During a visit to Beijing earlier this month, swimmers Michael Phelps and Katie Hoff caught an early glimpse of the National Aquatics Center. Also referred to as the Water Cube, the futuristic square building -- which will host swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming -- looks like it's covered in bubble wrap.
"It's definitely pretty cool," Phelps told reporters. The structure is located in the Olympic Green, adjacent to the National Stadium, and is one of the centerpieces of Beijing's Olympic venues for the 2008 Games.
"I think it's going to paint a picture for Katie and me in our minds, to really help us prepare for next year and get us more and more excited," Phelps said.
Scheduled for completion in October of this year, the Water Cube's exterior is made up of membrane structures which comprise over 3,000 pneumatic cushions. Low-pressure air is inflated into the cushions to resist wind and provide insulation.
For the Olympics, temporary seating will allow a capacity of 11,000. Permanent seats number 6,000. In comparison, the largest indoor pool in the U.S., the IU Natatorium in Indianapolis, Ind., can hold 4,700 spectators. It will host this year's U.S.A. Swimming National Championships.
Spring is here and athletes are emerging from confines of the gym much like spring flowers from the darkness of winter. Soon, scores of brightly colored spandex outfits will sprout along the streets as the sun washes away pale memories of treadmill and bike-trainer workouts. As exciting as it is to trade the smell of chlorine for the freshness of open-water swims, this transition is known for leaving overly eager athletes high and dry. It is important that we respect the vulnerability of our bodies during this adjustment period. Conduct your own Preseason Check-up and be sure to keep yourself on track toward your fitness goals.
The term Sherpa refers a Nepalese ethnic group in the HimalayanMountains. Over the years, this term has adapted a lower-case-first-letter version to describe a guide or porter hired for mountaineering expeditions in the Himalayas. Although these men are not necessarily members of the Sherpa ethnic group, they are all renowned for their strength and experience at high altitudes. Of the most famous is Tenzing Norgay, a Nepalese porter who stood beside Sir Edmund Hillary as the first men to summit Mount Everest in 1953. Since that great day, two sherpas have excelled within the community. The first is Apa Sherpa, famous for holding the Guinness World Record for 16 summits of Mount Everest. The other is Lhakpa Gelu Sherpa, who holds the Everest speed-ascent record at 10 hours, 56 minutes, 46 seconds.
Apa Sherpa and Lhakpa Gelu Sherpa serve in a more guide-like role commanding higher pay and respect from the community due to their high-altitude achievements. A group of climbers and scientists organized funding for a research documentary this spring on the superior performances of the sherpas. The film will follow an all-sherpa team to the summit of Mount Everest. These six-members share 50 Mount Everest summits between the group. First, the sherpas will undergo a series of physiological tests in a U.S. laboratory to determine what enables these men to out-perform others in such extreme conditions. Next, the film will move to Everest base camp before the team begins their expedition.
Throughout the film, the climbers will be monitored using state-of-the art body mapping to track heart rate, lung capacity and other essential functions. In addition to providing physiological insight, this film will educate others on a previously untold story of the under-appreciated Sherpa people who have played a crucial role in every successful attempt on Everest.
Paul Staso has canceled his transcontinental-campaign,P.A.C.E. Bike 2007, and is flying home today. Staso had a difficult decision to make while fully cognizant that he might be letting people down. His latest online journal entry read, "That won't be a popular decision with everyone, but then again most people who will judge my actions have not experienced the enormity of crossing a continent solo and unsupported." Staso dispelled these external pressures by listening to his heart. He wrote, "I cannot point to one particular thing that is telling me to abandon this trek. However, I do know in my heart that I am taking the right action." He will safely return to his wife and four children, at peace with his decision. The series of unfortunate circumstances that plagued Paul's campaign included an accident, storm and near-robbery. Read Tuesday's P.A.C.E Update for more details.
In March, I blogged about a Paul Staso's campaign to promote youth fitness called P.A.C.E. Bike 2007. Paul began his 3,260-mile transcontinental tour last week in Delaware. Only three days into his journey, Paul experienced a series of unfortunate events. First, he was struck by a car in Washington, D.C. Despite being thrown from the hood of a moving vehicle, Paul was able to regain the physical and mental strength necessary to continue his trip. Once his bike was repaired and he was rested, the weather on the east coast took a turn for the worse and delayed his departure. Although this allowed him more time to rest following the accident, it unfortunately threw-off the timing for each arrival and presentation he had scheduled across the country. Just when he thought it couldn't get worse, he was almost robbed.
Despite these set-backs, Paul is back on-track and will continue P.A.C.E. Bike 2007. Paul is an endurance athlete and is powered by a spirit that is more resilient than most. It is by this perseverance that Paul will continue his journey with more strength and wisdom than before. I plan to keep you updated as Paul continues his campaign, Promoting Active Children Everywhere.
