Category Archives: BRAD’S CORNER

Book and Movie Reviews by Brad Zanetti

Brad’s Corner – Happy Bastille Day 2017

July 14, 2017,  Happy Bastille Day. To those of you not interested in the history of France evert your eyes for a couple of paragraphs. This national holiday originated with the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789.  This action was a major turning point of the French Revolution. The Bastille was a fortress-prison often holding political dissidents and authors whose writings angered the Nobel class.  As such, the Bastille was a symbol of absolutism of the Monarchy. As it turns out, the Bastille was also a storage facility of guns, ammunition and gun powder. So quicker than you could say, BAM – ZOOM, the peasant/working class had made their mark and statement to the ruling class and the trajectory of the French Revolution was forever changed.

But enough of my simple version of history, Bastille Day for me marks the midpoint of the Tour de France bicycle race. And the big question is; Will this be the year a French rider wins the Bastille Day Stage (14 this year)?  For those of you who have been following this years version of the TdF, it has definitely been interesting and remarkably close this deep into the event (8 stages left). From the rain slicked opening stage (Prologue) with a myriad of crashes and crash outs through multiple stages of intense heat and more slick roads and even more bad crash outs this years Tour has had a fabulous storyline. In contrast to most of the tours this century, the race is very close with 4 riders within 35 seconds of the leader (yellow jersey wearer-maille jeune) and the top 10 all within 5 minutes of the podium.

Today’s race continued this story of close racing, multiple attacks, riders taking chances on downhills and tightening of the general classification results.  In fact just today, the top 10 riders overall ended up in the top 10 of the day’s stage, and for the first time since 2005, a Frenchman (Warren Barguil) won the Bastille Day Stage.  Not only was Barguil brought to tears but so was most of France (or maybe the tears were from Trump’s visit – I don’t know 🙂

The results of Stage 14:

  1. Warren Barguil (France)
  2. Nairo Quintana (Colombia)
  3. Alberto Contador (Spain)

GC results (total of 14 stages): (Over 1500 miles)

  1. Fabio Aru (Italy)                         Yellow Jersey
  2. Chris Froome (RSA)                    6 seconds back
  3. Romain Bardet (France)           25 seconds back
  4. Rigoberto Uran (Colombia      35 seconds back

Jersey Holders:

Yellow (1st Place) – Fabio Aru

Polka Dot (climber) – Warren Barguil

White (top under 25yo) – Sean Yates

Green (sprinter) – Marcel Kittel

Top Team – Sky

So maybe you are wondering why the TdF update.  Well I thought:

1- A fair amount of runners also follow the TdF.

2- It is Bastille Day.

3-  A book review will be coming soon including a mention of the book,  “The Secret Race”, by Tyler Hamilton.

For those of you who remember of the Pre-2013 TdF you might remember a guy named, Lance Armstrong, who dominated the tour for about 10 years, tried to cure cancer and then came clean(?) on how he cheated the whole time on Oprah. Well not exactly entirely clean, but it was a start.  Frankly I never met anyone who didn’t back Lance for most of this tenure and many didn’t believe it even after the Oprah interview.  But now years later (anybody know where Lance is, anybody care?) does having more answers to how far he went to cheat and keep from getting caught interest you? Well if it does, consider this book by Tyler Hamilton a must read.  It is informative, I believe accurate (if you followed this closely I think you will agree) and well written. It has the pace of a mystery adventure novel and I highly recommend it. I will leave the reader to write their own review.

Also coming soon will be the review of 2 running books:

1-   “The Longest Fall”, by, Lee Krinsky

2-  “On Sundays We Go Long”, by, Ty Strange (fellow ER member and XC National teammate(2011)

I will begin the review this weekend, but a here’s a teaser line:

“I enjoyed it and everything from the book cover to the storyline itself will be familiar to many Empire Runners who have run the PAUSATF XC Circuit and our many trails in Annadel and Santa Rosa Creek. You might even recognize some of the characters.”

This is Ty’s second novel and one runners have been looking for: A novel written by a runner for a runner.

Keep reading:

Brad Zanetti
Brad’s Corner

Brad’s Corner – What’s under the Christmas Tree? (running in neutral)

This is the time of the year when many of you will be treating yourself to an (early) Christmas present. Or if you are lucky enough to have a family member or significant other who is also a runner you might be looking to place a surprise under the Tree. Lucky for you there are literally hundreds of choices for your hard earned dollars. And there are dozens of styles of shoes from trail to road to racing flats, from zero drop to modified drop to full drop, from maximal to neutral to motion control. The choices and combinations can seem endless at times and that’s before you take into account if you like the color, the color combination or choice of colors for an individual product.

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This article won’t be all inclusive but rather what has and has not worked for me over this last year. Since it is my personal experience with some generalizations let me just start by saying  that there are a number of shoe companies I haven’t even tried yet or just don’t use much. Probably the largest company I don’t ever buy is Asics. That being said I think they make a great shoe and millions are sold; they have just not been for me. Contrarily I did test run their new DynaFlyte shoe, a maximally cushioned neutral shoe which felt great and I may find them on my shelf in the future (though a bit pricey at $140). I also have not tried any Altra products but I see more and more people wearing them and loving them so I guess there will be a test run or two in them for for me in the future as well.

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To further understand where I am coming from you must be aware of my stats and eccentricities. I am a male, 62 years old, short (5’7”) and stocky (165lbs). I have been running off and on for 47 years and consistently for the past 25 years. I average around 40+ miles per week. I have trained to race for the last 10 years which means: tempo, track and hill repeats, long runs, pickups, drills and fartlek. I train alone and with multiple groups. In short I have put in a lot of running miles.  I also played ball sports until I was 45 (softball, basketball). I have had a number of foot, ankle, knee and hip injuries that have made me miss running time. The bottom line of all of this is after making many slow changes I now tend to choose neutral, low drop(~4mm, not zero drop), cushioned and light shoes(<10oz, size 9).

