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Monday, August 31, 2009

Ritz and the AR

From USA Today on Friday: “[Ritzenhein] became the fourth non-African to break 13:00 behind Kennedy, Germany's Dieter Baumann (12:54.70) and Australia's Craig Mottram (12:55.76).”

I understand the point that Dick Patrick was attempting to make here: that Ritz’s accomplishment was exceptional. But his facts are not right.

There are quite a few athletes who have transferred citizenship to Qatar and Bahrain, with the former Stephen Cherono first doing so in 2003. Two of them have broken 13:00. As far as the IAAF and IOC are concerned they are not African, but hardly anyone else would think so.

Mohammed Mourhit was a Moroccan until he married a Belgian woman in 1997, became a Belgian citizen, and began representing them internationally. He broke 13:00, but again he would commonly be considered an African, as he was so until age 27. Ditto for Bernard Lagat, who broke 13:00 several times after becoming a US citizen. Heck, the very term “African-American” means Lagat is both a US citizen and an African at the same time.

But Patrick missed Moukheld Al-Outaibi, a Saudi who ran 12:58.58 in 2005. It appears that he in no way is an African. While he could be a transplant like Saif Saeed Shaheen and others, I have found no proof of this. In fact, it’s highly unlikely, as he represented Saudi Arabia as early as 1999, well before the parade of “defections” to Qatar and Bahrain began. Also, his appearance (to the right of Mottram’s arm, behind Kipchoge) suggests otherwise as well.

Garry Hill responded thus:
I have no knowledge on Al-Outaibi's background but he could easily be African, as Saudi Arabia has a significant portion of immigrants. And as late as the '50s some 20% of the population was slaves (says Wiki) and one would assume that Africans feature prominently in that demographic. I do remember a signifcant "black" KSA membership on teams long before modern recruiting started up. So his parents could easily have been Africans.

Which takes the issue to another it where you grew up, or is it where you were born, or is it where your parents are from? Would Meb Keflezighi count as a non-African? He emigrated to the USA as a child. I’d ask if Barack Obama would count as a non-African, but it might invite the street-corner-screaming wingnuts to the discussion.

I get the whole point. White guys who look like me haven’t been too great at the 5k. But actually they were until the 1990s came around. 23 of the first 26 world records in the 5k were held by white guys. If you back up the target time to 13:00.50 you find the barrier-breaker was a white guy named David Moorcroft some 26 years ago, and he didn’t even rate as one of the top three runners in Britain in his day.

Six at Eleven

RW Daily news has all the headlines: Ritz and all the other late-season track news & previews.

Scott Bush calls for a USATF road-race series (part 1 / part 2).

Toronto puts on its best face for a Pan-Am games bid.

Isinbayeva warns Bolt agains complacency.

Shannon Rowbury thanks USATF medical staff.

Threadspotting: It's a floor wax! It's a dessert topping! It's a floor wax! It's a dessert topping! Relax--it's both a floor wax and a dessert topping.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Barefoot, Not Just In The Park

The Old Gray Lady takes up the barefoot running debate.

I suspect the largest reason for the increased exposure for footwear minimalism (of which I am a proponent) is Chris McDougal's Born To Run and his appearance on The Daily Show.

Lost in the debate is the fact that any sudden change in training will quickly lead to pain. Also, Americans are going to have trouble running in a relatively unshod manner when they've never spent any time walking that way.

My transition to running exclusively in racing flats took several years, and the first step was to pick up some Puma H-Streets for walking around and to start wearing work shoes with essentially no heel-toe drop.


US track & field television coverage has a cancer of stupid. It began to go into remission during the Worlds, but relapsed with a vengeance today.

The double whammy that plagues the broadcasts is 1) wasting huge amounts of time with introductions, previews, slo-mo replays, and vacuous post-race interviews and 2) failing to cover huge amounts of the meet. This has to be the worst offender in this way in recent memory, even worse than the awful Adidas Classic last May.

There were sixteen events on the program of the Zurich Weltklasse meet. Only eleven even got mentioned on the air, and two of those (women's pole vault and high jump) got only the most cursory coverage--the dreaded "here is their winning attempt" crap that denies the existence of an actual competition.

No coverage of the men's 1500, steeplechase, triple jump or javelin. Most inexplicably, no women's 1500, where America's Anna Willard came up just 0.23 seconds short of beating the World/Olympic champ, and two more Americans toook 4th and 5th. In terms of depth of performance, this is without a doubt the greatest single women's 1500 race in US history. Nothing.

This may not actually be the worst telecast of a track meet ever on national TV, as the mind-bending pair of Larry Rawson and Carol Lewis were mercifully absent. But coming as it did on the heels of a week where the producers seemed to begin to figure out what we wanted to see, it is without a doubt the most disappointing.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Zurich Reactions

SPOILER ALERT: if you're planning on watching this on TV on Sunday, don't read this. But if so, why are you on the internet anyway?

Results / IAAF recap / video-on-demand

This is the penultimate round in the final go-round of the Golden League. Good riddance, too. The whole jackpot thing is just a bit too contrived. For example, Kerron Stewart had the 4-for-4 thing going into today, and there was speculation that World champ Shelly-Ann Fraser would hold back to keep her compatriot in contention. If Fraser didn't hold back on purpose, then she just ran a piss-poor race. In any case, Jeter won, and made next week's final Golden League women's 100 meters mean...well, I guess it doesn't directly affect anything.

The big news on the world stage was the return to top form by Isinbayeva, who broke her own World Record (video link).