Robert Cheruiyot won the 111th Boston Marathon today. This is his third win and second in two years. The Kenyan defended his title in a time of 2 hours, 14 minutes, 13 seconds, which was seven minutes slower than 2006.
Russia's Lidiya Grigoryeva won the women's race finishing in 2 hours, 29 minutes, 18 seconds. Grigoryeva finished 40 seconds ahead of the second place finisher.
This year, course times were slowed by the harsh New England weather. Of the total 23,903 register-runners, 2,449 chose not to pick up their bib numbers over the weekend and even more no-shows were recorded on race day.
My best friend Johnny ran the race this morning with his girlfriend. They trained for 18 weeks and crossed the finish line together, a little over two hours behind the winner. I spoke with John on the phone afterward and he described the race as difficult due to the high winds and steady rain. He also expressed the importance of in-race nutrition and thanked me for the advice I provided in my previous blog, Nutrition: What Fuels You?
The 2007 NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships came to an end this past Saturday in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The title was secured by Auburn, who finished with 566 points which was 169 points ahead of second place Stanford. Auburn coach David Marsh was awarded NCAA Coach of the Year and secured his 12th national championship tying the record with the most swimming and diving titles ever won by a NCAA head coach.
This model of leadership greatly contrasts second place finisher Stanford and the leadership role of their head coach, Skip Kenny, who was suspended for erasing the records of 5 of his swimmers who graduated 2006. Kenny was suspended with pay by the university for his actions <[click here for full story|http://active.typepad.com/endurance/2007/03/stanford_coach_.html]> and did not attend the 2007 NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships. In Kenny's absence, 2 new school records were recorded amongst the four second-place finishes.
Yesterday I wrote about Bill Nawn and Sean Luitjens who plan to run the 111th Boston Marathon twice. Their double-marathon distance is for a charitable cause and very similar to the this story, but 1,500 miles shorter.
There is a group of 20 runners who will not stop after they run the Boston Marathon on Monday. These athletes make up two teams of 10 participants in the TREK II East Coast Relay. On Wednesday they will embark on an 11-day, 1,568-mile relay run to West Palm Beach, FL. Each team will average 143 miles a day while each runner will cover 15 to 17 miles a day.
Teams will be running at the same time, but each will raise funds for a different charity. Each runner is responsible for raising a minimum of $5,000 for their respective organization. Classrooms across the country will be monitoring as Team DMSE and TEAM POL pass through 11 states and the District of Columbia on their way to Florida. The teams hope to motivate kids and raise awareness about child obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
This year, I've come across a few unconventional plans for running the Boston Marathon. I've read of soldiers running in Iraq, an astronaut running in space and two athletes who will run the race twice. Although these runners all share a passion for the sport, each must find their own source of motivation to endure while preparing for such a challenging event.
On Monday, 40-year-old Bill Nawn of Bedford, N.H will add a fourth double-marathon distance to his impressive endurance sports resume consisting of 13 normal-length marathons. Nawn will be accompanied by close friend, Sean Luitjens, a 34-year-old from Crestwood, Ky., who has completed over 150 triathlons, including nine Ironman triathlons.
In addition to training, the pair has been raising awareness of heart disease and $10,000 for the Lown Cardiovascular Research Foundation in Brookline, Mass. Heart disease is the deadliest in our nation and Nawn has had a personal encounter with the disease. Four years ago, Nawn experienced abnormal heart beats, called cardiac arrhythmia, during a race and was forced to stop running. After extensive testing, Nawn eased his way back into the sport as an ambassador, encouraging people with potential heart problems to stop ignoring signs and go see their doctors.
Nawn feels fortunate that his condition was not life-threatening and will continue his double-marathon tradition on Monday at the 111th Boston Marathon. He and Luitjens will start their race day at 7 a.m. and run the 26.2 miles from the finish line on Boylston Street to the official starting line in Hopkinton. Upon their arrival, the two will have an hour of rest to refuel before running the 26.2 miles back to Boylston Street--a 52.4-mile total.
Andrew Skurka is a 26-year-old backpacker best known for being the first to complete the 7,778-mile Sea-to-Sea Route in July 2005. His 11-month, transcontinental hike began in Quebec and followed a network of trails to Washington. This accomplishment earned Skurka some of the top accolades in the outdoor industry in 2005 and 2006.
After months of careful planning, Skurka hit the trail again on April 9, attempting to become the first person to complete the Great Western Loop. This 6,875-mile footpath is made up of a network of five existing long-distance hiking trails and a self-designed section that passes through the Sonoran and Mojave deserts. The trip started on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and will take seven months to complete. Ending in early-November, Skurka will have passed though 12 national parks and over 75 wilderness areas during his journey.
In addition to impressive backpacking experience, Skurka is also a conservationist and well-respected public speaker. Skurka has been an ambassador of living a ?lightweight lifestyle? in hopes to minimize his individual impact on the environment while raising awareness of the environmental implications caused by global warming.
