Tuesday, 27 March 2012


I was thinking about Sotanism again, which was advocated by Percy Cerutty as a combination of Stoic philosophy and Spartan methodology. I considered it to be an imperfect philosophy. But despite my misgivings Cerutty got results from his athletes. It is evident he was an observant coach, correcting running form and other such physical details in his athletes. But he was also a thinker, and gave his athletes a lot of mental preparation: He may have obtained impressive results in part by keeping the minds of his student-athletes distracted.

But isn't it the job of a coach to keep an athlete focused?

Monday, 26 March 2012

Hamilton: there and back again

Sunday's race is over and I'm tired and sore. The race, 30 kilometers in length, did not go especially well (1:48, far worse than my last two marathon splits at the same mark). I did not pass those I would normally would. But overall I am pleased with the weekend for a few reasons.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

'Round the Bay I go

I haven't given a personal update since this one last month whilst still injured. I am not currently injured (woot!). Feeling good in fact, and a little under-trained (not a bad thing; beats the alternative). My shins were getting a little sore after the extra land-based running so I'm taking this week easy. Nevertheless, I will race this Sunday. The lead-up will involve plenty of pool time. And rest. Rest, rest, rest.

As hinted by the title, the race I will be running is Around the Bay (30km) in Hamilton, Ontario, and for the first time. I signed up months ago therefore mighty pleased my injury has faded. I suspect that around 30 km is my ideal race distance, well at least if I were in ideal shape. Right now the goal is to run (mostly) for fun and avoid any new injuries. I'll aim for 1:45 or thereabouts.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

A happy thought

I was pool running today and had a thought about fast versus slow twitch fibres: Simple logic says that every single person on earth is perfect for some running distance. Why? because you are either gifted in a high percentage of fast-twitch (FT) muscles or slow twitch (ST) ones. Since we are talking about percentages, a lack of ST means an abundance of FT; the following formula applies to all people:

%FT + %ST = 100%

The best sprinters are gifted with the most FT fibres (FT = 62%) and ultra distance runners have the maximum amount of ST ones (ST = 82%) [souce: this book, p.18]. By the pigeonhole principle* your body's muscle composition must be perfect for some distance in between. Now perhaps your 'ideal' distance is non-existent, like 17.3 kilometers, but who cares? You are absolutely perfect for it. You were born for that distance. You are an ideal specimen for distance X. Even though I have never met you, the statement is an undeniable fact. You can also change you ST/FT ratio slightly depending on your life-long exercise regimen, but what I'm stating here makes the point moot.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

New team racing game

I was walking home yesterday when an idea for a two-team competition popped into my head. It's a new variation on the race idea I mentioned at the bottom of a previous post. I don't want to just yet claim I invented this game without more research, but as far as I know there's never been mention of it. Here's how it plays out:

Equipment needed: two standard racing batons, one for each team.

People needed: Five per team (Why five? It's what most running teams are used to in cross country. Otherwise it's arbitrary. More per side might be fun). 

Setup: The two teams (of five runners) start on symmetrically opposite sides of a standard 400m or 200m race track, as shown below. When the start pistol sounds, the teams run in the same direction about the track (i.e. both move counter-clockwise)
The object of the game is for the team member holding the baton to pass the opposing team member in possession of their teams' baton. There are a few important rules that keep things interesting. Read on.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Nature of running

Hats off to last night's Nature of Things episode The Perfect Runner. Summarizing two million years of human (running) evolution turned out to be more straightforward than I expected, in part thanks to the show getting straight to the point: we never had a chance of out-sprinting predators so instead we evolved to outrun our prey...eventually. Some of this is explained by Daniel Lieberman (for those who don't already know that name, he started a lot of serious discussion after a front-page Nature article comparing shod and barefoot runners). Niobe Thompson hosted the show, an avid but not professional runner and takes us on a tour of places such as the Reindeer herders in Russia and modern Ethiopians.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