But to me, the bigger story is Ritz. He's legend around here, as the best schoolboy runner the rust belt has ever seen. His performance level after high school has been spotty, and rarely has he strung together several big things. So today's 5k American record, on the heels of his 10k PR for sixth in Berlin, means a lot. (Let's Run story / T&FN video interview)

That's one story, and a big one to me because it stands the conventional wisdom on its head. Here's why. The meet was on during my planning period, but I couldn't watch it on because I don't have administrator priveleges to install Flash player 10 at work. So I had to follow the meet on the various message boards and blogs. As my team was getting ready for practice, I told them the final event was the men's 5k, featuring one American, ten Kenyans, two Ethiopians, and a Ugandan. They laughed and predicted the American would be last. And through 1600 meters, they were right...but Ritz was on 12:55 pace at the time.

And after practice I delivered the shocking news that he'd taken third, to the World record holder and one other, and had run 12:56. Earlier in the meet, the USA took places 2-4-5 in the women's 1500, beating back a lot of damn good runners in the process. That the USA took 7th in the men's 800 and went 7-9 in the men's 1500 was considered well below expectations. This is a vastly different scenario at a Weltklasse meet than we've become accustomed to.

Do you remember what Golden League distance races looked like even five years ago? Americans couldn't get a spot on the starting line in any of them, and deservedly so. We were minor-league. Now we're major-league, and while we haven't won any championships (aside from Lagat's '07 double), we have a whole crew of younger runners all within spitting distance of them. Now, there is a reason for American TV to show distance races in their entirety. We're in them, and we affect the outcome of them.

Six at Eleven

RW Daily has all the headlines, including previews of the big Zurich Weltkasse meet.

Speaking of Zurich, nearly 5000 fans came to the rail station to see Usain Bolt arrive yesterday.

Scott Bush suggests USATF fan fests. I'd go.

ESPN's Outside the Lines has a report on Al Joyner's daughter and the memory of FloJo.

Jessica Ennis is making noise about going after Denise Lewis' UK heptathlon record.

Threadspotting: Women's Athlete of the Year?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Things I Think I Think About The Worlds, Part 3

The NBC/Versus broadcasts got significantly better than has been typical for US-based television, even as the Worlds wore on.

We are all too familiar with the usual setup: long lead-in to a race, the race, the obligatory and vacuous post-race interview, and then a commercial. Repeat until we're ready to vomit, then tell us who won the field events while showing only their winning efforts via badly-placed cameras.

In contrast, the BBC feeds that uses for the major meets makes an uninterrupted flow from running events to concurrent field events and back again, communicating the unending three-ring circus atmosphere that is track & field.

In an interview in the current Track & Field News, USATF CEO Doug Logan mentioned television: "Our quality has declined to the point where audiences are accepting stuff that is really very mediocre...then take a look at the television presentation of a European meet or listen to the BBC and it's like night and day." He said USATF is likely to put pressure on its TV partners to make changes.

Well, they must already be happening. The NBC/Versus crew did give us live or almost-live updates of field events not at all at the beginning of the Worlds, some in the middle of the week, and relatively often by the end of the week. They still pale in comparison to the Beeb's near-seamless transitions, but I have to give them credit for trying to learn on the fly.

The impetus for change may have come from competition: the ratio of online viewers (at to TV viewers was probably much different from the norm for sports in the US. Partly this was because the live feeds were during work hours, and it's a lot less conspicuous to watch a web feed at your desk than to bring your 50" HD set to your cubicle. ("Live sports at work? That's so much better than work at work!") But also, the online coverage was superior in every way.

Another improvement from NBC/Versus was using the field event graphics from the international TV feed in unedited fashion. Until now, apparently NBC's decision-makers thought we'd be so horrified by the Frenchy metric distances that we'd brand them cheese-eating surrender monkeys and immediately switch the channel to COPS reruns on G4. Truth be told, metrics are sooo much easier on the eyes and brain, as there are less digits involved, and all that really matters is who threw or jumped farther. And in the age of the internet, most everyone sees results in metrics anyway.

Our US-based crew can still do better, but at least they've got the idea. A track meet's ideal broadcast model is that of a golf tournament. There are many things going on in many places simultaneously, and each has its own meaning that ties in to the larger picture. And we want to know about all of them as they are happening.

Six at Eleven

RW Daily News has all the headlines: the remainder of the Golden League, Bolt on the cover of SI, and more.

The Science of Sport guys explain the Caster Semenya issue in greater depth.

Scott Bush likes numbers. He lists three jobs he'd like to create at USATF, and five things to look forward to post-Worlds.

Usain Bolt's biography is on the way.

Ireland's Independent newspaper asks why the heck the Worlds are going to South Korea next.

Threadspotting: start predicting for Daegu now!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Six at Eleven

RW Daily News includes a new report on Caster Semenya.

Berlino is the greatest sports mascot since the Dancing Gorilla.

The IAAF reports huge web traffic for the worlds.

Stephen Francis, head coach of the MVP track club, has told Jamaican officials to work on controlling drugs, not controlling the athletes.

Usain Bolt got an unusual gift from the mayor of Berlin.

Threadspotting: Something good comes from Detroit.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Six At Eleven

The triumphant return of the daily link dump...

RW Racing News covers the last day and recaps of the World Championships.

Run the Roads lists off their top 5 US distance performances at the Worlds.

The BBC reports: Bolt keen to compete in long jump.

Early Sunday morning, six Worlds stars were arrested in Berlin after attacking three nightclub bouncers.

