Category Archives: sports

A marathon?

I just found out about the horror that is the bombing at the Boston Marathon.

To fully understand the horror it’s important to understand some stuff about Marathon’s in general.

The Boston Marathon requires that the competitor quality. For a 40 year old male, like yours truly, I would have needed to finish another marathon in less than 3 hours and 15 minutes. Doing the Boston Marathon means working really hard to get really good and doing two marathons in a year.

If you’ve ever attended a marathon, the pro’s or elite’s finish in less than 3 hours. Most of the press and the spectators at the finish line are there to see those folks cross the line. At the four hour mark the only people left over are volunteers, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, best friends and cousins coming to see their loved one’s cross the line.

And, of course, volunteers who are sitting there cheering each person as they cross the line.

So it’s going to be a deadly mix of 40+ year old finishers who probably have families with small children crossing the line then. You’ve got the 40 year olds who finished and are trying to recover, and the 50-60 years old who are crossing the line.

If your goal was to create maximum tragedy and you wanted to place a bomb, the four hour mark would be just perfect.

A massacre of innocents to move some asinine ideology forward.

Marathon Part I: The Freak Out

My family and I flew into Athens on Thursday November 8th. Miraculously the flight was without incident or calamity. Our departure, not so much. Our main sewer line was blocked, blocking all of our drainage. Thankfully it occurred just as we were leaving. All that meant was that we couldn’t take a shower on our return trip. This will become important in the last part of the Marathon. 

On November 15th we went to the Zappeion Megaro

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Here’s me and Nick standing in front of the building:

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The folks managing the Athens Classic Marathon (known by the cool kids in Greece as “To Klassiko”) did an excellent job managing the thousands of runners. There were 26000 registrants across the marathon, 10k and 5k and approximately 18000 folks who actually finished all races and at no point did you think that this was  country that couldn’t manage it’s finances.

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So we get there, within 10 minutes of our arrival collect our bib and information packet. The cool Klassiko marathon jersey was at the end of an Expo we had to schlep through. 

After picking everything up, we found a nice cafe right next to the Zappeion Megaro. There I opened the packet and saw the route for the first time.

Let me observe that I have spent many many years in Athens. Let me also observe that I had run at that point 20 miles in my training runs. So I wasn’t expecting to be surprised by anything.

But for the first time I realized the enormity of the challenge in front of me. 

As a pre-teen my grandfather Charalambos (my mom’s dad) would take me to Rafina to go swimming. Rafina in my mind was far far away. It was, in my mind, at the other end of the universe. And then I noticed that Marathon, the starting line was 15km away from Rafina. 

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Here’s my genuine reaction when I figured that out:


It was at that moment that the enormity of the task  dawned on me. 

The Death Ride vs The Athens Classic Marathon

On November 11th, I ran into the Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens finishing my first Marathon in 5 hours 42 minutes.

And almost immediately the first question that came to mind was: 

Was the Marathon harder than the death ride?

So to put things in perspective. 

The Athens Classic Marathon is one of the hardest marathons out there. The distance is standard, but there is a non-standard 20km up hill section with a total 800 foot elevation gain. 

The Death Ride on the other hand has 128 miles of biking (206km), an elevation gain of 15,287 feet (4660m) and is at an altitude of 5500 feet. 

Both of these are insane events for an amateur athlete to complete. 

They both require a lot of fitness and a level of pain tolerance that is almost inhuman. 

So the winner (or loser)? 

My vote is for the Death Ride. In the Athens Marathon there where several overweight fat guys were actually able to finish the run in less than 7 hours. On the other hand I was, literally, the fattest guy to finish the Death Ride. And by finish I mean cross over the fifth peak. I did not actually ride back down to the finish line because of a “torn/sprained/stretch badly” chest muscle that prevented me from breathing deeply. 

My wife, on the other hand, asks if the difference was related to the training regime. The Death Ride training regime was intense but it was less intense than the Athens Classic Marathon. For the Death Ride we biked three times a week. For the Marathon I ran four times a week and biked on Sundays. So it is possible that I was in better shape at the start of the Marathon than I was at the start of the Death Ride. 

