So, I finally broke 4:00 in training. In fact, I managed 3:54. Admittedly, I have a lot of advantages. Training methods, nutrition and shoes have all improved a lot since Roger Bannister first ran the four-minute mile
I’m not generally a fan of political scandals: at worst, they are spurious, at best, they involve random exposure and punishment of misdeeds that usually go unchecked. But there’s one big exception for me, and that’s when political scandals intersect my sporting interests.
Last year, the high-profile case was that of Republican VP nominee, Paul Ryan, who claimed to have run marathons in his younger days, with times in the 2:50s, an impressive achievement at any age. It turned out that he had run a single marathon, in 4:01:25. As all runners know, no one who has put the effort to run a marathon makes that kind of mistake. Ryan’s time is better than either of mine (4:37 and 4:24), but I’m aiming to break four hours in the next year or two, and I have a good few decades on him.
Now there’s Tony Abbott, who seems to have claimed expenses for everything from weddings to music festivals. But the only one that really interests me is the $2100 he claimed when he went in the 2011 Port Macquarie Ironman. I couldn’t find a time for 2011, but he did the 2010 event (3.8 km swim, 180 km cycle 42.2 k run) in 14 hours, whereas I took 8 hours to do half as much in the Cairns 70.3 in June.
What strikes me about this is not so only the expenses issue (although that obviously irks me) as the training time that must be involved, and the implications for the rest of Abbott’s commitments. Preparing for a marathon or a 70.3 while working full time, even in a flexible job like mine, requires putting most other things, like social engagements, on hold. If he’s training for a full ironman and managing the commitments inherent in being a politician, it’s hard to believe he can have any significant amount of time free to study policy issues and consider the best responses (as I know, you can’t think about these things while you’re running an endurance event – there’s not enough blood flow to the brain to think about much more than keeping your legs moving).
Looking at Abbott’s actual approach to policy, the three-word slogan approach is unsurprising. He can’t have had the spare time or energy for anything better. That worked fine in Opposition, but it hasn’t been great preparation for government.
I was way behind the rest of the Interworld in catching up with the Eden Hazard ballboy kicking, but coming late has its advantages. As is presumably well known to followers of this particular competition, but not to others, the “ballboy” is a minor match official whose job it is to return the ball when it goes out of play. Traditionally, this was done by actual boys, aged in their early teens, who volunteered to help out in this way – giving out this coveted job being a minor perk for the senior officials of the club. Naturally, they were supporters of the home team, but this was unimportant.
But, now, it seems, the typical “ballboy” is a young man, under instructions to make life easy for the home side and difficult for the visitors. This is a new twist on the standard practice of grimy visitors’ dressing rooms with unreliable hot water and so on. All of this helps to create a home ground advantage.
This raises some interesting points about the business of sport.
Thanks to everyone who sponsored me and Flavio Menezes for the Noosa Triathlon. I finished in 3:04:55, a personal best. The highlight was finishing in the top half (31/72) of my age-gender category for the run leg, the first time I’ve managed this in any leg of a tri. As regards the 1.5k swim, though, the less said the better. Flavio outdid himself (and me) finishing in 2:50. As you can see from the sidebar we raised $2320 for Heartkids which is really great. Thanks again!
This article by fellow-MAMIL Michael O’Reilly makes an argument I’d been meaning to post. Whatever the merits of bike helmet laws in general, the costs clearly outweigh them in relation to bike-share schemes like CityCycle in Brisbane.
We clearly need a category of exemptions that lets people hire a slow bike for touring around our cities. Having done that, I’d extend it to anyone willing to take the trouble to apply for exemption, while maintaining the helmet rule as the default. I certainly wouldn’t seek an exemption – I like my head the way it is – but I can imagine there are people who would make the choice, and it’s not so obvious that their judgement should be over-ridden.
In kindly sponsoring my effort in the Noosa Triathlon, where I’m supporting HeartKids (click on the button at the right to help) long-time commenter Jack Strocchi made a demand for a “pound of flesh” in return. Sad to say, I’m going to shortchange him. Based on past performance I expect to burn about 2500 calories (or about 10 Megajoules, just to make life hard for some of the computationally-challenged media figures we’ve been poking fun at lately). That corresponds to about 10 ounces (300g) of fat, most of which will be replaced in advance with a big pasta meal the night before the race. Of course, if I allow fluid loss, and weigh in just after the race, it will be more like 2kg.
One of the side benefits of taking up exercise is that I can now do all sorts of conversions of this kind. For example, a glass of red wine is about 150 calories (600 kJ), and running uses about 75cals/km so I have to run 2k to burn it, which seems like a fair deal. By contrast, despite their healthy image, a typical muffin is about 450cal/6km, definitely not worth it to me.
