Sports court delays Caster Semenya verdict until April

LAUSANNE: The Court of Arbitration for Sport said Thursday that it was delaying until next month its ruling on a challenge filed by South African double Olympic champion Caster Semenya against the IAAF.

A decision in the controversial case had been due next week, but the world’s top sport court said it would not issue a verdict “until the end of April” because both sides had filed additional material since the hearing in February.

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Semenya is challenging proposals by the International Association of Athletics Federations that aim to restrict female athletes’ testosterone levels.

The IAAF is seeking to force so-called “hyperandrogenic” athletes or those with “differences of sexual development” (DSD) to seek treatment to lower their testosterone levels below a prescribed amount if they wish to continue competing as women.

The athletics governing body has argued the moves are necessary to create a “level playing field” for other female athletes.

A wide coalition has rallied behind Semenya’s cause, including the government in her native South Africa and rights activists worldwide.

Some scientific experts have argued that barring Semenya from competition due to naturally high testosterone levels would be like excluding basketball players because they are too tall.

How to Build the Ultimate American Football Player

One of our favorite times of the year at my facility is when our college football sessions begin in May. What makes our job unique when it comes to this 12-week program is our near absolute control over what Mike Robertson and Patrick Ward call the athletes’ stress bucket. When these guys come to train, there’s no external stress. Aside from a girlfriend and a landscaping job, their lives are a piece of cake. And it shows every day during the warm-up. We simply cannot get them to shut up (a very simple way to determine their level of central fatigue or lack thereof).

What do I mean when I say we control their level of stress? To today’s physical preparation coaches, the figure below is nothing new, but it demonstrates how we truly are the organisms’ stress managers over the course of the summer. We structure our athletes’ training around the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) by the day, by the week, and by the month. Seems simple enough, right? Apply a stimulus to the point of fatigue and watch the athlete recover and supercompensate leading to the next training session.

Wrong. In reality, each athlete has his own GAS, if you will. Different positions (lineman, receiver, etc.) require not only different stressors but also varying levels of intensity and volume. Our program fills the need for the application of unaccustomed stress. I believe this system is the ultimate guide for building today’s American football player.

The Summer Macrocycle

Before we dive into the daily training sessions, let’s look at a 10,000-foot view of the whole program for the three months we have these guys in-house. Let it be known, I in no way consider myself a “programming sensei,” I simply try to instill what others much smarter than I have found successful.

At first glance, you’re probably rolling your eyes with the assumption that there are too many moving pieces to this puzzle. It is much simpler than it appears. I like to refer to it as Modified Block Periodization where we’re linearly building athletic movement, meaning triphasic, concurrently raising all aspects of athleticism, all while respecting residual training effects (aerobic endurance, maximal strength, maximal speed, etc.). The big picture is nothing more than transitions from slow to fast, general to specific, and simple to complex using legend Al Miller’s suggested prescription of volume first, intensity second.

Mesocycle One

When the session begins in early May, some of the guys have been keeping up on their training since the end of spring ball while others have kept up with Call of Duty and Taco Bell. With that in mind, we adhere to the least common denominator and take everyone through two weeks of anatomical adaptation.

The benefits of this period are two-fold:

  • It raises work capacity.
  • It increases resiliency in the connective tissue while preparing the players for the more violent demands to come, i.e. sprinting.

Our speed work for the four weeks focuses on starts from a static position and is incredibly simple. Our go-to is two-point starts with the emphasis on front side arm mechanics and, most importantly, posture. We also emphasize posture, rhythm, and relaxation through extensive tempos during this block. In the weight room, we want the speed of the barbell to maintain relatively high speed. We are constantly cueing the guys to “rattle the plates,” as athletic movement starts from the ground up.

The first four weeks is a fan favorite (sarcasm) as we employ slow eccentrics to the main movement in the weight room, and we perform them in a cluster fashion. I would be remiss if I failed to mention that Cal Dietz and his work greatly influenced the resistance portion of our training session.

The goals of the eccentric phase, or block, are:

  • To reach a level of hypertrophy necessary for the sport’s violent demands.
  • To improve neuromuscular synchronization of the afferent/efferent pathways between the muscle spindles and central nervous system and desensitizing the Golgi tendon organ (GTO), which will then allow the organism to absorb high levels of force all while not triggering the over protective mother (GTO).

The only problem with eccentrics? They’re extremely stressful to the organism, which is why we use cluster sets during this block. Clusters are phenomenal for performing each rep at or near maximal velocity during the movement’s concentric contraction. This results in maximal power output, ultimately leading to greater improvements over time.

If you’re familiar with Coach Joe Kenn, you are without a doubt acquainted with his Tier System Strength Training template. I’ll explain why we implement it later in the article. For now, know our focus is on hypertrophy (“R” for repetition effort, or in our case, slow eccentrics and time-under-tension), then max effort, followed by a dynamic movement which could be a jump, throw, or use of accommodating resistance.

As for jumps during this block, we’ve had tremendous success with max effort, single response jumps. More specifically, static overcome by ballistic jumps (seated box jumps) with knee bends of at least 90 degrees to mimic the start of the acceleration phase.

Mesocycles Two and Three

June

As we progress further into the summer, the program becomes more demanding. The emphasis continues to center on the one biomotor ability that separates the terrible from the bad, the bad from the good, and the good from the great: speed. From a bioenergetic standpoint, we focus on alactic power rather than capacity. Why? It does not matter how many times a guy can run a 5-flat forty, he’s still slow. We find it more prudent to start building a Ferrari rather than a Ford Bronco.

As far as biodynamics are concerned, we begin to push the alactic envelope with longer accelerations and sprints. A staple in our program is flying 10’s (build 30, sprint 10) and medicine ball starts with great awareness on the height of their hips and their front side mechanics.
The fun part for my staff and me during this block is to witness the athletes realizing that as their speed increases, they’re able to generate more force with each ground contact. It’s even more rewarding to explain that the challenge they face as speed increases is that there’s less time available to apply force. A cue that’s worked time and time again for us is, “The only difference between flying and sprinting is ground contact.”The only difference between flying and sprinting is ground contact. Click To Tweet

Once they meet the sprinting requirements, they transition to the weight room with isometrics as well as true dynamic effort a la Westside Barbell. Isometrics seem to be all the rage again in the industry, so I’ll spare you the physiology lesson. Here are the benefits from isometrics that deserve mention:

  • Motor unit recruitment which will increase the number of muscle fibers that will engage or fire.
  • Rate coding will increase the rate at which the motor units fire, which then leads to a spike in muscular tension.
  • Isometrics will divert maximal energy from the eccentric phase directly to the concentric phase with minimal (or no) loss of energy.

During this block, we’ve had great buy-in and greater success with max effort, double response jumps to mimic the acceleration phase by still employing a somewhat deep knee bend. A tried and true variation we love is double broad jumps–effective and efficient. That’s a win-win.

July and August

Moving into July, we progress toward sport specific or what I prefer to call sport transferable. Our tempos become more intensive, and we center sprints on absolute speed. Bioenergetically, by having shorter distances and rest times for the tempos while giving the athletes a more powerful engine and larger speed reserve, we’re giving them the best opportunity to not only survive during a game but to thrive. Football is an alactic-aerobic sport with an emphasis on capacity.

Here’s how we prepare our athletes on a typical Saturday afternoon:

  • Average play is 5 seconds.
  • Average rest between plays is 28-37 seconds.
  • Average series is 5-6 plays.
  • Average rest between series is 9-10 minutes.
  • Average special teams play 7-8 seconds.

The game dictates what we do bioenergetically. While we’re not perfect, I’m confident we’re on the right track.

