Friday, August 22, 2008

Athlete for Life

I was just commenting to Terri that for me to take the best care of myself, I'm going to have to commit to being an athlete for life. If I take excellent care of myself I do really well, but, as I get older, I just don't have that much room to slack off like some do (who are actually quite few we're learning).

There's an article in the Chron today about older athletes.

Which talks about how the age that you'll see people competing in the Olympics is shifting up. (The swimmer Dara Torres being a great example.) I bet there will come a day when Dara Torres current age (41) is no big deal at all.

Hopefully this phenomena will have an influence on current standards like how to calculate your max heart rate. Right now, it's 220-yourage which I know isn't accurate for me as I've pushed my heart rate that high (174 - and know I could go higher as I train with a heart rate monitor - which is an excellent training tool). While there are other alternate calculations for fit people I've found that I can get a good approximation by using my "real age" which last time I checked was about 9 years younger which for me puts my MHR at 183 which is probably more correct. I also like the mental advantage I get by thinking of myself as 37. Until someone younger kicks my butt at something. :)

The World Without US

More Olympics. I'm watching the womens Javelin final. There are no Americans in the competition so the US Media is not really paying attention so there are no commentators though it does have graphics accompanying it and Javelin is pretty straightforward so I'm not so lost. Basics are throw the javelin within the specified area and don't step on the line (a common problem).

It's actually unfortunate that there isn't commentary as it's obvious that there are stories abound in it. I would love to hear interviews with all of the top placers (A Czech, a Russian, and a German) - who clearly know each other and compete with each other all the time, and some of the ones that didn't do that well. The usual: what motivates them, how they do their training.

Some minor digging turned up this on the winner:

Here is one great quote from that link that it's sad that the US media ignored:
Not only did Spotakova steal the gold from under Abakumova’s nose, she strangled her continental record almost at birth. Furthermore, she wasn’t going to be beaten by a Russian on the date that she said had been in her mind since she knew the schedule. 21 August marks the 40th anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Now that's something of a payback. :)

The net is making the world smaller - I love it.

BMX racing - another Roller Derby

The Winter Olympics has Short Track Speed Skating which is very much like a modern day Roller Derby (RD being a sport that claims to have rules but I don't believe it: ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4). In the Summer Olympics there is now BMX racing (ref1, ref2) which is very much Roller Derby on bikes. There isn't body checking but it happens anyway. Pretty exciting stuff (oh and it has a commentator):

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Power of the Narrator

So I've been watching the Olympics both on TV and on the internet. the cool thing about the internet is that you can watch any of the sports so you get a better variety, but on many of then you don't have any commentary. It's just like you're there with some titles and instant replays thrown in.

We often make fun of the commentary, but when it isn't there I find I really miss it. With sports I'm not familiar with like fencing, judo, shooting I am completely at sea. Sports I have some vague acquaintance with I really wanted a commentator to fill me in on what I'm missing. Especially complicated sports that have a huge history behind them like dressage. Even sports I know and have competed in like badmitton and softball I still want a narrator just to give it a feel of legitimacy maybe?

Some of the events don't really have an announcer. Taekwando actually had announcers and a very active referee and crowd which make it kinda exciting, in contrast shooting was as dull as you might expect (and I'm pretty tolerant) and each fencing match was over before I knew anything had happened. There is even a very talented American doing it so I'm surprised the network isn't talking about it.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

McCain Quote: Nations Don't Invade Other Nations

Yesterday afternoon, I was casually listening to NPR and they were discussing the Russian invasion of Georgia. Naturally they talked to Obama and McCain about it and, of course, they were completely against the Russian invasion. McCain took it a step further than I would have expected him to and I'm wondering if there's any way to hold him to that.

He said: "In the 21st century, nations don't invade other nations."

I was driving in Berkeley in traffic and it was really hard to not run into someone when I was saying "WHAT?! What do you think we just did at the very beginning of the 21st century?"

What kind of special glasses do you need to be able to see what we did and what they did as different? Of course the issues are different. Our justification was nebulous at best and mostly false, Their issues are a very real territorial dispute.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Waist to Hips Ratio - a better health measure

So I've ranted here about how I really dislike the Body Mass Index (BMI) as if you're muscular you will appear overweight. It's an easy bet that many Olympic athletes in Beijing right now would be considered overweight. An example being those gorgeous male gymnasts I was watching yesterday who are relatively short, but have arms larger than my thighs. Even many of the American Gladiators would be considered overweight or even obese which is a hilarious thought.

So I was thrilled to hear of more recent (recent being relative - it's not that new) research that indicates that fat around the belly ("apple" shaped rather than "pear" shaped) is a good indicator of health risk. There is now the concept of Waist to Hips Ratio (WTHR - ref1, ref2). Simply divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. Women with a ratio of .8, or men with .95 are at what is considered low risk (ref.)