I fear that what I am doing is becoming the start of a bad joke: a swimmer, a cyclist and a runner walk into a bar and argue over whose sport is harder… a few weeks later the ironman triathlon is born. 


What I remember about the Death Ride is at the beginning of the ride I was in the best shape of my life. At the end of the ride I was more broken than I have ever been. I crawled into a bed and slept for hours. For the next five days my brain was shut down as my body tried to recover from the exertion.

What I remember from the Marathon is that the night of the Marathon I went to a kid’s party with my son, the next day I went for a walk etc, etc. etc. 

Training or effort? 

Who knows… But I suppose I could start training for the death ride and find out….


I am not Lance

So after watching Lance go up and down the mountains, I decided to hop up on my bike and go up Old La Honda.

So here’s a picture of the beginning of the ride up:

And here’s a picture of me at the end:

And it took me about 40 minutes to go up 3.29 mile climb that had an elevation gain of 1000 feet. 

And after that climb I was looking to the nearest place to stop and breathe.

Couple of fun facts about the ride. So I was like the fattest guy going up Old La Honda. When I finally hit the corner of Foothill and Page Mill I noticed a whole bunch of folks who were bigger than me.

So I felt a little bit better when all those freaky skinny guys blew past me, saying the always friendly: On your left…

Not bad for an old fart

 Today on Mont Ventoux, Lance Armstrong was able to hold on to his 3rd place finish.

Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador were clearly the best two riders of the tour, but Lance was very much the third best guy on the road.

The real fun, though, was listening to today’s broadcast because Bradley Wiggins of the UK was trying to desperately hold on to fourth.

Phil Liggett was practically jumping up and down cheering for Wiggins. Telling him to stay in there, push harder, and came up with the best phrase:

He’s holding on to 4th by the skin of his bike shorts!

Wiggins benefited from the fact that Frank Schleck didn’t have the legs, whereas Frank benefited from the fact that his brother was too far behind Alberto Contador to be able to mount a realistic challenge for the overall lead. So with Alberto and Andy stuck in first and second, it was a battle for the 3-4-5 positions of the overall lead. Andy tried to create attacks that Frank would follow but the magical legs that Frank had two days ago had disappeared. Instead after every attack Andy would have to stop and wait for his brother.

Furthermore, Frank was not going to benefit from the tactical screw up of the other day on stage 17 that lead to a surprising stage win:

What had happened was that  Lance was following Wiggins all day. On the climb to the Col de Romme, Andy attacked and Alberto and Kloden followed. Lance realizing that he wasn’t going to challenge for the overall GC and that Alberto had a team mate let that attack go. A few seconds later when the attack had not yet consolidated, the group behind the leaders more or less stopped. Lance looked behind him, watching both Wiggins and Frank. He didn’t want to be pacing his challengers for the podium. When Frank attacked, Lance was at too much of a dead stop to catch up. Making the tactical decision that he could limit the damage Frank could create on his overall lead, and believing in his performance in the time-trial, Lance let Frank go, deciding to keep his eyes on Wiggins. Lance, correctly, surmised, that the multi-minute gap was simply too big for Frank.

But today with only 30 or so seconds separating Lance and Frank, there was to be no such screw up. And indeed there was not.

At the end of the tour, when Versus finally caught up with the Texan, he looked pleased with himself. Like anyone who comes in third, and realizes there was no chance for first, he was happy with his accomplishment, and said:

Not bad for an old fart like me.

And the Spaniard Ends an Era

For even the unsurpassed, the great, Lance Armstrong, age finally arrived.


Amazingly able to keep up with great climbers a decade younger than him, Lance seemed poised to triumph in this year’s tour.

But the tour, has a way of separating the champions from the pretenders. For the first time in almost 11 years, Lance Armstrong felt like his competitors must have felt as he crushed them up mountains, leaving them gasping for air and wondering what went horribly wrong…

Alberto Contador looked to his left, saw the group of leaders and then blitzed to the top.