It doesn’t take an MIT graduate to understand we’re now placing a premium on “displaying your strength quickly” in the weight room, with the institution of the concentric or reactive phase, the short and multiple response jumps and plyometrics, and the priority Tier being dynamic.
A quick note on deloads: use them before your athletes need them. We back our guys down once a month. As Dr. Bryan Mann said, “Our body runs in three-week adaptation waves.” With that, we extract as much as we can from a given stimulus and then rejuvenate the organism. It’s not what you can do; it’s what you can recover from.

High/Low CNS Training

We use the high/low approach made famous by the late Charlie Francis. We are our athletes’ stress managers for the twelve weeks they’re with us, and this approach allows them to supercompensate constantly rather than seek homeostasis.

High CNS Training

After reviewing our weekly template, one could safely assume that our program revolves around sprinting. Why shouldn’t it? Speed kills. Allow me to quell your concerns regarding having only one day that addresses agility and jumps/plyometrics. We’re able to improve agility without venturing into that realm through linear acceleration and sprinting. How? Having your athletes sprint farther and faster in training allows them to reach higher speeds, thus achieving higher ground force. As we all know, high velocity=high force. Derek Hansen has touched on the multitude of benefits sprinting has when it comes to agility:

  • Improved change of direction.
  • Improved jumping ability (sprinting is a plyometric due to the flight phase).
  • Ability to decelerate quicker.
  • Less wear and tear (due to a decrease in agility/COD training).

When the organism is in a state of high velocity and high force, they reap the rewards of agility training without any of the risk. If we’re honest, we know agility and change of direction are hard on the organism. Knowing that, why venture into that realm of risk when it’s accomplished by sprinting full-speed?Linear acceleration and sprints train agility, allowing us to reduce risky plyometrics. Click To Tweet

Real world example: when Michael Vick was in his prime, he achieved maximal speeds at over 20 miles per hour (21.63 mph to be exact). When he was achieving at least 95% of his best times in max velocity speed training, submaximal velocities would be that much easier on him.
I believe that all team sport athletes need to tap into max velocity (absolute speed). Forget the benefits it has regarding jumping and change of direction, sprinting alone has a plethora of benefits, including:

  • If it’s strength you seek, max velocity sprinting will drive up weights, because it is 5x ground reaction forces, 7x muscle-skeletal forces, and the organism is applying anywhere from 600 to 1,000lbs of force with each stride.
  • It’s the safest expression of fight or flight. Derek Hansen said, “When a cheetah is chasing a springbok, does either animal pull a hamstring?”
  • Sprinting enhances the organism’s speed reserve. Simply put, as we increase an athlete’s absolute speed, their submaximal velocity (or game speed) raises as well. Sprinting builds endurance; endurance does not build speed.
  • Performing max velocity sprinting is a method of injury prevention. We’ve all seen a breakaway run in American football where the player blows his hamstring. This is because he did not do max velocity sprinting in training or practice, which led to a neurological misstep in his recruitment patterns.

Aside from the benefits of exposing our athletes to sprint work thrice during the work week, there are also substantial costs. The most glaring is the residual training effect of maximal speed. The benefits gained from training at or above 95% of maximal speed last a measly two days (depending on the athlete) as the residual training effects of this biomotor ability are five days ± three days.

A Typical CNS Day

On a typical high CNS day, we use my friend Mike Robertson’s R7 protocol:

  • R1: Release
  • R2: Reset
  • Dynamic Warm-Up
  • R3: Reactive
  • R4: Readiness (Game Changers)
  • R5: Resistance
  • R6: Resiliency
  • R7: Recovery

Release–For the release portion, we prescribe no more than three areas for the athletes to perform self-myofascial release. We stick to three because I believe if we prescribe more, we start to venture into the parasympathetic realm. As all of you know, we’re trying to shift to sympathetic dominance on a high CNS day.

Resets–I admit we’re not postural restoration wizards, nor are we great with functional movement screening when it comes to resets. However, my director of performance, Thomas Bowes, is a mobility guru on all things Supple Leopard. We know what we’re proficient at, and our guys feel good, mobile and stable, and that’s all that matters.

Dynamic Warm-Ups–After we’ve relieved some tension and moved the guys into more advantageous positions, we start our dynamic warm-up. Trust me, it’s nothing earth shattering. Again, I may not be the smartest guy in the room; I just apply what the best have done. We have great success with flowing yoga movement patterns as well as Buddy Morris’ high CNS warm-up.

Reactive–The optimal volume for a world-class sprinter is 600 meters of max velocity. Newsflash, I do not work with world-class sprinters, so we adjusted our sprinting volumes based on position to meet the demands of our athletes. Our reactive segment taps into 100-300 meters of sprint volume. Dan Pfaff says, “Acceleration is a skill.” We believe that any skill needs to be addressed daily. The lineman will do at least 60 meters every single day, big skill will perform at least 100 meters every single day, and skill will be exposed to at least 150 meters every single day.The closer an athlete is to the football, the more he requires strength. Click To Tweet

This is where our program may be unique: a linemen’s exposure to the reactive segment is rather brief, but his time during our resistance segment is much more extensive. This is because the closer an athlete is to the football, the more he requires strength. The relationship between strength and speed is inverse for our skill players. Their time during the reactive portion will be far greater than time spent in the weight room as their position demands more sprint volume with less of a premium on strength and weights.

Readiness–The bridge from sprint work to the weight room is what we call game changers, or readiness. Joe Kenn calls it halftime. Vernacular does not matter, substance does. This portion consists of:

  • Posterior chain–hinge, knee flexion, or spinal erector
  • Posterior shoulder–abduction, adduction; downward, upward rotation; protraction, retraction, or elevation, depression
  • Abdominals–anti-extension, flexion, rotation
  • Neck

We’ve found this is highly effective at the beginning of the weights segment to ensure the proper muscles are firing before the “meat” of the lift. For example, hinging before a deadlift or performing a knee flexion variation before squatting. From a more practical standpoint, as the workout nears the end, what athlete is going to be fully engaged if we place this portion at the end?

Resistance–We love Coach Kenn’s Tier System for resistance; this game is played head-to-toe, toe-to-head. I have yet to see a football player use only his upper body in the first half and his lower body in the second half. That alone provides enough rationale to address the total body each weight session. Our weights are extremely simple, efficient, and effective. We only use three exercises each workout–yes, only three. Volumes are adjusted based on position, but we make it known that we are concerned with speed, not weights. A typical session would look similar to this:

Resiliency–For us, resiliency means bringing the athletes through movements that are cyclical (running A’s, ankle jumps) because of the following:

  • Typically all movements in the weight room are acyclical.
  • Sport is cyclical. We want to bring them back to what they’ll face on the field.
  • Cyclical movements re-establish proper intermuscular coordination between the agonist and antagonist. As Charlie Francis once said, “It is not how fast you can contract a muscle, it is how quickly you can relax.”

Recovery–Again, nothing ground breaking when it comes to recovery. We prescribe the guys elevate their feet and achieve a parasympathetic state, or “rest and digest” to help kick-start the recovery process. With early 20-year-olds, this is a popular time for Snapchat sharing and selfies–not a bad promotion for our facility. If it gets them to relax, I’ll take it.

Low CNS Training

On the low days, we prescribe tempos based on position. Larger athletes (lineman) won’t have the same volume that a cornerback performs. Our ranges will vary anywhere from 1000-2000 meters; at the beginning of the summer we focus more on extensive tempos and progress toward (slightly) more intensive and glycolytic tempos in July and August.

Along with the tempos, we prescribe upper body circuits that include medicine ball throws. This accomplishes a few things for the athletes:

  • The nutrient rich blood, or the pump, will flush out any toxins and waste accumulated from the previous day’s high CNS session. And let’s be honest, it provides a psychological benefit as well. The guys feel good after a brief upper body workout.
  • The low volume from the circuit will aid in recovery for the next day’s high CNS session.
  • If you pay attention to Charlie’s system, you can have a high CNS component on a low CNS day as long as it’s brief. With that in mind, we moved our medicine ball throws (with indirect transfer to sprinting based on the specific variation) to our low days a la Buddy Morris.

