Friday, April 29, 2011

Consumer Antitrust Institute Colloquium

Bravo on a fabulous program today at the Loyola University-Chicago Institute for Consumer Antitrust 11th Annual Colloquium. Four papers -- one on buyer power, one on bigness, one on Rabbinical cartels and the fourth on copyright and antitrust -- spurred non-stop, and at times heated, conversation. There was also a great lunchtime talk by Commissioner Ramirez, whom I've never before heard speak.

My favorite part of this program will always be meeting a diverse crowd of academics, enforcers, and practitioners from around the world. That and the dinner, to which I head now.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Coupla things

First, I realized a few days ago that I had never read anything by Christopher Hitchens. My library now includes Hitch 22 and God is Not Great, as well as an anthology he edited titled The Portable Atheist. After I get through Katherine Schultz's Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, I will turn to other options for procrastinating.

Second, on the note of procrastinating: my students took their final on Monday (don't get me started on the 13-week semester!), and it's now my time to do something. Here are my goals for the coming month, which I write here in the hopes that others will help to keep me honest:

1. Turn the extraterritoriality piece on which I've previously procrastinated into a proposal for a law journal submission.
2. Burnish Behavioral Exploitation and Antitrust for presentation at some late-May workshops.
3. Grade my exams.

In addition to that I get to have some fun, starting with the yearly trip to Spencer's colloquium in Chicago.


My secretary asked me yesterday a perfectly reasonable question: How long is Passover?

Turns out there is not one answer but three. Its 7 days in Israel, eight days in the Diaspora, but 7 days in the reform movement.

So at the time she asked me, it was already over in Israel, ending Tuesday night at sundown for some in the US, but would be over Monday night for the rest of us.

Somehow I feel that Domino's Pizza missed a great marketing opportunity in all that.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sliding Scale of Eloquence

Quoting Amis, quoting Nabakov, who was remarking on his inability to extemporize: "I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, and I speak like a child."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

That time of year

Joined D__ for a ride and run starting at 9:30 from Glen Echo park. The ride went great. The run, well, let's say I'm not recovered from last weekend. It was a nice day, but it did get hot; the car thermometer said 85 degrees while driving home, and it's humid. Wow do I miss those 35 degree Sunday runs, and even the indoor rides, in January and February.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Walk (Run) in the Park

This morning was the Wrigley Start Early 5K/10K. I had never run it before and found it decidedly second rate. It began in Grant Park near the start/finish of the Chicago marathon but was entirely on sidewalks rather than actually blocking off streets with the attendant cost but comfort for runners. Because of the crowding, one woman fall within the first 100 yards or so and took a nasty tumble. The race organizers also didn't ban racing strollers which were a major hazard given the narrow conditions. The occasional bicyclist coming the other way didn't help either. Any thoughts of a pr were long gone by the first mile run and it just wasn't much fun.

On the bright side, I ran much of the way with my associate dean and a bit with a student of mine. Most importantly, my daughter and a friend did the 5K and are psyched for more races. That plus brunch with the Loyola runners made it a decent day but a lousy race.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Downhills and Tailwinds

Today saw the two fastest marathons ever run and four athletes -- including Ryan Hall -- under last year's Boston record. That's why this is not a world-record-certified course: it's downhill, and every so often you get tailwinds from start to finish. Today was such a day.

You'd think with the bigger sail I present I would have gained something from that as well, but I was 8:16 over goal. Pacing went pretty well, until it didn't (about mile 20, where you'd expect things to start hurting).

