Tuesday, December 10, 2013

2014 excitement and The Sports Gene

Planning for 2014 just went from "oh, we'll see..." right to "It's ON" in a short period of time. I got accepted via lottery to the NYC Tri in August a few weeks ago and a few days ago IRONMAN announced a new 70.3 race in Princeton, NJ for next September. The buzz started slowly with a text from a friend in NJ that simply stated "Princeton half ironman in Sept". I thought "oh, maybe" but let it slip into the back of my mind. Then a conversation among tri friends on twitter sprung up with my name attached. I thought briefly about it again, but that was all for a few days. Then the email from Ryan's Quest came yesterday and I read it twice. Were they really offering a charity spot for this race with no minimum fundraising requirement?? I let it settle all day on Monday, it was a busy day and sometime during my hour with my personal trainer in the evening it occurred to me that this is a great opportunity. It's a half ironman within an hour of my mom's house in NJ and probably really flat. I mentioned it to my trainer and she gave me a "sure, you crazy person" look (she's a 200&400m sprinter so 70+ miles... Well, yeah). On the way home I composed a quick email to RQ, a charity dedicated to funding research for Duchennes Muscular Dystrophy, who I've raced and fundraised for in the past in conjunction with the NJ State Tri. They're an incredible group of people who came together to help a family with an adorable son who has DMD. I'll be psyched to have the opportunity to race with them if I can. I will probably know tonight if I responded quickly enough to get a spot, but in the meantime I'm all aflutter at the idea. I love racing, I love triathlons and thinking about next season has me so excited that I can hardly sleep. I have a feeling 2014 is going to be a big year for fast times for me.
Oh, and the good book I mentioned- The Sports Gene by David Epstein. I started this book a few months ago and have gone back to it between book club books, but this time I'm completely hooked. It's so nerdy and packed with stories of incredible athletes and their amazing genetic makeups, I can't stop reading. The idea that certain people are "gifted" is actually so, so, so complex and reading about it has me all pumped to figure out my own potential. If you're at all inclined towards the sciences and athletics, I recommend you give it a read. It's tough in spots, especially if you don't have an understanding of genetics, but I don't think those parts are completely essential to understanding the underlying concepts. It's a long book but there are parts that are so interesting that I'm almost willing to miss my subway stop to keep reading.

Here's a blurb from the Amazon review:

The debate is as old as physical competition. Are stars like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Serena Williams genetic freaks put on Earth to dominate their respective sports? Or are they simply normal people who overcame their biological limits through sheer force of will and obsessive training?The truth is far messier than a simple dichotomy between nature and nurture. In the decade since the sequencing of the human genome, researchers have slowly begun to uncover how the relationship between biological endowments and a competitor’s training environment affects athleticism. Sports scientists have gradually entered the era of modern genetic research.In this controversial and engaging exploration of athletic success, Sports Illustrated senior writer David Epstein tackles the great nature vs. nurture debate and traces how far science has come in solving this great riddle. He investigates the so-called 10,000-hour rule to uncover whether rigorous and consistent practice from a young age is the only route to athletic excellence.Along the way, Epstein dispels many of our perceptions about why top athletes excel. He shows why some skills that we assume are innate, like the bullet-fast reactions of a baseball or cricket batter, are not, and why other characteristics that we assume are entirely voluntary, like an athlete’s will to train, might in fact have important genetic components.This subject necessarily involves digging deep into sensitive topics like race and gender. Epstein explores controversial questions such as:
  • Are black athletes genetically predetermined to dominate both sprinting and distance running, and are their abilities influenced by Africa’s geography?
  • Are there genetic reasons to separate male and female athletes in competition?
  • Should we test the genes of young children to determine if they are destined for stardom?
  • Can genetic testing determine who is at risk of injury, brain damage, or even death on the field?
How can you resist?!
photo credit: npr.org

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