Conclusion

By the end of the summer, these young men have developed bonds that carry over into the season as they mention one another on Twitter, post pics of their new friends’ success on Instagram, and are truly invested in each other’s careers. It’s one of the best parts of being in the private sector–the relationships.

My goal for this article is not to brag or boast, but to simply shed light on how we’ve found great success. And, speaking candidly, I hope this will encourage other coaches to be as open as I am so we may all benefit and continue to learn from one another. I am not naïve to the fact that, with this article, may come criticism. I have zero issue with this, as there is no perfect program. The program I presented to you is different from what we did in years past and will continue to change and evolve because training, by nature, is incomplete. In fact, as Buddy Morris once told me, “The best program is the one you’re not on!” With that in mind, let us professionals continue to pay it forward, grow, and ultimately help those we serve. This is truly what this industry is all about.

What you need for an Alpine adventure – written by expert guide Kathy Murphy

Kathy Murphy, IFMGA Guide (she was the second British woman to achieve this status), runs our mountaineering and glacier trekking holidays in the Alps. She guides many of these trips herself and her particular brand of leadership, described variously by clients as ‘highly professional’, ‘fun’ and ‘kick-ass’, makes her a very popular choice. Here she gives a no-nonsense guide to her Alpine essentials for trips which involve carrying your equipment throughout.

1). Comfy boots – stiff enough to hold a crampon well, comfortable enough for long descents back to the valley and warm enough for early starts from high huts. My favourite boot is the La Sportiva Trango Alp GTX. It’s a B2 boot, so it’s got a bit of flex in the front half, as well as good support around the ankle. Worn in a bit to avoid blisters – it does the job well.

2). Ankle gaiters/mini-gaiters – these keep the snow out of my boots and are not as heavy, bulky, hot or as expensive as full-size gaiters. Grasmere DRY Gaiters by Trekmates are my mini-gaiters of choice.

3). Crampons – I use Grivel G10’s with anti-balling plates already fitted. They have the ‘new-matic’ system – a plastic cup at the heel and toe which means they fit any boot – even my ski-mountaineering boots in winter. Plus, the flexible central bar means they’re more comfortable than a rigid crampon and don’t pull on your heel and cause blisters.

You will notice that the first three essentials are all to do with my feet – if my feet aren’t happy then neither am I!

4). Travel sized bits and pieces – these are easily found in the UK and at the airport shops – so a travel-sized toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, sun cream etc. And to go with this – a pack towel – these dry quickly and pack up really small.

5). Drinking water – It’s always important to stay hydrated when in the mountains. Make sure you take a reusable bottle you can fill up along the way!

6). Pack of cards – great for passing the downtime in the huts. It’s sociable and I have a whole selection of card games that anyone can quickly learn and a few tricks up my sleeve! Obviously, 1 pack per group is enough!

7). Rucksack – my new pack for this season is a Millet

Prolighter 32 in the shorter back length womans version. It fits well to my back, close, no fancy frames – when I’m carrying a pack I want the load to be stable against my back, not wobbling several inches away from it. Importantly, it has 2 compression straps on each side which effectively make the pack smaller when it’s not full and are also useful for stashing walking poles or ice axe. It’s also light at around 1kg. Avoid packs with gimmicky features such as back systems which add weight. Why else did I choose it? It’s blue – my favourite colour!

8). Waterproof overtrousers –the clue to these is in the name – they should fit over everything you are already wearing, including your harness! Again, I go for light weight but with a full-length zip that comes up to my hip which means I can put them on over my boots and crampons. When I’m back in the UK I always buy a new pair of Goretex Packlite Overtrousers made by Berghaus.

SRAM Force eTap AXS unlocks 12 speed, Red-like performance for less

SRAM has clearly been busy. Less than two months after launching the new RED eTap AXS group to the world, they’re already onto the next. That of course being the new SRAM Force eTap AXS group. As is often the case, the group is extremely similar to RED, but with some key differences that will be significant to many consumers – particularly when it comes to price.

The newest member of the AXS (access) wireless family, SRAM Force eTap AXS is an electronic drivetrain with wireless shifting and options for either hydraulic disc or mechanical rim brakes. Other than a few very small details, Force is nearly identical in performance to the new RED AXS, with the main differences being materials, construction, and therefore weight. That means that the batteries are the same between the two groups (and older eTap groups as well) which is good news for teams or individuals with multiple bikes. Even the motors and chipsets are the same meaning the shift speed is identical between the two groups. Ultimately, Force ends up about 300g heavier than RED, but it’s also over $1000 less expensive which seems like a worthy trade off.

Force also has a completely different look which comes down to a difference in finishes. While forged aluminum parts can be polished to a beautiful shine, cast pieces can’t be polished – which requires a coat of paint. Overall, the finish on Force is less sophisticated which is where SRAM was able to drop some of the price.

AXS App

Like RED, Force is able to take advantage of the AXS app and component integration system which allows you to monitor and customize the performance of individual components. From checking each battery’s power level to customizing your shift patterns, updating firmware, and more, Force is joining the way of the app-based world.

Also like RED, this is a completely new group, so other than the mechanical rim brakes, none of the new parts will be compatible with older SRAM components – except of course the new SRAM RED eTap AXS. These two groups are completely interchangeable – which is good news for those who were upset by SRAM’s choice to integrate the power meter and chain ring on RED (but for a good reason, more on that below).

New gearing options just like RED… mostly

Following right along, gearing is also one of the biggest changes for SRAM Force. Yeah, they’ve gone to 12 speed in the rear, but as usual, it’s about more than just adding another gear. The new X-Range gearing ends up wider on both ends while the added cog results in better gear progression. The addition of the 10t cog allows for an increase in gear range without an increase in overall size of the drivetrain package with SRAM pointing out that smaller drivetrains will be lighter, less costly, and simpler overall.

In terms of chainring options, Force will see 48/35 and 46/33t double combinations with the largest 50/37t combination only available in RED. By moving to a 13t jump between chainrings, SRAM says this 20% reduction in jump size results in better shift quality and better front shifting overall.

To keep the overall range, the rear cassettes move to a 10t at the small end, and up to 26, 28, or 33t as the largest cog with 260, 280, and 330% range respectively. Even the smallest cassette at 10-26 offers a wider range than an 11-28t. Moving the range from the front of the bike to the rear should mean you can stay in that current front chainring longer without having to shift. Obviously, if you’re running 1x, wider range in the rear is also a very good thing. The new cassettes also offer more single-tooth jumps between cogs for better shift progression when you’re moving through the gears.

Cassette options

In terms of construction, the XG-1270 cassette uses a Mini-cluster/Pin-Dome configuration with the first four cogs machined from a steel billet, and the remainder of the cassette using their Pin-Dome technology similar to their GX mountain bike cassettes. Looking at the cassette in profile, Pin-Dome makes more sense as you can see the pins that hold all of the steel cogs together after the first four cogs. The largest cog is aluminum which cuts down on weight and allows for a secure connection between the cassette and the freehub body that won’t dig into the new XDR drivers. The Mini-cluster/Pin-Dome cassette ends up about 50g heavier than a comparable RED cassette.

XDR Required

The addition of a 12 speed cassette meant that SRAM had to move to the XDR freehub standard like RED, which is just like XD, just 1.85mm longer. The added width is needed for the road since the largest cogs aren’t nearly as big as those on a MTB cassette and can’t be dished over the spokes. It also now matches up with the width of HG 11 speed freehub bodies for road.

