Cold Links: assorted sports longreads
Most of these are on the general theme of my obsession with obsession. (That link also explains the "Cold Links" idea.)
(NYT) Probably my favorite sports piece ever, about the world's leading ultra-endurance athlete. Excerpt:
The craziness is methodical, however, and Robic and his crew know its pattern by heart. Around Day 2 of a typical weeklong race, his speech goes staccato. By Day 3, he is belligerent and sometimes paranoid. His short-term memory vanishes, and he weeps uncontrollably. The last days are marked by hallucinations: bears, wolves and aliens prowl the roadside; asphalt cracks rearrange themselves into coded messages. Occasionally, Robic leaps from his bike to square off with shadowy figures that turn out to be mailboxes. In a 2004 race, he turned to see himself pursued by a howling band of black-bearded men on horseback ... Robic curls fetuslike on the pavement of a Pyrenean mountain road, having fallen asleep and simply tipped off his bike. Robic stalks the crossroads of a nameless French village at midnight, flailing his arms, screaming at his support crew ...
Over the past two years, Robic, who is 40 years old, has won almost every race he has entered, including the last two editions of ultracycling’s biggest event, the 3,000-mile Insight Race Across America (RAAM) ...
He is not always the fastest competitor (he often makes up ground by sleeping 90 minutes or less a day), nor does he possess any towering physiological gift. On rare occasions when he permits himself to be tested in a laboratory, his ability to produce power and transport oxygen ranks on a par with those of many other ultra-endurance athletes. He wins for the most fundamental of reasons: he refuses to stop.
Fun article about "Big's Backyard Ultra," an ultra-endurance race where people run around the same loop until they can't anymore. Ultra-endurance events are bonkers.
Epic piece on how pro athletes deal with having to pee.
How Ronda Rousey processed her first-ever loss. Rousey was briefly the world's most dominant and celebrated mixed martial artist.
Adorable article about the family that, for over 50 years, has been the sole supplier of the mud used to improve the grip on Major League baseballs. They get the mud from a secret location and MLB has no other way of treating the baseballs that players will be happy with. Unfortunately this yields only about $12k/year for the family (which probably explains why MLB hasn't tried all that hard to find an alternative mud supplier). Still, this is one of the most baseball things I've ever read.
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