This last year I have had 7-8 shoes move in and out of my stable. If you have read previous reviews you may remember my love of Hoka shoes especially for the over 50 set (50 years or 50 mi/wk). Well I just retired my last pair of Clifton 1’s (yes I shed a tear or two).

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But my smile has returned as I am 60 miles into the Clifton 3 and what a remake; nearly perfect (the tongue is, shall I say it, Voluptuous?!) Both the tongue and insert are almost too plush and in a perfect shoe could be minimized to shave of a bit of weight but they feel great out of the box (10 miles on day 1, perfectly settled in by day 3). I tried the Clifton 2 and hated it ( 1 snap). Hoka narrowed up the shoe box to the point of foot pain for me (and a lot of others hence the rapid update time for the ‘3’). Just be careful if you are getting the Clifton 2 on a great deal.

Hoka Clifton 3 – 8.5oz, 5mm drop, maximal cushioned, neutral, road sole but I use them all over the mountain/trails.

If you like these see also: Challenger 3(9.5oz, Clifton with trail sole)

Instinct(8.4oz, 3mm, trail sole)

I put 30 miles on the Hoka Claytons (7.5oz, road sole) and didn’t fall in love with these as I thought I would and also had some foot pain issues with these as well. Thought to be more of a performance shoe, I didn’t get that at all. If that was the goal consider the Tracer.

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I just retired the Kinvara 5’s from Saucony and have used all of the models from the original to the 5 over the last 5 years. I have loved the feel of every pair I have owned. The Kinvara 6 felt weird in the store so I haven’t ever owned a pair. Now that I am out of Kinvaras I will check out the model 7. Keep your fingers crossed for me. Also most of the new Saucony models have a new cushion technology-Everrun. I am looking forward to try new models with this tech.

Saucony Kinvara- 7.8 oz, 4mm drop, cushioned, neutral performance shoe.

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A new model for me this year is the Saucony Zealot which I have absolutely loved each and everytime I have put them on. They are a heavier more cushioned version of the Kinvara and are a perfect easy-day shoe. They run very smooth with efficient turnover and are well cushioned for long easy miles. I have run in a couple of pairs of Rides and find the Zealots far superior(as a side, I liked the Rides as well)

Saucony Zealot – 9.6oz, 4mm drop, cushioned, neutral, smooth

From another large company that I haven’t run in for 10 years, I tried the Adidas Boost Boston. I have been very happy with these except for the foot box is a bit narrow, but they work very well as a speed day shoe especially along flat trails(SR Creek) and up to say the 2nd bridge on canyon trail and smooth hill repeats. The Boost foam is pretty amazing stuff both responsive and cushioned. The Boston uses a thin layer in the forefoot which limits the use for me.

Adidas Boost Boston – 8.8oz, 10mm drop, neutral, performance.

Also picked up a pair of Supernovas for work. A more cushioned shoe, I haven’t run in them but they are a plush choice for long walks with your honey.

Through the years I have raced in many New Balance road and cross country flats and spikes; the 1400’s and 1600’s. After about a year of hearin about Freshfoam tech from NB I ventured to try the Fresh Foam Zante. The FF Zante is another neutral, cushioned, performance oriented shoe for fast training and the occasional road race. They feel lighter than their stated weight and have a glovelike fit. I have enjoyed every run with them with my only complaint bein that they wear a bit fast (maybe 250mi max) and you feel the pebbles underfoot.

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NB Zante – 8.6oz, 6mm drop, neutral, cushioned, performance.

I am still looking for the perfect trail specific shoe (any help out there?). I have tried the NB Hierro. I don’t love them but am still trying. Will update when I have made a final decision. In looking for a lightweight, trail specific shoe which could be light enough to race on (my feet cant handle XC flats any longer and road flats often don’t have enough traction). With that in mind I ventured toward the NB Vazee Summit TR, a trail specific shoe with a rock plate. First of all they are on the Vazee last which for me is a bit narrow through the instep; so much that I had to go for the wide version. This fixed the fit issue and they feel light and responsive on first try and feel good on dirt but with the rock plate a bit harsh on roads. I have used them on trail/hill runs of less than 8 miles and a 6.5mi trail race at Folsom Lake. They worked well at the race on a rainy Saturday. I get into a little trouble if the downhills exceed Lake Ilsanjo to Spring Lake. For me the cushioning is not adequate for a run down from South Burma to Spring Lake.

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NB Vazee Summit TR- 8.8oz, rock plate, neutral, varied trail running.

Well I have my eyes on other models from Hoka, NB and Brooks. Maybe its time stretch my horizons to the Altra Lone Pine. Zero drop(all Altras) may be a deal breaker though. Well Christmas is just around the corner so don’t be afraid to treat yourself to a slick new pair of running shoes.

Brad’s Corner – Do You Know Steve Prefontaine?

Do You Know Steve Prefontaine?

Part I (The Early Years) by Brad Zanetti

As I sit in my writing chair, wearing my OU green and gold Prefontaine Memorial Run sweatshirt and spying the iconic RIP picture of Steve running at Hayward Field, I am remembering how impacted I felt when I first heard of his car wreck and demise. I have always been a huge Prefontaine fan (Prefontaine-o-phile?). I can’t tell you how many times I have been to Pre’s Rock or have run on Pre’s trail at Alton Baker Park in Eugene. I have been to Coos Bay multiple times and made a roadtrip with my son, Michael, his 8th grade year to race in the Pre Memorial Run where we met Pre’s younger sister, Linda and his mother, Elfriede. In a strange bit of fate, Michael and Pre share the same birthdate, Jan. 25. Just this last summer during our quadrennial visit to the Olympic Trials in Eugene we met Neta, Steve’s older sister and shared many thoughts with her at Pre’s Rock.