Importantly, you can still run cassettes meant for XD freehubs on XDR freehubs with the addition of a 1.85mm spacer. You can’t however run cassettes meant for XDR freehubs on XD freehubs. SRAM points out that any Zipp wheels post April 2015 (176, 177, Super 9, and Cognition hubs) are XDR ready meaning you can add an XDR freehub. Also, the SRAM 900 hubset has included an XDR drive for awhile now – before you really needed it.

One Rear Derailleur to Rule them All

When it comes to choosing your drivetrain, you can run any cassette with any chainring combination all with the same rear derailleur – 1x or 2x. The new rear derailleur has been optimized to work with all of the cassette options in either chainring configuration and includes larger X-Sync pulleys with steel bearings, and the Orbit fluid damper in place of a mechanical clutch. Note that there is no longer a Cage Lock feature, but the Orbit damper works a bit differently and doesn’t really affect wheel changes. Compared to RED, the Force rear derailleur uses an aluminum derailleur cage instead of carbon, and steel hardware in place of titanium and aluminum.

Front Derailleur is Still There, and Better Than Ever

Up front, the new Force front derailleur is very similar to RED, but it swaps in a stamped steel derailleur cage for the CNC machined aluminum cage on RED. Riders who are pushing larger tires will be happy to hear that the derailleur has been streamlined to offer better tire clearance at the rear as well.

Force gets a Flattop

Completing the gearing is the new FRC-D1 Flattop chain. This new chain style is required for the group with SRAM stating that this chain represents their biggest investment in tooling on their part when it came to the new group. While it did get narrower to fit another cog, there is more to the story as usual. The shape of the chain is purely driven by their strength testing – the top of the chain never rides on a gear, so it can be shaped differently to provide increased strength.

Proportionately, the chain is also narrower to the cog spacing than a comparative 11 speed group which SRAM claims results in a quieter ride overall. The FRC-D1 chain is interchangeable with the SRAM RED chain, with the Force chain using solid pins as the only noticeable difference. Note that Flattop chains require a specific Flattop PowerLock. Also note that you definitely don’t want to run the new chain on 11 speed cassettes (think putting your bike on a direct drive trainer with an 11 speed cassette mounted). Apparently, the new chain will destroy the cassette, which is why companies like Wahoo are quickly working to add XDR driver capabilities to their trainers.

Acronym Glossary

If you haven’t already picked it up from RED, the new SRAM Force group comes with its own lingo, so here’s the breakdown:

  • AXS – Refers to the new digital family of wireless/electronic components that will all work together. Check our AXS overview story for everything you need to know on that. Basically, anything with the AXS logo can communicate with each other.
  • X-Range – The name for this entire new gearing concept.
  • Orbit Chain Management – A new fluid damper system that improves chain retention while still allowing for fast shifting.
  • AXS app – Lets you customize the setup and integrate cross-category components, check riding time, battery level, how many times you’ve shifted, and when you’re due for service.
  • FlatTop – The new, narrower chain that’s also stronger, quieter and more durable. It’s not backwards compatible (nor is any other component), everything here is designed as a system to maximize performance.

SRAM Force Cranks

With the launch of RED AXS, one of the things that seemed to catch everybody’s attention was the decision to integrate the power meter into the chainring. Yes, this means that when the chainring is dead, so is your power meter. But SRAM stands by the design, and here’s why: SRAM RED is meant to be the highest tier group for pro racers and consumers willing to pay top dollar in exchange for the lightest system possible.

The integration of the power meter into the chainring meant that SRAM could add power to the same crankset at a weight penalty of just 36g. It also ends up with a more accurate power reading because you’ve eliminated one of the connections at the spider/chainring interface. SRAM also claims that the new drivetrain offers much longer chainring and component life than previous groups, with field testing showing a whopping 2-4x increase in longevity – so it should take you much longer to wear out those rings.

Is it wasteful to create a one-time use power meter/chainring? Sort of. But that all depends if you take advantage of the SRAM support program where they take your old power meter/chainring back and recycle it while providing a new one to you supposedly at or near the cost of standard chainrings. That integrated power meter/chainring is starting to sound a lot better all of a sudden.

Change your rings without changing your power meter

BUT… what if none of that matters and you simply want to run power on your SRAM AXS crank without an integrated power meter/chainring?

You’re in luck. The Force chainrings and DZero power meter are not one piece, and the Force DZero power meter spider is compatible with SRAM RED crank arms using the same 8 bolt direct mount interface. That means if you buy a SRAM RED AXS crank with power and wear out the chainrings super fast (or just want to upgrade a non-power model), you can purchase a Force power meter spider and the Force AXS asymmetric 107 BCD (same as RED 1x) chainrings to go with it. This also allows for mixing and matching 1x chainrings from the RED group or their aero 1x chainring for TT/Tri bikes.

SRAM Force cranks will be available with or without power meters in 1x or 2x configurations, both of which separate the chainring from the power meter.

Keeping in line with all of the new cranks from SRAM, the Force cranks will include a  DUB spindle option, but they will still offer a GXP version for Trek’s BB90 frames, Pinarellos with Italian threaded BBs, and other frames that require it.

SRAM Force eTap AXS brake/shift levers

At the controls, Force eTap AXS is all about wireless shifting – though not necessarily about hydraulic brakes. For those keeping the rim brakes alive, the Force eTap AXS group will be available in two versions; wireless shifting with mechanical rim brakes, or wireless shifting with hydraulic disc brakes.

The hydraulic option uses their Hydro HC platform specifically developed for eTap which means these brake calipers are different than those found on Force 1. The Force group uses a two piece caliper design with steel hardware, and the same brake pad as RED. Also, the Force brakes are flat mount only. Still running a post mount frame? The RED brakes are available in post mount as well as flat mount.

SRAM’s new Centerline XR (CLX-R) rotors are a thing of beauty and are the same rotors that you’ll find with SRAM Red. The rotors use an aluminum carrier and a steel CenterLine braking surface with rounded edges to be UCI-Compliant.

Rim Brakes Still Stop

The new Force group even includes a new mechanical rim brake if you are retrofitting an older bike or just don’t want to switch to disc. The brakes use a dual pivot design that is updated to fit wider rims and tires (up to 28mm), and include Swissstop Platinum Flash Pro pads for carbon or BHP pads for aluminum rims.

Offering independent reach and contact point adjustment, the levers are nearly identical to RED other than they have just one Blip port rather than two on each shifter. You’ll also find a composite lever blade rather than true carbon fiber which makes a negligible difference in weight. While the derailleurs get their own rechargeable batteries (which are the same as all eTap groups), the levers use a CR2032 coin cell battery housed in the bottom of the lever. Since these simply have to power a single button, the batteries should last quite a while. How long? We aim to find out (maybe) in a long term review.

The AXS app offers the same tuneability with this group, letting you switch the way the buttons and levers work the derailleurs, switch shift modes between regular, compensating and sequential, and even pair with a dropper seatpost or whatever else comes down the pipe.

Tri HRD

There’s also a complete 1x TRI HRD group available with hydraulic aero levers for the hydraulic disc brakes and a new, smaller Blip Box. SRAM states that running a 1x drivetrain with a 48t chainring and the 10-33 cassette would give you the same range as a 53/39 with 11-26. That happens to be the most prevalent Ironman gearing combo they see on 11-speed bikes, only now you don’t have a front derailleur to shift, you have a lighter drivetrain, and you still get six 1-tooth gear steps on the cassette.

Availability, pricing, and actual weights

As much as we love knowing about new products ahead of time, it’s much better when you can go out and buy a new product as soon as you read about it. That’s the case with Force eTap AXS – groups are shipping as of today and you’ll find more than 150 different bike models equipped with the group hitting showroom floors. Initially, Force will only be available as a complete groupset, but in a few months you’ll have the ability to purchase individual parts.