Veronica Campbell-Brown stormed off the track and refused to run when she wasn't given Jamaica's 4x100 anchor leg.

Threadspotting: Track's Zapruder film?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Things I Think I Think About The Worlds, Part 2

SI's Brian Cazanueve passed out his grades for the Worlds. He didn't give enough.

LaShawn Merritt, USA -- A
He's the new king of the 400, hands down.

Germany -- A
They almost always did better than expected.

Poland -- A+
Their best-ever showing at a Worlds.

Jamaica -- A++
Almost too good, if you know what I mean. Almost.

Kerron Clement, USA -- A
For a man who still seems surprised every time there's a hurdle in his lane, he's become awfully consistent.

USA distance running -- B
See my post below. Six finalists in the 1500, a medal near-miss in the women's steeple, four finalists in the 5k, three top-tens in the 10k. NBC was forced to show all the distance races save the men's marathon, because the USA had contenders in all but the men's steeple. If someone besides Lagat can get on the medal stand, they'll get an A.

Jeremy Wariner, USA -- B
What Michael Johnson made people forget is that the 400 has historically been a man-eater of an event. Until he came along, no one had ever been the world's best for more than four seasons--only the marathon has been tougher to keep on top of. Wariner reversed his split with Clyde Hart and got stronger; we'll see yet whether he can get back under 44, or if he's simply over the hill.

Steve Hooker -- A
Guts, pure guts. Two attempts on a bad hamstring and a pole vault gold medal.

Russia -- C-
No longer a powerhouse. Looks like they'll have to go back to the doping drawing board now that WADA figured out their game.

Things I Think I Think About The Worlds, Part 1

The performance by the USA's male distance runners was very good, near or at several historic highs.

Excluding the 800 (which is sort of a distance race), here's the USA's totals for races of 1500 and further at Olympics and Worlds since WWII...
Year Golds Medals Top Eights Top Twelves
1948 0 0 2 5
1952 1 2 2 3
1956 0 0 0 2
1960 0 0 4 4
1964 2 3 6 9
1968 2 2 2 5
1972 1 1 4 6
1976 0 1 3 5
1980 0 0 0 0
1983 0 1 3 3
1984 0 1 4 6
1987 0 1 4 6
1988 0 0 3 4
1991 0 1 2 3
1992 0 0 2 5
1993 1 1 4 4
1995 0 0 1 4
1996 0 0 2 3
1997 0 0 2 2
1999 0 0 0 3
2000 0 0 0 3
2001 0 0 0 3
2003 0 0 0 0
2004 0 1 1 5
2005 0 0 0 2
2007 2 2 5 7
2008 0 0 0 3
2009 0 2 6 8
Boycott years italicised, best results in red.

A number of things should jump out at you when you look at this data. First, the USA hasn't ever been particularly good at distance running, except for the baby boomers. They did very well in the 60s, and the trailing end of that generation did decently through the 70s. But it lags remarkably behind literally every other part of the US program save the walks.

Second, something happened in 2007. That something was more than just Bernard Lagat; while he won all the medals, the depth of the US team picked up quite a bit as well. 2008 appears to be an anomaly for the USA, a one-off in futility, in all events, not just distance.

Lagat says his US citizenship made the rest of the USA's milers and 5k runners get better. There have been other immigrants, though, such as Sydney Maree in the 80s and Mark Plaatjes in the 90s, and neither had such an impact. It looks like American distance running is getting better at every level all at the same time. One of the most encouraging parts of the Berlin results was how many of those top runners were young -- all but Lagat are in their 20s.

The decrease-then-increase syndrome is also evident on the women's side, but not nearly so marked in either direction.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Worlds, Day 7


TV: NBC, 1-3 PM (live); CBC, 1-3 PM (live); Versus, 8-10 PM (tape)
Web:, 5:35 AM (men's marathon), 11:45 AM (afternoon session); IAAF radio, 5 AM (marathon), 11 AM (afternoon session)
Highlights: M Marathon, W 5,000, M/W 4 x 100m, M Long Jump, M Pole Vault, W Hammer

My thoughts on the seventh day of the Worlds...

The 800 has a reputation as an unpredictable event, but this is ridiculous. Kaki trips over himself, Ismail DNFs, Kiprop blows chunks, and Reed doesn't make it. Does Symmonds have a medal chance in the final? I'd say he's probably the smartest racer in the final, and that helps a lot.

The USA 4x100 discovered that you actually CAN be too safe. As I'm writing this, it's still up in the air as to whether they make the final or not, but blame can solidly be placed at Doc Patton's feet. Not for screwing up, but for still being hurt from whatever screwed him up in the 100m final, which kept him from accelerating properly. Crawford slammed on the brakes and still ran up his ass.

Kudos to Versus for working with the rain delay that put everything behind by half an hour. They started half an hour late and ran their whole two hours plus an extra 10 or 15 minutes.

Letterman On Track

David Letterman weighs in on the Caster Semenya debate.

This isn't a first for Dave. He pays a good bit of attention to elite distance running.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Track On The Daily Show

On Tuesday night, Stewart interviewed Chris McDougal about his book, Born to Run.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Christopher McDougall
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealthcare Protests
Two things I like about Stewart, aside from the funny and the political:
1) He does really great interviews, some of the best on TV.
2) He actually reads the books his subjects are hawking.

Worlds, Day 6 -- OMFG!

Unbe-f**king-believable, part II.
SI's Tim Layden weighs in.
Bolt has the longest stride of any sprinter in history and he turns it over like someone six to eight inches shorter than he is. He has a freaky combination of skills; it's like if you had Shaq and Chris Paul in one person -- you're not supposed to be able to do that in the same body.