I have read everything I can get my hands on about Steve in hard copy and the web so I thought, why not share my interest via a multipart article?

Steve Prefontaine was a meteor in full glow, not a sleepy permanent planet. In the world of track and field from 1966-1975 he was, in a word, a phenomenon and known worldwide simply as, “Pre”. He was brash, fearless and outspoken and at least in the USA, invincible. Watching him race fearlessly from the front, backing up his talk was a thrill to his admirers and frustrating to his competitors.

In short, you were either a fan of Pre or you weren’t. I, obviously, am a Fan!   If you only know him as a world class runner you are missing the whole story. He was so much more than just that, most of which wasn’t even known by those who thought they knew him. Even to those who were close to him were in agreement; it was difficult to get close to him but it was so worthwhile if Pre let you in. If you only are aware of his running history and multitude of quotes(misquotes?) you may be surprised of his many other exploits. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

…On Jan 25, 1951 Steven Roland Prefontaine was welcomed to his family home on Elrod St in Coos Bay, Oregon by his dad, Ray, his Mom, Elfriede and his sister, Neta. 2 years later Pre’s little sister, Linda, was added to the Prefontaine household and they lived a happy, near idyllic life in the hardscrabble, often harsh coastal town.

Steve was raised in a clean, neat household with rules and chores. His parents were hardworking, Ray a carpenter/welder and Elfriede a seamstress. Hard work was the expectation in their logging/ocean fishing community. Ray had met his future wife in Germany during WWII and brought her back to his hometown.

Having spoken German most of his early years posed a problem for Steve when he started school, making him Initially shy and reserved. Steve was a very energetic child who had early difficulties in school as well. Combined with his short stature(barely 5 feet and 100 pounds in the eighth grade) and not making the football team, Steve was less than confident in many situations. Still he was very athletic and strong for his size and was searching for an outlet for his special abilities, a sport of toughness for a person with something to prove.

To truly understand Pre you have to appreciate growing up in Coos Bay, a logging and fishing village where hard work is a given. The terrain and weather is harsh with toughness a badge of courage. Perhaps because of its isolation sports are enthusiastically followed, especially football and basketball and the pressure to participate is intense. Hence, the Varsity letter from Marshfield High is a sign of manhood that follows you long after you graduate. (Think ‘Hoosiers’).

In 8th grade, Steve noticed the cross country team practicing. He thought, who would run 2-3 hours a day? During a 3 week conditioning program in PE he noticed in the 660y and 1320yd runs he got faster the longer the distance (4th overall for the 1320y). He joined cross country freshman year and started the season #7 man, but ended up #2 man and 53rd at State. Track was less auspicious finishing up with a 5:01 PR in the mile. Sophmore year XC State Meet, Steve began to show his special qualities, pushing the state mile champion and eventual XC champion to the finish, even passing them before finishing 6th overall. He was nearly inconsolable, screaming, “Lets run it again!”

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What really focused Steve’s desire to be special was failing to make the State 2 mile championship his sophmore year after the promising XC finish partly due to his incessant running around yelling encouragement to his teammates. Even at this young age his focus, team orientation, leadership and ability to accept severe punishment, mentally and physically during training was legendary. His junior year summer training (including 2 workouts daily year round) led to being undefeated and winning a state championship in XC and a state record 9:01.3 in the 2 mile on the track. By this time, the moniker ‘Pre’, was the norm and much of Coos Bay is scheduling time to watch their precocious ‘son’. Pre is the boy who is always running and his 6am daily runs are peppered with waves from the garbagemen, bread truck drivers and street cleaners. This is the beginning of his feeling of responsibility for ‘his people’ started in Coos Bay and cultivated in Eugene.

Pre’s senior year again was punctuated with an undefeated XC season and state championship which led to unprecedented track goals of 1:52 half mile, 3:56 mile, 9:00 2 mile by the end his senior year. By April Pre was ready to attack the national High School 2 mile record held by Rick Riley in 8:48.4. On a very cool night at the Corvallis Invite running alone Pre, feeling nervous, started out in a slow 69 second first quarter mile but he got back on track quickly running a negative 2nd mile with a 61.5 last quarter and a new national record of 8:41.5 by nearly 7 seconds. As the Marshfield High track team was in a close battle for first further record attempts were traded for a mile/ 2 mile double of 4:07/9:03 at the State Meet. Pre was satisfied with this result and the national 2 mile record in particular led to a huge gain in his confidence.

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His senior year was also non stop recruiting and something Pre wasn’t comfortable with. His Marshfield coach, Walt McClure, took over and steered the recruiting path. Pre was interested in going to the University of Oregon where legendary Bill Bowerman coached many world and American record holders or Oregon State. But Pre was perplexed that Bowerman had not visited him but rather had sent some of his U of O runners and an assistant. His pride bruised, Pre finally received a handwritten note from Bowerman stating that if Pre came to U of O he would make him the best distance runner ever. That was all Pre needed to hear. He was to be a Duck. After his acceptance Bill Bowerman sent an open letter to the community of Coos Bay thanking them for their part in Steve’s success so far and that if he kept his eye on the target and his dedication with his background he would become the greatest distance runner in the world. With that Bill Bowerman picked Pre and Pre picked the U of O.  All that was left was the mile at the national meet in Sacramento, the Golden West Invitational won by Pre in a high school PR of 4:06. That ended his high school career…And almost immediately he made the plunge into world class competition.

 

Next month: Do you know Steve Prefontaine? – Part II (The College Years)

Brad’s Corner

“First Ladies of Running”, Amby Burfoot, Rodale Press, Emmaus, PA, 2016, pp275

A new book landed on my Kindle library a couple of months ago. Actually a few books did but I had lost track of the iPad and have gotten behind in my reading. This particular book interested me due to the content: twenty-two short stories – inspiring profiles of the rebels, rule-breakers, and visionaries who changed the sport (womens running) forever; with a foreword by Shalane Flanagan.  And the author, Amby Burfoot.

