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Optimal Training



Develop the Mindset of a Champion



Updated: 2011-05-24T08:07:13+02:00

 



Sammy Wanjiru's Dangerous Idea

2011-05-24T08:07:13+02:00

Sammy Wanjiru had a dangerous idea: what if we ran the marathon with no fear?

(image) It's been a week since I heard of Sammy Wanjiru's death.  A long week, with little time for writing.  But perhaps that was good, as it gave me some time to consider what it was that I felt made Sammy special.  My latest article at Runner's Tribe, Sammy Wanjiru's Dangerous Idea, takes a look at the mark I believe Sammy has left on the sport of marathon running.

I recently started reading a book called What Is Your Dangerous Idea?(image)   The book is a collection of short essays by prominent thinkers about "unthinkable ideas", ideas that, if true, would shake the foundation of their respective field or even society as a whole... 

Since hearing about Sammy Wanjiru's death last Monday I've been thinking about the impact he had on the sport and how he will be remembered.  Articulating what I was feeling didn't come easily, however.  I'd been watching him since he was a high schooler in Japan.  I felt like Sammy was more special than a discussion of his times or his talent could express.

Then it finally hit me.  What Sammy was for me was the embodiment of a dangerous idea: what if we ran the marathon with no fear?

Throughout the last century, the marathon was the one distance that demanded conservatism. In sports, conservatism is the child of fear.  NFL teams play the "prevent" defense because they fear the big play.  Pitchers intentionally walk power hitters because they fear the home run.  Golfers play for the fairway instead of the green because they fear the sand and water traps.

And marathon runners don't go out too hard in marathons, because they fear what will happen in the final miles if they do.

You can read the entire article here.  RIP Sammy Wanjiru.




A Divine Tailwind in Boston

2011-04-20T07:10:51+02:00

LetsRun called them, "Once in a (marathon) lifetime conditions" and boy were they right. A major tailwind at the Boston Marathon led to some of the most amazing performances ever run. My latest article at Runner's Tribe looks at five...

(image) LetsRun called them, "Once in a (marathon) lifetime conditions" and boy were they right.  A major tailwind at the Boston Marathon led to some of the most amazing performances ever run.  My latest article at Runner's Tribe looks at five things the Divine Boston Tailwind brought with it, along with some amazing new PRs for many runners.  Here's a snippet:

There's an old Irish blessing that starts: "May the road rise to meet you; May the wind be always at your back."  Must have been some blessing the Boston Marathon received this year...

I'm not sure where the tailwind at the Boston Marathon this weekend will rank amongst history's most influential winds, but it's got to be up there after today's performances.  Was it as influential as the typhoon that wiped out the Mongol advance on Japan in 1281, creating the word "kamikaze" or "Divine Wind".  No, probably not.  Words don't get much cooler than kamikaze.  But it's at least on par with the wind that caused this for sheer "Wait, is this real?  This can't be real, can it?"

I have no idea how much Boston's Divine Tailwind was worth time-wise, but I do know it's changed the Boston Marathon, and more than a few lives, for all-time.  Here are the top 5 things this tailwind brought with it as it passed through Boston:

Click here to read the full article.




Leap Years

2011-01-26T08:15:53+01:00

Every year, there are a few athletes who make "the leap" and begin to perform at the next level. What is the leap? In track and field terms, the leap consists of four key factors: The athlete's improvement does not...

(image) Every year, there are a few athletes who make "the leap" and begin to perform at the next level.  What is the leap?  In track and field terms, the leap consists of four key factors:

  • The athlete's improvement does not appear to be incremental; a big improvement happens suddenly (to the outside observer)
  • The athlete dominates competitors who were previously equals; there is a notable shift of power at their current level (high school, NCAA, juniors, etc)
  • The improvement is sustained, as evidenced by improved consistency and numerous performances over time
  • For levels below the world elite, the athlete's performances are equivalent to top athletes at the next level and/or GOAT status for their current level

Last year, I counted six people who made the leap.  I've posted a new article up at Runner's Tribe that covers last year's leapers, as well as some thoughts about who seems poised to make the leap this year.  Let me know in the comments who you think is poised to make the leap!