5368 Huffman, Max 37 M Washington DC USA
5k 10k 15k 20k Half 25k 30k 35k 40k
0:20:37 0:41:26 1:02:36 1:23:57 1:28:32 1:45:05 2:07:36 2:32:19 2:57:10
Finish: Start Offset Pace Proj. Time Offl. Time Overall Gender Division
00:03:12 0:07:11 3:08:15 2616 2407 1616

A few notes:

1. Wellesley College at mile 13 is everything it is cracked up to be. Only being married and a deeply held fear of rejection kept me from taking a 10 minute hiatus and kissing co-eds. Others weren't so inhibited.
2. The crowd support here is unbelievable. From mile 21 on, there is not a foot of road not lined shoulder to shoulder with cheering fans.
3. It was really, really funny watching the police playing whack-a-mole trying to tamp down public urination at the start in Hopkinton. When they chased down one poor schmuck, three others would dive in the bushes behind their backs.
4. One of the few badly thought-through logistical matters was the bussing from Boston Commons to Hopkinton. There were perhaps 10,000 super-saturated marathoners loaded onto busses without restrooms, where we sat for 45 minutes en route to the start. When the bus unloaded, the entire bus ran straight into the woods.
5. You meet some really cool people here. I chatted on the bus with a British expat living in California who finished 8th in the Western States 100 ultramarathon last year. He was fitting this run in between a 50 miler last weekend, and a 50K next, with his ultimate goal the Comrades Ultramarathon.

A couple of updates: The expat was Ian Sharman. He was modest enough not to tell me that he was the guy who went an astounding 12:44 in the flat and fast Rocky Raccoon 100 mile in Texas, this year. That's in the range of a 7:40 pace.

And I forgot to note one index of just how much Boston loves its marathon: the road over which we raced was mostly newly paved, and it was newly striped. The road crews had painted the mile markers in the road, using the road-crew-stencil lettering (none of this race-director-with-a-can-of-spraypaint stuff).

Saturday, April 16, 2011


I frankly thought I would never set another PR. Two years of plantar faschiastis plus aging tend to send one's thoughts in that direction. But today I perservered through some 40s with rain and wind, and even a porta potty break to log a 1:29:57 at the Lakefront 10 Mile and lop 3 seconds off my PR from 2005 at this distance. I thought I was 7 seconds over but let's hear it for chip times versus clock time. Today I am a happy guy.

Probably though not as happy as my wife and daughter who are sitting by a pool in Florida. Unfortunately my spring break never coincides with my daughter's. Oh well. Now back to procrastinating on my article for the Loyola-Haifa memorial day workshop. Wait, I think there is another episode of The Good Wife to catch up on TiVo.

Expo Extraordinaire

I've seen some race expos over the years. My first was the Cincinnati marathon, when my roommate J__ actually bought shorts from one of the racks. I'd never imagined doing something so spontaneous with one's wallet. Expos have seemed to get bigger as time has passed, which may be because I'm running bigger races or it may be because vendors realize people want proof they were here, and they're willing to pay for it. Expos aren't really about running. They're spontaneous shopping malls. True story: at the National Marathon/Half expo three weeks ago, the busiest vendor was the McDonalds booth.

But compared to those flea markets, this place is insane. Number pick-up is the same as at any overstuffed big-city race, but here the volunteers look like marathoners themselves. I guess if I lived here I'd volunteer. I ask if mine is the winning number (I love that gag), but she was ready. "They all are." I'm somewhere in the 5000s, which lets me go with the first wave. But that first wave is 9000 runners, which is a major marathon in itself. (I've been doing a little research on the finishing times. If I hit my "A" goal, I may have a shot at a top 1300 finish, and I'll be running in a crowd across the line.)

You then exit from there into the paraphernalia room, with racks on racks of gray, lime green and white (this year's colors), and crowds so thick you can't move reaching for the proof that they don't just run, they race. Here I've got a leg up on the crowd: my colleague P__ advised me this would occur, and I ordered mine online. I snapped a few shots over the crowd and wondered aloud to P__ (different P -- it's hard to maintain anonymity when everybody I know seems to be named P__) whether we were here to run or to shop. Having enjoyed my public moment of cynicism, I have to confess I'll probably order more paraphernalia online. I doubt it's very often that I can afford to come back here.

An aside: man is this an athletic crowd. I'm the odd man out without a prior year's Boston jacket. And everybody looks fast. In fact, everybody's kids look fast.