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Amby Burfoot was an outstanding distance runner (Boston Marathon winner 1968) and is an outstanding writer and editor for Runners World. He has written four other books about running, all well worth a good read. His marathon PR set in 1968 in Fukuoka Japan in 2:14.28 was only one second off the American record at the time.

At the age of 70, Amby continues to run today including the Boston Marathon annually and he has run the Manchester Road Race fifty-four times in a row as of this year. If you have read Runners World you have undoubtably read one of his many articles. Amby is a veritable running historian.

What he has brought to the table in this, his fifth book, is a complete history of women’s development and impact in the running world; our world. Whether your recollection of the history of women runners may be the indelible photo of Jock Semple chasing after Kathy Switzer and attempting to physically extricate her from the 1967 Boston Marathon or equally indelible photo of Mary Decker down on the infield during the 1984 Olympics 3000M and Zola Budd looking back, you will have a complete understanding of the road that has been travelled.

I suspect that many readers of this review will recall the span of time between when women weren’t allowed in road races, through the  first women running in marathons, Title IX with its many implications, to the first women’s Olympic Marathon in Los Angeles in 1984.  Some of our readers were likely impacted by such and may have gotten their running start with the original Avon 10K/Marathon series.  I also imagine there are some women readers who have never heard of Title IX and take running in local and national races for granted (as they should).

Prior to 1928 women were only allowed to run up to 200m by the powers that be (Men!) because it was thought they would injure their reproductive organs. At the 1928 Olympics women were allowed to run 800M. At the end of the race, one collapsed to the track and several looked tired and in pain (as did the men in their race). Because of this it wasn’t until 1960 (Rome) that women were again allowed to run 800m. Then in 1972 the 1500M (metric mile) was added to the Olympic schedule (as a result of women jumping into long road races/marathons in the mid 60’s?). In 1984 the 3K and marathon were added (thanks to the international Avon series). In 1988 the 10K was added and in 1996 the 3K was extended to the 5K. The steeplechase wasn’t added until 2008.  

[Editors note: at this time men and women compete in all of the same standard distances the only exception being the 110M hurdles for men vs 100M hurdles for women]

Yes, you have come a long way baby. Of the many rights that took so long to achieve; voting, equal opportunity to education (college, post-graduate, medical and law schools), to have to fight for the right to be free to run in a road race seems almost ridiculous and at the same time it is an activity, to me, that is basic to life. I am happy that in my life I have had the opportunity to run with and against women in many races beginning at Central Jr High in San Carlos when a young lady named, Roberta ‘Bobbi” Clapham, could out sprint all of the boys. The first real race of my life was in 1970 (Age 15) at the Bay to Breakers where I was passed by many women many of whom were not only better trained but were frankly superior to me. And for the last 45+ years I have looked forward to running with women especially the shared experience of training and racing together multiple times a week.

Do I recommend this book? Absolutely. I think everyone should read it. It is an important part of the history of our sport and lifestyle. The format of twenty-two short stories makes it a book that can be read all at once or over time. It would even make a nice nightly read of one or two chapters but I found that reading it as one story allows for more fertile connections between the intricacies and interactions of each woman depicted.

As an avid fan of all things running for most of my life and a reader of running history it always intrigues me when a book is informative and adds to my knowledge base. Amby Burfoot has written an excellent and informative book for everyone including children and adolescents. If the history of women’s running is of interest to you this is a must read.

Rating:   Excellent               *****5/5

Brad’s Corner – by Brad Zanetti

“SHOE DOG, a memoir”, by, Phil Knight (creator of NIKE), Simon and Schuster, New York, 2016, pp. 383.

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For those of you who are regular readers of this blog and my particular posts you may have read my review(s) of the trilogy of books about NIKE. I have reviewed each book individually and mentioned them in the Christmas wish list posted in the December 2015 blog. To this list I will now add the aforementioned “Shoe Dog” a memoir written by THE Phil Knight, the creator of NIKE (along with Bill Bowerman).   The other 3 books are:

1- “Out of Nowhere” , by Geoff Hollister

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2- “Swoosh”, by JB Strasser and Laurie Becklund

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3- “Bowerman and The Men of Oregon”, by Kenny Moore.

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The first two books were written by former employees, employees who had some kind of falling out with Mr. Knight. The third book, written by Kenny Moore, was written with a bit of the voice of Bill Bowerman but also included insight from many of the U of O athletes and Nike employees for a rounded storyline. I felt “Out of Nowhere” written by Geoff Hollister, one of the original inner circle employees, gave a bit more of the inside story without pulling all of the punches. “Swoosh” was written by an inner circle employee(Strasser) who ended up being fired (or did he quit?) at great odds with Phil Knight (in fact in SHOE DOG, Phil mentions he wishes that he and Strasser could have reconciled but forgiveness wasn’t in eithers makeup. Since “Swoosh” was written by a disgruntled employee, it is the most expose’ like in its approach.   “Shoe Dog” is definitely written in ‘vanilla’ like manner.

I am not sure which book about NIKE is closest to the truth but I feel ‘Shoe Dog’ is written in a veiled manner to give Phil Knight and NIKE the best appearance.  Although some of the story seemed purposely incomplete, Knight’s writing style is quite good and makes for a smooth and easy read. Of course, as is my style, I would advise reading all four books now but if you can only stomach one book about NIKE I would read ‘Out of Nowhere” by Geoff Hollister. If you want to read all of the ‘dirt’, then read only, ‘Swoosh’. If you want to read a sanitized version of the author and owner of NIKE, then read ‘Shoe Dog’.