I like this measure. It's a lot less ephemeral of a concept. Fat around the internal organs is a credible threat (an older but surprising good USA today ref)

I'm right at .8, but just barely so I'd like to take another inch off or so.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Chinese and Western Culture - Worlds Apart

A few days ago, I was listening to a radio program on KALW (I forget which program) about how China views itself (kind of a large generalization since we're talking about a billion people). The view of the person talking was that China has a self image similar to what the US had in the 1950's. The one where "Everybody loves us." and they were really stunned to learn that in the "West" (US and Europe) that's oh so not the case.

What makes me realize over and over how far apart the cultures are is that the Chinese put so much stock in shame and are so firmly convinced that's supposed to carry weight in the West. They quoted one person saying how "ashamed" they were of France around the torch relay protests. "Shame on you France." All I can think of is "Huh?" You ignore that your country steamrolls over basic human rights on a regular basis (too many refs to list), and when someone else points it out, all you can think of to say is that they should be ashamed for dishonoring China and themselves. All I can do is shake my head in amazement, we may never be on the same page at this rate.

Though I must admit I'm looking forward to the Olympics, but I always do. I think the expectation of many world records is a little high given the horrible air quality in Beijing, but we'll have to see.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Wombats Ride - Aug 2008

I owe Bladium big time (Well I guess I do pay them, but still). 1 year of spin/RPM classes and now riding up Deer Park Road and Shaver Grade (in Fairfax), is pretty much entirely doable for me. Before I would have to walk a fair portion of it. Places where before my muscles would have hit failure I was able to work through - I had this sensation that my quads were able to get more oxygen even though they were working under load. I had this sensation when I was doing the quad strength test (see last entry) and I've often had it during the RPM classes. Either that or they are working anaerobically - I have no way of telling. Though they were not burning which is usually the indication for me that they're not working aerobically.

It was great to see Jacquie again, and I met a woman named Lisa who is out here visiting and is from Brooklyn. The day was filled with things not going as planned, but with just enough of things not going as planned that they meshed perfectly. First of all I was late and made myself even later because Tom and Ray of Car Talk were amusing me so much that I forgot that I was getting of the freeway at San Rafael and fell into autopilot going up to Santa Rosa. Fortunately I had got only a few miles out of my way and was able get back on track. At the same time, Lisa who was waiting for the Wombats in the wrong location, realized her mistake and headed over to Deer Park which was the correct location.

I finally get there and don't see Jacquie which I'm only half surprised about since I'm so late (though it's not like they leave right on time either). I get the bike out and changed shoes and I notice there's a woman riding a bike slowly in the parking lot. I finally ask her "Have you seen Jacquie?" (Amongst Fairfax mountain bikers it amuses me that I can do this to just about any person on a mountain bike and most of the time they know who I'm talking about.) She says "Well it's funny you ask that." Turns out she's looking for her too. I'm familiar with the first part of the route up to 5 Corners and I was betting that if we just hang at 5 corners we'll eventually see her. We have a nice chat while we ride up to 5 corners and we were just getting ready to sit down and settle in to wait when a polkadotted dreadlocked biker appeared. "There you are!" I say, and we were all reunited. Those sort of coincidental misadventures you can not plan.

We continue on up Shaver Grade to Sky Oaks [paved] Road. Ride past the beautiful Bon Tempe Lake and continue on to Lake Lagunitas (not to be confused with the one by Stanford). Circle the lake and then head back this time staying on Sky Oaks the whole way back down.

What was fun about staying on the road was similar to going down Mt Diablo Road you can really scream down the hill and you don't have to worry about running over a hiker (or getting a speeding ticket which, in Marin, they do had out to mountain bikers). And in the same vein of you never forget how to ride a bike, the muscle memory of how to go down a hill fast on a bike doesn't disappear very quickly at all. I may have had to spend a year getting back into the shape I was when I routinely climbed mountains on a bike, but I didn't have to spend a year relearning the go downhill fast skills. though the disc brakes help a lot with better, more efficient braking power and my hands are not horribly fatigued like they used to get.

And of course we had tea and much dish afterward. I always like to hear how the bordering on incestuous Marin bike community is doing. This isn't a gossip column so I'll skip naming names.

I really like how much time Jacquie takes teaching biking skills to women. It's fun to watch her work. One thing that I found fun was that I had headed off to charge down a hill (not a beginner skill) and she was going to hang back with slower riders and do some instruction, but just as I left, I found that she had easily caught up to me to give me directions for the bottom of the hill, once she had done that (which was done at not slow speeds), she was immediately able to send me on my way and ride back up to where she had started from. Pretty talented multitasking there.

She wants to write a book for women over 50 who have never ridden a bike before (or haven't for a long time.) Given the increasing interest in exercise and alternative transportation her timing sounds right.

I tell Jacquie that I want take her skiing this coming ski season and she's all for it. I keep telling her that skiing embraces eccentricity much more so than the mountain bike crowd. (I tell her that she needs to see any Warren Miller film to see what I'm talking about.) Well this should be fun.