swimming and track. Phelps was able to win 8 golds; 5 individual events and 3 relays. The distances covered in each event were very similar which allow for massive hauls in the medal count. For this exact reason the old medal count record holder was also a swimmer: Mark Spitz. For a runner, it's seriously next to impossible to approach those kind of numbers. Let's figure what range Bolt would have to have to compete just on sheer numbers. He'd have to win the 100 m, 200 m, 400 m, 4x100 m, 4x400 m, 800 m, 1500 m, and 3000m Steeple. It's difficult for the layman to understand the massive difference there is between a steeplechase runner and a 100m runner, but it's basically never been done even at a high school level. Now, take that to a world-class level, it's impossible.
Here's a quote to help everyone understand that I'm not alone on this one:
"Swimming events take place in a 50-metre pool. All events are multiples of 50. Swimmers traverse the distances in different styles: going forward in freestyle, in breaststrokes, like a butterfly, or going backwards in a backstroke, and a combination (medley) of all the four. There are several relays for each of these styles and medleys, over varying distances. The track and field equivalents of the swimming events are: running forward, running backwards, running sideways and a combination thereof within a 50-metre track. You get the picture! The point is, swimming and track and field are in different leagues."
-The Daily Star
Hardly getting into the biomechanics and physiolgy of swimming vs. running, suffice it to say that setting an Olympic record, then coming back 40 min later and setting a WR is I-M-P-O-S-S-I-B-L-E in track, the pounding the body takes in running is many many times more intense. That's why swimmers (and cyclists) can practice for 6 hours a day and runners only 1-2.
Ok, world records. Sounds pretty important, right? What if there were more world-record breaking performances than gold medals? Kinda looses it's significance. That's swimming for ya. Did you watch the 4x100m relay when Lezak pwnd the big-mouthed French team for gold? Great race right? But did you see there were like 5 or 6 teams also under the world-record? A new WR is essentially expected in every race. Track completely differs from swimming in this regard. The 200m WR was set 12 years ago by the legendary Micheal Johnson. Nobody had approached that record since, in fact nobody had got within three-tenths of a second which is huge in a 20 second race. That's huge. The record was deemed to be virtually unbreakable. I wish I had the figures, but the 100m WR progression has crept along over the last few decades where breaking it by .02 is considered a “shattered” record. The margins of victory of .01 of a second are commonplace (sorry Phelps, I'm kinda referring to your magnificent .01 sec butterfly victory). Bolt annihilated the 100m WR, but he jogged in. He jogged it in. It was the most destructive 100m victory this world has ever seen. Nearly everybody agrees that he could have been under 9.6. I can't even begin to help you understand how extraterrestrial that would have been. I could go on, but suffice it to say that track WRs are much more difficult and rare than swimming records, several times over. My buddy from The Daily Star agrees, and so do these stats:
Over the last 30 years, the 50m Freestyle world record has dropped over 2.5 seconds. Over the same period, the 100m WR has dropped only about .3 seconds.
Participation in a sport significantly increases the talent pool in the sport and therefore creates more depth in talent and quality. Track and Field is one of the most popular sports in the world, with some of the highest participation rates. In the US, the basketball/football/baseball mecca of the world, more high school kids compete in track than any other sport. Like I said, that alone makes it so much more competitive. Swimming is big relative to obscure sports like badminton but still can't compare to the sheer number of track and field. Smaller participation allow for some prodigy like Phelps to come along and dominate because the field of athletes just isn't nearly as competitive. Many agree that swimming is like distance running was back in the 70's, if you were good, you could go around winning everything merely because there was no competition. In track, winning both the 100m and 200m in one Olympics has only happened a handful of times, but not one of those times did any of them include a WR. Bolt set 3. Correction: Bolt smashed 3.
Now don't get me wrong, Michael Phelps is an amazing athlete, possibly one of the best to ever live, but Bolt has has him beat. But because of the ignorance of network television who can't figure that Olympic greatness must be measured beyond adding 1 + 1, (and almost comically because of this, the resultant ignorance of the general public) he hasn't been recognized for the substance of his accomplishments.