In the U.S., complete groups will run from $2,078 to $2,678, well under the price of RED.

We got all of the loose parts we could find on the scale at Road Bike Connection, but because of all the options and things like the fact that the FD and RD didn’t include batteries, SRAM has provided the list of weights above. As mentioned, the group should work out to be about 300g more than SRAM RED eTap AXS.

Peekaboo Boxing | The Fading Art of ‘Aggressively Safe’ Boxing

The peekaboo style is as misunderstood as it is notorious. But the fact that it’s so widely misunderstood could actually work in your favor.

The core peekaboo principles give boxers a safe and loaded “base of operation”, enabling the fighter to move where they want, when they want, and thus, controlling their opponent and the fight with minimal risk. Now, this luxury of control doesn’t come easy. There are a few things you need to be aware of if you’re going to implement the best parts of the peekaboo style into your boxing skill set.

In this article, I’m going to show you how to capitalize on Cus D’Amato’s boxing philosophy without falling into the pitfalls that many boxers criticize the peekaboo style for.  I’ll discuss the criticisms shortly, but first, I think it’s important to highlight the man behind the peekaboo boxing style and how he engineered it.

Cus D’Amato was born in 1908 to a blue collar, Italian family in The Bronx, New York. Cus briefly boxed as an amateur in the featherweight and lightweight divisions, but an eye injury prevented him from obtaining a professional license. However, as we know, thankfully, this was only the beginning of his legendary career. Cus’s dedication to training up-and-coming boxers led him to literally sleeping in his gym in New York. Cus believed in positive thinking. He would have his students memorize things like, “The mind always makes things worse than they really are.” And, “A professional always does what needs to be done no matter how he feels.” Getting up at 5 am to do roadwork or going to the gym to train, a professional does not follow their feelings. He wanted his young students to always remember that, “Your feelings will lie to you.”

Cus was one of the first boxing trainers to implement psychological training. He brought Zen to boxing before most people in the western world even knew what Zen was. He said, “Heroes and cowards feel exactly the same fear. Heroes just react to it differently.” He spent a lot of time teaching emotional control. Example: Tyson eventually admitted that he was terrified before every fight, but looking at him, he was often the source of his opponents’ terror. D’Amato genuinely cared for his boxers, developing father-son bonds with many of them. Even after Floyd Patterson decided to part ways with Cus, he would never talk negatively of Floyd, nor would he let any of his fighters. Eventually, Floyd would come to admit that he regretted nothing in his life except the time he was apart from Cus.

He took care of his fighters so much so that Cus filed for bankruptcy in 1971, but it was never apparent that any of his fighters felt such financial pressure. In fact, Jose Torres estimated that he had earned roughly $1 Million in his career, “and Cus never took a penny.” Cus also fought and protected his boxers from the politics of boxing at the time, many times refusing to take fights because of who the opponent was associated with and their perceived backroom dealings.

What was less publicized, but perhaps most intriguing is that he served as an occasional adviser for the late, Greatest, Muhammad Ali. The city of New York renamed the street where his Gramercy Gym was located to “Cus D’Amato Way”. There’s been books and documentaries done on his life, and still, his impact on boxing doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. The man has undeniably left a massive, well-respected legacy in the boxing world. Now, on to the style he dedicated his life to perfecting…

There’s something incredibly intriguing about the peekaboo style that seems to get lost or at least overlooked in today’s complex world of boxing. There’s so much information and so many videos to study that it’s easy to lose sight of the essence of what made the peekaboo style so effective. Cus said, “Slipping punches is the hardest thing to learn. But once you get it, that’s when boxing starts to become fun!”

Very few boxers have been able to incorporate the style as Cus himself had engineered it. Most notably, obviously, is Mike Tyson. If we go back even further, other Gramercy alumni include: Floyd Patterson, a 1952 Olympic Gold Medalist and former World Heavyweight Champion. Jose Torres, a 1956 Olympic Silver Medalist and former World Light heavyweight Champion. Joey Hadley, a 6-time Golden Gloves winner. And Kevin Rooney who trained Tyson after Cus passed in 1985 until 1988.

During his time training under Rooney, Tyson accrued 35 wins (31 by knockout), and set a record as the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in history just 4 months after his 20th birthday. Despite the obvious success of his students,  a good amount of criticism has been hurled at the style. Most notably, many believe:

– An efficient attack cannot be launched from the stance
– It relies too heavily on power
– The fighter eats too many punches on the way in
– It doesn’t utilize the length of taller fighters

Now, not to say there’s no validity in these critiques. But most of these problems that boxers run into when trying to adapt to the peekaboo style can be avoided.To get the most out of the style, we need to be conscious of a couple things:

First: The peekaboo learning curve is steep. Many fighters will give up before they fully understand the key principles of the style. I think this is largely due to a lack of coaches who know how to teach it.

Second: When most people think of peekaboo boxing, they think of Mike Tyson, and rightfully so. Tyson displayed, for the entire world, in spectacularly brutal fashion just how effective the style can be. The problem is, while Tyson is solid proof that peekaboo boxing can be a viable style, even at the highest levels, his idolization has unintentionally led many boxers down the wrong path.

Here’s why:

A lot of boxers who try to incorporate the peekaboo style try to mimic Tyson. The issue is that Tyson’s style was a flavor of peekaboo that was tailored to his unique physical attributes.  His exceptional speed and power allowed him to slip punches at high volume and capitalize on counter punching opportunities that the average peekaboo fighter would have difficulty with.

The fundamental version of the style takes advantage of a high guard with minimal openings for opponents to attack.  If you strip away the exceptional speed and power of fighters like Tyson or Patterson you would have a more modern example.  One such example is Winky Wright…

Strip away all of those preconceived ideas of what you think peekaboo looks like and work on the core principles and philosophy that Cus engineered.The secret is in the details.  Learn to hold your gloves at the exact angle needed so punches either can’t fit through or they glide off the outside of the glove and miss.

Here’s a few quotes from Cus himself that should give you an idea of just how dedicated he was to the peekaboo fundamentals:

“Now, in my style, you cover up all the time. You never gamble. The right arm is always covering the liver, the left, the solar plexus, and the hands are protecting the chin.”

“You gotta be protected, not part of the time, not most of the time, but all the time. You cannot gamble by using open stance because every time you gamble and lose, you get hurt. And when a fighter gets hurt, he is intimidated. He thinks he is tired and covers up.”

“Always keep your chin tucked down into your chest. I don’t care if you are running roadwork or just walking around school or watching t.v. Keep that chin tucked down and your eyes looking up and out.”

And he wasn’t kidding…

Here’s a recent video I made that covers one aspect of this approach

A 1985 New York Times article highlighted an incident involving Jose Torres. Torres had gotten into trouble prior to one of his big fights and this was his phone conversation with Cus from the police station:

“Cus,” said Torres, embarrassed and apologetic, “I’m in the police station. I got into a street fight.”

“Jose,” said Cus, with concern in his voice, “did you keep your chin down?”

Here’s how to adopt the ‘aggressively safe’ style:

The proper way to implement the peekaboo style and truly get the best out of it requires just two things which many boxers miss completely:

1. An unwavering dedication to its fundamental philosophy (not just mimicking a specific move set).  Meaning hands up protecting the chin, forearms protecting the body and learning to maintain this position in all situations.

2. A proper adaptation to the fighter’s unique physical attributes.  If you have quick feet then take advantage of them.  If you have great visual reaction and slipping ability, then use it.

To get you started, here’s some of those core principles and philosophies for you to consider:

– A Stoic approach to controlling your emotions, when in the ring, in your day-to-day training, and even life in general.