Chicago Marathon: The Amazing Race

2010-10-13T07:09:47+02:00

My latest article looks at the amazing performance by Desiree Davila at the Chicago Marathon.

(image) I've just posted my latest article at The Runner's Tribe, where I take a look at the amazing races run at the Chicago Marathon last weekend.  In particular, I take a look at Desiree Davila's 2:26:20 performance for 4th place, which also made her the 4th fastest American ever.  Here's a snippet:

I think this performance by Davila is remarkable for a few reasons.  It's not the 2:26 time in and of itself, as it puts her roughly in the top 500 performances ever.  But she's just 30 seconds behind Kara Goucher's personal best of 2:25:53, and she has done it by slowly and steadily improving over the course of the past four years.  

Desiree Davila ran in high school in Chula Vista, California and never won a state championship race.  She never won a Pac-10 title at Arizona State either, much less an NCAA title.  She was a very good runner in a conference known for its great runners.  She did earn an All-American at 5000m in 2003 and still ranks 10th all-time at ASU for the distance, running 16:17.45, but she never projected to be a future Olympian.  Suddenly she is as good a bet to make the Olympics as any other woman out there.

A couple years after graduating she ran her first marathon in 2:44:56 at the Boston Marathon 2007.  She then ran 2:37:50 at the Olympic Trials in April, 2008, and 2:31:33 at the Chicago Marathon in October of that year.  Ten months later she ran 2:27:53 at the World Championships to finish one spot behind Goucher.  And now her 5th marathon is yet another PR.  She's like a 5'2" Latina Brian Sell, with leg speed...

To read the rest of the article, click here.

 




New: Women's American Record lens

2010-09-20T03:41:10+02:00

I finally finished the women's American Record lens that I started ages ago. Like the men's version, it has top 10 lists for all events, pictures, videos (where available, I'm looking for more) and some other interactive features. Hope you...

I finally finished the women's American Record lens that I started ages ago.  Like the men's version, it has top 10 lists for all events, pictures, videos (where available, I'm looking for more) and some other interactive features.

Hope you like it.  Feel free to leave a comment if you see something that needs updating.

Bryan




Let the Debates Begin

2010-08-24T17:20:08+02:00

With all the record times we're seeing run this season, it's only natural that we start having new and different debates. Who had the better season, new 800m WR holder David Rudisha in 2010 or former WR holder Wilson Kipketer...  With all the record times we're seeing run this season, it's only natural that we start having new and different debates.  Who had the better season, new 800m WR holder David Rudisha in 2010 or former WR holder Wilson Kipketer in 1997?  Or who are the "best" runners in the US today? I take a look at these questions in my latest article at Runner's Tribe Let the Debates Begin.  But before I settle those, I identify the top 12 types of arguments made in these types of debates.  Here's a snippet:  By my count, there are 12 arguments people make when debating runners' seasons and/or careers.  A good message board thread will usually have all of these come up at some point:The Hardware Argument:  How many championships did they win?  The basis of this argument is that there is only one thing that matters, and that's winning.  In track, this argument is usually diluted to include the top three, but only when it can't be settled by gold medals. The Record Books Argument:  Where do they rank all-time?  This argument assumes the best put up the best marks.  Faster, farther and higher = superior.  For young runners, this argument is often modified to be relative to age.  This is the one argument that tends to hold some weight against the Hardware Argument.  Especially when somebody is still the reigning record holder.You can click here to read the complete list! [...]



