Thirsty (for knowledge) Thursday: Talent vs. Training

>> Thursday, October 30, 2014

This idea comes up a fair amount when I'm talking with people about racing. How much of what we can do is TALENT, and how much is TRAINING? How much better can get get with proper training? (And on a personal level, is it worth all the hard training to drop XX seconds in any particular event?) Runner's World recently wrote about this, and they cited research from a July/August publication in the journal "Intelligence" and another journal article that looks at how much raw talent sprinters have and just how little/much they can be trained.

Dr. Michael Joyner (from the Mayo Clinic) broke down all the research, and here's what he has to say about all those articles and their stats:

The two charts show how innate “talent” and what is called “trainability” or the response to practice interact. The pairs of lines in each of the two charts show people with either a lot of talent or “no” talent. For each talent category, there are diverging lines that show extremes of the response to training. Some people are more responsive to training than others.

Chart 1 uses the 100m sprint as an example of something where elite performance is mostly talent and where training will get you only so far to world class. Importantly a hypothetical person with no talent represented by the bottom pair of lines will never have a performance that overlaps with the talented person even if they respond massively to training and improve their time from 20 seconds all the way down to 14 seconds. This chart is backed by both anecdotal evidence and scientific findings that show sprinters are mostly born and not made.

Basically, this shows that someone with little "talent" who runs a 0:20 100 meters will never be world class. It they were very "trainable," they could drop down to around 0:14, but that's nothing special. Conversely, someone with a lot of talent who can run the 100 meters in 0:11 could drop down to the world class level (0:10) if they were very "trainable." Even if they weren't very trainable, they could possibly get that 0:11 100 meters down to around 0:10.5.

This is something every track coach knows. I remember running 50 yard sprints at the start of each track season in high school to see who had the talent to start with. I (along with many of you readers) do not have that innate short-distance speed. As my high school track coach would always say, "Everyone and their Grandma thinks that they can be a sprinter." (But they can't.)

As an endurance athlete, I love to see this next graph:

Chart 2 uses the 10k where training will cause bigger relative improvements in performance in both the talented and untalented. The key point is that given enough training the performances of at least some people with “no” talent can sometimes equal or surpass the performances of some talented individuals, especially an untrained or undertrained talented person.

Let me reiterate a point made above: "The key point is that given enough training the performances of at least some people with 'no' talent can sometimes equal or surpass the performances of some talented individuals, especially an untrained or undertrained talented person." The lines CAN overlap in non-sprint races. The training DOES matter. It's not all talent. And if you've raced for a few years with different levels of training, you've seen this first hand.

The article is summed up succinctly with this:

All of this means that to be truly “elite” you have to have a combination of talent, trainability and training to get there. However, depending on the individual and event, the mix of the three factors varies considerably.

For more "Thirsty Thursday" posts (about training, science, and numbers), click the "Thirsty Thursday" tag.


Race Photos from the "Loony" Weekend

>> Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Here's a handful of race photos from Sport Photo showing the 4 of us at work earlier this month during the "Loony Challenge."

What does "do not copy" mean?

Finishing the 10K nice and easy because the 5K was starting in 50 minutes.
(And there's Don, the eventual ULTRA Loony Challenge winner in front of me.)

Finishing the 5K looking a LITTLE more tired (but still not too beat up).

My 2 finisher photos from the 10K and 5K.

Pharmie finishing the 5K with a slight grin!

Angela finishing easily!

Matt hitting the line.

Those races were the first day of the Loony Challenge. Here are a few from the second day: when Matt and I did the TC 10 Mile in the "Loony," and Pharmie and Angela did the TC Marathon as part of the "ULTRA Loony."

Around mile 6 of the 10 Mile. These are 2 rare photos where James is NOT right next to me as I
kept showing in my race report - this was when he pulled ahead before I caught back up at mile 7.

Hitting the finish with a 5:29 final mile!

Pharmie was all smiles early on around the lakes!

Looking a bit more serious heading down Summit Ave around mile 22.

At the finish!

Angela raising the roof on the right.

Matt flying across the line of the 10 Mile.