Recaps: Let's Run morning info / World-Track / IAAF

Schedule / Preview
TV: Versus, 1:30 to 3:30 PM
Web:, 3:10 AM (50k walk), 10:55 AM (evening session); IAAF Radio, 11 AM
Highlights: M 400, W 200, M High Jump, W Discus

My thoughts on the sixth day of the worlds...

I still can't say anything new about Bolt, so I won't try.

Based on times in his wake, I'd say this Berlin track is very, very fast.

Versus/NBC is getting better at doing field events live in between running events, but they're still missing huge stories. Trey Hardee is a new star, and he essentially clinched the decathlon title with three javelin PRs in a row. Not a single one made the screen. And while the very-fascinating women's high jump competition was covered more or less in real-time, the key moments were missed.

I got a bronze out of Ariane Friedrich in the fantasy league. I dropped Paula Radcliffe, because she dropped out of the marathon, and picked up Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie in the 200.

Separated At Birth

USA discus thrower Casey Malone:

Actor Chris Elliot:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Worlds, Day 5

Afternoon session: recap / video-on-demand
Evening session recaps: IAAF / World Track / video-on-demand
Deca 100 / Deca long jump / Deca shot / Men's 400 semis / Men's 200 semis / Women's 200 heats / Men's disc / Men's 1500 / Women's 100 hurdles / Women's 800 / Deca high jump / Deca 400

Schedule / Preview
TV: Versus, 1:30-3:30
Web:, 3:55 AM (afternoon session), 11:45 AM (evening session); IAAF Radio, 11 AM
Highlights: M 200, M 110h, W High Jump, W 400h, Decathlon Day 2

My thoughts on the fifth day of the Worlds...

The throws have been screwy. Kristian Pars and Gerd Kanter were both undefeated on the season, and neither finished in the top two. Barbora Spotakova has been nearly unbeatable in major competition, but she got beat. The Germans are competing waaay over their heads in the field events. I sure hope Ariane Friedrich comes through for me in the high jump.

I thought Bernard Lagat was the best runner in the 1500, but two little things kept him from winning. He was in great position at the head of the backstretch, but there were too many other runners still in the picture and he got boxed in right before the turn. Even then, he might have had a chance, but Mehdi Baala gave him a shove just before the homestretch that more or less killed his last chance.

Asbel Kiprop may actually have been a better runner, but boy did he run stupid. Darn near last at the bell, he had to go out to lane 3 around the last turn and still got fourth. I'm glad the IAAF fantasy league system's cutoff kept me from picking him up for the 1500 final.

Which brings me to another issue. Kenyans will win many medals with a few golds among them. You can bank on that, year in and year out. But as for predicting which Kenyans...that is always very hard to guess. It's part of the reason they give off the aura of invincibility, even though they're second-fiddle to the Ethiopians at 5k and above.

As for the Caster Semenya rhubarb, I'll refer you to the sober analysis by the Science of Sport guys. I picked her in the fantasy league, but my loyalties end there.

Decathlon? Follow it here. Summary: Leonel Suarez may be in eighth right now, but that don't mean dick when you realize how good a second-day decathlete he is. And Germany's Pascal Behrenbruch, now back in 11th, will give the crowd a thrill when he makes a run at a medal. Again, the German is competing waaay over his head.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Worlds, Day 4

Recaps: IAAF / Sports Illustrated / USA Today
Afternoon session: recap / video-on-demand
Evening session: video-on-demand
Finals recaps: Women's jav / Women's 400 / Men's 400H / Men's Steeple

Event schedule
IAAF preview
TV: Versus, 1:30-4 PM
Web:, 4:05 AM (afternoon session), 12:05 PM (evening session); IAAF Radio, 11 AM
Highlights: Men's 1,500, W 800, W 100h, M Discus, Decathlon Day 1

My thoughts on the fourth day of the Worlds...

Isn't it amazing how running smart is so much easier than running stupid? Sanya Richards should know now.

In the first round of the 400 hurdles, my brother asked me what was up with Bershawn Jackson, who appeared well behind until the stretch drive. I said it looked worse than it really was because of Javier Culson in the next lane over, who I identified as a quickly rising star. Well whadya know, Culson won silver. Shoulda picked him in the fantasy league.

Speaking of the fantasy league, I had a less than perfect day. Richards was my USA pick, mostly because if she bombed I could replace her with Lashinda Demus, who runs on Thursday. So I got 100 points there. After that it went downhill. Nelson Evora and Barbora Spotakova both got silver, in the triple and jav respectively. Obergfoll underperformed (again!) for fifth in the jav, and Brimin Kipruto inexplicably bombed to seventh in the steeple. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Obergfoll will ALWAYS disappoint you in the championship meets. I should have taken my own advice.

So my plan is to drop Kipruto in favor of Kiprop, who races the 1500 tomorrow, and the following day drop Obergfoll in favor of high jumper Ariane Friedrich.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Doping DQ?

Internet rumor...
Big news in Berlin - German radio report rumour that a finalist in men's 100m failed dope test before the champs. IAAF say no confirmation

German radio say the news will break in Tuesday's German newspapers. Only a rumour at this stage, I've got to stress....
Well, it's Tuesday in Germany now, albeit 2 AM.