In grading this book I will split up the grades for readability and storyline:

Readability:       4/5

Storyline:           3/5

Overall:               3.5/5

Lastly, I feel any and all of the books are a worthwhile read. Take a chance(s?) and learn the true story of NIKE, Inc.

Brad’s Corner, by Brad Zanetti

“The Boys in the Boat”, by, Daniel James Brown, Penguin Books, New York, New York, 2013, pp 370.

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In the past I have reviewed mostly books about runners and running, for runners and running, written by a runner or had running in the title(how slick?!). So on a great recommendation from a friend(and the Sonoma Gals Book Club) I began reading a book about rowing, specifically the nine-man crew that went to the 1936 Berlin Olympics with a quest for the Gold Medal. Now I straight up don’t know a lot about rowing and although I watch it during the Olympics I don’t follow the sport regularly. Still, I felt this book was a great choice for two main reasons:  1) It’s an Olympic year and June is Olympic month and 2) I am fascinated with the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin and the politics of the era.

Upon starting the book I kind of read over the quote that begins each chapter. As it turns out each quote or thought is by a man named George Yeoman Pocock. In chapter three his character is formulated and it turns out that Mr. Pocock is a former rower from England who is a (the) master builder of the 8 man cedar shell (boat). In fact the Pocock shell is still considered the premiere shell. Well I went back and restarted reading the quotes prior to each paragraph and found that they added much to the storyline.

In lieu of giving a detailed telling of the story (’cause why would you read it then?) let me just say this is one of the finest sport stories I have ever read. Character development was excellent and complete. You really feel like you know what makes each character tick. Each chapter covers a number of storylines and character developments and repeats them in a way that makes you part of a story, part of the character’s life – a part of history.

The historical time frame covered extends from the late 1800’s through 1943 with excellent historical perspectives throughout the storieline. The epilogue chapter covers the lives of the characters through the 21st century. The reader will get an interesting feel for the times of the early 1900’s, the development of Seattle, the depression era, the politics surrounding the Olympics (and Avery Brundage) and the politics of Hitler, a rebuilding Germany post WWI and the way Hitler snuck up on the world prior to trying to rule it.

This will happen by following the life story of Joe Rantz, one of the nine rowers on the 1936 Olympic Rowing team from the University of Washington. You will learn about his rather sad early life and how it developed his resolve. You meet his teammates, how they relate to one another as the team is formed from over a hundred young men over four years under the watchful eye and tutelage of Coach Al Ulbrickson and Master shell builder George Y. (Yoda?) Pocock.

The Boys in the Boat is incredibly well written in all ways. I was especially impressed with the historical perspective and the development of an understanding of this new sport to me, Crew. The individual and team aspect of crew parallels in many ways running and cross-country although even more linked due to the synchronous nature of rowing. The story telling of the actual races was very good and I found myself immersed in the crew racing experience much as if I was in a race myself. I don’t often give an unequivocal thumbs up but with this book I am prepared to do so. If the story alone was not enough I was definitely enamored with the G. Y. Pocock quotes that begin each chapter.

Two examples of George Pocock’s insight circa the 1930’s are prescient of the type of things I shared with my high school runners and have shared with other Empire Runners:

“ Men as fit as you, when your everyday strength is gone, can draw on a mysterious reservoir of power far greater. Then it is that you can reach for the stars. That is the way champions are made.”

and

“Where is the spiritual value of rowing?…The losing of self entirely to the cooperative effort of the crew as a whole.”

And in an homage to the “Runner’s High”:

“When you get the rhythm in an eight, it’s pure pleasure to be in it. It’s not hard work when the rhythm comes… that “swing” as they call it. I’ve heard men shriek out with delight when that swing came in an eight;  it’s a thing they’ll never forget as long as they live.”

My recommendation is to read this book as soon as you can. It is a wonderful read full of depth and detail, characters and history, sport and its impact. Read it NOW, before it becomes a movie.

Rating:   Excellent                     5/5 *****

Who Was Peter Norman Part 2, by Brad Zanetti

March2015Zanetti06Peter Norman was born June 15, 1942 near Melbourne, Australia. He was raised in a strong Christian family by parents that were Salvation Army missionaries. His parents were poor and growing up there wasn’t enough money to afford the gear necessary to play his favorite sport, Australian Rules Football. As a teenager Peter’s father was able to find used track spikes. Peter was elated and began his track career.

Peter’s Christian upbringing was essential in the development of the man he became. A little background on the doctrine of the Salvation Army is essential. In 1865 William Booth took his version of Christianity to the streets, the poor, the destitute. By 1878 his East London Christian Mission was noted as a volunteer army. Not liking the sound of that he penned salvation in place of volunteer and the Salvation Army was borne. The mission statement of the Salvation Army is 3 fold:

1- message is the Bible

2- ministry is motivated by the love of God

3- mission is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs without discrimination.

March2015Zanetti05Peter had developed into a fine runner, the finest in Australia prior to the 1968 Olympics. He was the top 100/200 runner in Australia but felt his best event was the 200m with a time of 20.6 at the Australian Olympic trials. However, he was not well known on the world stage and not even in the discussion for a medal. But when he arrived in Mexico City at the Estadio Olimpico Universitario, Peter ran consistently good times through to the finals. He exploded in the first heat winning with a 20.17(setting a national and short lived Olympic record). He won his quarterfinal heat in 20.44 and was second to John Carlos in the semis in 20.22. In typical Norman fashion he yelled across to Carlos, “You can have that one!” Carlos just waved him off indignantly. The final was a phenomenal race with a late surge by Peter, squeaking by Carlos at the tape in 20.06 for the Silver medal(and a national record that still stands today). Tommie Smith ‘jetted’ down the backstretch to the Gold in a new Olympic, National and World record in 19.86. John Carlos content with what he thought was a Silver shut it down a hair early and accepted the Bronze.

