Pale, and freckled, and sore all over

  • 10/06/2010 11:18 pm in

BLOOMINGTON — For those who are unaware, I rode in the Little 500 for four years in college. We took it pretty seriously — year-round training, races in the summer, suicides up all 11 floors at Ballantine, a curtailing of night-time activities during spring semester. The works, in other words.

And I cannot begin to quantify the amount of incredulity that would flow our way, particularly for that last sacrifice. (Living in a fraternity house and not drinking? To quote Denzel Washington, boy, you must be outside your mind.) But we did it, and we probably were crazy, but not because of that.

As I’ve moved further in my still-short career, though, I’ve often hoped that my Little 500 experience did give me a little bit of an understanding when talking about college athletes’ conditioning. Which is why I jumped at this opportunity. (Well, jumped at scrambling to rearrange my schedule at the last minute. Journalists really only at our best on deadline.)

If you don’t want to click the link, here’s a brief summary: Media got to take part in a 2 1/2-hour-long workout today that simulated some of what the IU basketball team does on a regular basis in conditioning. We were put through some early paces, stretched out, took down some measurables (6-foot-1 wingspan and a 9-foot-4 vertical — I’ll reject your stuff) and then got down to business.

We worked with medicine balls, dead weights and box jumps. We jumped jacks and rope, and even threw in some old-fashioned push-ups and sit-ups. Toss in an obstacle course on the Memorial Stadium field and me carrying Henke Hall of Champions Event Manager Brook Oak (Goooo, Team Power Forwards!) up a flight of stairs on my back, and it was pretty much a day.

To put it simply, it was a blast. I know this sounds some combination of stupid and cocky, but pain has its uses. Some of my favorite workouts during my racing years were the hardest ones, like running suicides up the stairs at Ballantine in the middle of the winter, when the climate past floor six felt tropical and the stairs just seemed to get steeper and steeper.

So when it was time to roll a tractor tire, it was actually almost nostalgiac to step up and give it a try. Thank you, Bobby Capobianco, for the invaluable advice, as well.

On some miserably cold ride in the middle of the miserably cold Indiana winter, a teammate and I took the time to count out the hours we spent each week training, either on our bikes or at the gym or in alternate workouts. The number we came out to was roughly 19-20 hours per week, which is right at the NCAA allowed maximum for varsity sports. I’m not equating what we did to varsity collegiate sports, but it did change the way I approached this afternoon.

At one point, I asked Steve McClain, essentially, if the point of conditioning was to make games seem easy by comparison. He told me that was partially true, but it was also (tortured cliche alert) to give you the strength — not just physically but also mentally — to fight through fatigue, because it’s something that is going to find you late in games.

Not 20 minutes earlier, while we were going through the obstacle course at Memorial Stadium, a couple of us were engaged in a similar conversation with Capobianco, who essentially said that the goal of offseason conditioning, besides the simple obvious of making players stronger, faster, etc., (tortured cliche alert No. 2) was to create physical and mental toughness that was ingrained deeply enough in Indiana’s team identity that the Hoosiers wouldn’t get bullied like they were at times last year.

Bad jokes about tortured cliches aside, something you’re reminded fairly often in this business, if you pay attention, is that cliches are cliches because the principles behind them have been successful so much that they have become simple maxims.

When Bobby Capobianco talks about being tired of being pushed around, it’s easy to see why he’d enthusiastically be tired by pushing a tire. When Steve McClain or Tom Crean talks about going through intense workouts (and we just got a watered-down version) to prepare for the important ones this winter, it registers differently.

I guess what I’m saying is, I walked in the door thinking I could empathize with what these guys do on a pretty regular basis. I left feeling far moreso. And empathy is rarely a bad thing.

Filed to:

  • Jwentworth3

    Funny seeing the media covering the media in the workout video

  • I think the only tortured cliche from which I’ll ask you to stay away is the 110%. That’s not possible, and it’s arbitrary. Why not 125%? How about 325%? Giving 100% is good enough.

  • JerryCT

    Oh No ! do you mean to tell me that “seventy eleven” percent is not possible ? ………………………….. that Hubert Humphrey was actually not 1000% behind Eagleton ?

    There is no Superman ?

    Geeezzz another f_rt in a crowded elevator from you , of all people

  • CTC is a smart guy. Nothing like a bonding experience with journalist to help mend the IU brand – he is doing it the right way (a trite maxim). He is transparent and honest kinda like Bo Ryan with the Izzo gleam in his face.

