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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Athlete spotlight: Borzakovskiy and Radcliffe

Build-up to Beijing: Focus on Beijing preparations of Yuriy Borzakovskiy and Paula Radcliffe

A brief break from the fatigue series today, where we'll split the section on exercise in the heat up with some interesting articles we came across thanks to LetsRun.com (great site for running related news).

Yuriy Borzakovskiy - Olympic champion planning his defence

The first is an interview with Yuriy Borzakovskiy of Russia. He is the current Olympic 800m champion, and the 800m event, for those with an interest in the track and field races at this year's Games, is probably the most open event in the whole thing. There are probably ten men who, on their day, could win Gold. Last year, at the World Championships, for example, the top three were:

1. Alfred Kirwa Yego
2. Gary Reed
3. Yuriy Borzakovskiy

Only Borzakovskiy would have gone into the race a heavy favourite, though Yego and Reed are now realistic medal contenders in Beijing thanks to this result. But then so are about ten other men, including two young sensations: Abubaker Kaki Kamis of Sudan and David Rudisha of Kenya.

Kaki Kamis won the world indoor title earlier this year (in mighty imprssive fashion), while Rudisha, a young Kenyan, won in Doha on the weekend, running 1:44:36. And did we mention Saad Kamel, Bungei, Mulaudzi, Said-Guerni? The 800m event is so wide open that pre-World Championship favourites failed to even qualify for the finals! There are numerous reasons for this - the tactical nuances of the event, the unique physiological demands and difficulty of racing through two qualifying rounds, which many athletes are unaccustomed to, and don't seem to handle particularly well?

And then there is the psychology - in the article with Borzakovskiy, he alludes to the open nature of the event, insisting that there are no favourites for the Beijing title. But he does drop a few interesting hints at what it takes to win the title, including mention that Wilson Kipketer failed to win Gold in Athens because he was not "psychologically ready".

He also talks about how he is "in good psychological condition", and that he doesn't feel the need for any structured psychological intervention. Unfortunately, he doesn't elaborate on what that means, and he doesn't explain what he believes is the psychological "edge" that saw him win that gold medal, which would have been great insight.

Nevertheless, it's a great read, and really fascinating to see how he travels so extensively during the training phase. I count four different training camps in different locations, in addition to his home base, which is interesting, given that many of his rivals, particularly in Kenya, will find one single base during their build-ups.

The link again: Borzakovskiy article

Paula Radcliffe - Fear of failure and Beijing plans

The second and third articles concern Paula Radcliffe. Radcliffe is, obviously, one of the big names of the Olympics, perhaps more for her failures in Athens than her other magnificent achievements. The articles deal with the Athens Marathon and her now infamous DNF, which has been unfairly emphasized. She speaks in these articles about the burden of expectation and her fear of the same happening in Beijing.

I really do hope she can put this right in Beijing and win the title, though the challenges are numerous - apart from her rivals, there is the heat. Radcliffe is a bigger runner than many of the Japanese, Chinese and Kenyans she'll be racing against, and there is scientific evidence that size matters in the heat - bigger runners tend to fare worse in hot conditions (as we'll see in the next post on Fatigue and Exercise in the Heat).

The article alludes to the fact that Radcliffe is training in a humidity and heat chamber, which is of course vitally important in the build-up. Her injury is the other factor - a toe injury, which forced her out of the London Marathon. She seems to me to be the type of runner who needs and enjoys racing herself into better shape, and so that loss of a race may be substantial. She mentions in the articles that it's not a major concern for her.

Good reads, both articles, which you can find here:

Radlcliffe article 1
Radcliffe article 2

Looking ahead - picking up fatigue

Looking forward now, the next post on fatigue is on the way (as soon as time allows it!), and it will look again at exercise in the heat. This time, however, we'll concentrate on the regulation of performance (as opposed to the heat limitation of exercise, as we did yesterday) in the heat, with special focus on Beijing.

Join us then!



Andrew said...

I bet many of your readers would enjoy a "psychology series" after your fatigue series is done. Do you guys have any experience there?

As a tall, thin guy (193cm, 88kg) I thought I was supposed to have an advantage in the heat due to a higher ratio of skin surface area to body mass. Apparently this isn't the case - I've always struggled relative to other, smaller folks in hot conditions. I'm looking forward to learning why in your heat/fatigue article!

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

HI Andrew

Limited experience, I must confess! That series, which would be fantastic to tackle, is likely one to "outsource" to various people who have far more expertise! That's an option, we may yet consider it!

As for the heat and body size issue, you're right about size, and the impact of surface area and body mass on heat LOSS. So what you've looked at correctly is that you can lose more heat as a bigger person because your surface area is greater (and you sweat more as well). The problem is, you gain more heat as well, and when you look at the equations for heat balance, you find that the effect on heat PRODUCTION is greater than it is for heat LOSS.

In otherwords, you gain more heat than you lose, being a bigger guy, if that makes sense?

But the surface area to mass ratio is still important, because if you have a greater surface area (or reduced mass, or both), then heat loss is greatly favoured. But it's likely more important than bigger athletes produce more heat to begin with, and this is never overcome by the extra heat loss capacity.


Anonymous said...

Ross - here's someone who would be good for the "psychology series".

Anonymous said...

Hi Guys,

I had an interesting lecture (I'm an MSc sport sci student at Exeter) last week, from Andy Jones. I'm sure you have heard of him or know him? All about his consultancy work with Paula here in the UK. It was really interesting to see how some of her performance variables had improved from when she was 17 to 2001/2002. For example I think it was her top speed at 90% max, had gone from something like 14/15 kmh to 22 kmh wow! I'll look out the notes, you might be interested in some of the data.

As you said I think she's had some sessions in a heat chamber and been up in the pyrenees, and trying some more extensive pre-cooling this time. The jacket as well as some pre-cooled water. Plus maybe not doing her usual warm-up right before the race, so she doesn't raise her core temp too much.

What do you think to Mara Yamauchi as a dark horse? I think shes had good form winning the Osaka marathon? shes quite small as well!