Monday, November 2, 2009

Why Australia, Why Bond

Many people have asked me this question, why Austrailia, why Bond Univeristy. I recently had to put it all into words for a fellowship application so here it is.

My study in Australia will give me the practical skills to provide the highest caliber of coaching to both elite athletes and the general public. The program at Bond University will allow me to study state of the art testing of elite athletes. I will learn how to manage and coordinate elite athletic programs. The program at Bond University is on the cutting edge of high performance science. While studying in Australia I will learn how to develop an athlete so that they are able to reach their potential in sport. There are many coaches that base their training methodology only on personal experience. This method usually works only for athletes that have a similar physiology as that of the coach. The opportunity to study and complete a program that teaches the skills necessary to provide the best coaching and guidance to athletes will be a great asset.

The field of exercise physiology encompasses a large variety of sub fields from cardiac rehab to sports performance. At the sports performance end of the spectrum this study is important because it will teach me how to safely train athletes to push the limits of the human body. In sport there is a rampant problem of doping. From baseball to cross country skiing there are many athletes endangering themselves by using banned and often illegal substances. The program at Bond University will not only teach me how to detect these issues but also provide athletes with a coach that will enable them to compete at a high level without doping. I believe that every coach that can create an athlete that is both free of drugs and successful may be able to persuade younger athletes that sport is truly about dedication and hard work not a quick fix.

Australia is renowned for their development of elite athletes. They have sport programs that are far superior to the rest of the world and it shows in how many Olympic medals they have won in respect to their country’s population. The country of Australia is 52nd in world population but ranks 11th in the total number of medals won in the history of the summer Olympics. Worldwide there are only a few other academic programs of this caliber that focus on elite athletes and their training and testing.

One of the reasons for Australia’s dominance in global sports competition is the use of state funding. Australia values sport as a part of their culture. They are willing to invest in it not only as individuals but as a country through state funded sports institutes. In the United States the funding for such things in minimal. Most of the money for exercise physiology research comes from pharmaceutical and medical equipment manufacturers’ donations. This leads all the research towards cardiac rehabilitation and drugs or supplements.

I believe the greatest challenge facing America today is the obesity epidemic that is taking our country by storm. Approximately one third of Americans are obese. This number is ridiculous. A part of this problem stems from the sporting role models children have today. Many of these athletes, especially football and baseball players, are overweight. When an athlete like Lance Armstrong, Mia Ham or Michael Phelps has great international success they too can become the role models for Americans young and old. When Lance Armstrong won seven Tour de France titles people noticed and began riding their bikes more. He made a great form of exercise much more mainstream. Lance Armstrong’s coach currently provides fitness programs for average citizens to get in shape or achieve a higher level of fitness. This would not have happened to such an extent if it had not been for Lance Armstrong’s success as an athlete and role model.

While I don’t know if I will ever have the opportunity to work with an athlete able to win the Tour de France, the same principle can be used on a local scale. If an athlete becomes successful it will inspire people in his or her region to be more active and seek help in improving their fitness. I have already taken steps to implement my strategy for creating a healthier America. I have founded a company that will bring elite level coaching to all athletes, both recreational and elite. This fall I have been putting together an elite team to spread this thrill of fitness and exercise. This is the first step. I then plan to set up a lab so that I will be able to test athletes and average citizens to monitor their fitness levels and improvement. The positive feedback these tests can provide is excellent motivation for someone trying to lose weight or get in better shape.

I hope to learn valuable testing and coaching skills to help curb the challenges that our country faces from the obesity epidemic. I believe the use of exercise as preventive medicine will prove to be extremely valuable in the years to come. It will not only decrease personal medical expenses but will also increase the quality of life in the United States.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bike Polo

Last weekend I was in the Twin Cities for a concert and to visit friends. We saw The Hold Steady put on a great show Saturday night! On Sunday I went for a ride with Jake. We rode from Uptown to Theodore Worth Park. It was a great ride. The single track in the Cities is so much smoother than in Duluth. There were no roots or unwanted rocks. After two laps at Worth we proceeded to take a few laps around the lakes before calling it a day. On our way back we saw a group of guys playing bike polo. We asked if we could join them and they handed us bats. It was amazing to see such skill on a bike. These guys would sprint on their bikes right towards each other then whack the ball to their teammates with an ease that was impressive to say the least. This sport was super fun. The mixture of agility, speed and balance combined with a great need for hand eye coordination is extremely fun to play! I would encourage anyone that rides a bike to try it if they have the chance.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


