LESSONS FROM LENIN

Approximately 99 years ago, October  5,  1917, to be more or less exact ( more about exact later ) the Russians basically withdrew from World War I and the  Russian Communists declared themselves rulers of Russia. The Communists  essentially had two leaders, Leon Trotsky and Vladimir Lenin. In the ensuing power struggle, Lenin won out and Trotsky exiled himself to Mexico where he was subsequently assassinated and Lenin went about implementing his October Revolution.  Having assumed power under the guise of being a follower  and adherent of Marx/Hegel Communism, Lenin was faced with a serious philosophical and political problem. Under orthodox Marxism the historical sequence of events that lead to the utopian Communist/Socialist state are as followers:

> The state starts out as an Agrarian based economy and society, based mostly on Agriculture and  from there evolves into

> The Industrial/Capitalist state, where the workers are so badly exploited that they rebel and throw off capitalism take over governance and evolve into

> The utopian Democratic Communist/Socialist state with the dictatorship of the proletariat

In 1917 Russian was very much still an agrarian society. The Marxist forecasted and prerequisite Industrial/Capitalist society was still light years away. Faced with this serious philosophical and political quandary, Lenin was squarely up against orthodox  Marxist theory. Lenin, being the power hungry, but practical personality he was, came up with a solution. The solution was to make a leap of faith and telescope and compress theory. He would announce that he was shrinking the Industrial/Capitalist state into the current Agrarian/Agricultural state that existed in Russia at the time. What he did was make happen today,….. what was supposed to happen tomorrow.

I have often defined the world record in similar terms. That is, the world record is something that is rare today,….but is ordinary tomorrow . World record holders have simply done what Lenin did. They find a way to compress time in such a way that they do today that which is special, even unique for today,…. but is ordinary in the future.

There are several examples that exist in track and field that I think help to make my point, and indirectly led up to the 400 meter world record in Rio. Carl Lewis has a personal record of 9.83. Tyson Gay has a personal best of 9.69. Is Gay a better sprint talent than Lewis ? Was Gay better coached than Lewis ? When Gay ran his personal best the world record was 9.59.  When Lewis ran his personal best the world record was 9.78.  In the year 2015 Justin Gatlin had several times faster that Carl’s personal best.  Is Gatlin a better sprinter than Lewis ? Is he better coached than Lewis was ? Are Gay and Gatlin better competitors than Lewis ? If you were going to enter into a draft situation based strictly on your assessment of the sprint talent and competiveness of each, in what order would you rank them ?

I maintain that if Carl Lewis were sprinting at the same time as Bolt , and at their respective peaks, his time would be faster than the 9.83 he is credited with. When Carl ran his PB, anything under 9.80 was considered very, very fast, and only a dope head did it. When Gay ran his 9.69, 9.80 was fast, but runnable by “clean” sprinters. In 2015 at the World Championships, both Bolt and Gatlin ran right at Ben Johnson’s 1988 miracle world record that he accomplished drugged to the gills. The big difference was not talent or training it had to do with time.  In 1988 Ben Johnson was able to  run a dirty time and world record. That same time became achievable  at the  2015 World Championships by two athletes not at the top of their respective game. The reason I know this is because Glen Mills ( Bolt’s coach ) and I regularly had breakfast in Beijing because the Jamaicans and Americans shared the same hotel. I asked Glen point blank that on a scale of 1 to 10, how would he rate Bolt’s fitness and preparedness. He told me  Bolt was  at 75-80%. Earlier that year Gatlin had run 5 races  as fast or faster than the winning time in Beijing. So at less than 100%, both Bolt and Gatlin were capable of running faster than Johnson did when he set the world record. They essentially executed the Lenin model. What was special and unique in 1988 was compressed and telescoped and almost ordinary by 2015.

Recently a group of coaches were invited to a USATF High Performance Summit in Las Vegas. For 5 days we were exposed to a lot of very interesting and applicable science. However, there were a couple of very critical concepts that were never discussed at any length or depth. The purpose of the High Performance Division of USATF is to develop methodologies and concepts that will translate into more medals for the U.S. ,… and dominance in the medal count versus the rest of the world. Two of the very most direct and clear ways to increase the U.S. medal count not covered there are:

To the extent drug use is reduced or eliminated, the U.S. medal count will go up. We have the most athletes and  spend the most money in our feeder system ( H.S. College, Clubs ). On a level playing field, we win.