Prior to the Olympics there was much rhetoric and public fighting over a possible boycott of the Olympics by the black athletes. A combination of the deaths of Rev Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy and a lack of solidarity of all of the Black athletes led to them not boycotting the Olympics. This allowed each athlete to express themselves individually. The significance of Carlos and Smith display goes as follows: the gloves were for Power(Black) and Unity. The shoeless entry(stocking feet) was for poverty. The beads they wore represented lynchings(‘Strange Fruit’). Carlos entered with an unzipped jacket(against Olympic protocol) as a tribute to blue collar workers.

March2015Zanetti02Just prior to the walk up to the Olympic podium, John Carlos and Tommie Smith made Peter Norman aware of their plan. They asked him if he believed in human rights. Peter answered that he did and that he believed strongly in God. Peter said, “I will stand with you, how can I participate?” They asked him to wear the Olympic Project for Human Rights(OPHR) badge. Remembers Carlos, “ I expected to see fear in Peter’s eyes, but instead we saw love.” Norman reached for Carlos’ badge but he said, “this is mine but we will get you one.” Paul Hoffman a Harvard and Olympic crew team member offered his to Norman. Just prior to the walk in to the dais, Carlos realized he had forgotten his gloves. It was Peter who suggested that Tommie and Carlos each wear one, which they both agreed. The three men, united, walked to the dais…and history was soon to be made.

“I couldn’t see what was happening, Norman said, but I knew they had gone through with the plan when a voice sang the American anthem but then faded to nothing. The stadium went quiet; what followed was a shower of boos”. As the threesome walked off the crescendo of boos turned to vicious racial slurs; their lives forever changed and forever linked.

As you are probably aware Tommie Smith and John Carlos were stripped of their medals, kicked off of the team and sent back to the US. Their lives were ruined as they were not allowed to race again, received numerous death threats, fired from their jobs and found it difficult to get substantial jobs for decades. What you may not know is that after the Olympic medal ceremony, when asked about the Americans demonstration by reporters, Peter Norman responds, “I believe that every man is born equal and should be treated that way.” He was then reprimanded by the Australian Olympic committee, banned from racing for 2 years and finally not sent to the 1972 Olympics in Munich even though he was the 5th rated sprinter in the world in the 200m and qualified in the 100 and 200m. He was torn to shreds by the Australian press and returned to apartheid Australia not a star or hero but rather a pariah. He, too, faced a daily challenge of acceptance and any opportunity at all. Even after Australia renounced their apartheid philosophy and long after Carlos and Smith had been forgiven in the U.S. Peter Norman was still persona non grata at home and was not invited in any capacity to be part of the 2000 Olympics in Sidney. At that late date they still wanted Peter to renounce his part in the 1968 demonstration. He of course would not. In fact, Peter was invited to be part of the US Olympic group reuniting with Smith and Carlos, whereupon Michael Johnson introduced himself to Peter and said, “Peter you are my hero”. Peter said, “I didn’t know you even knew who I was. Michael responded, “Of course I know who you are”.

Over time the disruption of the status quo by the 1968 Olympic demonstration has been seen in a different light(change is slow). Nearly 4 decades later in 2005 a heroic 23’ tall sculpture of the medalist podium moment was erected at San Jose St University. Curiously, Peter Norman’s place is vacant so that visitors can stand in accord with Smith and Carlos. It was Norman’s choice to leave his spot vacant since the sculpture is in America, on the duo’s college campus. Per Peter, “ It wasn’t about me. All I did was wear a button of support. That platform is for anybody across this world to stand up for justice and equality.”

The trio have remained close throughout the years. In fact, Peter was at the unveiling of the statue and presented and introduced John Carlos. Tragically, Peter had a variety of medical and chemical issues and died of a heart attack on Oct 3, 2006. Both John and Tommie were pallbearers at his funeral and eulogized him and consider Peter’s mother their “Australian mom”. They often tell Peter’s story, their story at their speaking engagements. Peter remains a friend, a brother, a hero to them and to all who know his story.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fu5K2cOeD4M(John Carlos about Peter Norman)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dc5MiEs8aY(Statue unveiling with Peter Norman introduction)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4LvwXYmt3Q(who was pete norman by the young turks-TYT)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=–lzACn0aZ8(200m final race)

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Movie Review: “RACE,” Brad’s Corner

April16BradsCorner02MOVIE REVIEW:   “RACE” (2015) 134minutes.  ‘A biopic of Jesse Owens and the 1936 Berlin Olympics’

By Brad Zanetti

Where to start. Would I recommend this movie? And would I want to see it again? By the nature of its one word ‘double edged’ title the movie promises both a sport story about a specific race(s) and a more important story about worldwide race relations in the 1930’s. Does the movie deliver on both accounts?

The basic storyline is a couple of years in Jesse Owens career based around 2 specific events:

1- The Big Ten Meet in May 1935 where won 4 events with 4 world records(100y, 220y, 220y hurdles, Long Jump) over a 45 minute period(considered the greatest day in the history of track)

2- The1936 Berlin Olympics in August, where he got 4 gold medals(100m, 200m, LJ and 4 x100 relay) and singlehandedly refuted Hitler’s Aryan concept. There is an oblivious timeline and a number of side stories that either confuse or confound the known storyline.

During the 2 plus hour film the pace and rhythm waxed and waned. At times it moved very slowly and left one wondering where the story was going. Since the movie covered a very short specific time in Owens life I expected some great track scenes and the impact of race issues in is life. Some of the side stories were of questionable authenticity and perhaps not necessary. A fair amount of time was spent on a short term love interest of Jesse and the impact on his relationship with his future wife of 45 years. This added nothing to the story as the remainder of the movie even his relationship with his wife wasn’t very well developed. Speaking of the track scenes, I thought there were well done (thankfully no slow motion) and the athletes did look like athletes. As a runner that was appreciated. There were many scenes demonstrating racism in America from fellow student/athletes, other coaches, Avery Brundage and the Olympic coaches. These scenes were strong and impactful. I think the story of his post Olympic struggle would have made this movie more complete. A terse scene with Jesse and his wife having to use the waiter entrance to a party in his honor seemed a weak portrayal.