Worlds, Day 3


IAAF summary / SI summary
Event reports: Men's 1500 & women's 800 semis / Women's pole vault / Women's triple jump Women's steeple / Men's hammer / Men's 10k / Women's 100

Event schedule / IAAF preview
TV: Versus, 1-3 PM (replays at 8 & 11 PM)
Web: Universal Sports, 4:05 AM (afternoon session), 11:45 AM (evening session); IAAF Radio, 11 AM
Highlights: Men's Steeple, Men's 400 hurdles, Women's 400, Men's Triple Jump, Women's Javelin

My thoughts on day 3 of the worlds...

Surprises, surprises. The undefeatable Isinabyeva no-heighted in the pole vault.

The dominating Russian machine in women's middle-distance running became just above average and nothing more. Galkina was a mortal in the steeplechase and got beat, running a good 13 second slower than in the opressive Beijing heat last year. They got just one finalist in the 800 meters. Looks like they're going to have to come up with a new doping plan!

Speaking of the steeple, am I being too rough to think Barringer's American Record in 5th place was an under-achievement? She was way back early and then moved up late. It's possible she was running all-out in the first third of the race, but if she had been able to be in the race when the break was made I think she could have won a medal.

The USA has made a step up in middle-distance from the last few years. The 800 is still the weakest part of the women's national program, but compare Beijing (where none qualified to the semis) and here (where all did but none to the finals) and it's a bit better. Vessey is not ready for prime time, but give her a year and she probably will be.

The men's 1500? Three finalists, baa-bee, and they all looked damn good getting there. You know how long it's been since we had three finalists in an Olympics or Worlds 1500? 1912, I think.

And the men's 10k...Ritz broke his PR by 13 seconds for 6th, and Rupp ran 27:37 for 8th. The best result in decades and it feels like we can do better.

I hear Larry Rawson was in fine Rawson form in an ESPN interview.

Fantasy league? Savigne came through for a win in the triple jump, ditto for Bekele in the 10k, but Pars bombed for fourth in the hammer. My daily transfer was dropping Mikhnevich (fourth in the women's shot) for Paula Radcliffe (looks like a lock for women's marathon).

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Worlds, Day 2 -- Holy S**t!

Click here to blow your mind

IAAF recap
Video-on-demand: afternoon session / evening session
Event reports: Men's 100 / Women's shot / Women's 20k Walk / Women's Heptathlon
Early session recap

Event schedule
TV: Versus, 1-4 PM
Web:, 11:45 AM; IAAF Radio, 11 AM
Highlights: Men's hammer, women's pole vault and triple jump, women's steeple and 100, men's 10k
Previews: IAAF / Let's Run

My thoughts on the second day of the Worlds...

I can't say anything that hasn't been said about Usain Bolt, so I won't try.

Kinda sucks that this happened the same afternoon as Woods had his first-ever falter down the homestretch in a major. Bolt will be the second headline in the US sports media.

I wished I'd picked Jessica Ennis in the heptathlon instead of Dobrynska. I dropped her in the IAAF fantasy league in favor of South African 800 phenom Caster Semenya. But I think there's another Brit gold waiting for me on Sunday in the women's marathon.

My other fantasy league picks came through big for me. My captains (who get double points) both won, one with world record bonus points. Valerie Vili came through big-time in the shot and Bolt...I said I wasn't going to talk about Bolt. Sanya Richards looked awfully good in her semi, too.

The men's 400 hurdles semis were pretty weird. The USA can't sweep, with only two finalists, but it sure looks good for a one-two finish.

Adjusted for wind & altitude, here are all the sub-9.90 times ever...
Adjusted Official Athlete Year Venue
9.62 9.58 Usain Bolt 2009 Berlin
9.69 9.69 --Bolt 2008 Beijing
9.70 9.77 --Bolt 2008 Bruxelles
9.74 9.72 Asafa Powell 2008 Lausanne
9.75 9.71 Tyson Gay
2009 Berlin
9.76 9.83 --Powell 2008 Bruxelles
9.78 9.79 --Bolt 2009 Paris
9.79 9.77 --Gay 2009 Rome
9.79 9.78 --Powell 2007 Rieti
9.8 9.79 Maurice Greene 1999 Athínai
9.81 9.8 --Greene 1999 Sevilla
9.82 9.82 --Powell 2008 Monaco
9.82 9.83 --Powell 2007 Stuttgart
9.82 9.84 --Gay 2007 Indianapolis
9.82 9.84 --Powell 2007 Bruxelles
9.82 9.85 --Gay 2007 Osaka
9.83 9.82 --Greene 2001 Edmonton
9.84 9.74 --Powell 2007 Rieti
9.84 9.85 --Bolt 2008 Beijing
9.84 9.86 Ato Boldon 1998 Athínai
9.84 9.86 --Bolt 2009 Kingston
9.85 9.76 --Bolt 2008 Kingston
9.85 9.77 --Powell 2006 Gateshead
9.85 9.77 --Powell 2006 Gateshead
9.85 9.84 Bruny Surin 1999 Sevilla
9.85 9.85 --Bolt 2008 Kingston
9.85 9.86 --Greene 2000 Berlin
9.85 9.87 --Greene 2000 Sydney
9.86 9.77 --Powell 2005 Athínai
9.86 9.77 --Gay 2008 Eugene
9.86 9.85 --Powell 2006 Saint-Denis
9.86 9.86 Frank Fredericks 1996 Lausanne
9.87 9.68 --Gay 2008 Eugene
9.87 9.77 --Bolt 2009 Ostrava
9.87 9.86 --Boldon 1999 Athínai
9.88 9.84 --Powell 2009 Berlin
9.88 9.85 --Powell 2006 Roma
9.88 9.86 --Greene 1997 Athínai
9.88 9.87 --Powell 2004 Bruxelles
9.88 9.88 --Boldon 1998 Kuala Lumpur
9.88 9.98 --Powell 2004 Monaco
9.89 9.84 Donovan Bailey 1996 Atlanta
9.89 9.85 --Powell 2005 Ostrava
9.89 9.89 Shawn Crawford 2004 Athínai
9.89 9.91 --Greene 2000 Osaka
9.89 9.91 --Powell 2004 London
9.89 9.97 Leroy Burrell 1992 Barcelona
9.89 10.03 --Bailey 1997 Abbotsford
9.89 10.04 Calvin Smith 1993 Bruxelles