Great Expectations

2010-07-13T18:03:00+02:00

The past few weeks have got me thinking about expectations. Not from the athlete's point of view, but the fans'. We've had so many great performances over the past couple years that truly amazing marks are looked at with little...  The past few weeks have got me thinking about expectations.  Not from the athlete's point of view, but the fans'.  We've had so many great performances over the past couple years that truly amazing marks are looked at with little more than a shrug.  Case in point: Galen Rupp ran 13:10.05 for a new PR last Saturday.  The time moves him up to 8th all-time in the US.  It was his first race in Europe this summer.  And how much attention does the performance get?  Not much.  As I write in my latest article at Runner's Tribe, we've become so used to seeing home runs we've lost our appreciation for the guy who keeps knocking out single after single.  Perhaps Galen Rupp is the Tony Gwynn of the steroid era. Here's a snippet: When I grew up, the advice I got playing baseball was not to try to hit home runs, but to just hit the ball hard.  Put the ball in play and good things happen.  Great hitters get lots of hits, not necessarily home runs.This isn't so different from my former coach Bob Larsen's advice for becoming a great runner: Put yourself in position to have a good race every race (just hit the ball).  Great runners don't run great and then run terribly, they consistently run well (hit the ball hard every time).  Once in a while they may really hit one and get a PR (home runs aren't the goal, they just happen).Maybe today's runners didn't play baseball.  Or maybe they did.  I don't think many of them are swinging for the fences.  I think they are simply trying to hit the ball hard, and for whatever reason that's led to a bunch of grand slams of late.  So many that it's almost begun to seem normal.  But it's not normal.  It's fantastic, it's awesome, and it's a bit mind-blowing but it's so not normal.We've seen so many out-of-nowhere great performances that when Galen Rupp runs 13:10 in his European opener, it doesn't even get bold font on the LetsRun homepage.  Two years ago it would have been a lead item and the forum might have gone down.  But today it gets one of two responses: a shrug or a hyper-critical analysis of why it wasn't good enough! What a difference two years makes!You can read the full article, including a list of my most memorable expectation-defying performances of the past two years, here. [...]



2010 NCAA Outdoor Over-Unders

2010-06-09T09:40:31+02:00

Life caught up to me for a little while there and I didn't get any articles posted at Runner's Tribe. The upcoming NCAA Championships kicked me into gear, however, and I've just posted a pseudo-preview of the meet here. In...

Life caught up to me for a little while there and I didn't get any articles posted at Runner's Tribe.  The upcoming NCAA Championships kicked me into gear, however, and I've just posted a pseudo-preview of the meet here.

In the article I look at 10 different hypothetical gambling stakes and break down whether we should take the over or the under.  Here's the 10:

  1. Total championships for Andrew Wheating +/- 1.5
  2. Number of English victories on Saturday +/- 1.5
  3. Number of distance points scored by freshmen +/- 30
  4. Number of Aussie points scored +/- 17
  5. Number of NCAA Meet Records broken +/- 1.5
  6. Distance points differential between Oregon and Oklahoma State +/- 26.5
  7. Women's 800m winning time +/- 2:00.00
  8. Combined margin of victory in men's and women's 10,000 meters +/- 1:10
  9. Number of games this NBA Finals is going to go +/- 6.5
  10. Number of to-the-wire epic distance finals +/- 3.5

To read the whole article, click here.