Oh, and Bolt is only 22, and he's not retiring.
I won't even start with the man, Bekele. Let's leave that for another day.
Friday, August 8, 2008
Like I said before, I don't like the mainstream things in life, I enjoy forming my own opinion about everything. The Olympics is formed of a large (too large if you ask me) contingent of sporting events, some that don't get any exposure until the Olympics themselves. I intend to watch as much of the following as possible:
- Basketball (redemption, if not, will concrete my reasons for not watching the NBA)
- Beach Volleyball
- Kayaking (not canoeing)
- Cycling (especially the velodrome stuff)
- Handball (can't decide if it's more basketball or soccer)
- Shooting (don't know why this is an olympic sport but whatever)
- Swimming (they hog all the coverage though, so I might boycott)
- Table Tennis (don't know how humans can react that fast)
- TRACK AND FIELD*
- Triathlon (some of these guys can run a sub-30 min 10k after everything!)
- Water Polo
Ok, this deserves its own special paragraph. Or list. Something.
- Men's 100m- Of the 3 medal contenders, 2 are current/former world record holders and the other has the fastest time ever ran but was wind-aided. I picked Tyson Gay to win, but mostly cuz he's the American. American vs. Jamaica. Watch this one, short but sweet.
- Men's 400m- The fact that this is being run at the Olympics only makes it more exciting because it has a larger audience but the race could have been settled at the Oly Trials in July. The "Lone Star" 6'1" 155 lbs skinny white kid Jeremy Wariner vs. LeShawn Merrit, the darkhorse (no racial pun intended, he's just not the favorite, I swear). Wariner never lost for years, but this year Merrit surfaced as a legitamate threat and beat Wariner in the spring and at the U.S. Oly Trials. However, Wariner and Merrit have raced twice since the trials and Wariner ran 43.8 or .7 something insanely fast. My money is on Wariner, but you never know.
- Men's 800m- This was one of the greatest races I've ever seen in the Trials, but the Americans won't be quite as prominent on this level. However, pay attention to what the Oregon sophomore Andrew Wheating does, he always exceeds expectations, so I'm stoked to see what he does. The real race is the 18 yr old kid from Sudan who wins pole-to-pole and he does it in Nike Zoom Forevers. Those are XC shoes. Heavy ones. No clue how but he does it. The reason why this could be exciting is a Cuban and a Russian (Athens gold medal winner) Borzakovsky will be hunting.
- Men's 1500m- Ok, we never do well anything above this distance, but we have one of the most technichally sound racers ever to run the event: Bernard Lagat. He almost beat the WR holder last time in Athens, this is his race to bring the gold home for his adopted country, the USA. That is his whole goal, I hope he does it.
- Men's 5k- THIS is going to be one of the greatest events of the olympics (stay tuned for a later entry when I rant about T&F not getting one minute of live coverage the whole Olympics, and this is why). Bernard Lagat (previously mentioned) won both the 1500 and 5k at the World Championships last year. An amazing feat. The stick in the spokes this time around is the following: Kenenisa Bekele, the World Record holder in the 5 and 10k. People are betting on Lagat because of his flawless tactics and strategy combined with his lethal finishing speed. However, some forget that Bekele "The Great" ran a 52 his last lap of a 10k this year. Sadly, I think Bekele wins, but it'll cost him.
- Men's Marathon- This is crazy. We, the USA, have a legitimate shot at a medal in the Marathon. Ryan Hall, the kid who bonked at the Arcadia Mile trying to hang on to Alan Webb back in high school, has an outside shot at this one. The thing is, the WR might not stand either so he's gonna have to be on his game or he's through. Too many elite Africans there to make you pay for any mistake along the 26.2 miles.
Sorry that was so long, but it's a special occasion.
P.S. While you're in the sporting mood, check this out. A man from Sandy, UT is in the middle of a record attempt of the Appalachian Trail. Over 2000 miles in 47 days. Insane.