Worlds, Day 1

Day 1 recaps: Let's Run / IAAF
Video-on-demand: Morning session / Afternoon session

Day 2:
Competition schedule
TV schedule: NBC, 2 PM (to be rerun on Versus at 7 & 11 PM); CBC, 4 PM
Web schedule: Universal Sports, 12:05 PM; IAAF radio, 11 AM
Previews: Let's Run / IAAF / Sports Illustrated / ESPN

My thoughts on the first day of the Worlds...

Cantwell came through in the clutch in the shot put while the other Americans choked. Sounds like Beijing all over again, except this time Majewski got topped. Shortly I'll have my world rankings for the shot redone.

The women's 10k did not go according to form, and this should have been apparent right at the bell. Defar usually bolts to the front and immediately puts a hurt on her competition at exactly 400 to go but obviously not this time. At that point I was sure Melkamu was going to win, but down the homestretch Defar slowed, which forced Melkamu to break stride, and that may have been the tinry difference needed for Masai to win. Back with the mortals, it was no surprise that Flanagan wasn't a factor, nor was it surprising to see Yoder-Begley win that "B-race" in a new PR.

Various online discussions have identified some of the differences between US-based broadcasts (meh) and the BBC broadcasts (wow) that Universal Sports uses for its webcasts. I noted a big one yesterday: on the Beeb, the announcers are not the stars. You never see them on screen, nor are post-competition interviews a part of the broadcasts. Yesterday we got three minutes of talking heads before the start of the women's 10k, then two minutes of running before they cut away. Obviously, NBC thinks the announcers are more important than the athletes!

My Day 1 picks in the IAAF fantasy league were Tomasz Majewski and Natalya Dobrynska. The former won silver in the shot, and the latter was not looking good in the heptathlon. But since I saw no one on Day 2 worth picking up who I didn't already have, I stood pat to give Dobrysnka chance. This morning my Russian pick came through in the women's 20k walk...pending dope testing.

UPDATE: New world rankings, men's shot...
1. Christian Cantwell (USA) 234
2. Tomasz Majewski (POL) 208
3. Reese Hoffa (USA) 204
4. Dan Taylor (USA) 130
5. Adam Nelson (USA) 115
6. Ralf Bartels (GER) 101
7. Andrei Mikhnevich (BLR) 89
8. Dylan Armstrong (CAN) 70
9. Pavel Sofyin (RUS) 58
10. Dorian Scott (JAM) 54
Cantwell is a definite #1, with wins at the Worlds and USATF and putting up the year's longest throw. Hoffa has a 4-2 record versus Majewski in 2009, and would have stayed ahead had he won a medal. Bartel's surprise medal moved him way up the charts.

Friday, August 14, 2009

New Broadcast Rights Paradigm?

Not that it would ever happen, but it's an interesting thought. A T&FN message board poster, responding to the criticism that Universal Sports' World Championships webcast won't be available outside the USA:
Well I don’t think this is really something to criticize Universal/NBC about. They’re simply doing what they have to do. Even if they wanted their programming to be available outside the USA, doing so would infringe upon the broadcast rights that somebody else paid for. I imagine that Universal would be perfectly happy for Jamaicans to be able to view their webcasts. But either someone in Jamaica paid for exclusive broadcast rights, or (perhaps more likely) the exclusive rights for broadcast in Jamaica were offered, but went unpurchased, and the originator (IAAF or meet organizer) still doesn’t want to give them away for free.

Nevertheless, I do feel a bit of disappointment that the IAAF continues to sell the broadcast rights based on the now rather outdated geographical model. Four years ago, when WCSN (which has since morphed into Universal Sports) sprung out of nowhere to stream the Helsinki WC, I thought that maybe we were seeing the beginning of the end for geographic broadcast rights. But obviously I was wrong.

Years ago, when the only way for anyone to receive a TV signal was through an antenna, selling broadcast rights on a geographic basis made perfect sense. The signals had to come from a TV transmitter, and transmitters all have a geographically limited range. But today, anybody with a computer and an internet connection can view a video stream originating from anywhere on the planet… unless it’s artificially blocked by some sort of authoritarian regime. There’s no technical reason at all why someone in Russia – to choose a random example – couldn’t view a video stream originating in Germany or the USA. But the rights are still being sold geographically, simply because that’s what everyone is used to, and that’s how all the existing contracts are structured.

In the USA we don’t get much T&F coverage on TV, and what we do get is watered-down pabulum intended to be attractive to non-fans. That’s because there is simply not a high enough concentration of T&F fans in America to make broadcasting the sport nationally worthwhile on a regular basis. But there are certainly enough English-speaking fans worldwide to make an attractive target-audience if you don’t have to worry about gathering them all into one place.