Perhaps I’m a bit too obsessed with numbers. But on matters of this kind, I’m with Lord Kelvin who observed
I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science, whatever the matter may be.
Update A fun theoretical observation that just came to me, and which I don’t remember seeing anywhere else. It’s obvious and well known that, the heavier you are, the more energy you need just to move yourself about. In fact, a 50 per cent increase in body weight implies a 25 per cent increase in the energy intake needed to sustain a given level of activity (try this calculator). What this means is that there is a linearly increasing relationship between body weight and the energy intake consistent with maintaining that weight. Turning that around, any given energy intake is consistent with a unique stable weight, for given activity level. So, whatever your starting point, if you eat the amount consistent with your target weight, and change nothing else, you will end up there, sooner or later.
fn1. A "standard drink" is more like 100, but that's a small glass. If you are keeping count for driving purposes, two drinks of any kind usually amount to three standard drinks.
fn2. Surprisingly, so does walking. Energy consumption is determined mainly by distance travelled and body mass – the speed at which you go affects the rate of energy use, but not (much) the total over a given distance.
The counter on my fundraiser widget is not updating properly, but I’m happy to say we’ve already raised $380 for HeartKids. Thanks to everyone who has given so far – I’ll be sending individual thankyous soon. There’s still plenty of time to get your donation in before the end of the financial year, but the sooner you do, the sooner I’ll be able to show the undead hordes a clean pair of heels.
To give everyone an incentive, if I get $500 in donations by Monday*, I’ll match it.
*You can also donate to Flavio’s part of the effort, which is tallied separately
Just in time for the end of the financial year, another fundraiser! I’m planning to run in the Noosa Triathlon in November. My friend Flavio Menezes and I have set up a charity fundraising team, with the hopeful title “Faster Than Zombies #2″, and you can give money through the Everyday Hero widget on the sidebar. We’re aiming to raise $4000 between us. A few points which I hope will help to get the credit cards out:
* We’ll be supporting HeartKids Queensland which helps children born with heart disease and their families. I know it’s always hard to choose which charities to support, but this one does a lot of good and scores really well on the “warm inner glow” scale
* Last time around, some commenters expressed concern about the cost charged by Everyday Hero. I raised this with HeartKids and got the advice that, for a small charity like theirs, going through Everyday Hero is more cost-effective than handling donations directly
* This blog is free and always will be. The only financial return I ask for is support in efforts like this one.
* For those in paid work, donations are tax deductible. That means you can give more!
I know not everyone can afford to give much to charity, and many of you will have made your own choices already. But for those with a bit of spare cash, here’s a chance to put it to good use.
The Queensland government has cited an alleged financial crisis as one of its spurious justifications for the sale of public assets, but apparently it can find a spare billion or so to spray on yet another sporting event which will almost certainly return little or nothing in revenue. I had my say on the Commonwealth Games bid here and here. The ABC story includes Treasurer Andrew Fraser’s admission that the proceeds of the asset sales, which were supposedly going to finance schools and hospitals, are the source of this luxury expenditure.
I’m happy to say that on this occasion I was accurately quoted in the Oz. The reporter Roseane Barrett did her job properly, and there was no editorial interference, presumably because the story was critical of a Labor government.
I can’t bring myself to post about the latest manoeuvring for numbers in the Parliament, and nothing much is going to happen on policy until that’s all resolved. So, since exercise seems to be one of the topics in which nearly everyone is interested (and there are lots of other blogs devoted to the topic on which *everyone* is interested), I thought I would expand on my last post. That post made it seem as if I’m focused on running, but actually I try for a more diverse portfolio
* Group training, three or four times a week
* Running, 5k or so, twice a week, mostly on treadmill or soft surfaces. I was running further and on hard surfaces but cut back when I started getting knee pain
* Cycling, 20-30km, once or twice a week, plus riding into work intermittently
* Swimming, 500m-1K, two or three times a week
That seems to be enough to keep my muscles a bit sore most of the time, but to avoid obvious injury to my joints. Following some problems a few months ago, I’ve been getting some useful advice from my physiotherapist and a sports podiatrist on how to avoid knee injuries from running.
As I mentioned a while back, I’ve been doing a bit of running and, unsurprisingly, had knee problems. One response has been to take drinks made of a foul-tasting powder containing glucosamine sulphate and chondritin, which has been widely held out as having promise in relieving symptoms of osteoarthritis. There were some promising case studies, enough to prompt both widespread use, including by me, and a full-scale trial and meta-analysis.
