Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Genetics and Hard Work

It's interesting to read all the Internet chatter this morning following Tommy Caldwell's amazing one-day linkup of the free Nose and Freerider on El Cap. Words like "mutant" and "superhuman" pepper people's comments. Sure, Tommy is a gifted athlete. But athletes never rest on their genes to achieve such great feats. To prepare for this linkup, Tommy did months of incredibly hard endurance training. According to Kelly Cordes, his next-door neighbor in Estes Park, Colorado, a typical training day for Tommy would involve a long, hard bike ride in the mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park, followed by sport climbing up to 5.14, followed by a session in the weight gym, followed by more hours on the climbing wall at his dad's house. Week after week after week. I'm sure people don't mean to diminish his accomplishment by calling him a "mutant," as if it comes naturally to him, but in my mind his achievements are only magnified by knowing how hard he works to reach his sky-high goals.

It reminds me a bit of the comments after Matt Carpenter destroyed the record for the Leadville Trail 100 this August. "Well, of course he did it," some said. "He's genetically gifted when it comes to high-altitude running." Yup, Carpenter has the highest VO2 ever tested for a runner. But he also trained hard 13 times a week—that's nearly two sessions a day—every single day for five months in a row to prepare for his great run at Leadville. The greatest athletes start with good genes and then work harder than any of us can imagine to make the most of them.

1 comment:

Kris said...

I completely agree that hard work is the real reason behind both of these athletes' accomplishments. I coached climbers for years and have seen some serious talent go to waste because some kids just don't have this kind of work ethic. However, if I tried running twice a day, or climbing (even 5.12) every day, I would be constantly bogged down with overuse injuries. It's very rare to find the right combination of talent and motivation in an athlete, but when it happens we see records shattered.