Instead of selling the rights for broadcast into specific geographic areas, I would much prefer to see the IAAF selling worldwide rights to “broadcast” in specific languages. The English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Japanese and Chinese rights could all be sold separately – with the proviso that the stream must be made available worldwide. Whoever purchased the English-language rights would be free to sub-license those rights to over-the-air media like NBC, the BBC and CBC, who would be free to substitute their own commentary and insert their own advertisements. But since none of them would have geographic “exclusivity” in their contracts, none would have any right to complain about the baseline English-language stream still being available to residents of their various regions.
This is a good idea not only for track & field, but other truly global sports such as futbol, etc.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bucket List

Sports Illustrated recently had a Bucket List feature in which their writers listed off the things they'd like to do in the remainder of their lifetime. Tim Layden put running the Boston Marathon as his #1. Here's mine...

Things That Would Be On A List, But I've Already Done
1. Go to the World Championships
They're actually better than the Olympics because it's the only show in town. I went to the 2001 Worlds in Edmonton, and it was the greatest ten days of my life.

2. Run the Boston Marathon
I qualified in my first attempt and ran in 2003. Boston sports fans are loud, drunk, and obnoxious, and I appreciate that they consider the marathon a real sporting event and treat the participants as viciously as they do pro ballplayers.

3. Go to the Olympic Trials
My trip to the OT wasn't quite as good as to the Worlds--I went by myself rather than with my high school coach, as I did to Edmonton--but it's a great meet, and the national gathering of the sport.

4. Run on a championship team
This gets quite a bit more difficult after you leave college, since teams in the normal sense of training and competing together regularly essentially don't exist in the USA for adults. I got this out of the way early; I was on a state champion team as a high school sophomore, and was an important part of a city champion team as a senior.

5. Run in Key West on New Year's
There's no place like Key West, and there's nothing like having heat issues in the last half-mile of a 5k at 8 AM on New Year's eve, then tapping a keg and jumping in the ocean.

Things I'd Like To See
5. NCAA Championships
I've been to the NCAA cross-country meet at least a half-dozen times and it's always one of the highlights of the year. The NCAA outdoor track & field championships take that kind of great experience and multiply it by four days.

4. Stawell Gift
It's a pro handicap sprint event held annually in Australia since 1878 and a rockin' good time.

3. Penn Relays
I probably don't have to explain this one. 50,000 fans going nuts for a track meet? Sign me up.

2. Bislett Games
The stadium, the tradition, the city...gotta see it some day.

1. Jamaican High School Championships
The Boys' and Girls' Champs has been called the greatest meet in the world. It's like you combined the NCAA tourney with the entire college football rivalry week jammed into one day, and added the intensity of soccer fans. Chasing Bolt communicated the frenzy very well.

Things I'd Like To Do
5. Highland Games
I'd like to do the Breamar Challenge at the Bràigh Mhàrr Gathering in Scotland, or some other similar hill race at a Scottish Highland Games.

4. Penn Relays
Yeah, I want to run there, too. Looks like my only chance is a master's 4x400, just like Bill Cosby.

3. Bay to Breakers
A 12k known best for nudity and massive quantities of alcohol is right up my alley.

2. Dipsea
It's the second-oldest footrace in the country, and was the subject of the feature film On The Edge. It's a handicap race, giving everyone equal chance to win, and has no specific course--however you get from point A to point B is up to you.

1. New York City Marathon
Boston has the history and tradition, but for me the New York race defines marathoning. It was on national TV every year when I was young. For the past 27 years, whenever I've been running in our local city park in a cold rain, I imagine I'm Rod Dixon (and yes, I do kiss the pavement before I get in my car and go home).

World Championships Fantasy League

There are three online contests that I know of: Let's Run's prediction contest, USATF's Pick N' Win contest, and the IAAF's Fantasy Athletics.

My other responsibilities are ramping up, so I'm only playing one. The first two are straight pick-em games and not terribly interesting. The IAAF's game includes a bit of strategy and therefore more intriguing.

The rules: You pick 20 athletes--10 men and 10 women--and one team in each of the four relays. You get points for place with bonuses for world and meet records. The twist is that each athlete must be from a different country, and the same for each relay. You can drop an athlete and pick up a new one (forfeiting points already earned in the process), but only one per day.

I cribbed winner picks from Track & Field News and Let's Run and tried to be smart about it. I went with strong favorites from small countries, such as Kristian Pars and Valerie Vili. I went with athletes picked to win two events, such as Kenenisa Bekele and Usain Bolt, figuring they were more or less guaranteed to win at least one. And then I picked athletes from big countries who were favorites to win events held early on in the championships, such as Sanya Richards, figuring I could swap them out for other favorites later on should they fail to win gold.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Worlds Previews

I was out of the loop for several days, taking my team on a training camp.

Today I see that Let's Run has deep previews of every event in the upcoming World Championships. Indexed to results, organized both by event and by day, the whole shebang. Damn!

LATE EDIT: They also have a fantastic men's hammer throw preview. Best I've ever read. Seriously.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Sports Collectors Convention

The 30th annual National Sports Collectors Convention took place in Cleveland last week, just 2 hours from my home. Not only did I not know it was happening there and then, I did not know such a thing existed. And that's probably a good thing. Paul Lukas wrote about it for
...I'm speaking from experience when I say the key to a happy collecting life is the moment when you accept that you can never collect everything in a given category, because there will always be at least one thing out there that you can't afford, can't find or don't know about. The feeling of completism will always be out of reach. Once you admit that to yourself, the world becomes a fun museum and you can cherry-pick some nice items that push your buttons without the pressure of having to acquire all of them.