The tests results are now in, and I have mixed feelings in reporting that the both glucosamine sulphate and chondritin appear to be useless. (H/T Neurologica, but link isn’t loading). I was tempted to finish off what was left, on the theory that it might be doing some good anyway, but my commitment to evidence-based policy, along with the fact that the stuff tastes foul, has prevailed.
Out it goes. Now, if anyone can recommend a good broad-spectrum placebo, I’m in the market.
Everybody hates drug cheats. But that doesn’t seem to stop it happening, and it’s easy enough to see why.
I just finished the Bridge to Brisbane 10km fun run. I was doing really well on my training, and seemed certain to beat my personal best when I started getting knee pains – nothing really bad, but enough that I stopped before it got any worse. I got some help from the physio and did lots of stretches, but it was still a problem. So, on the day, I just took a couple of ibuprofen, and did my best to ignore it. And, if I could have taken a pill that would fix my knees for me, I would have done so.
Am I, then, a budding drug cheat?
fn1. updated My friend and colleague Flavio Menezes (who beat me by 3 minutes) advises me that my time was 53:20, which is (just) a PB. My knees advise me that they will forgive me just this once. And, I should mention that, thanks to a series of miscalculations, i did the run with no assistance from caffeine, the wonder drug on which I rely for all things. So, with good knees and strong coffee, I can still hope to break 50.
A few days ago, I suggested, a little tongue-in-cheek that the money wasted on Gold Coast car races would be better spent buying a major football grand final. It turns out, that’s precisely what the Bligh government is trying to do, and offering much less than the cost of the car race. Nathan Rees is not happy.
For quite a few years now, I’ve been following both the fortunes of the Brisbane Bullets and those of an economic system centred on high levels of debt, validated by capital gains. These two interests have collided in an unfortunate fashion with the announcement that the Bullets license has been returned to the National Basketball League. This has been more-or-less inevitable since the owner, Eddy Groves, ran into financial difficulties arising from the impact of the credit crisis on his childcare group, ABC Learning.
I’ll doubtless have more to say on the credit crisis, and perhaps on whether private ownership of sporting teams is a sustainable model for Australia. But for now I’d just like to say thanks to the players and staff of the Bullets for providing me and my family with lots of fun and excitement over the years I’ve lived here in Brisbane, particularly in their last championship season 2006-07.
As the Olympic torch touches down in Australia, it is hard to see how any good can come of the entire exercise.
After Kevin Rudd’s visit to Beijing, which seemed to herald a newly mature relationship between Australia and China, we’ve spent a week or more embroiled in a petty squabble, of a kind which is all too familiar in international relations, over the role of Chinese torch attendants/security guards, with the Australian government insisting that all security will be provided by our police and the Chinese saying that the attendants will “protect the torch with their bodies”.
George Orwell observed over 60 years ago that
Even if one didn’t know from concrete examples (the 1936 Olympic Games, for instance) that international sporting contests lead to orgies of hatred, one could deduce it from general principles.
and history since then has given plenty of examples. It looks as if the 2008 Olympics will join them.
After 44 years, Geelong has finally won a Grand Final, and in stunning fashion with the largest margin ever in a grand final. Having followed them for 40 of those years, before changing religion as a symbol of commitment to my move to Brisbane, I was really glad to see this, even though it was too late for me to be part of it.
The Brisbane Bullets have just completed a 3-1 win over the Melbourne Tigers in the National Basketball League Grand Final series, for their first win in 20 years. As I promised at the beginning of the season, I’ll never say anything rude about betting markets again.
Just back from the Entertainment Centre, where the Brisbane Bullets scored a thrilling 3-point win over Melbourne in the first of the best-of-five Grand Final Series, making their record 21 wins in succession. This might be the year!
Due to the fact that a well-known leftwing political ideology contains the name of a drug for male performance problems, much touted by spammers, my blog software is rejecting all comments on the football post below. Sorry about this – I’m going to raise it with my hosting service. In the meantime, please comment here.
There’s nothing remarkably original about the observation that of the world’s football codes, soccer* is the one that is consistently organised on capitalist lines. Most sporting leagues have a whole series of redistributive taxes and regulations, such as drafts and salary caps, designed to keep the competition open. Even if you follow a team that hasn’t won for decades, like South Melbourne/Sydney in AFL before last year, it’s reasonable to hope that your turn will come again.
The Socialists won a surprise victory (or at least a plurality) in the recent Austrian elections. The outcome appears to promise a departure from power for Jorg Haider, although the combined vote of the far-right parties was still 15 per cent, which is disappointing.
