That's Incredible

June 15, 2006

I really wish someone would run a weekend marathon of old That's Incredible episodes from the 1970s. I bet that show is so over-the-top bad, that the producers are embarrassed to have been associated with it.

But when I was in elementary school, everyone watched it every single week. (I wonder what it's competition was. Sure, there were just three channels, but still....)

For you youngsters, That's Incredible had a panel of people in front of a live audience, and they ran clips of things that were "incredible." Then, the panel would come back and make comments on how "incredible" the clip had been. There was usually a segment on something supernatural, a feel good thing -- a child with no legs who could walk on his hands, for instance -- and a healthy smattering of crap.

I only remember a couple of specific segments. In one, the ghost of a dead nurse was blamed for changing all of the clocks in a particular hospital. I don't know why she did this, but I know is scared the bejesus out of me as a little boy.

The other segment I remember was one where the producers had set up a series of races between a guy on a BMX-style bicycle and a racehorse. There was nothing "incredible" about this at all. The horse smoked the bicycle in every race but one, in which the horse got spooked and went off course.

But could a guy on a bike really keep up with a horse? I did a little math to find out.

Jazil won the recent mile and a half Belmont Stakes with an official time of 2:27.86. This works out to an average speed of 36.5 mph over that course.

Tom Boonen, one of the elite sprinters in professional road cycling won stage one of the Tour de Suisse last week in 3:51:14. The course for that stage was 95.7 miles, and because Boonen won it, I can assume that it was relatively flat. This works out to a speed of 25.0 mph over the course.

I don't think there's any horse that could keep up that sort of pace for four hours. Is there a cyclist who could average 36.5 mph for a mile and a half? Certainly not over dirt. But there's definitely a surface and distance where the guy on a road bike could beat a horse.

Just for kicks, I worked out some other speeds. A Kenyan named Cheriuyot won the Boston Marathon (26.2 mi) this year in a time of 2:07:14. This works out to an average of 12.4 mph.

Do you realize how sick this pace is? I'm in decent shape, but I would just be able to match this pace on my mountain bike. It would be a tight race. If I actually tried to run a marathon, I would drop dead at mile 16. But even then, I would only be on pace to finish the race in something in the neighborhood of 6 hours. Maybe worse.

(At least in cycling, I'm only twice as slow as the elite athlete. I'm quite sure I can finish a relatively flat 95 miles less than 8 hours. Especially if I'm in a peloton.)

Let's continue. If you aren't in Baton Rouge, you may have missed the story that LSU wide receiver Xavier Carter ran one of the fastest 100m dashes in the world this year. He covered the distance in 10.09 seconds, which works out to an unbelievable 22.2 mph. With a race that short, you have to consider that they start running from a dead stop. And watching that race, you see that there's a special burst of speed that gets let out for the last 50 meters. I speculate that the max speed might have been up around 26-28 mph. Ladies and gentlemen, that's incredible. If you don't think so, go get your car up to that speed, and then open the door. Look at the ground and see just how fast you're moving.