– Active defense. Remain alert and protected 100% of the time, no relaxing or passiveness.

– Off-rhythm attacks that force opponents to be cautious, even when you’re defending.

– Intense, ‘aggressively safe’ movement and pressure, always using angles and balanced movement.

– Impenetrable defense that forces opponents to waste energy on ineffective punches.

– Draw out punches from opponents, leaving them vulnerable to rapid counters with what Cus called “bad intentions”.

If you are able to implement a more dynamic approach then move your head before and after you throw, and add angles for compound attacks.  Never give your opponent a free opening, keep your guard tight when you move so you automatically block as you pressure your opponent. Jabbing and closing the gap is often coupled with a slip in anticipation of the straight counter. Further protection can be achieved by lowering the body in conjunction with the slip; this extra bend can add even more power to rising uppercuts and hooks.

Obviously, these are a simplified breakdown of what Cus’s peekaboo style can do for you…

If you want an in-depth look at different techniques and attacks that arise from the few foundations we’ve covered here, I strongly recommend checking out my Head Movement and Getting Inside instructional video.

This training will give you:

– The essentials of slipping and ducking; how to use these motions to set up your offense while maintaining rock-solid balance.

– How to use lateral motion to create angles and close the gap; sneak attacks that catch your opponent off guard.

– How to sync your footwork with your head movement to wind up and throw once you enter the best position.

– A little trick with your back foot to create sharp angles that set you up for quick attacks with “bad intentions”.

– And plenty more.

The 8 Best Ways to Get 6-Pack Abs Fast

Whether you’re aiming to achieve your fitness goals or simply want to look good in a swimsuit, acquiring a sculpted set of six-pack abs is a goal shared by many.

Getting a six-pack requires dedication and hard work, but you don’t have to hit the gym seven days a week or become a professional bodybuilder to do so.

Instead, a few modifications to your diet and lifestyle can be enough to produce serious, long-lasting results.

Here are 8 simple ways to achieve six-pack abs quickly and safely.

1. Do More Cardio

Cardio, also called aerobic exercise, is any form of exercise that increases your heart rate.

Regularly incorporating cardio into your routine can help you burn extra fat and speed your way to a set of six-pack abs.

Studies show that cardio is especially effective when it comes to reducing belly fat, which can help make your abdominal muscles more visible.

One small study showed that doing cardio exercise three to four times per week significantly decreased belly fat in 17 men (1).

Another review of 16 studies found that the more cardio exercise people did, the greater amount of belly fat they lost (2).

Try to get in at least 20–40 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day, or between 150–300 minutes per week (3).

Activities like running, walking, biking, swimming or engaging in your favorite sports are just a few easy ways to fit cardio into your day.

Summary Studies show that cardio exercise can reduce belly fat, which can help you get six-pack abs. One review found that the more cardio people did, the more belly fat they lost.

2. Exercise Your Abdominal Muscles

The rectus abdominis is the long muscle that extends vertically along the length of your abdomen.

Although most well-known as the muscle that creates the appearance of the six-pack, it’s also necessary for breathing, coughing and bowel movements.

Other abdominal muscles include the internal and external obliques and the transverse abdominis.

Exercising these muscles is key to increasing muscle mass and achieving six-pack abs.

However, keep in mind that abdominal exercises alone are unlikely to decrease belly fat.

For example, one study found that doing abdominal exercises five days per week for six weeks had no effect on belly fat in 24 women (4).

Instead, be sure to pair your abdominal exercises with a healthy diet and regular cardio to boost fat burning and maximize results.

Abdominal crunches, bridges and planks are a few of the most popular exercises that can help strengthen your abdominal muscles and create the appearance of six-pack abs.

Summary Exercising the muscles that make up your abdomen can help increase muscle mass to achieve six-pack abs. Pair abdominal exercises with a healthy diet and cardio to optimize results.

3. Increase Your Protein Intake

Upping your intake of high-protein foods can help promote weight loss, fight belly fat and support muscle growth on your road to six-pack abs.

According to one study, consuming high-protein meals helped increase feelings of fullness and promote appetite control in 27 overweight and obese men (5).

Another study showed that people who increased protein intake by just 15% decreased their calorie intake and saw significant decreases in body weight and body fat (6).

Consuming protein after working out can also help repair and rebuild muscle tissues as well as aid in muscle recovery (7, 8).

Plus, one study even found that a high-protein diet helped preserve both metabolism and muscle mass during weight loss (9).

Meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, dairy products, legumes, nuts and seeds are just a few examples of healthy, high-protein foods that you can add to your diet.

Summary Protein may help reduce calorie intake, as well as decrease body weight and fat. It can also help repair and rebuild muscle tissues and preserve muscle mass during weight loss.

4. Try High-Intensity Interval Training

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is a form of exercise that involves alternating between intense bursts of activity and short recovery periods. HIIT keeps your heart rate up and increases fat burning.

Adding HIIT into your routine can boost weight loss and make it even easier to get six-pack abs.

One study showed that young men who performed HIIT training for 20 minutes three times per week lost an average of 4.4 pounds (2 kg) and saw a 17% decrease in belly fat over a 12-week period (10).

Similarly, another study found that 17 women who did HIIT twice per week for 16 weeks had an 8% decrease in total belly fat (11).

One of the simplest ways to try HIIT at home is to switch between walking and sprinting for 20–30 seconds at a time.

You can also try alternating between high-intensity exercises like jumping jacks, mountain climbers and burpees with a short break in between.

Summary High-intensity interval training can help increase fat burning and may be especially useful for reducing belly fat and achieving six-pack abs.

5. Stay Hydrated

Water is absolutely crucial to just about every aspect of health. It plays a role in everything from waste removal to temperature regulation.

Staying well-hydrated may also help bump up your metabolism, burn extra belly fat and make it easier to get a set of six-pack abs.

In fact, one study found that drinking 500 milliliters of water temporarily increased energy expenditure by 24% for up to 60 minutes after eating (12).

Other research shows that drinking water may also reduce your appetite and increase weight loss.

One study with 48 middle-aged and older adults found that people who drank water before each meal lost 44% more weight over a 12-week period than those who didn’t (13).

Water requirements can vary based on a variety of factors, including age, body weight and activity level.

However, most research recommends drinking around 1–2 liters (34–68 ounces) of water per day to stay well-hydrated.

Summary Studies show that drinking water can temporarily increase metabolism, reduce appetite and increase weight loss to help you lose stubborn belly fat.

6. Stop Eating Processed Food

Heavily processed foods like chips, cookies, crackers and convenience foods are typically high in calories, carbs, fat and sodium.

Not only that, these foods are typically low in key nutrients such as fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.

Nixing these unhealthy junk foods from your diet and swapping them for whole foods can increase weight loss, reduce belly fat and help you achieve a set of six-pack abs.

This is because it takes more energy to digest whole foods rich in protein and fiber, which can burn more calories and keep your metabolism up (14).

The nutrients in whole foods, like protein and fiber, also keep you feeling fuller to curb cravings and aid in weight loss (15, 16).

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes are all nutritious alternatives to prepackaged convenience items like frozen meals, baked goods and salty snacks.

Summary Processed foods are high in calories, carbs, fat and sodium. These foods require less energy to digest and are also lacking in important nutrients like protein and fiber that can aid in weight loss.

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7. Cut Back on Refined Carbs

Cutting back on your consumption of refined carbohydrates can help you lose extra fat and gain six-pack abs.

Refined carbs lose most of their vitamins, minerals and fiber during processing, resulting in a final product that is low in nutritional value.

Eating lots of refined carbs can cause spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels, which can lead to increased hunger and food intake (17).

Eating plenty of whole grains, on the other hand, has been linked to a reduced waist circumference and lower body weight (18).