    The workouts and character building is just the type of atmosphere that would allow Chandler to flourish as well – anyone know his status?

  • Yogi Kelin Zeller

    I am not sure if IU is even recruiting Chandler I have heard nothing about him at all other than he has some interest in KY

  • Indiana Red

    No offense to anyone there, but those were some of the goofiest jumping jacks I’ve ever seen. Ha

    And good Lord, Elston looks like He-Man.

  • Anonymous

    I give 8,000,000 percent. It’s quite a trial.

  • Anonymous

    Little 500… the only part I take seriously is the drinking bit. Especially on jersey night.

  • Anonymous

    This is definitely a great way to show off the character of the current roster and coaching staff, as well as highlight how far the team has come along in the rebuilding process, and even to show off the new practice facilities to national media. I see absolutely no negatives here. Say what you will when it comes to Coach Crean’s coaching tactics/style/abilities (and many have said more negative things than I, and to each their own) but I don’t see how anyone could possibly criticize the job he’s done as an ambassador of the program. It’s been fairly outstanding PR on his part from his first press conference forward.

    (This is somewhat unrelated, but does anyone else see any parallels with the strategy Terry Hoeppner took while trying to build IU football? The innovations, media outreach, etc? Very positive work, and that’s what it takes to build a program, which is basically what Crean’s had to do, especially from a PR standpoint.)

  • Anonymous

    The jumping jacks were painful to watch….but overall pretty impressive. I would do it just for the shirt.

  • Anonymous

    You know what strikes me about the video? It seems like Crean and the players (and the exhausted media members) are having fun. After getting beaten down over the past couple of years now, that’s very, very refreshing. I am glad to see that it seems to have made them stronger, rather than just beaten up.

  • Anonymous

    Thank goodness he doesn’t have the Bo Ryan Dracula gleam in his face.

  • Anonymous

    It never ceases to amaze me how HUGE these guys are. I love seeing the comparison of the players next to normal sized people. Elston is a beast.

  • There IS a Superman: he’s tan, he’s high energy, and he’s been known to consume an entire case of Diet Coke while coaching. Strangely, he maintains a friendship with one of the supervillains — Cheatsalot — and will be visiting his lair in December.

  • If you can skate by with that kind of half-hearted effort, then good on ya.

  • Bo Ryan and his haircut belong in a Scorcese film.

  • Anonymous

    Did I see Pat Forde “running”?

  • millzy32

    Question for Zach:

    For all the training and sacrifice what was your best finish in the Little 500? Just out of complete curiosity

  • Andrew

    Couldn’t agree more, IUfan. That one has always bothered me. If you remember, people used to say 105%…which then got bumped to 110. LIke you say, why not more? Why not 1000%? But the one these days that really grinds my gears, to borrow the words of Peter Griffin, is how the word “literally” has lost all meaning. Everyone from sports commentators to public officials, and everyone in between, has butchered this word. “He literally carried his team tonite.” No, actually, he didn’t. That’s impossible, you dummy. Stop ruining the English language.

  • hoostheman

    Only thing I know is that Chandler is taking an unofficial to IU and I think it’s the week after HH. Not sure how active the recruitment has been from our side.

  • DUDE, YES! Here are two of my favorites: “It literally rained cats and dogs”; “I could eat an entire horse, literally.”

    I think I should start injecting “figuratively” into sentences that don’t need it just to counter this trend (and illuminate its nonsensical nature). I figuratively drank an entire cup of coffee. The sun is so bright it will figuratively blind you. That song is figuratively seven minutes long.

  • Andrew

    Haha, good idea. I like it. A cerebral reversal, if you will, of the two words.

  • Fighting fire with fire. Literally. 🙂

  • 11th and Done (Dunn)

    “The sun is so bright it will figuratively blind you.”- quality.

  • 11th and Done (Dunn)

    i thought that those were his bangs bouncing in the wind.

  • Hoosier95

    Can anyone tell me how long HH is supposed to last? I am guessing 2 hours?

  • Iubigred

    Interesting. This would be a really great case study of media ethics I think.

  • it’s Indiana

    How come Jordan Crawfor wasn’t showing everyone how to run stairs?

  • Anonymous

    He was probably “attending class”