It has been a while since I participated in an event as a volunteer. For over ten years my family and I worked an aid station in the Voyager Trail 50. We got to see everyone right after the infamous power lines on the way out and then on the way back we would have to tell them that they were much easier than they remembered. The fact that they had run 36 miles was a hard point to argue but we did our best. Lately I have spent a great deal of my time racing and have not had the chance to see the other side of a race which most consider a thankless job. Today I helped with course control for the Harvest Run. It was a simple job as most of the race was on the Lakewalk in Duluth, Minnesota so the race only had to cross one road. This road was not extremely busy to I was able to tend to my duties as well as watch the race. I was amazed at how many people thanked me while they ran past. To take the time and breathe to thank a race official is one of the most selfless acts I have witnessed. I know how precious each breath is during a running race, and what I would give for one more. The race was lucky it was a beautiful day, which made it easy to smile, and offer words of encouragement but I think that it could have been sleeting and it still would have been an easy job. It is amazing how nice it was to see the appreciation these runners and walkers had for those who help out with an event that they paid to participate in. The job was in fact far from thankless and I would encourage anyone who has run a race to volunteer, not only is it fun to see the other end of a race participants are quite gracious. This is a lesson I will remember the next time I pin a number to my chest, a small thanks or smile is worth the breathe that is lost.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Two in One

Today I ran the 3000m time trial with the College of St. Scholastica Nordic ski team, then I learned that the Bangin' In the Brush trail run. It was interesting to experience these events with only 90 minutes separating them. Both were quite fun but the atmosphere was quite different.

The 3k tt was run on a track with aspiring young athletes looking to make their mark in the first test of the season. As we warmed up there was small talk but it felt forced. The tension came from nerves that would only relax after the race had begun and all that was left to do was run. There were no awards, and few competitors. Everyone ran for the team, their goals and bragging rights. It began without ceremony, and being a small field there was little of the jostling one usually experiences while racing on a track. The race lasted minutes, each step measured a precise distance over the track bringing the races closer to the finish. After 7 and half laps of spikes clawing into the track, and runners digging to the depths of their will power to post the best time they could the race was over. There was no fanfare, no crowds, only the marching band preparing for tonight's big game. The only person paying attention to these athletes was their coach, busily writing down times as each person crossed the line. As everyone filed across they shook hand gave their post run comments and or excuses then everyone filed off to grab a drink and cool down. The mood most decidedly different, relaxed if not light hearted. Then everyone jogged back to campus to prepare for the strength testing.

After completing the time trial Andre' Watt and myself, traded our spikes for trail shoes and headed up the North Shore to Korkki Nordic to run the 27th annual Bangin' In The Brush, a tradition I had not had the opportunity to participate in before today. As we pulled into the parking lot we were greeted with people chatting dogs pulling on their leashes and children playing. Everyone was enjoying the beautiful fall day. It felt like the summer never really came to Duluth. There were people of all ages milling about waiting for the festivities to begin. When they did so it was with a promptness that was not expected from such a relaxed event. It all began with the kids race, either one or two laps around the field. This was followed by cookies and ribbons for all participants. The cookies are why everyone is here, at least that is what everyone claims. All the racers then gather around the porch of the chalet to hear the pre-race announcements. In a nutshell, be careful, the course is rough at best, aptly described as a portage to put it into perspective for those that had not heard the legends of the race. With that the race began with only a handful of people rubbing elbows in the front line. After a lap in the field the 100 competitors ran into the woods for a grueling race with sketchy footing at best. As the race spread out there was lots of time to reflect on the pain caused by the long climbs and rolled ankles. Bangin' In The Brush is probably the slowest race in the area, the approximately 11.5k was won in just over 40 minutes with a competitive field. After the pack thinned all that was left were the trees, the uneven footing and the sweat dripping into your eyes. Then after the 'big hill' it was mostly down to the finish, a relief after the grueling run up to that point. After each racer crosses there is a smile and usually a friend standing nearby tells them they should have finished sooner, because that guy right in front of you did. This being laughed off returns the situation to its pre-race state, relaxed and carefree. There is no one talking on there cell phone because there is no service, no rushing to work because you can't miss the door prizes. After all everyone is here for the cookies. After everyone is finished the awards, the cookies everyone is waiting for can begin. It should be known that these are no ordinary cookies, they come from the Positively Third Street Bakery. Every year I take two bags of cookies on a trip to Colorado, here they are quite valuable. One bag gets a week of free lodging in Vail, a short walk from the mountain. The other is eaten on the way out so I am sure to have the first bag when I arrive. Yes, these cookies are worth the wait, even for just a chance to win a bag in the door prizes. After the festivities have concluded the crowd slowly disperses, some to the lake for a swim and others begin the return trip to Duluth on their bikes.