In fact, one study found that people who ate a high amount of refined grains tended to have a higher amount of belly fat compared to those who ate more whole grains (19).

Swap out refined carbs from foods like pastries, pastas and processed foods and instead enjoy whole grains such as brown rice, barley, bulgur and couscous to help support satiety and burn belly fat.

Summary Refined carbs are low in nutrients and can increase hunger levels. A high intake of refined grains has been linked to increased belly fat.

8. Fill up on Fiber

Adding more high-fiber foods into your diet is one of the simplest methods for increasing weight loss and achieving six-pack abs.

Soluble fiber moves through the gastrointestinal tract undigested and can help slow the emptying of the stomach to make you feel fuller for longer (20).

In fact, one review found that increasing fiber intake by 14 grams per day was linked to a 10% decrease in calorie intake and 4.2 pounds (1.9 kg) of weight loss (21).

Research shows that getting enough fiber in your diet may also prevent weight gain and fat accumulation.

One study showed that for each 10-gram increase of soluble fiber taken daily, participants lost 3.7% of belly fat over five years without making any other modifications in terms of diet or exercise (22).

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds are just a few healthy, high-fiber foods that you can add to your diet to help burn belly fat.

Summary Eating fiber can help keep you feeling full and may help protect against weight gain and fat accumulation.

The Bottom Line

There’s much more to getting six-pack abs than simply doing a few crunches or planks each day.

Instead, it requires following a healthy diet and maintaining an active lifestyle to help achieve your goals.

Making a few simple switches in your daily routine can get you a set of six-pack abs and improve your health at the same time.

15 ways how to grow your Startup

Hi everyone! So you arrive at the point where you think and realize on taking your precious startup on the next level? And have you ever been curious what it takes to grow your startup? Here are the top 15 guiding principles on growing you startup. I made it plain and simple for you so most of readers can relate.

Most of entrepreneurs, startuppers and founders get overwhelmed easily with stuff when it comes to just starting a startup, there’s a lot of things to learn or to know, just imagine when you have to scale it. Well you don’t have to be no more, atleast when you want to grow your startup to bigger scale or markets.

Startups and companies like AirBnB, Uber, Glances (AR Facial Recognition startup), Away (startup for selling high end luggages), Warby Parker (startup for prescription glasses) or even SpaceX has proven to follow atleast 10 of these.

Below are 15 simple key principles that are results of my research analysis about successful startups and companies up to this date and these principles are fitting and applies to the upcoming year 2018.

  1. Pick good co-founders — Also pick a great and talented diverse team
  2. Launch fast, learn fast and move fast — MVP
  3. Let your idea evolve
  4. Understand your users — Every user is an evangelist of your product
  5. Make your users love you
  6. Offer good customer service — i mean really really good, this is something you can be much better with than fully-grown companies
  7. You make what you measure
  8. Spend as little as possible — remember money can either something or everything.
  9. Avoid distractions
  10. Don’t get demoralized — believe in you, your team and on your vision no matter what!
  11. Don’t give up — Obstacles on your startup are requirements for your achievements
  12. Deals fall through — Never stop trying and always be bold
  13. Engage through social media — must have!
  14. Get a very talented and open-minded design team
  15. Keep moving forward

One last thing…

Word of mouth marketing — the most valuable form of marketing , you can’t buy it. You can only deliver it. Aside from the product you are offering, if for example you’re deciding about merch pieces, t-shirts or hats or stickers, they have to be weill designed and cool enough for somebody to want to buy it or the wear it, walk around advertising the brand of your startup.

Cloud seeding: Making rain in desert by a naturalised process

It’s tempting to call them rainmakers, the people who whoosh up into the skies, inject salts into fluffy clouds and fly back down to the ground. Except they’re not rainmakers.

In 2014, there were 193 flights that carried out ‘rain enhancing operations’. And so far in 2015, there have been 20 flights — all out of the Abu Dhabi-Al Ain region.

Cloud seeding in the UAE began in the 1990s. Back then these operations were done at random and it was only in 2001 when some scientific studies began on the subject.

The National Centre for Metrology and Seismology (NCMS) in 2004 started implementing solo projects, as NCMS puts it, “with our own facilities”.

Cost of these operations? They won’t say. But if there’s one thing Ali Al Musallam, Head of the Cloud Seeding Operations Section at NCMS, does empahsise, it is this: “We do not cause rain, we simply enhance it.”

One of the six cloudseed pilots for the six aircrafts deployed for this purpose, Mike — Michael Anstis — says, of the most repetitive, frequent questions people ask is: “Do you really make it rain”?

No. Nobody makes it rain. They do though make it rain (more). Cloud seeding or rain enhancement is one kind of weather modification. (There other kinds: fog dispersal, decrease of lightning, hail suspension)

The other misconceptions that annoy Musallam are layman conspiracy theories. Cloud seeding has nothing to do with climate change, he says. “And no, dust storms are not caused when cloud seeding happens — those are simply variables in the weather”.

 Raindrops keep falling

One cloud contains up to 270 million gallons of water — without being seeded. When they are seeded successfully, there is a 30 per cent increase in rain — whenever it does rain. And that rain then creates water worth $300,000.  

That 30 per cent extra is when the air is free of pollutants, that is a ‘non-turbid atmosphere’. Haze is no good. Because when the air is turbid and polluted, there is a 10-15 per cent chance of success. There’s much cost-effectiveness to think about.

This keenness to increase rain, given the desert realities, cannot be underestimated. In early 2015, a $5 million dollar programme was launched by the Ministry of Presidential Affairs (MoPA) mainly to expand global water security. They’re looking for ways to “enhancing precipitation to increase rainfall in the UAE, as well as other arid and semi-arid areas in the region”.

 How it’s done?

Cloud seeding is done when a cocktail of potassium chloride and sodium chloride is injected in cumulus clouds. Once these are injected with salts, they further fluff up, become heavy and cause some bonus droplets. The principle is the same as when salt spills on your kitchen counter, and overnight it turns into beads of moisture.

According to Sufian Farrah, a senior forecaster at NCMS: “The success rate of cloud seeding, when done in turbid atmosphere, that is when there are pollutants in the air, is a mere 10-15 per cent. In non-turbid conditions, there is up to a 30 per cent increase in rain if clouds are successfully seeded”.

The ingredients of the flare

Potassium chloride and sodium chloride are best to attract moisture. Sometimes up to 7 per cent magnesium is added to the two aforementioned components to enable firing. “Magnesium, though, is not always added as then the composition changes and the molecules turn smaller in size,” says Farrah.

 Rough days at work for pilots

One danger of cloud seeding operations is that the pilots are sent up when the weather is rough, when the clouds are fat and bumpy. The turbulent conditions a commercial pilot would avoid are the very ones that a cloudseeding pilot embraces. Or as pilot Mike says: “We have to fly into the dangerous parts of the sky.”

Forests west of the Cascades will see more fires, bigger fires with climate change

BEACON ROCK STATE PARK, Skamania County — As night fell last Monday in the Columbia River Gorge, the Oregon slopes burned as if carpet-bombed from above. Winds acted like bellows in a hearth to supercharge the flames spread by embers flying from ridge to ridge. Stands of trees that matured over decades — sometimes centuries — were engulfed within minutes.

This Eagle Creek blaze is a dramatic reminder that the forests of Western Oregon and Washington, so often cloaked in snow or drenched by rain, have a cycle of fire and renewal. When conditions are right, they can burn in spectacular fashion just like the more arid landscapes east of the Cascades.

The fires are less frequent than in drier forests, but the burn cycles are not etched in stone. They reflect a climate that scientists forecast to undergo big changes in the decades ahead as global combustion of fossil fuels warms the Earth. In the Pacific Northwest, climate models indicate that average summer temperatures will warm later in this century by 4.7 degrees to 6.5 degrees compared with the last half of the 20th century.