The section about Owen’s experiences in Berlin was pretty well done but there were still some inconsistencies. The high point was the representation of Jesse’s relationship with the German long jumper, Carl ‘Luc’ Long, which began as an athletic relationship but developed into a strong friendship. There was some questionable poetic license taken with the Leni Riefenstahl character that I find bothersome and inauthentic (hence unnecessary). And her relationship with Goebbels was questionable. Finally I think the time spent on the background of Avery Brundage and Goebbels relationship might have been better spent on Owen’s post Olympic life.

I think editing some of these mentioned problem areas could have improved the pace of the movie and by utilizing that time to clarify his post Olympic tribulations would have strengthened the racial impact of the movie. To answer my original questions; would I recommend seeing this movie. I can unequivocably say, probably. I think the running scenes are good enough to interest the hardcore runners as is the basic storyline. I would recommend this movie to the running fanatics in the group most definitely and to the rest of the readers with the caveat that some of the storyline and characters may not be accurate. That being said, after watching the movie and enjoying much of it I didn’t feel like I gained any new insight into the life of Jesse Owens so to answer the second question; would I watch it a second time? I would have to answer probably not.

Rating:       3.75 out of 5

Who Was Peter Norman? By Brad Zanetti

March2015Zanetti021968 was a very special year—an Olympic Year. By the time the Olympic Games started, I was 14 years old and ready to begin high school. Steve Prefontaine was entering the University of Oregon, although the nation’s #1-ranked high school runner had yet to captivate the attention of the running world. Pre’s coach, Bill Bowerman, had a nickname for him—“the Rube.” In many ways that was me. I did not have a world-wide view or much real life experience. I was raised by first generation Italian-American immigrants who had fully immersed themselves in American culture. My naiveté was further enhanced by the fact that I lived in the lily-white town of San Carlos, midway between San Francisco and San Jose.

To this 14-year-old boy, the Olympics epitomized the purity of sport. I knew nothing of how politics could enter the world of athletics. Certainly I was aware of the free speech movement across the Bay in Berkeley, the atrocities of the war in Vietnam, Communism and the Cold War, apartheid in South Africa, and the Watts riots, but there was no connection between politics and the Olympics, or so I thought. Maybe I just wanted life to remain simple. The Fundamental Principles of Olympism themselves state that “Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility, and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles. The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”

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(http://www.olympic.org/Documents/olympic_charter_en.pdf)

And Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter states that “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.” You could understand my confusion. The Olympic ideal didn’t match reality. In 1968 my simplified world view had been rocked; but it wouldn’t be until 1972, my first month of college, that I finally started to piece together the politics of our nation and our place in the world.

Sports have always been my way of separating myself from the realities of life. It was sports and the excitement of the Olympics that I hoped would give me a respite in 1968. All that was going on that year—student protests in Europe and Mexico, USSR invasion of Czechoslovakia, war in Vietnam, the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King—left me needing an escape. I dreamed about how the US team would perform. I was confident in their talent—especially in the sprints, jumps, and middle distances. Many of our best came from San Jose State University (“Speed City”) just down Highway 101 from my home. I was fortunate to have seen these runners during the indoor season. By the early summer, the outdoor season was in full swing and excitement was building thanks to some excellent early season times. In June 1968, the US Olympic Committee staged a pre-Olympic Trial meet in Los Angeles, the results of which confused athletes and fans alike. They served not to give the winners a spot on the Olympic team, but rather to exclude certain runners. After this meet, the possibility of a boycott by black athletes was becoming more likely, most notably by sprinter John Carlos, who was not allowed to run the 100 m by the Olympic Committee.

The real Olympic Trials were run in September on a specially built track up on Echo Summit off Highway 50, above South Lake Tahoe. The track was built at altitude to mimic the conditions found in Mexico City (sans the poor air quality). The track was literally cut into the forest and was the Disneyesque backdrop to one of the greatest meets attended by arguably the best Track & Field team of all time. This Olympic training camp galvanized the team amid the swirling tensions of political unrest. The Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR), led by Dr. Harry Edwards, was formed in order to protest the reinstatement of South Africa to the Olympics by IOC president Avery Brundage (the man who also delivered the 1936 Olympics to Hitler’s Germany in Berlin) as well as the conditions in the United States for black Americans. Despite all of this, the results of the Trials were unprecedented, with four pending world records produced. Unfortunately, they were not all ratified due to some question about the spikes being worn (specifically Puma’s “brush spike” technology). Even as a 14-year old, I began to smell a rat—how could shoes alone make you so fast? Still, I couldn’t wait for the Olympics to finally begin to see how well we would run.

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Meanwhile, over in Australia, another young man was preparing for the Olympics. By his own account, Peter Norman came to track quite by accident, but then continued to improve through juniors and then up to the national level. By the time of the 1968 Australian Games (their Olympic Trials), Norman was his country’s top 100 m – 200 m runner. In the 200 m especially, Peter had improved to near-world-class status with a time of 20.6 seconds, and was known for a very strong finish. World- wide, though, he remained a virtual unknown and wasn’t on anyone’s list as a possible winner.

At the 1968 Olympics, the sprinters and jumpers were benefitting from Mexico City’s relatively thin air (witness Bob Beamon, long jump) and Norman was ripping through the preliminary heats, winning the first heat in 20.16, a new Olympic record (though short-lived). He won his quarterfinal and scorched out a 20.06 to place second to American John Carlos. (He yelled across to Carlos, “You can have this one,” whereupon John waved him off. “The gall of this guy…” per JC). This was the fastest time he would ever run—a new Australian national record and one that still stands today.