Matt and Angela just got married 4 days ago, and here's some indisputable proof that they'll be together for a long, long time: at the finish of the Marathon and the 10 Mile, they both had their tongues out. That HAS to mean something, right?...

Here are some TC Loony-related posts in case you missed them:
TC 10K and 5K race report
TC 10 Mile race report
Final Loony Challenge results (I won!)
Final thoughts on the Loony Challenge


Why My Bike is Better Than My Lover

>> Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Two of the ladies from YoYo Girls made a "top 10 list." Here are the "Top 10 Reasons my Bike is Better than a Boyfriend."

10. My bike is always willing to go with me.

9. My bike doesn’t have any crazy exes.

8. My bike isn’t afraid of commitment.

7. My bike doesn’t snore.

6. My bike likes lube.

5. My bike works best with me on top.

4. My bike just rolls with me. Never trying to get me to change my mind.

3. My bike takes me on adventures where I experience the world like never before.

2. My bike goes to get a tune up (physical) annually.

And the #1 reason my bike is better than a boyfriend: My bike will always pose with me for a selfie!

(I like selfies as much as the next person, but is that really the BEST reason?)

Here are two more reasons:

- My bike doesn't mind when I ride other bikes.
- My bike doesn't finish a ride before I do.


Family Wedding Photos

>> Monday, October 27, 2014

It was a busy weekend. Today's post doesn't have any swim/bike/run info, just a few quick photos from a great weekend at Matt and Angela's wedding:

My cute family!

Henry and his cousin Evie heading up the aisle.

Flower girl and ring bearer getting their jobs done!

Henry wandered around a BIT much during the ceremony.
Man, can't his parents control this kid?!? Oh wait...

Charlie and (HOT) Mama at the dance!

Henry lovin' the ladies on the dance floor.

The dance was going great until this handsome and mysterious man showed up...


Quarterly Report: Miles Logged July, Aug, and Sept

>> Saturday, October 25, 2014

Here's what my last 3 months of training look like coming off my ankle sprain in April:

July 2014

August 2014

September 2014

3-month totals:
- SWIM: 23,930 yards
- BIKE: 488.30 miles
- RUN: 211.03 miles

SWIM: My swimming dropped off because it COULD (it was nearing the end of racing season) and because of Charlie (I was afraid they'd need to come get me if/when Charlie got too crabby for them at the Y's childcare, so getting ready for a swim and hopping in the pool seemed like a waste if I'd only be able to get in 150 before being pulled out). Still, my yearly swim totals are looking good for 2014!

BIKE: Those are my 3 biggest consecutive months since before kids. Possibly even since Ironman training in 2007. Now I'm not doing ANY biking, but I'm 100% OK with that.

RUN: Umm... that's kind of a crazy 3-month build after I started running again in July (after spraining my ankle badly in April). In fact, for most of April (after the sprain), May, and June, I logged 6 miles TOTAL! That's a total over those 3 months! So to go to 40, 70, and 100 miles for the 3 months after that is pretty decent! I had a REAL big week in September of 36 miles, but then I backed off and got ready to race the Loony Challenge the first weekend in October.

STRENGTH: This was highest in August because I was doing a lot of leg exercises. I eased up leading into the Loony Challenge a few weeks ago, but now I'm trying to get back at it and keep these legs strong (and therefore injury-free).

I did 3 races over this time too, and coming off injuries, I'm pretty happy with how things went:

8th overall (2nd in age group) at the Waseca Triathlon.
3rd overall at the Lake Marion Triathlon.
8th overall (2nd in age group) at the Treadman Duathlon.

p.s. The "Charlie" swim excuse is slightly weak, and I know that. I don't care for swimming - what can I say? It's also a bit harder because we can only leave a baby for 1 hour at the daycare at the Y - it was 2 hours with Henry before he had a little brother. So a 1 hour drop-off means about 40 minutes max of swimming once you get ready pre-swim and change post-swim. So there's no time for stretching or core work. Totally just excuses. 


Friday Funny 815: Halloween Costume Puns

>> Friday, October 24, 2014

Puns + funny costumes = awesome.  (via)

Find lots more funny stuff on!