This warming is likely to shorten the burn cycles in the Puget Sound region as well as other parts of Western Washington and Western Oregon.

Those risks likely will include more smoke hanging around Western Washington and Oregon, and more fire threats to west-side communities, where many homeowners have yet to consider removing close-by trees and brush to create defensible spaces should flames threaten their land.

This year, the smoke is the result of fires that have burned around the Pacific Northwest, including more than 732,000 acres in Washington and Oregon. Significant fires have flared west of the Cascades, including the Eagle Creek fire that has burned more than 32,000 acres, and threatened small communities outside of Portland. ADVERTISING

If the models analyzed by the University of Washington are accurate, this Pacific Northwest summer could be a mild preview for the kind of heat we are likely to routinely experience later in the century. The three months that ended in August ranked as the third-hottest Pacific Northwest summer on record. Yet, they fall on the low end of what is forecast in the last half of this century, according to Snover.

That additional heat would make the forests more vulnerable to fire. Two studies cited by the Climate Impacts Group estimate that the average acreage burned in a year west of the Cascades at the end of this century would be double the average burned during the last half of the 20th century.

Big fires in the past

Fire ecologists who study the history of our region note earlier periods of intense fire activity in the west-side forests.

The Olympic Peninsula, for example, had a series of mega-fires that burned more than 1 million acres during a 33-year period in the 1700s, according to research that looked at tree rings and fire scars.

More recently, the September 1902 Yacolt Burn raged across more than 230,000 acres, spreading largely through Western Washington forests north of the Columbia River Gorge. This was a fearsome fire even for residents from Seattle who were hit with what The Seattle Times reported as “great banks of smoke clouds” that drifted over the city, blotted out the sun and “floated through the streets of the city like an awful quiet harbinger of approaching doom.”

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Prolonged summer heat is a key ingredient for such big fire seasons, and the Climate Impacts Group forecasts that predict the 21st-century warming are based on an analysis of more than three dozen climate models with different projections.

Researchers then develop an average annual temperature based on a scenario that assumes aggressive efforts to reduce fossil-fuel emissions. They also include scenarios with the use of petroleum, coal and natural gas continuing roughly at current levels.

The models project that the summer heat will come with less rain, further drying out the forests.

This year a dry, hot August primed west-side forests to burn. Forest Service officials, since 1990, have estimated the moisture content of large dead trees on the ground. By the end of August, those estimates indicated they were potent fuel for fires, according to John Saltenberger, fire weather program manager for the Portland-based Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.

“All across the Northwest, they were either at — or exceeding — the lowest values on record, especially on the west side,” Saltenberger said.

Nature’s humbling display

Wildfires don’t happen without a source of ignition. People often provide that first flame, particularly in west-side forests where lightning is less common than east of the Cascades.

Oregon State Police say a 15-year-old boy from Vancouver, Washington, is suspected of starting the Sept. 2 fire in the Columbia River Gorge, but he has not been charged. He allegedly tossed a firework while on a trail along Eagle Creek, a steep side canyon near Bonneville Dam that included old-growth Douglas fir, cedar and other softwoods.

More than 150 hikers were trapped until Sunday, when they could be safely evacuated. The fire blew up Monday afternoon, as temperatures climbed past 90 degrees, humidity dropped and winds from the east roared through the Gorge with gusts as high as 55 mph.

In 16 hours, the fire marched some 12 miles to the west, moving through the heart of one of the most popular hiking areas in the Portland area. People gathered along the Washington side of the river for a ringside seat to an enthralling and humbling display of nature’s forces.

As trees ignited, fiery red avalanches of flames snaked along the Gorge’s steep flanks. Some embers flew north across the Columbia River to Washington, and set off a new fire near the town of Skamania.

“That fire made a historic run. It’s fire behavior we haven’t seen in this area for a long time,” said Jim Trammell, fire-defense chief for Hood River County in Oregon.

In recent days, there has been an outpouring of grief over what was lost, as well as anger at the act that touched off the fire.

As the weather eased, the fire — while far from contained — grew calmer.

During a media tour along the Oregon side of the Gorge, it was possible to take a closer look. You could see how the fire — despite its ferocity — burned unevenly. In some areas, once-green forests turned into patches of dead snags. Elsewhere, the flames laid low and crept along the forest floor.

Scientists remind us that such fires help to bring about new life, and remain an essential part of the forest ecology. Berry plants, for example, will flourish in newly opened areas and provide food for wildlife. Seedlings will emerge.

“Even in the areas of the most intense burn, it is not an end, but a beginning, when you understand the processes that are at work,” said Dominick DellaSala, chief scientist for the Geos Institute, of Ashland, Oregon, and co-author of a book that focuses on the ecological importance of forest fires.

Scientists still are uncertain just how the west-side forests will evolve in a century with more frequent fires.

Some studies predict forests will contain less wood, and thus store less carbon, according to the Climate Impacts Group. That’s largely due to the forecasts that more will burn, as well as greater impacts from disease and insects, according to Snover.

The mix of trees may change.

Some species, such as hemlock and cedar, have thin bark and readily succumb to fire. So they may find themselves in retreat. Other species, such as Douglas fir, have thicker bark and are far more resilient to fire and regenerate in direct sunlight. They are likely to fare better.

‘”I fully expect, with climate change, some shifts in vegetation to occur,” said Jane Kertis, a U.S. Forest Service scientist based in Corvallis, Oregon. “Fire is laying bare the conditions for that to begin.’’

China claims world’s biggest man-made waterfall

A province in southern China known for its stunning natural beauty can now also boast the world’s largest man-made waterfall – but it doesn’t come cheap.

Flowing 108 metres (350 feet) down the glass exterior of the Liebian International Building in Guiyang, capital of Guizhou province, the waterfall is about 3 metres longer than the previous record holder at the Solar City Tower in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.Chinese tourists accused of pinching ‘crown jewels’ from Vladivostok’s glass beach

Built by Ludi Industry Group, the feature uses recycled water from basement storage tanks, which is pushed to the top of the 121-metre-high building by four giant pumps before re-emerging as a cascade from a massive opening on one side.

Once fully occupied, the multi-purpose building will comprise offices, shops and a luxury hotel, company director Cheng Xiaomao said, though the latter has to be completed.

The idea for the waterfall came from company president Zhou Songtao, who said he wanted to promote the city’s green image.SUBSCRIBE TO US China Trade WarGet updates direct to your inboxBy registering for these newsletters you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy

“Guiyang is a city of mountains, and with many trees, just like a forest. He wanted to create a feeling of water and greenery, even when you are surrounded by skyscrapers,” Cheng said.From Africa to Europe, dragon boat races are spreading across the world

Although the waterfall was completed about two years ago, it has only been turned on six times, with the latest occasion being for half an hour on Sunday to mark the Guiyang International Marathon.

Nevertheless, people had already begun to consider the building a local landmark and were using it as a place to go for a walk or to socialise, Cheng said.

Once fully occupied, the multi-purpose building will comprise offices, shops and a luxury hotel. Photo: ImaginechinaShare:

One of the reasons the waterfall does not appear more often is the operating cost. While the water comes free, the price of powering the pumps is about 800 yuan (US$117) an hour, Cheng said.

While some internet users questioned whether the extravagant design was a waste of money, others were full of compliments.

“The scene is very impressive. You seldom see a waterfall in a city,” said a woman in a video published on the Pear Video website this week.

“It looks very soothing on a hot summer day. The idea is very creative,” said another.

One social media user was undecided, however.

“A price must be paid for an artificial spectacle, especially a large one like this. Whether it’s a waste of money or worth more than the 800 yuan an hour is for the company to calculate.”