A day in the life

A few months a ago this video was making the rounds, and still is for all I know. In case the link ever dies, it was uploaded by Dr. Mike Evans; the title is "23 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health". To summarize, he advises at least 30 minutes of exercise a day to maintain basic health. No surprise here, as people have been saying as much for years. Mike Evans' contribution is perhaps better illustrating the point. That said, if you literally need someone to draw you a diagram as to why sitting for 24 hours a days is bad for you, you may be past hope. Personally I thought the video was being sarcastic. Judging from people's reaction on Facebook, apparently not.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Raising the Bar

There has been some recent debate surrounding Dylan Wykes: Should he be allowed in the 2012 London Olympic marathon given his recent quality, but not qualifying, performances? Recall his October 2011 6th place finish of 2:12:56 at the Toronto Marathon and his 2:12:39 victory in the 2010 California International Marathon. This is not meant as a rebuttal to anything I have read. My own opinion is that he should go (joining his teammates Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis) if Athletics Canada had the willingness to let the top three Canadians that run under 2:15 attend. Actually this is not so much my opinion as a logical fact since he is the third fastest Canadian running under 2:15. But AC cannot budge at this late stage, so the only decision that can be made now is by Dylan's legs (assuming he has another go at it). Regardless of the facts of the current situation, it bears taking in some perspective as set by other countries in the last Olympics. Are we Canadians in tandem with what others do, or are we being unduly harsh for no obvious gain? I regret the answer leans towards the latter, as I explain below.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Birthday Crossword

It's my Nana's birthday next week. As she likes doing crosswords, I made her a special one. She doesn't like the internet as much, so this probably won't count as a spoiler. Anyhow, I think she'll like it (although I made a typo in the original...).

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Darwin and coaching

I remembered reading a particular passage from Darwin's Origin of Species some years ago. Darwin wrote his masterwork at the age of 50, summing up decades worth of observation. In Species, he describes just how incredibly rare it is to be a good animal breeder. He used the example to show, self-evidently- even a few generations of breeding livestock can make a difference. But he reminds us the differences are small, very small, and only a few select individuals have the talent. A breeder may see only a handful of generations of animals in his own lifetime. This passage really stuck with me; I had never thought  how hard it might be to look at dozens of animals and spot the one or two that stood out as 'special'. Here's what he wrote:

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Silly spoof on Olympic standards

I was reading about various Olympic standards and people's issue with them. I wrote a sardonic piece on the subject, using women's hockey as my foil. Had nowhere to upload it at the time so now it's yours. Not particularly timely or anything. Enjoy!

Sunday, 4 March 2012


Seems like a lot of blogs are discussing philosophy these days. The word Stotan has been popping up here and there for a while now, which I suppose is reasonable given the man who coined the term, Percy Cerutty, published his ideas back in the 1950s and 60s. This post has no overreaching goal save to discuss what I think about his philosophy as far as I understand it.

Stotanism, as I have learned, is a combination of Stoic and Spartan philosophy. I was intrigued how these two philosophies were combined and why Cerutty decided to do so. This piece inspired me to try writing out my own philosophy on running (for a later post), which I will the 'cookbook philosophy'.

Cerutty certainly has some credentials to his name. He is known as the precursor to the more famous coach Arthur Lydiard, introducing some of the same ideas including 100+ mile training weeks, long runs over 20 miles and maintaining exercise in a natural environment. He was pioneer in the world of endurance sport.

Thursday, 1 March 2012


I was forwarded this CBC radio show several months ago (thanks dad). It's worth sharing. I'm tempted to highlight certain parts, but in truth the entire 54 minutes is worth listening to. The radio show is CBC Ideas. Don't listen to it in a noisy room; the quiet pauses are worth savoring, especially for the third speaker.

This episode, titled Footprints, was taped at a Sport and Society conference in May 2011 at the University of Waterloo. The discussion takes exercise -in particular running- in context with society as a whole. The idea of the conference is to understand how running integrates with the rest of people's lives. Very refreshing topic. I see all too often that sports comes with a notion of "either compete or have more social life, time to work, read, etc.". In truth they are all inextricably linked. Below is my summary of the show.