Astronaut Sunita Williams qualified for the 2007 Boston Marathon in 2006 when she ran a 3 hour, 29 minutes, 57 second marathon in Houston. Williams is on board the International Space Station(ISS) in orbit more than 200 miles above earth. With a return date set for summer, the NASA flight engineer did not want her qualifying performance to expire while executing Expedition 14.
On April 14, Williams will run the 111th Boston Marathon, becoming the first Boston Marathon qualifier to run the prestigious race in space. The Boston Athletic Association issued Williams bib number 14,000 to honor her current mission.
Williams has been training on a special treadmill since she arrived at the ISS in December. The system incorporates a harness of bungee cords that pull on her hips and shoulders, and is designed to reduce impact on the space station.
Williams has benefited from all her training by maintaining bone and muscle density, a serious issue in reduced gravity.
Fitness has never been an issue for this endurance athlete who recently set the record for women's space walking at more than 29 hours.
As per Part I, "Slovenia-born Martin Strel is an ultra marathon swimmer who has successfully completed expedition-length swims of the Danube River, Mississippi River, Paraná River, and the Yangtze River. The Guinness record holder has dedicated his current feat, swimming the entire 3,375-mile-long Amazon River, ?to the preservation of the rainforest, to raising awareness for Alzheimer´s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders, and to promoting telemedicine as a valuable tool in bringing modern medicine to remote areas."Click here to read part I of II
Martin Strel completed his historic Amazon River swim on Sunday. The unofficial Guinness Book of World Records totals are 3,274 Miles in 66 days. According to Strel's web site, he averaged 30,000 strokes per day during his unprecedented adventure. Strel was completely emaciated following his finish at the Atlantic Ocean in Belém, Brazil, and was taken by ambulance to a local hospital. Initially, paramedics struggled to stabilize the swimmer suffering high blood pressure, dizziness, vertigo, diarrhea, nausea and delirium. Strel is currently in stable condition under the care of his personal doctors in a local hotel where he will remain until he begins to recover from his world-record performance.
As per part I, "Required gear includes a survival blanket, sleeping bag, compass, whistle plus the minimum 2,000 calories per day. The race enforces strict water rations while temperatures routinely reach 120°F during the day, amplifying the difficulty of this race."
Monday marked the end of the 6-day, 151-mile Marathon des Sables. This race is considered one of the toughest foot races in the world as competitors struggle against the ruthless conditions of the southern Moroccan Desert.
Throughout the 22nd edition of the Marathon of the Sands, the group lessened from 756 to 727. Among those who did not finish the competition was France's Bernard Julé, who passed away in his sleep following the most difficult stage in the competition. Julé, showed no signs of risk after the 70.5-km Stage 5. Teammates found him dead at dawn on Saturday before Stage 6. This unfortunate loss was difficult news for competitors who were moments away from beginning their second straight 70.5-km stage.
For most competitors, just crossing the finish line is considered a victory for an experience of this magnitude. Despite the odds, Morocco's Lahcen Ahansal secured his 10th victory of this marathon and earned the title, "Prince of the Desert". As Ahansal passed through the finish line, he carried a piece of paper with the number "53" written on it to honor Julé, who wore that number on his race bib.
Hit record on your TiVo this Saturday because you won't want to miss the UCI Americas Tour and the USA Cycling Pro Tour as they stop in Virginia for a 112-mile race from Williamsburg to Richmond.
This beautiful route passes historic Jamestown Plantations on the way to downtown, Richmond where eight circuits will end with a cobblestone climb up Libby Hill.
This North American classic includes top teams from the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and features total prize money of $30,000 for the men's division and $10,000 for the women. Toyota United hopes to make it 10 wins in a row after its recent victory in the Tour of California.
You can find this same-day race coverage on Saturday, April 7, 2:30-5 p.m. Eastern time on your local NBC-affiliate channel.
On the heels of an incredible World Championships in Melbourne, the swimming world was suddenly rocked last week when the French newspaper L'Equipe reported that retired Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe showed high levels of two performance-enhancing substances in a drug test in May 2006.
Thorpe, who retired last November at the age of 24, denies ever cheating. He will not face losing his records (except, perhaps, to Michael Phelps) or medals, because he did not fail the test, according to swimming and doping officials. The substances, testosterone and luteinizing hormone, are both naturally occurring in a male's body, but high levels can have steroid-like effects.
In fact, the biggest controversy surrounding the report has been the actual leak itself. FINA, swimming's world governing body, plans to investigate how the confidential information reached a French newspaper. The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) performed the test and maintains they aren't the source of the leak.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has called the report a "serious breach of confidentiality." WADA is not yet involved in the case because it "has not led to an analytical positive result, but is rather an unusual situation which is subject to further inquiry," it said in a statement.