Friday Funny 814: BFF Devon's Bike Crash

I posted this on pro-triathlete buddy Devon's Facebook page the other day:

That beautiful man has such beautiful comebacks.

Find lots more funny stuff on


Friday Funny 813: Just "Dad" Things

A few days ago, I Instagrammed a photo of Charlie and I mowing the lawn. I captioned it "Mowing the lawn with this goofball. (We have a reel mower - don't worry, he's in no danger.)" Someone told me I missed an opportunity to say "he's in no reel danger." I felt like I missed a chance at a classic "Dad joke."

To help make up for that, here are people tweeting about the most "DAD thing" their Dad has ever done:

Time to up my DAD GAME. What's that you say, Henry?... You're hungry? Hi Hungry, I'm Dad!

Check out lots more funny stuff on


Friday Funny 812: Cake Fails

I love these kind of things. Oh, and racing buddy bro-in-law Matt is marrying Angela this weekend, so I hope to get them cake #1:

More funny stuff on!


Two Quick "Instagrams of the Day"

>> Thursday, October 23, 2014

Here are 2 recent shots of my fun home life:

Just before bedtime last week. #NoPants

Henry loves to be "tackled" by Charlie.

Life is good. Oh, and we recently found out that the "Pony Basket" that Henry referenced in one of last week's Friday Funnies is a My Little Pony wicker basket where all the My Little Ponies are stored. Now we know.

Follow me as stevestenzel on Instagram.

Stop back for some "Friday Funnies" tomorrow, and check back on Saturday for a (surprising) training update from the last few months.


A Few Final TC "Loony Challenge" Thoughts

>> Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Alright, it's been 2.5 weeks. Here are my 6 closing thoughts on things related to the "Loony Challenge."

• I was thrilled to finish UNINJURED!! Two days after the 10 Mile, hip felt BETTER than it did during the final 2 weeks of building miles leading up to the race! The 20 minute massage after the 10K and 5K really seemed to help. (But I've only ran twice since then - an easy run 4 days after the 10 Mile, and then the Superhero Dash 5K with Henry the next weekend. Now I haven't ran in 11 days because my hip/sacrum has been achy again, so I'm taking it easy. I'll do an easy run shortly.)

• The only thing that hurt on my body was my calves. Monday after the races, I got out of bed and my calves screamed at me. They weren't injured, just tired. Tuesday they were better. Wednesday they were about back to normal.

• My finishing percentage looks pretty great in all 3 races. When I log my races on BeginnerTriathlete, they show overall percentage. My age-grade results are all decent too, putting me at the bottom of "Regional Class" in every category:

- 10K: 0.76% (70% age graded)
- 5K: 0.78% (70% age graded)
- 10 Mile: 1.14% (72% age graded)

• Just for the hell of it, I overlaid splits from all 4 times I did the TC 10 Mile. 2009 was my first ever 10 mile, 2010 was when I was coached with the goal of finishing sub-60 (finished in 59:05), 2011 was just a normal race, and this year was the end of the Loony Challenge:

2011 and 2014 were quite similar, with just some of the earlier miles being a bit slower this year as I was pretty timid about my legs being too tired from the 2 races the day before. But I honestly could have (and should have) raced those miles a bit faster. And that graph shows that (at least for me) miles 6 and 7 are brutal. It could be the hills, or it could be mental - feeling dead but knowing there are still a few miles left.

• "Race Buddy" James found me! I got an email last week from the guy who I ran with for the middle 5 miles of the 10 Mile. Remember all the photos like this from my 10 Mile race report with James and I side-by-side?

James and I at mile 5 (seen in my race report).

He sent me an email, and then he shared his race report with me - he's got a group of running buddies who all share race thoughts via email after their races. He finished 3-4 minutes faster than he had hoped, which he was thrilled about. Here's a middle paragraph from his write-up about running with me:

... Once it leveled out I caught up to a guy in a bright plaid long-legged speedo. I noticed that he was wearing a “Loony” tag (meaning he ran the 5K and 10K on Saturday as well) so I struck up a conversation. Turns out he is a semi-famous local blogger (named, of course, “Steve in a Speedo”) who writes about running and triathlons; every group of spectators had at least one person yell out, “Go Steve!” or “Nice shorts!”. Very nice guy and we stuck together until he dropped me around mile 8.