As we watched him sprint on ahead, we wondered, will Lance respond, and the old tired body that crossed over the finish line a 1.5 minutes later told us the story, no.

Lance no longer the Champion, he was now the domestique of a new champion.

The Mayor, Jester of London

Watching the newly elected Mayor of London  Boris Johnson, at the Olympics was amusing. It was obvious that no-one told him what to do, when to do it or how to do it. The optimist in me thinks this was just a normal guy thrust into extraordinary circumstances who was as befuddled as I would have been in front of 90+ thousand people and 1 billion people on TV. The cynic in me wants to observe that for a country that spent so much time choreographing everything, you would think they would take the time to walk the Mayor of London through the ceremony, you would think they would tell him to button up his suit, you would think they gave him a comb… But they didn’t. Was it all done to make the Mayor of London, and the City of London look ridiculous as compared to Beijing?

But I am an optimist so I’ll assume he was just thrust into extraordinary circumstances without his own handlers giving him sound advice.

So here’s what it looked like.

He arrived on stage looking haggard and bedraggled. His hair was poorly done. His suit looked ill-fitting. Couldn’t a tailor in London have given him a proper suit?

He walks onto a stage with over 1 billion people watching, with his suit open looking confused about what he should be doing.

London mayor Boris Johnson, left, and the President of the IOC ...

He then stands on stage, and his first reaction is to put his hands in his pockets … only to see that everyone else has their hands by their side … so he pulls them out.

He than stands wondering what is going to happen next.

Then we watch the Mayor of Beijing majestically wave the flag and pass it on with two hands to the president of the IOC, who then in turn passes it to the Mayor of London, who has never waved a flag in his life. The flag is twisted around the flag-pole so we have this anxious moment where we wonder if The Mayor of London is going to drop the flag but thankfully we avoid that embarrassment. Finally the Mayor of London hands the flag over with one-hand relieved to be done with this ceremony…

For a country that understood pomp and style seeing the Mayor of London be so confused with such a simple ceremony was just plain funny.

Criticism of Project 119

First let me congratulate the Chinese people on throwing a fantastic party, and for winning 51 gold medals. Truly an outstanding performance!

Now, let me offer my condolences to every athlete who had aspirations to any of the 119 gold medals that the Chinese government has targeted. Now it’s obvious some of the gold’s are in high-profile events, but some are not so high profile. And I am really talking about the less high-profile sports. Where people with few resources who had talent could compete on the global stage.

It’s almost comically unfair. You have obscure sports, that by the nature of their obscurity, have marginal amounts of money, are labors of love, and don’t immediately attract the best athletes.

These sports exist on the fringes of the Olympics. Some people care about them passionately, but for the rest of us, they don’t exist. And in many ways, I believe those sports represent the best part of the Olympics.

Unfortunately, the Chinese government has decided that they want those medals. And the Chinese government will apply the full power of their resources to get as many of those medals as they can.

And you have to believe that although it will take time, they will win those medals. China has the people, the money and the determination to win those medals. And that the amateurs, who did this as  a labor of love, who could aspire to a medal will be consigned to even more obscurity. Yes talent counts for something, but so does training, preparation and coaching.

So I feel sad, because on the fringes of the Olympics were sports where the true amateur spirit of the Olympics lived, free from the over-the-top professionalism and over-the-top-jingoism and now China’s Project 119 will make those sports just as professional and jingoistic as the rest of the Olympics…

Cynthia Potter Redux

How could I have missed this beautiful exchange:

Robinson, commenting about the imposing look of a Russian diver who had shaved his head: "I feel like I’ve seen this guy in a James Bond movie."

Potter: "I think I’ve seen him in some other kinds of movies."

Robinson, stunned into awkward silence: "  …  "

Potter, as replay of the Russian’s dive rolls: "Those other movies were about violence, not anything else."

Maybe this woman is a credit to her profession, and maybe diving fans love her, but oh-my-God, she needs some help with her color commentary ….