USA 2009 on the horizon, and some stats on cricket fitness
As promised the other day, I just wanted to reveal a little bit of my upcoming itinerary, which takes me on something of a "sports science" (and management) pilgrimage to the USA, starting on Monday next week.
My last trip to the USA was in January 2008, when I had the opportunity to get a taste of places like Chicago and Boulder, and so this trip is very much the main course, and I'm definitely going back to those places, plus a few new ones that I'm very hopeful will inspire many posts in the coming months!
So first things first - please don't worry, you're not going to get my "Diary of..." entries, where I tell you about the wonderful monuments and museums I visited. Rather, I hope that the trip gives me so much content that I'll be able to run a series of posts on people and topics that are inspired by the places and jobs I'm over there do to. So look at this more as a "Forthcoming attractions" post!
Chicago for the marathon - pacing and environmental research
First stop is Chicago, for the Chicago Marathon on October 11, and to give one or two lectures at Jonathan's university, UIC. Not to run (sadly), but to do some research in the medical tent, building on some of the work that Jonathan did last year. He and I will both be on the ground on race-day, where he'll be monitoring environmental and weather data from the route, and I'll be tracking the elite athletes and doing an intensive sample of their pacing.
The environmental data analysis was really a consequence of a really bad year in 2007, when it was so hot that the race was effectively ended early, and many runners were forced to abandon. Tragically, one athlete died. Since then, the organizers have made a point of monitoring conditions on the route, and Jonathan has headed this up - we'll post more on this in the coming weeks, and also some of the significant findings and implications of the measurements!
The pacing strategy data should be very interesting. By now, you have perhaps seen our typical marathon offering, where we do the 5km pacing strategy analysis of the elite fields. Well, in Chicago, we're going to try to be 8 times (well, 8.439 times) better and bring pacing splits for the elite fields EVERY 1KM.
That should be particularly entertaining if Sammy Wanjiru delivers on his promise to attack the world record. Word is that he's looking for pacemakers to hit half-way in 61:40, and we'll be tracking him, kilometer by kilometer, from the finish line!
So join us for those two analyses, in the build-up week and then on race day, 11 October!
Onto Colorado - Boulder and the US Olympic Centre
From Chicago, it's off to Colorado (13 October), and the highlight of the 2008 trip, Boulder. Boulder is one of the world's endurance sports meccas. I remember joining up with a training group last time (thanks Simon) and running out at the reservoir, and we saw hundreds of other runners, all in groups, all coached, doing their thing that morning.
It's a place that is a hub for innovation, a home to Training Peaks, who very kindly hosted me last time, who are now one of the leading lights in the monitoring of training quantity, quality and performance in the world. Magazines, authors, coaches, and a world-class university are all part of the Boulder charm, and so I will spend a few days there, meeting people, and hopefully doing a series of interviews to follow on from our previous interviews with Yorck-Olaf Schumacher and Prof Bengt Kayser.
From Boulder, I head down to the US Olympic Centre in Colorado Springs, at the kind invitation of Prof Randy Wilber. While I'm there, I'll be attending a Symposium on Altitude Training from 21 to 23 October, where some really great scientists and coaches will be speaking (they include Prof Wilber, Prof Christopher Gore of the Australian Institute, Bob Bowman and Terrence Mahon of swimming and athletics, respectively).
While there, I'm hoping to see inside the US system, particularly how they have integrated sports science into the preparation of the elite athletes. As you know, my current passion is really the management of science, strategic and scientific methods for high performance. So you can expect a fair share of opinion pieces and interviews from this phase of the trip as well!
Boston, Prof Dan Lieberman and barefoot running shoes
Finally, on October 30, I head to Boston where I'm going to take a visit to Harvard University, and a visit with Prof Dan Lieberman. To those who don't know, Lieberman is Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard. In his words, from his own website: "I study how and why the human body looks the way it does". Lieberman has looked in great detail at our ability to run long-distances, and his theories are really fascinating, warranting a series all on their own! One of his research papers (co-authored with Bramble) can be seen here.
What makes me particularly keen for this visit is that Prof Lieberman is also one of the big names who has endorsed the Vibram Five Fingers running shoe, which I'm sure many of you know about. The site above has some quotes from Lieberman in it.
I'm quite excited about this because I'm really looking forward to hearing the rationale from one of the men closest and most capable of explaining the concept. It's a topic we've covered many times on this site in our series on running shoes.
My opinion on this whole 'minimalist' shoe movement is that it is sound in theory, but it's been rushed to market too soon, and incorrectly. The biggest problem is not the concept, but its implementation (the same is true of Pose running, by the way), and so I'm really keen to hear Lieberman's views, which are far more balanced than many who've advocated in the past.
I know that he's of the opinion that we should move away from bulky, heavy shoes, which is an opinion I share, but that he recognizes some of the limitations behind the 'minimalist movement' claims to date, and the lack of "hard science" (his words). His own views are not 'diluted' and so a meeting with him should produce some fascinating posts and maybe an interview!
So do join us over the next five weeks, and perhaps I'll be able to meet many of you while on my trip!
In my last post on Monday, I commented on Graeme Smith's cramp problems during SA's loss to England. I also mentioned my OPINION on the fitness levels of cricketers in general, including those in SA.
I received an email this morning with some facts that need to be published, along with an apology from me for any unfair criticism or offense that I may have caused with those opinions.
It was revealed to me that Smith achieved "a Level 13 on the Bleep test three weeks ago which is excellent (for any team sport). We know that Graeme is susceptible to cramp, but this does not mean that he is unfit. Cramping is not primarily due to a lack of conditioning. It is related to fatigue and genetic susceptibility. Many of the fittest team sport players in the world cramp as a result of numerous factors including, the intensity of the game, environmental conditions etc. Professor Noakes wrote an article (attached) several years ago (to which I contributed) showing that the cricketers were just as fit as the rugby players and that 11 of the 15 players in the 1999 world cup had played provincial level or higher in other sports."
It's necessary to state that opinion, and again, if I was unfair in delivering my opinion, then I apologize. Certainly, that 1999 paper exists, and I would not dare question its validity. It was ten years ago, of course, and the whole issue is that this current team may not be as fit as its predecessors, but it illustrates an aspect of cricket fitness that I did not acknowledge in my post on Monday. Of course there are fabulously fit cricketers, and I should have mentioned this. Smith, having achieved level 13, may be one of them, and those in charge should take credit for this.
So perhaps a congratulations are in order for those responsible for preparing the team and players, for Smith did bat brilliantly, spending 95 overs in the field to make his 140, and an apology for not acknowledging this in my original post.
A disclaimer (again)
Finally (I wish it were finally, I seem to do this every few months), I must emphasize that you're reading an opinion piece on this site. And it's my opinion, pure and simple. In fact, after the Caster Semenya controversy, when I was 'reprimanded' by the Minister of Sport (before, I must point out, it emerged that Chuene was lying, which is what I was suggesting), I put a disclaimer on the site. It says: "The views expressed on this site are not those of UCT, Sports Science Institute of SA, or UIC"
One thing I have realised in the last few months is that everyone is 'objective' until you disagree with them. Then they become subjective, inaccurate and wildly accusatory. Between those who've said I should resign on the basis of views on Oscar Pistorius, and Ministers and others who think we should remove "science" from the website name, I guess we're plenty subjective...!
But thanks everyone for reading and for supporting the efforts!
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Wednesday, September 30, 2009
USA 2009 on the horizon, and some stats on cricket fitness