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Saturday, November 24, 2007

SI Sports"man" of the Year

In the leadup to naming their 54th annual Sportsman of the Year on December 3rd, Sports Illustrated's writers are posting columns about the nominees. You can even make your own comment (not that it will make any difference). Track's entries so far are Paula Radcliffe and Allyson Felix.

The latter column, by the usually-excellent Tim Layden, lapses so far into the realm of the ordinary that I half expected to read that "the night was sultry". I'll excuse it because 1,000 words is not enough to sum up what Felix has done this year athletically, and what she could conceivably do for the professional end of the sport in the future. In a nutshell: more reliable than Alan Webb, more camera-friendly than Tyson Gay, more trustworthy than Marion Jones, and just might become as good as Michael Johnson.

I have not posted much lately, even on my most excellent (as usual) trip to the NCAA cross country championships. This is because I'm moving next week. It's difficult to believe that I've accumulated this much crap in the ten years I've lived in this house...So my next post will probably not be up for at least a week.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

NCAA XC Preview

I'll be in attendance at Monday's Division I championships in Terre Haute.

TV coverage:
CSTV (live), Monday at noon

Web coverage:
Coaches' association website (via CSTV), live Monday at noon

All the basic info is at the coaches' association's "Championship central"
meet website -- entry lists -- final polls
Tribune-Star preview -- CSTV preview

Let's Run's predictions

Men's race (begins at 12:08 PM)
The team favorite is Oregon, with Colorado, Iona, UTEP and Wisconsin figured as the major contenders. Personally I always figure for Colorado to beat their pre-meet ranking, and since they're #2 right now I guess I'd have to make them my pick to win.

As far as individuals go, that's always a more wide-open race. Lopez Lomong has already had a full-page story in USA Today and been featured on HBO's Real Sports; he's got serious 800m speed, so he will win a kicker's race. But these things rarely come down to a kick. Galen Rupp is a strong runner and Nike's favorite son; he'd be considered a co-favorite. Josh McDougal recorded the fastest time at pre-nats, which is less impressive than it sounds--don't bet the farm on him. Patrick Smythe of Notre Dame is a sentimental favorite after the death of Ryan Shay, but emotion alone is not enough for a national title. The essential elements to win this race are talent, conditioning, and big brass balls. Lomong will win.

Women's race (begins at 12:58 PM)
Stanford is the overwhelming favorite to win here; Oregon might be their only real challenger.

As far as the individuals go, Sally Kipyego of Texas Tech has been so dominant that no one realistically expects her to be challenged. Last year's runner up, Colorado's Jenny Barringer, was 14 seconds in arrears to Kipyego at the regional. If anyone could beat the Kenyan, it would be Barringer.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

High School "heroics"

My brother just passed this along to me. Worth a read, and a useful warning to young runners with sore lower legs.

Anti-Doping News

Bonds indicted on perjury charges. I wish this had happened a few months ago--even just one home run shy of 755.

Notable: "Shortly after the indictment was handed up, Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, was ordered released after spending most of the past year in prison for refusing to testify against his longtime friend." I guess he's ready to talk.

Discuss: old farts -- young punks

Sunday, November 04, 2007

New York City Marathon recap

1. Martin Lel (Kenya), 2:09:04
2. Abderrahim Goumri (Morocco), 2:09:16
3. Hendrick Ramaala (South Africa), 2:11:25
4. Stefano Baldini (Italy) 2:11:58
5. James Kwambai (Kenya) 2:12:

1. Paula Radcliffe (UK), 2:23:09
2. Gete Wami (Ethiopia), 2:23:32
3. Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia), 2:26:13
4. Lidiya Grigoryeva (Russia) 2:28:37
5. Catherine Ndereba (Kenya) , 2:29:08

Full results

Details? Read 'em here:
AP story
IAAF story
ABC News
Race Results Weekly

My thoughts on the New York City marathon...

While NBC did a pretty good job with their 1-hour race recap, it's just not enough. I remember back when ABC did live coverage of the whole thing, and not only did it make marathoning look cool as hell, it made Brooklyn look like an awesome place to live. Kudos to them for pioneering a rather simple innovation--showing splits for each of the previous five miles all at once. Maybe we can get lap splits like this on the track...

When Gete Wami was tracking Paula Radcliffe all the way through Central Park, I thought "We've seen this before--this will be fairly decisive when it comes". Then Wami stepped on the accelerator and...nothing happened. She ran out of gas and Radcliffe destroyed her. Coming on the heels of a long layoff, Radcliffe has now pretty much removed all doubt as to who is the greatest female marathoner of all time.

In preparation for next summer's Olympics, today's race is both a good and a bad sign for Radcliffe. While she raced very well, she also reaffirmed that she is mentally incapable of allowing anyone to run in front of her for even a few steps, and I think that inability to wait and hold back was her undoing in Athens. In a big-city invitational, there are only a few other superstars and pretenders are almost completely absent. In Radcliffe's single Worlds victory, the field was a bit thin and the weather didn't penalize an agressive start. But in Beijing, every good runner will be there and the conditions will kill off anyone who runs the first part of the race foolishly. For that race I wouldn't put down a wager on Radlciffe unless I got 20-1 odds, and I'd take even money on her DNF-ing again.

