The 800 metre event is, in the humble opinion of the author, the greatest of all running races. Maybe even of all sporting races.
Two laps around an oval.
The pace is not a flat out sprint, but just at that slightly paradoxical level where, for most of the race, you’re running as fast as you can without absolute exertion.
It is a tactical race unlike shorter distances. However, unlike longer distances, every part of the race is critical, with timing of utmost importance. Misjudging a kick by seconds can be disastrous.
I used to divide the race into four sections of 200 metres, and I’m sure most athletes have a similar strategy as it flows very naturally.
There’s the first 200m. The athletes start in separate lanes and then converge after 100 metres as they enter the back straight. This section is all about acceleration and positioning.
The next 200 is simply conservation of energy. Hopefully you managed to tuck tight into the rail, and the goal is then to get to the bell using as little energy as possible. If you stuffed up your first 200m, you might have to expend precious energy to position yourself, and this can be very costly.
Then the race really starts to heat up. You have to grasp onto that psychological injection of energy from that ringing bell as you pass into the final lap. You’re starting to feel the effects of fatigue, the lactic acid is starting to whisper to your buttocks, but you have to accelerate. The bell is your friend, and sometimes there is a collective euphoria as you feel the entire pack surrounding you harnessing its energy.
The ‘long kickers’ try to break the ‘short kickers’ in this section. The ‘short kickers have a faster finishing burst, so the long kickers try to either get sufficiently ahead of the short kickers, or force them to use too much energy and have nothing left for the final 200 metres. Conversely the short kickers try to hang on with reserve in the tank.
Then the final 200 metres. Sometimes it’s hard to pick the point when it happens, but as fatigue comes on, you must expend more and more energy to maintain a constant pace. Eventually you run out of more effort and you’re just going hell for leather.
At this point it’s all about the finish line. The legs were already burning, now they are numbing. Sometimes you lose all sensation and it seems that you’re just a set of lungs and a brain with a single repetitive thought: drive drive drive drive. You’re not sure if the legs are following the commands but you command them anyway. You forget why you must, but you don’t forget that you must.
Beautiful stuff! Of course every race is its own unique experience and circumstance sometimes demands modification.
If you want to see a good race, watch the 2004 Athens Olympics men’s 800m final. Borzakovskiy’s victory was a triumph of timing and guts. Trailing the pack by 20 metres in the first 200 metres. Still last at the bell. Amazing stuff!
I’ve sailed roughly 3800 miles since leaving Wellington. The direct route from here to Los Angeles is roughly 2800 miles, but my route will most likely be closer to 3200 miles as I avoid the worst areas of storm risk and position appropriately to the headwinds north of the doldrums.
I confident that I’m in the trade winds now. It feels like the bell is ringing in my ears and I’m now surging in preparation for the final kick. I guess I’m a fair bit further than halfway in this leg, but the emotion is there nonetheless.
The wind has stayed in the north east since my last update, and it was a day of exhilarating sailing with 7 knots on the speedo at times and water washing over the decks.
The entire point of a fore-aft rigged boat is its ability to go into the wind. Any old sheet attached to a broom stick can go down wind.
Thus when you’re going into the wind, it seems that boat is living out its purpose.
The genoa tightly sheeted in, forming a perfect aerofoil. The curve of the mainsheet perfectly complementing the lines of the genoa, creating a slot between them that accelerates the wind from front sail onto rear sail. It’s fortunate that not all poets are sailors, for otherwise no other topic would be written about.
I spent a good deal of time in the morning finding the perfect trim and balance for the sails. On finding it, I just sat and marvelled at the beauty.
You might guess from my incoherent gushings that I’ve been a bit wind starved over the last few days.
Apart from the doldrums, most of my remaining route falls within the north and south trade wind belts, so I’m confident that it’ll be a reasonably faster than my trip out of the roaring forties to where I am now. I’ve mostly conserved my diesel stores, so I should have sufficient to rely on mechanical assistance through the doldrums if necessary.
In other news, I saw the biggest meteorite I’ve ever seen.
This was no usual shooting star. It was low, big, and had a long fiery tail. It flashed across the sky for a few seconds before it disappeared over the horizon towards the south.
Perhaps it was a dying satellite, headed to its final rest in the oceanic pole of inaccessibility. I do not know!
Latitude: -11.362, Longitude: -131.683, Time: 05:14:02 02-06-2018 UTC