But most of the collectors at the National didn't appear to have experienced that epiphany. This was especially true of the baseball card collectors (by far the largest contingent of attendees), a disturbing percentage of whom seemed to fit all the worst collector stereotypes: nerdy, overweight, socially awkward. As I watched these guys -- and believe me, all of them were guys -- feverishly flipping through bins and albums of cards, trying to cross out items on their want lists, it occurred to me that they seemed to take very little pleasure in the act of collecting. They were more like addicts trying to cop a fix, and I found their frantic, joyless movements from dealer to dealer rather depressing.
I have a completist's mindset, but in a different way. I'm just trying to find out how many different sets of track & field or Summer Olympics cards have ever been made. Yes, I collect them. Just over my left shoulder right now I've got a display case featuring such various athletes as Helen Stephens, Sergey Bubka, Walter Davis, Jack Lovelock, Jan Zelezny, Ed Moses, Hassiba Boulmerka, and others. I've got a binder with a whole lot more. Then there's my collection of track-oriented board games, which is nearly complete: the Bruce Jenner Decathlon Game, the Wheaties Sports Trivia Game of Champions, and the Boston Marathon Game. In the late 80s there was some FloJo-oriented track trivia game, but it's as rare as an honest D-I athletic director.

I've also got a fairly large collection of track movies and books. Browsing through Ebay or for those isn't what gets my motor running, though, it's finding them in more complex ways. It was far more fun to find a still-shrinkwrapped On The Edge at a convenience store markdown bin for $5, or a used copy of The Self-Made Olympian at a coffee shop for $3.95.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Anti-Doping "News"

From the Orange County Register (via RunZoom):
The U.S. Olympic Committee, concerned about the potential embarrassment of a doping scandal involving American athletes at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, conducted an informal drug testing program in the months leading up to the Los Angeles Games that allowed Olympic-caliber athletes testing positive for banned substances to escape sanctions, according to documents obtained by The Orange County Register and interviews with three officials involved with the program.

At least 34 U.S. track and field athletes either tested positive or had possible positive tests during six weeks of informal testing by USOC in the spring of 1984, according to confidential USOC memos. None of the athletes was sanctioned or lost eligibility, according to USOC documents and interviews.

Athletes were informed of their positive tests and told continued use of banned drugs could result in positive tests at the U.S. Olympic Trials and Olympic Games, where violations would lead to bans from competition.
I call this "news" because it was in Vyv Simpson's '92 book The lords of the rings. He didn't have the specific numbers or get anyone to admit anything, but he knew exactly what was going on.

Born To Run

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
By Christopher McDougall
Knopf. 287 pp. $24.95

This book has been out for a while, and I finally went out and dropped the $25 to get it after reading the first three pages at a bookstore on Friday night. (One of my original goals for this blog was to score free swag like books, a goal that has yet to be achieved.)

If you've got more than a superficial knowledge of distance running, you've probably heard of Mexico's Tarahumara Indians. They are reputed to be the world's greatest ultramarathoners, but I've always been a bit skeptical--why haven't they stormed the rest of the world like Kenya's Kalenjin runners have? McDougall answers that question quite well. Turns out two different Tarahumaras won the Leadville Trail 100 in the 90s, found even the low-key ultra world too modernized for their tastes, and found no reason to return. McDougall spent time living and running with the Tarahumaras and found out quite a bit else--and was there when the world's best ultra-trail-runners came down to their homeland and took them on.

The tale is a fascinating one, but in lesser hands it would have been mangled. McDougall is a below-average runner who has turned himself into a decent ultramarathoner; he's an absolute pro of a writer. Along the way to the climactic race, there are side trips to learn about human physiology and anthropology, various ultra races, and an amazing cast of characters. None of it is made up but much seems too entertaining to be true.

By far the most-talked about part of the book is the idea that modern running shoes are bad for runners. It's not new; Arthur Lydiard was going apeshit about this 35 years ago, and a recent trip to a running store left me feeling like John Cleese in the Cheese Shop sketch (a whole store reputedly full of shoes, yet not a single one I asked for). Anyone who zeroes in on that part doesn't get it.

The whole idea is that a strenuous life is the only enjoyable one, and a life of ignoble ease will slowly and painfully kill you. For it to be truly enjoyable, the strenuous life must not be thought of as working by the sweat of your brow all the days of your life, but rather a lifestyle that is embraced and loved by living in the moment rather than being concerned with the outcome. McDougall sets this out in such a way that he might end up responsible for more than a few suburbanites tuning in, turning on, dropping out, and becoming trail-running bums. His scenery is the brutal Mexican Copper Canyons and the high trails of the Rockies. Really, though, we can find this anywhere.

I live in northwest Ohio, with a relatively moderate four-season climate and no terrain to speak of. A lot of times, running seems like work, yet it's not at some of the most inexplicable times. I identified with McDougall's descriptions when I recall some of my most difficult yet enjoyable runs: 2+ hours in the winter. Our cold isn't extreme as compared to, say, Minnesota or Saskatchewan, but we do have some pretty fierce wind once you get out of town. I've done 20-milers in -15 degree wind chill, once wondering if gusts were going to blow me into the path of oncoming traffic. By simply trying to keep going rather than worrying about time and distance, I get to know my limits pretty well. And when I get home, I felt like one tough hombre.

This is not only the best track book of the year, it's one of the best in quite a while. Entertaining, and it's likely to make you examine your life and convince you to use up less and do more.