Bigger Stronger Faster

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I watched Bigger Stronger Faster last night. It's a movie about steroid use in sports which is something I thought I was pretty dead set in my opinions about. As a cyclist I'm keenly aware of how widespread cheating in the sport is and I've always held a pretty low opinion of those that did it.

A scant few things have challenged my opinions. Outside Magazine famously did a story on an older amateur rider taking all the banned substances he could handle and I remember the takeaway for me was "damn, that HGH actually sounds pretty good." and "Wow, I can see why people take these things."

On MetaFilter, user Chuckles compiled a list of 8 previous Tour de France top five results, with everyone implicated in doping marked with an X. If he updated it for 2007 and 2008, there'd be even more X's on the chart. It's really more ubiquitous than we want to think.

I have friends that have defended Barry Bonds and other atheletes and frequently mention Tiger Woods had eye surgery to improve his vision, which is another form of performance-enhancement that seems hypocritical to allow (and I can't help but agree with).

I sort of expected Bigger Stronger Faster to be either some sort of gross-out "let's take steroids and hurt oursevles" or a depressing "here is how it ruins lives" but it's nothing at all like either of those things. It really literally rocked my world because it presents a side of steroids in sports I'd never considered and it completely changed my opinion of the whole issue.

The best part is the main guy and narrator is quite literally just some guy off the street who was interested in examining a complex issue, and his passion for seeking the truth pulls you along through the entire film. I have no idea how the filmmakers found the guy or how the guy got into filmmaking, but he's the perfect subject to move through the film and I shared a lot in common (like my distaste for dopining in sports).

I can't recommend this documentary highly enough.

TLFT*: Michael Phelps

Watching some recent olympic track and field events still sitting on TiVo, I’m finally starting to understand how amazing it was for Michael Phelps to swim 17 races and win 8 medals and break multiple records over the span of just a few short days. For some reason I wasn’t really that impressed by the announcers constantly repeating it. It’s just swimming in water right? You don’t even sweat while doing it!

Watching the track events and seeing the people that do multiple events have to go through heats (like Phelps did in the water), I’m completely and totally amazed by some track stars doing three different events over the span of a couple days. I guess it’s because I ran cross-country and longer track events at one time in my life, and that I can see they are totally exhausted at the end of each heat, but I am amazed at the insanity of running full bore several times a day over the course of a couple days.

Then I realize Phelps did about three times as many heats/races in a similar timespan, and that the few times I’ve been in an olympic-sized pool exhausted me almost instantly, and I have a new appreciation for the insane amount of sheer exertion that kid put himself through.

* too long for twitter

Basketball half bakery ideas

I thought of these during March Madness games, but neglected to post it until now, so here goes, my wishlist for technology additions to the sport of basketball:

1. Put RFID tags inside the soles of players’ shoes as well as embedded in the floor. Take the “3 seconds in the key” call away from the refs and let technology automatically measure your time in the paint. There is no disputing the call when you trip the clock, and refs can focus on other more important stuff.

2. Accelerometers in shoes communicating with one inside the ball could probably do a better job calling Traveling than the ref.

3. Accelerometers in shoes of players could give the referees more data to judge charging vs. personal foul calls. You could have actual data for who planted their feet first and deserves a charge call or who wasn’t stationary in time and deserves a foul.

The Nike iPod System

nikeipodThis week I’m running again after a nearly two year hiatus. What finally motivated me to get off the couch and start running was the Nike+ system. I’ve written my own exercise tracking apps in the past and it required that I manually enter details about each run, then I would write my own visualization apps. After I saw how the Nike iPod thing records and uploads your data with no intervention needed and then spits out nice graphs with goals and group activities, I knew I had to try it. When Nike finally came out with some stability shoes for fat guys like me (the Air Equalon, which I can’t link to in their Flash interface), I pulled the trigger and got the whole setup.

I took my first jog today and it worked great. I like that you can run for a set time, a set distance, or to burn a set number of calories. I also like that your iPod tells you when you’re half done and counts down the minutes as you get close to your goal. I noticed the system reminded me at the same intervals I would have checked my watch myself, so it works really well.

The kicker on the whole Nike+ thing was something I’ve never seen online before: Hatphones. It’s a flexible beanie with embedded headphones and a pocket for a iPod nano complete with a nano wheel cut-out. It’s perfect for winter here in Oregon and I don’t have to have wires running down my shirts. I must admit it’s a bit weird to push on your head when you want to change songs, but otherwise it’s a clever little package.

I’ll post an update in a few months after I’ve used this a while to track my running progress. My hope is to get back up to running 15-20 miles a week and doing 5k and 10k runs for fun. If anyone knows of a nike+ widget I could run on my site to show miles/runs, leave a link in the comments — one of the best motivations to exercise or lose weight is good old public shaming.