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Monday, June 09, 2008

2008 Prefontaine Results

No record for Bekele, but Sweet 16 for Mutola

In spite of all the hype about a potential world record on the books for the 2008 Prefontaine Classic, including moving the start time to 9:30 local time as apparently that is when the wind conditions were most favorable, it was not to be, and Kenenisa Bekele instead ran a strong 26:25.97 to clock the fastest ever time on US soil.

A strong start, but legs enough only to cane the field

At four km Bekele was just three seconds off pace at 10:33, and hit halfway in a cool 13:10. He ran away from the field, but slowed down the stretch to finish just eight seconds too slow for the record. It was a valiant attempt as he ran in true Bekele style---solo and in front of everyone, including his two teammates Ibrahim Jeilan and Maregu Zewdie. Although they were nearly a minute back (27:13.85 and 27:14.13, respectively), they completed an Ethiopian sweep of the race.

It is probably just where Bekele wants to be, actually. Hitting world-record form 8-10 weeks prior to Beijing would signify an early peak, and one that would be extremely difficult to maintain over so many races. Instead, this will likely give Bekele crucial feedback about his form and training to date, just in time to implement some final tweaks over the summer to hit (even better) form in August. It is apparently Bekele's last 10,000 m race prior to Beijing, and given his performance today he looks to be in a perfect position to take gold come August.

Worse than the "Chinese Water Torture"---Chinese Hurdler Mind Games?

After pulling out last week in New York, Liu Xiang false started in his race (the second one in the race and therefore an automatic DQ), leaving questions about his current form. Said Xiang, "My speed is so fast I did not realise I had the false start." However, on the boards over at LetsRun.com many suspect that
it was a ploy to relieve Xiang of the pressure of competing as his countryman was the first to false start in that race.

Generally we are not a fan of conspiracy theories, but this one sounds plausible! The pressure on Xiang is incredible, and surely he must feel it in some way, shape, or form. Given such intense pressure it is not surprising the antics that people can get up to. Ploy or not, though, we must now await his next race to see how he stacks up against the field.

Mutola completes her 16 year string of wins

Incredibly, even after showing some weakness in the past 12 months in the twilight of her career, Maria Mutola went on to finish the job she started in Eugene, Oregon, 16 years ago. That was when she first won at the Prefontaine Classic, although it was over 1500 m. Yet victory for her was a recurring theme of this meeting every year since, save 2002 when she did not compete. Her string of wins includes 12 over 800 m, three wins over 1000 m, and one win at 1500 m. An astounding 16 straight victories for Mutola caps an amazing career in the women's 800 m.

Her 1:59.24 was a far cry from her best of 1:55.19, but to demonstrate such consistency is truly remarkable. Mutola will compete in Beijing to make it her sixth straight Olympic appearance. We do not fancy her chances for gold, but nevertheless she is a remarkable athlete and we hope she does well in her final Olympic Games.

A look ahead to Beijing - Where should they be?

The interesting thing about these races and any subsequent ones in the next two weeks is that they represent the last tune up for athletes hoping to peak in Beijing. This is because any training they complete in the run up to August will not produce results in June or July as it takes some weeks to make all the physiological adaptations.

Bekele looks to be in a good position, as does Allyson Felix who finished a distance fourth in the women's 100 m in 11.06. Admittedly the 200 m and 400 m are more of Felix's events, but her foray into the 100 m at the Pre meet this year was surely a chance to check her speed and form. The feedback these athletes take away from their races this weekend (including those who ran in Oslo---Jeremy Wariner broke 44 s) is invaluable. Athlete and coach now sit down identify what exactly they must improve prior to Beijing, and will go on to complete very specific training over the next 8-10 weeks which they and their coaches think will provide them that winning advantage come crunch time in August.

So watch your favorite athletes now, as the form they produce in the next 1-2 weeks will be telling down the stretch.

A look ahead - Dauphine Libere and a wrap on Fatigue

We have not focused much on cycling this year at The Science of Sport, and in fact the Giro d'Italia came and went without a peep from The Sports Scientists! However the Dauphine Libere kicked off today in France, and this race is known for predicting performance in le Tour which starts on 5 July this year. Levi Leipheimer took the prologue on the opening day, but lots of racing lies ahead in this tough eight-stage race.

We will also try to put a wrap on our Fatigue series. This was an incredibly challenging one to write as the topic is complex and wide, hence the length of the posts and the series in general. However we hope to cap the series with an "executive summary," watch out for that soon!


Anonymous said...

"{Generally we are not a fan of conspiracy theories"

unless it involves Oscar Pistorius.....

Anonymous said...

"Generally we are not a fan of conspiracy theories"

nor do we worry about singular/plural subject/verb agreement

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thanks for visiting us here at The Science of Sport.

We welcome meaningful comment on this blog as we hope it will generate debate of the issues we write about here. However, we do not find either of your comments here meaningful.

We have written extensively about the events surrounding Oscar Pistorius, yet no where have we claimed a conspiracy is at work on any side of this case. If you feel we have, it would be more helpful if you pointed out exactly where we have done so, and commented on that post so that we can engage in a debate around that issue.

