What are your chances of becoming an Olympic athlete?

This interesting picture (courtesy of eCollegeFinder.org) shows the chances of U.S. athletes making it to the Olympics, looking at the 2008 (Beijing) and 2012 (London) Olympic Games participation data.
High school aged boys have a 1 in 8778 chance of making the U.S. Track & Field Olympic Team. For girls, it’s a bit tougher (1 in 9079), even if the lower possibilities are for basketball players (this is not a surprise for U.S., is it?).
Click on the picture to see a larger version and to look at the odds for all Olympic sports.
What are your chances of becoming a summer Olympic athlete?
Here you can find a list of my running-related posts. Now shut down the notebook and have a run! 
Science and Training:

Motivation for training: two inspirational speeches by John Doman.

When the weather is cold, or the crucial race seems to be too distant, or simply if you keep on making questions to yourself, instead of giving answers, these two inspirational speeches by John Doman could be really helpful for your motivation, whatever your favourite sport is.
The first one is about second places and here’s my favourite quote: “Knock knock, who’s there? The guy that finished second. The guy that finished second who? Exactly…”.
The second one may be a bit more intense, if possible, even if too resonant in certain passages. My favourite quote is: “The only thing, the only thing you can count on at any given moment is you! It’s you versus them. You versus no. You versus can’t. You versus next year, last year, statistics, excuses! […] You versus the odds. It’s you versus second place. Clock is ticking, lets see what you got.”.
Again: enjoy.
Here you can find a list of my running-related posts. Now shut down the notebook and have a run!
Science and Training:


The hardest 400 m of the World: the "Red Bull 400".

Have you ever tried to run a “full throttle” 400 m? It’s bloody difficult. But…what if your quarter mile race included a sensible climb? Let’s say something like 37° of maximum slope. Let’s say half on slippery grass and half on the glassy concrete of a…Ski Jump! Pretty weird, isn’t it? Well, this is the “Red Bull 400”, a race held in Tauplitz/Bad Mitterndorf’s Ski Jumping facility.

With an average gradient of 45% and a nickname of “Highway to Hell” given by the athletes, this is probably the most difficult 400 m race in the World! Take a look at the video: aren’t you curious to give it a try?

We could organize a bus for next year’s race! Take a look at the official website, it’s an interesting collection of news and articles (they discuss, for example, the difficult choice of the right shoes for this strange competition). Just to let you know, the 2011 winner was the “Turkish chamois” Ahmed Arslan, with a time of 5’04″58. Keep on running, people!

Here you can find a list of my running-related posts. Now shut down the notebook and have a run! 
Posts about training:
Posts about races:

Running at 4000 m: the hypoxic chamber (altitude training).

Have you ever thought about training at altitude? If you are a runner with passion for mountains, probably the answer is affirmative.
But what’s altitude training?
Wikipedia says that “the basic concept of living or training at altitude is to cause the body to adapt to the lower oxygen content by producing more oxygen-carrying red blood cells and hemoglobin. This improves the athlete’s ability to perform work, because more oxygen is available to the working muscles”.
Why is there less oxygen at high altitude?
At sea level the air contains around 20.9% oxygen. On the top of Mount Everest (8848 m), too. Why do we say, then, that there’s less oxygen? The difference is all in the air pressure: at sea level there is a pressure over our heads equivalent to 10 m of water. At 8848 m this pressure is equivalent to around 3.5 m of water. The percentage of the oxygen is the same, but being the pressure lower, the molecules are less compressed and, thus, more distant from each other: there are few molecules of everything in the same volume. That’s why the oxygen intake is lower, if the respiration rate is the same.
Does this kind of training really improve performance?
Apart from the cool thing of running at 4000 m even if your city is at sea level, the results of hypoxia (lack of oxygen) training are not clear. As Prof. Dr. Joachim Mester said in his speech titled “Altitude training: on myths and methods” (you can find the pdf here), the analysis of more than 100 international studies in the last 40 years show:

  • “practical experiences and also controlled studies indicate performance enhancement effects, other do not;
  • acute and chronic hypoxia induce well-known physiological effects in gas exchange, hematology etc.;
  • performance enhancement may occur; it is, however, in onset, magnitude and duration very individual;
  • re-adaptation to sea level is quite rapid, the duration of positive effects is scientifically unclear;
  • the effects of all options live high/train low – train high/live low are not sufficiently proven;
  • criteria for individual input (training load at altitude) are often insufficient: High-low responders, early-late responders.”