Coming into the finals on October 16th, just four days into the Games, the US was building up their medal count and Peter Norman recalls that he was already tired of hearing our National Anthem. He was driven to try and change that. Prior to the start of the 200 m race, he had tried to get into the heads of Tommie Smith and John Carlos, but at the gun, it was Norman who got out slowly. Tommie Smith had been nursing a sore groin and also (by his own admission) got out poorly. It was John Carlos who answered the gun, blazing out of the blocks and around the corner to the lead for the stretch drive. At this point, Smith extended down the backstretch, catching and passing Carlos about halfway down the stretch and finishing in 19.83—a gold medal, a new National, Olympic, and a World Record. Carlos, looking to his left as Smith flew by, eased up in the final 40 meters. Suddenly, out of the bottom of the TV screen, came Norman. He flew past Carlos, who was unable to respond after shutting it down. Final result: Peter Norman, the silver medal in 20.06; John Carlos, the bronze medal in 20.10. I remember being totally upset at Carlos for letting that Australian guy get the silver. I was like a starving lion in front of a 10-lb T-bone for medals. I wanted total dominance and “we” gave one away only four days into it. I couldn’t possibly know what was to come.

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I don’t think I need to go into great detail about the award ceremony. The picture of Tommie Smith, Peter Norman, and John Carlos on the podium—Smith and Carlos shoeless, with their black-gloved fists raised in a black power salute—remains perhaps the most celebrated photo in Olympic history. It came at a time when a gesture for Human Rights in front of the world was necessary. I was stunned and didn’t understand it. I was swayed by the commentators’ explanation. But most importantly, what would the officials do to them?

Unbeknownst to me and most of the world, Peter Norman was part of the demonstration. He was wearing the OPHR patch on his chest in solidarity with Smith and Carlos. (He remained in solidarity with them until his death in 2006.) The Australian Olympic Committee and IOC asked—no demanded—that he rescind his solidarity, but he would not. The three athletes’ lives were forever entwined. Tommie Smith and John Carlos were kicked off the team, removed from the Olympic Village, and barely survived death threats as they were flown back to the US. Once home, their lives were not much better. Neither man could find gainful employment at a time when a gold medal was the only realistic way to get a windfall during the “amateur” days of track and field. (See Wheaties Box). Money and glory were not theirs, nor was the adulation of the sporting community for simply being the best in the world. They traded this reward for a more important message.

For my part, I was mad that they were not available for any relay duties. It didn’t matter; the US got gold in both relays. It was at this point I was beginning to understand that there might be something bigger than the Olympics as I struggled with THEIR explanation of the shoeless entry, the black gloves, and raised fists.

There will be a Part II to this article, but until April, here is a list of videos/articles of interest:

YouTube

Peter Norman 1968 Olympics

search:

  • Peter Norman Australian for Human Rights
  • The story behind the white guy in this historic photo

SportsonEarth.com

search:

  • The forgotten story of Australian Olympian Peter Norman

Salute

The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment that Changed the World by John Carlos and Dave Zirin (book)

 

Brad’s Corner – QUICK STRENGTH FOR RUNNERS

Feb16Zanetti

“QUICK STRENGTH FOR RUNNERS, 8 Weeks to a Better Runner’s Body”, by Jeff Horowitz, Velopress, Boulder, Colorado, 2013. Pp 198

Speaking from a pure runner’s perspective, I ask you, would you rather go on a nice run in Annadel or spend 45-60 minutes in a (smelly) gym pounding the weights, running on a treadmill or busting the exercycle? I don’t know about you but I would pick the run seven days out of seven, no question. The problem with doing so much running and so  very little pre and post-run training is that it often will result in injuries (especially as we increase mileage, intensity and as we just age).  And usually the injuries are not quickly healed. So for those of you (us) that think you don’t have time or don’t want to make time for pre and post run training think about how many injuries you have had over the last couple of years. Now think about how much time you were unable to run due to those injuries. If you are like me and have had multiple injuries and been off running for up to 2-3 months at a time (sometimes even longer) an extra 60 minutes a week In the gym might be time well spent. As well, I feel a regular strength training program will not only minimize your injuries but will also improve your training and racing times/consistency.

198 pages may seem like a lot of reading for a training guide.  It could just as easily have been in formatted simply a guide and would still have been very good. The first 45 pages are background and simple running physiology. If you have a background in physiology or have read any of the previously reviewed running physiology books you could easily bypass the first 45 pages or read it later (in lieu of watching the final season of ‘American Idol).

The next 85 pages are a well written explanation of 40 exercises and the minimal amount of equipment needed to perform them. Each exercise is also differentiated into easy and advanced styles. There is also a TIP which will clarify proper technique and a COACHES NOTE which explains the why and/or an ‘attaboy’(‘-girl’).

The next 50 pages are dedicated to the training sessions delineated by the week (weeks 1 through 8). Depending on your physical strength you can choose easy or advanced but the guide is setup to start easy on week 1 and get progressively more advanced and more intense with each week. If that seems like just too much there is no reason not to go at a slower, less advanced rate and with 40 exercises to choose from you could develop your own ever changing program.

The training is 2-3 20 min sessions per week so everyone should be able to make that time available to improve overall fitness and your running with a minimum of equipment (dumbbell, balance ball, medicine ball and a balance/bosu board) as your strength improves and you want to try the advanced exercises. The book finishes with a small chapter on continuing the program while travelling.

This is a great book and guide that if followed 2-3 times per week will definitely improve your strength, running and overall health.

Rating:   4.8/5             Usefullness:   5/5