For CT election-followers, the outcome is of interest in another respect. According to the reports I’ve read, all the polls and all the pundits got this one wrong. So, if betting markets got it right, that would be pretty strong support for claims about the wisdom of crowds. But my (admittedly desultory) scan hasn’t produced any info. Can anyone point to market odds for this outcome?
Another great Grand Final, with some excellent play and some misses that will be rued for a long time to come. I’ve never followed either team, but men watching a sporting match have to take sides, and I went for the Swans, while my son backed the Eagles.
A great win, and a stunning riposte to everyone who was bagging the team and coach after the 1 point loss in the first game. It was a good series, but taken in all, Queensland earned their win well.
Due to ‘a series of unfortunate events’, and despite at least moderate effort on my part, I managed to see only one of the goals scored in Australia’s World Cup campaign as it happened, and this was of course, the Italian penalty that ended our chances. I don’t know enough about the rules to tell, and I don’t suppose Guus Hiddink is an unbiased authority, but this seemed to me to be a pretty soft foul (maybe others can give a better-informed view on this). Of course, all sorts of chance happenings, such as injuries, rain and so on affect the outcome of sporting events, so it’s silly to complain. Then again, if we didn’t get to complain, half the fun of sporting events would be lost.
Anyway, relative to either our past record or our population (divided as it is among four different football codes), this was an amazing achievement.
Having grown up in AFL territory, I don’t follow rugby league really closely, but in Brisbane it’s impossible to avoid being caught up in the State of Origin which was, after all, essentially a Queensland creation.
I couldn’t really understand all the doom and gloom that followed the first-round loss. It was only one point after all, and if it had happened that Queensland scored the last minute field goal all the rhetoric would have gone the other way. Anyway, there won’t be anything like that after last night. NSW played pretty well, but only a consolation try in the final minutes saved them from what would have been the most crushing defeat in Origin history. A great game to watch, too, with lots of open play and daring moves.
Caz sums up my thoughts about walking, considered as a sporting event
You see, the â€œwalkâ€?, with all its stylized strangeness, has become more and more unnatural over the years. Sure, perhaps not as unnatural as the girl coming out of the well and through the television set in The Ring (the real version), but all the same, it was always a tad ungainly.
The walk, to my mind, is no longer just another silly walk, worthy, apparently of a medal; rather, it has morphed into a silly jog. I donâ€™t care how they slice it, or how they rationalize it, the competitors are not walking â€“ they are jogging, albeit in a very silly manner. They are no longer walking quickly; they are jogging slowly. Itâ€™s time for the walking events to leave the stadium on the grounds of being a fraud.
Her thoughts on wardar are also worth reading.
According to my local suburban paper, Western Brisbane has won more gold medals at the Commonwealth Games than either Canada or New Zealand. I’m sure Doreen Root would have something to say about this.
Although I’ve contributed nothing to this outcome beyond some desultory cheering at the TV set, and have never previously considered Western Brisbane as a distinct entity, I am, of course, filled with patriotic pride at this glorious victory.
Reader Jane Harris addresses the vexed question “How many umpires?”, first in econospeak and then in verse. The occasion is an AFL proposal to allow goal and boundary umps to award free kicks.
Comments welcome (rhyming couplets please)
The Brisbane Bullets have sacked their captain Derek Rucker, having already axed Daniel Egan and Lanard Copeland. It seems pretty clear that Bobby Brannen will go as well. While Copeland has probably reached the end of his stellar career, the others still have plenty to contribute. They seem to have paid the price for the fact that an all-star team didn’t live up to expectations. Given that all of them turned in some superb performances at times, I would have thought the blame for the team not coming together lay most obviously with the coach or management.
I grew up following suburban club football in Adelaide. In those days, there were occasional changes but, broadly speaking, you took on a club for life, either as a player or a follower, and vice versa. I know times have changed, but I can’t say I warm to the wholesale shifts that characterise Australian basketball in particular. Not only do players move all the time but clubs come and go at a great rate, mainly for financial rather than sporting reasons.
Having moved to Brisbane just after the demise of the Canberra Cannons, and just when Derek Rucker (whom I’d previously followed in Townsville) returned, I thought I was in for a bit of stability. Instead reform and structural adjustment are the order of the day. I’ll find it hard to muster much enthusiasm for the Bullets next season.
nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet.
Marcos Baghdatis put up an impressive fight, but ran out of legs in the end against the calm professionalism of Roger Federer in the Australian Open. Still, there’s always next year.
Update While we were all looking to Melbourne for an upset that never came, this was happening in Sydney.