One thing is for sure: training at altitude (simulated or not) is hard!
I tried two different conditions in three different session. The first day (06/01/2012), the chamber was simulating the 4000 m conditions: 12.2% oxygen (18.0 °C the temperature, 41.5 % the humidity). The workout consisted in:

  • Warm-Up (2.50 km @ 4’35″/km);
  • 1×1000, 1×800, 2×400 @ 3’40″/km, 2’30” recovery @ 7’30″/km;
  • Cool-Down (1.0 km @ 4’15″/km, 1.0 km @ 4’35″/km, 1.0 km @ 5’00″/km).

And here you have the HR graph:

HR acquisition of the 4000 m training (06/01/2012).
The second (09/01/2012) and the third day (11/01/2012), the chamber was simulating the 2500 m conditions: 14.8% oxygen (18.5-17.0 °C the temperatures, 72.5-60.5 % the values of humidity). Both workouts consisted in:
  • WU (3.00 km @ 4’35″/km)
  • 4×1000 @ 3’30″/km, 2’00” recovery @ 7’00″/km
  • CD (3.10 km @ 4’35″/km).

Unfortunately the acquisition of the first training is pretty bad, but the data are very clear in the second graph.

HR acquisition of the first 2500 m training (09/01/2012).
HR acquisition of the second 2500 m training (11/01/2012).

When the oxygen percentage goes under 14%, things are really difficult: the recovery time appears to be far useless (actually it isn’t, but my body said the opposite), breathing is difficult and HR cannot increase (188 out of 195 bpm, that is my max threshold) or decrease (150 bpm the lowest value between the repetitions) too much. For values of oxygen around 15%, everything is much easier and you can carry on your workout without any particular problems, even if the paces are slower than normal (the recovery time starts to be useful!).
Obviously if you train at low oxygen percentage, you should being constantly monitored: the oxygen saturation in the blood shouldn’t go under 80%, to stay distant from hypoxemia risk (the use of a pulse oximeter, a device that uses a red and an infrared light to measure indirectly the oxygen saturation of the blood, is the easiest way to stay monitored).

Blood’s oxygen saturation monitoring right after the training session.

For the record, al the data have been acquired in the Himaxx Center for Altitude Training in Berlin (Germany). If you have any question don’t hesitate to contact me! Keep on training!

Here you can find a list of my running-related posts. Now shut down the notebook and have a run! 

Science and Training:

Talkin’ blues: when XC meets life. Offene Berlin-Brandenburgische Crossmeisterschaften.

With its curious course through a small forest laying on a sandy soil, this XC race is one of the most interesting in the neighborhood of Berlin. The first date of the “Offene Berlin-Brandenburgische Crossmeisterschaften” (Open Berlin and Brandenburg’s Cross Country Championship) is held in Ludwigsfelde from many years and both the location and the organization fully deserve the title. Maybe with a longest single lap (around 1.1 km nowadays) the run would become a bit more interesting, since the long course needs 8 laps to be completed. The link to the results is at the end of the post.
Here is the GPS-track of the race:


The following two pictures are a kind of hilarious way to think about small problems of life. The biggest achievement is to be healthy and to be there playing like a kid, while you can’t wait to finish the race, just to tell your girlfriend how tired you are, how hard were the uphills and how strong were the opponents that you left behind.

Even if you train hard and you “eat your carbs two hours and a half before the effort”…

…and even if you have your brand new New Balance RX507CG at your feet, don’t forget that Shit Happens (see pic)!

A short photographic description of the race field:
Beautiful transition in the woods.

A small glade before the slopes.

Going up!

This downhill was very difficult to pass fast.

Picturesque start on a short Tartan straight.

The start.

Running around…

The finish.

For the record, the full results are shown HERE.