The Forgotten Phenom

2010-05-06T08:48:47+02:00

It was a big weekend for US distance running fans, with Chris Solinsky breaking Meb's American Record for 10,000 meters at Stanford on Saturday. As usual, I missed the best distance meet in the country because I was in L.A....It was a big weekend for US distance running fans, with Chris Solinsky breaking Meb's American Record for 10,000 meters at Stanford on Saturday.  As usual, I missed the best distance meet in the country because I was in L.A. for the UCLA - USC dual meet.  Not only did the Trojans defeat both the men and women, but Meb lost his record.  Not the best Saturday for the Bruins. My latest article at Runner's Tribe looks at Chris Solinsky and wonders how we could forget about such an amazingly successful runner when we discuss the best distance runners.  Here's a snippet: Chris Solinsky will always be remembered as the first non-African to go sub-27.Maybe it's because he came after the Class of 2001, which had the amazing trio of Ritz, Alan Webb and Ryan Hall.  Few athletes were as dynamic as Webb, who broke Jim Ryun's mile record, and Ritz set the standard for high school cross country runners with his two Foot Locker victories and his 3rd at World Junior Cross Country.  You could forgive fans for paying most of their attention to those three.And it didn't help that Galen Rupp, the high school record breaker with the famous coach, came right after him, either.  Rupp would go on to set five high school and junior American Records, and seemed to create controversy and strong opinions due to his training situation.  More recently, and despite Solinsky's amazing performances, we've been enamored with German Fernandez, Chris Derrick, Evan Jager, Andrew Wheating and now Robby Andrews, our 'phenoms du jour', if you will.  One person has done more to keep Chris Solinsky out of the spotlight than any other, however, and that's his training partner and former college teammate, Matt Tegenkamp.  For the past two and a half years Chris Solinsky has trained and raced against Teg, and Teg has simply had his number.  Like many fans, I got sucked into thinking of Chris Solinsky as being "not quite as good as Teg" and not "on an upward path and gaining on Teg".  Something tells me nobody will be making that mistake again. Click here to read the full article! [...]



Make Rotterdam a Major

2010-04-18T18:21:48+02:00

April is Marathon Month with Rotterdam, Paris, Boston and London all being held within a few weeks of each other. As any follower of the world marathon scene will know, Rotterdam has continued to put out amazing fields of top-caliber...April is Marathon Month with Rotterdam, Paris, Boston and London all being held within a few weeks of each other.  As any follower of the world marathon scene will know, Rotterdam has continued to put out amazing fields of top-caliber athletes and the times they are running are phenomenal.  This year we saw the 5th, 7th, 12th, and 16th fastest performances EVER all run at Rotterdam. My latest article at Runner's Tribe looks at the World Marathon Majors and argues that Rotterdam is a better fit than Berlin as the 5th race in that contest (along with London, Chicago, Boston and New York City).  Not that it will ever happen, as the World Marathon Majors were established by the five marathons and not an independent body, but still.   Here's a snippet of the article. Since the World Marathon Majors were announced in 2006, I've both loved the idea and had misgivings about the actual process.  I think it's great that athletes are encouraged to compete in multiple races, and that the "best" marathoner in the world gets a prize.  But it's not really getting the job done in my opinion.The purpose, as the WMM website states, is to "advance the sport, raise awareness of its athletes and increase the level of interest in elite racing among running enthusiasts."  That's a great goal, and as a self-professed running enthusiast, I'd love if it were increasing my level of interest and not just my level of head-shaking.Here's how the WMM works.  Athletes compete in any of five major marathons--Boston, London, Chicago, Berlin, and New York City.  (In the case of a championship year, the IAAF World Championships Marathon and the Olympic Marathon are included.)  The top five athletes in each race are awarded points based on their finishes: 25 for 1st, 15 for 2nd, 10 for 3rd, 5 for 4th, and 1 for 5th.  The athlete with the most points over a rolling two year period--2008-2009 and 2009-2010 are both separate competitions--wins the prize: US$500,000 each to the top male and female.There's a lot of potential here.  You're going to have to run and win at least one marathon, and probably two, over two years if you're going to win.  You're probably also going to have to place in another.  So you've got to show up and race.  It's also a huge payday for any distance runner, so it should be motivating (for the top few marathoners in the world). And most importantly, it gives TV commentators an extra 3 minutes of material to discuss during the races, which accounts for about half of the interesting information we'll get to hear watching any particular race.But there are problems with the system and they need fixing... To read what needs to change with the structure of the WMM, why Berlin is like a shoot-first point guard on a basketball team, and why Rotterdam should be considered for inclusion, click here. [...]