We strive to meet the highest editorial and grammatical standards possible here on this blog. However, we are in the end only human, and in this case you have found a minor usage error in this post.

Thanks for alerting us to this error, although I am willing to say that nearly all readers knew exactly what we were talking about.

Finally, while all visitors here have the right to comment anonymously, we feel it is not helpful or meaningful for anyone here to make apparently baseless comments under the cover of anonymity. It would be more beneficial for all if you identified yourself when offering up such criticisms. Any beneficial debate cannot happen when one side remains anonymous.

Thanks again for visiting.

Kind Regards,

A Deal Or No Deal said...

The pressure in Xiang must be immense, you're right. I think the 110 hurdles seem especially unpredictable, not like a 10,000 or 400 where you can predict victory quite certainly. Any thoughts? I would never predict anyone to be a lock to clear ten hurdles faster than seven other men.

Stan Silvert said...


I think I've got a great article topic for you. Over on Hal Higdon's board, we've been having a debate over the 4:1 carbs/protein ratio needed for proper recovery. Lots of companies have been creating "recovery drinks" and "recovery foods" based on this magic, oft quoted, ratio.

Someone posted this New York Times article that says, among other things that, "as a group, athletes are particularly gullible". The article is so poorly written it is hard to tell what the conclusion is on this matter.

So what is the real story? Didn't the magic 4:1 ratio come from a single small study? Is the 4:1 ratio at all important?


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Stan,

Thanks for your suggestion about a post on nutrition.

I read the article by Gina Kolata in the New York Times, and agree with the statement that athletes appear to be a gullible lot. Marketing will work to sell any product, but it seems the width and breadth of items being punted to sports people on wild claims are particularly large.

At the risk of reducing this down too much, let me make two points. First, we know from lab studies that different things happen when we make dietary interventions and measure the results. These are controlled studies with very specific protocols and methods.

Second, for the average weekend warrior, and even for the more serious recreational athlete, there are far larger ways to impact your performance than diet. Performance is dependent on so many factors, and to be sure diet is one of those, but again for most of us diet will have only a very small impact (assuming that you are eating a normal, healthy, mixed diet already).

I do not know exactly where the 4:1 ratio came from, but I guarantee you that it is oversold to athletes.

I surmise that 99% of us are not doing nearly enough training to have to worry about ingesting a post-exercise meal immediately so that we optimize recovery.

So if you are hungry after a run, eat something. . .pay attention to your cravings, and do not get hung up on the idea of a "one-sized fits all" approach to post-exercise recovery meals. Eating a PBJ sandwich and glass of milk is likely just as good as some "specially formulated" 4:1 drink, and probably a lot cheaper to!

Thanks again for the comment, and we will throw that idea on the ever-growing pile of future posts.

Kind Regards,

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Adeel, and thanks for the comment here.

More technical events like hurdling are definitely harder to predict. The only time a prediction seems prudent is when one athlete really has been dominating everyone, but we do not see that yet in the men's hurdles this year.

The fact that Xiang has yet to really show anyone his form only makes it more difficult to choose a front runner. It will be really interesting to see what he does over the next four weeks, i.e. if he continues to pull out and false start, or if he competes. Eventually he will need to run as it will benefit him to know how his form stacks up against the other guys.

So keep a close on on that event, and thanks again for visiting!

Kind Regards,

A Deal Or No Deal said...

I surmise that 99% of us are not doing nearly enough training to have to worry about ingesting a post-exercise meal immediately so that we optimize recovery.

I work at a running store, and meet many people who run 40-50 km a week and run half marathons in the 2-hour range who worry about this sort of thing. I'm amazed at what people do worry about (the ratio of nutrients) and don't worry about (how hard they train).

Xiang's modest seasonal best of 13.18 still makes him the third-best in the world so far. Based on New York and now Eugene, the pressure looks to be getting to him, and he might be primed for a letdown. I hope that's not the case.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Adeel

Thanks for the info. You're right about the priority confusion, that's for sure. I guess the idea of something simple and efforless making a big impact is just too juicy a carrot to ignore for people. I suspect it's that way for anyone, not just sportspeople!

Anyway, on the note of Xiang, I remember on the 24th of December last year, I did a post on Liu as part of a recap of 2007. It was a tongue-in-cheek post, but we gave him the "losing sleep over the future award" because of the immense pressure he must be under.

the problem, as you pointed out in your first post is that the event he runs in is perhaps more precise than any other - 1 mm too low or high in hurdle clearance, or 1/10th of a second off with the timing and he's losing ground. I'd hate to be him, for sure. Then again, he won the world indoor title this year, and his biggest rival, Robles of Cuba actually false started then (when he was odds on to beat Liu and pile the pressure on him). What that gamesmanship? Or pressure getting to him as well? I have a feeling that 110 hurdles race is going to make for some incredible theatre come August!


Anonymous said...

Off topic:

I couldn't find an email for you guys, so it had to go here.

Our friends over at runnersworld.com posted this today


Sounds like bunk to me, but could there really be some truth to it? Who better to ask then the boys at science of sport?