To the extent we have coaches and athletes get out of the time warp we subscribe to much too often, we will see more superior performances. Coaches and athletes have to upgrade what they think can be done, and done now, rather than sitting around and wait for it to happen in the future.  Like Lenin, they have to shrink and compress the future into today.

When Lashawn Merritt came to train with us two years ago, it was with the understanding that he would break the world record in 2016, running 43.00, and break it again in 2017 at 42.50. Part of the thinking behind this was my belief that we could shrink and compress time, and like Lenin, jump into the future during the present. Another contributing factor was the fact that Michael Johnson, the best person to ask, stated that he thought the world record should be 42.50.

At the  warm up area of the World Championships in Beijing in 2015, Cubie Segobin introduced me to the South African’s coach. She and I hit it off very well and shared thoughts and ideas going forward. We discussed the state of the 400 meters and  I told her what our plans were for 43.00 at the Rio Olympics. The race was basically scripted  as follows:

20.50 for the first 200

31.00 for the first 300

12.00 for the Critical Zone last 100

She and I agreed that this was difficult, but doable. The challenge was to have the athletes go past 20.50 at 200  and 31.00 at 300 ,and still have 12.00 flat in their legs for the last 100. The training  and racing for Merritt was  centered around getting him fit and fast enough to hit these markers. Early the focus was on 200 and he ran 19.78 in April in the Bahamas with impressive ease. In June, we had Glen Mills set up a 300 for the South African and Merritt at his meet in Jamaica. The South African ran 31 low and Merritt was right there with him and it was pretty clear then that the world record for the 400 was in serious jeopardy. All either athlete needed now was 12.00 for the last 100. Very little goes as it is supposed to. When we got to Rio the South African had KT tape on his hamstring and when he eased up in the last 20 meters or so in the semi-finals and got second place, it was obvious that he was protecting that leg. Getting second meant he could get one of the very slow inside lanes. That being the case, no one eases up in the semi-finals unless there is a real issue because of the chance of getting an inside and slow lane. During the warm up, I did not see him and for a short time thought he might have scratched because of the leg issue. It turns out that he was late getting to the track because of the traffic in Rio delaying the athletes’ bus from the Olympic Village to the Olympic stadium. The South African drew lane 8. The radius on the track in Rio was very wide and had less of a turn than most 8 lane tracks.  The gun went off and as we had scripted, Merritt passed the 200 in 20.44. The South African was there in 20.50. At 300 Merritt and the South African were still on 43.00 pace. James was within striking distance depending on his finish over the last 100.

As in most races, the Critical Zone, or the most result determinant segment of the race, is the last 25% of the race. In this case it loomed large and beckoning for the top three athletes. Whoever won the last 100 was going to more than likely win the race and break the world record. Sprint speed is a combination of stride length and stride rate. Most people advocate stride rate over stride length, despite the Bolt dominance with stride length. The South African took 41 strides in the last 100.  James took 43 strides in the last 100. Merritt took 45 strides in the last 100. There was no way that either James or Merritt can respectively give the South African a 5% and 10% differential in stride length that deep into debt and beat him. Bolt takes 41 strides for a 100 meters fresh. The South African took 41 strides, the same count as Bolt, despite being less than 100% ,….and also in extreme debt.

It is clear to me that the 43.00 time Should not last as long as Michael’s record did. The time warp bubble has been exploded for the event. Keep in mind that the record was set by an athlete at less than 100% . The race model is well known and understood,  and has been proven to be doable. The rest is up to coaches and athletes to Leninize and get into future thinking today.

Oh, one more Lenin time game item. The actual Russian takeover, by the Western calendar, was in November of 1917. Lenin merely shrunk it down to conform to the Orthodox Russian calendar and it became the October Revolution.

Thanks.

Brooks

 

 

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