James had made a comment or 2 during the race about all the people who knew me and all the people cheering for the shorts. At the time, I couldn't tell if he was annoyed or if he was enjoying it. Glad to hear he was OK with it! Nice running with you, James!

(And thanks to Sarah for those great photos of us at mile 5, and thanks to Shinianen for the photos around mile 8. Check out Shinianen's spectator report which includes a photo of me, and a Cookie Monster holding a sign saying "C is for Chafing." Fantastic.)

• Twin Cities in Motion "officially" congratulated Don and I on Facebook last week. Here's a screenshot of their post from Facebook:

And here's that full photo they shared of Don and I finishing the TC 10K:

Both running easy (compared to the guy in front of Don and the guy flying behind me).

Remember, I ran the 10K with my camera, and here's a photo from my 10K race report that was taken just 15 seconds before the photo above:

Don in front of me, and the guy in blue up there too. (From my 10K/5K race reports.)

In the next week or so, I'd like to write up my thoughts on how to WIN a series like this. I've only done it once, but I have 2 cents I'd like to share.

In the meantime, here are a 3 related links in case you missed them:
     - My TC 10K and 5K race reports from our first day of the "Loony" races.
     - My TC 10 Mile race report from the next day.
     - The final "Loony Challenge" standings.


I Look HORRIBLE During 5Ks (here's the proof)

>> Monday, October 20, 2014

There are some pretty sweet photos in the album of official photos from the "ALS Superhero Dash" 9 days ago. Here are some of my favorites along with some horrible ones of me and Henry:



The group of LEGIT costumes out there!

She's got the same batman shirt as me, but she has cooler friends.


The "legit" Captain, some Ironkids, and an awesome tighty-whitey superhero.

Just before the start of the 5K - I'm about 10 feet behind (the male) Captain America.

As I said in my race report, Henry and I jumped into the lead after a few feet, and just kept pulling away from the group. Here we are just a minute into the race:

It looks like we're not even moving.

Now it looks like we're running.

This is the next photo in the album after the 2 of me and Henry.
The guy leading this pack is the middle-aged guy I noted I passed early on.

Fat Luigi.

ALS Association Executive Director Jen (in the Wonder Woman getup).

More of the nearly 500 5K runners.

An awesome He-Man.

Waiting for the runners to do their lap around the lake.

Looking through the tunnel to the finish.

Henry and I came barreling up to the tunnel nearly 4 minutes ahead of anyone else, and we totally caught this family off-guard and freaked them out:

Scared them off the path. Oh, and sweet baby Jesus... look at my face.

Close-up of that last photo. There's the "vein of approval!" It approves of this effort.
But the rest of my face.......... dear Lord.

Running hard towards the tunnel.

Another gross close-up. Henry looks chill, though.

Headed to the finish.

Well, I guess it's OK to be a little ugly/gross at the end of a 17:56 certified 5K while pushing a stroller. Right?... RIGHT?... I hope so. Here are a few more photos:

Here's 2nd and 3rd running side-by-side.

Brette (Jen's hubby) was passed by Fat Luigi, so here I think he's checking
to make sure he won't be passed by Fat Mario.

Fat Luigi catching his breath post-race.

He-Man made an unlikely friend during the race.

A pretty sweet Wolverine. He's running WITH A CIGAR IN HIS MOUTH. Nice touch.

These next 4 photos show the definition of a "second wind:"

"Ugh... how much farther?"

"I don't know if I can do this..."

"Oh wait... the finish is just up THERE?!?"

"LET'S GO!!!"


Henry and I getting our 1st place medal from Storm and Wonder Woman.

Heading back to the car. Henry has his "stick guns."

Check out Henry's and my race report from last week if you missed it.
Here's all the "official" race photos in a Flickr album with 1400 photos.
And here's the race website. Thanks ALS Superhero Dash!



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