World Marathon Majors champs:
Men, Robert Cheruyiot (80 pts)
Women, Gete Wami (80 pts)

Did the series accomplish its goals? Without it, Wami would not have doubled back from Berlin, and today's women's race would have been anything but a race. I also think the emphasis on competition rather than time allowed Boston and New York to do away with rabbits (as the courses aren't time-friendly anyway) which in turn created far more interesting finishes. Yeah, I think the five major marathons definitely raised their profiles and professional marathoning as well.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Olympic Trials Marathon recap

1. Ryan Hall, 2:09:02 (OT record)
2. Dathan Ritenhein, 2:11:07
3. Brian Sell, 2:11:40
4. Khalid Khannouchi, 2:12:34

Details? Read 'em here:
Full results
AP story
IAAF story
USATF athlete quotes
Let's Run live discussion

My thoughts on the men's marathon Olympic trials...

NBC's recap did not give the race enough time to do it justice. We got a few minutes of the 5-man lead pack at halfway, then Hall breaking away at 17 miles, and then the finish. We did not get to see Brian Sell make his move into third, we did not get to see Abdirahman and Keflizighi crater.

In retrospect, Hall should have been an obvious choice to win. Ignoring the clearly over-the-hill Khannouchi, he had the best qualifying time. As a relative newcomer to marathoning, he's still on the upswing (a very short period of time for marathoners). As a 4:00 miler in high school, he's obviously got the most talent. And based on high school accomplishments, Ritz was the second-most talented athlete in the field.

Doesn't Sell just have the coolest damn mustache you've ever seen? Love the 70's badass look. Clearly, it made the difference between earning an Olympic spot or being left behind.

The Hanson ODP finally has an Olympic marathoner.

Local Ohio boy Joshua Ordway of Holgate ran extremely well to end up 21st.

The webcast could have been done better by amateurs.


After this morning's Olympic Trials webcast debacle, I shut down the computer and went out for a run. I wanted to avoid any spoilers before watching NBC's half-hour race recap. I planned to write up a nasty letter and send it to USATF, the USOC, NBC Sports, and their sponsors.

At 2:00 I turned on the TV and was shocked by the news: Ryan Shay, one of the favorites to make the team, collapsed 5 1/2 miles into the race and died almost immediately.

The news may have caused Let's Run's message board to partially crash. T&FN has a more easily read discussion. News stories: AP, USA Today, NBC, USATF, Runner's World, ESPN, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, New York Times, Let's Run discussion, and SI's always-excellent Tim Layden.

Details are still sketchy. He dropped back early, then stopped and attempted to sit down but fell face-first into the pavement. CPR and emergency transportation were given immediately but Shay was pronounced dead on arrival at Lenox Hill Hospital at 8:46 a.m. No word yet on any cause of death; an autopsy is scheduled for tommorrow.

A moment of silence was held prior to the beginning of today's Notre Dame football game, as Shay was a 2002 graduate of that university. He leaves behind newlywed wife Alicia (nee Craig). Parents Joe and Susan were not in attendance as two runners of theirs at Central Lakes (MI) HS were competing at the Michigan championships this morning.

My anger at NBC Sports for doing such a piss-poor job of broadcasting the most important and popular American road race in any four-year period has been put into perspective and muted. In respect, I will put it off for a day.

Olympic Trials, Men's marathon

It appears the Trials webcast is far more popular than the idiots at 30 Rock expected. MediaZone is overloaded and I cannot get in--it doesn't appear that anyone can.. The Let's Run live thread doesn't have a single person getting video as yet, and even the message board is slowing down and occaissionally crashing. No trouble at Track & Field News--no one goes to their site (and no one seems to be trying to watch, either).

NBC (and possibly the NYRRC) have a huge PR bust on their hands, plus the network lost out on a big ratings opportunity by deciding not to broadcast the race. This probably would have set a Saturday morning ratings record on MSNBC or CNBC.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

This week's Sports Illustrated has an interesting piece on Alberto Salazar, the former star runner turned Nike coach.
In 2001, with several million dollars from Nike, Salazar launched the Oregon Project, a challenge to the African hegemony in distance running. The program brought to Beaverton a handful of promising U.S. runners and gave them every legal advantage extant, from space-age training aids to the amenities of the Nike campus, which include a fitness center, testing labs, a two-mile wood-chip trail and the soft grass field on which Salazar would eventually collapse. But four years later the Oregon Project had produced only one moderately successful runner, Dan Browne, a 2004 U.S. Olympian in the 10,000 meters and the marathon. The lesson, Salazar says, is that "you can't take mediocre runners and expect them to achieve world-class results."
Some might instead argue that you can't expect someone to be a great coach merely because he was a great athlete and has buckets of cash to throw around. After all, a certain Kiwi maintained that "champions are everywhere, all you have to do is train them properly". Now Salazar is working with Josh Rohatinsky and the Gouchers and getting pretty good results, but it's not like these runners didn't have things going well before Salazar started coaching them.

When the article turned towards religion--an important part of Salazar's life and his runners' as well--Salazar made an interesting statement. "[Rohatinsky] just does what he's told, completely on faith. Like a good Catholic, he believes that others are put in authority over you and you trust in them." Yet every good coach I've ever heard of actually stressed the exact opposite. Lydiard thought one of America's great downfalls in distance running was obedience to authority. "If your coach can't tell you why you are doing a particular workout, get yourself another coach", he said on many occaissions. And even if a coach can earn a position of absolute authority, Salazar hasn't come remotely close.

Discuss the article