Then come the rows of handouts, like Saturday afternoon at Costco but it doesn't taste nearly as good. I ask for an explanation from the 5-hour energy girl how that little vial works so well, and whether it would decrease my life span in the process. She assured me I was safe, which went nowhere toward assuring me of anything. GNC convinced me I'd do better with a few vitamin C chews, which are like Starbursts. I didn't need much convincing, because, well, the chews are like Starbursts. And free. But GNC must have been right, because POM said the same thing about their pomegranate blueberry juice. And just after I had seen that firm's co-owner profiled in the airline magazine -- her second profile that I've personally read in airline magazines in the past few years. I was glad to see the Cascadia Farms granola bars; with the race starting at 10 on Monday I'll need some breakfast.

On to the shoes. How many different ways can one charge close to $100 for a "barefoot running experience"? "It's the natural way to run," he said. "How is that different from my $50 racing flats?" I queried. "More padding," he replied. Huh? We escape with wallets no less intact then when we arrived, but that's because the check-out lines look like the entry door to a hip new club.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Triathlon Market

This year World Triathlon Corporation -- a/k/a/ Ironman -- is branching out into mid-distance races with its new 5150 series. (51.50 is the number of kilometers in an Olympic/International distance race like the Chicago triathlon). I'm running one such event in DC in June and I just signed up to do some volunteering during registration at the same event. For some reason this got me thinking about market power in triathlon.

This post is unburdened by much research. I'm sure there are errors in what I think I know from observation.

WTC dominates the long-course race series with dozens of 1/2 iron and iron-distance races yearly around the globe. Competitors include the relatively new Rev3, which appears to run six races, mostly in the US (although there is a Costa Rica race). Most Rev3 races are 1/2 iron and olympic combined; only Cedar Point includes a full iron distance race. Sommer Sports is an event management/promotion firm that doesn't actually own the races it promotes, but it has some presence in the long-course business. Sommer Sports -managed events tend to be funky local races which may have a unique schtick, like the Savageman in western Maryland and the Great Floridian near Orlando. Then there is a host of independent events that are not part of a larger series, like the Grand Columbian (Washington State), the Silverman (Nevada), and the Vineman triathlon, the last of which is run every July in California wine country. (The Vineman happens to be my "A" race for the year.)

WTC occasionally, or maybe not so occasionally, buys an independent event. The Vineman 1/2-iron is now a branded 1/2 Ironman, as is the Eagleman 1/2 iron in Maryland (which Ted ran last year).

Long-course triathlon is a big dollar business. An average Ironman might have 2500 competitors paying $550 each for the privilege (> $1 million in entry fees). At least half of that is pure profit; there are very well-run races with entry fees of $200-$350 (e.g., the Chesapeakeman, Great Floridian, Great Illini and Vineman). Merchandise sales and licensing revenues must be quite large. There may be incentives provided by the host venues; Ironman St. George promises to bring 2500 athletes with their families -- maybe 6000 people? -- to a small town for at a minimum two nights each in the tourist off-season. Ironman Cozumel filled that island during a lull between cruise ships. Certainly if you are a consumer ("competitor" -- quotes intended quite ironically) it is real money; I'm already out $1000 or more in entry fees for this year and I'm still looking for a fourth race.

Although I don't follow it quite as closely, it seems to me the mid- and short-course market is pretty diffuse. That would make sense; it doesn't take much expertise to put on a home-town sprint triathlon, which are the province of PTAs and YMCAs, and any serious triathlon club can put on a more substantial race (like the DC Tri). You pretty much need a school with a swimming pool, or a lake-side park, which nearly every town has. I'm sure there are some players with more market share; WTC's 5150 series is clearly at attempt to consolidate some of those races under its umbrella and Sommer Sports promotes a substantial Florida-based short- to mid-course series. My first two races were "Bud Light" series (see the third paragraph under "history" at this link) olympic-distance races in the mid-1980s.

Deciding whether WTC has some amount of market power would be difficult. First, is the market long-course triathlon? Triathlon generally? Or even simply "endurance sporting events"? Can we segment further -- maybe define a market to be 140.6 (the iron distance in miles) races only, or how about the new 222/111 races -- 2 km (1 km for the half) swim, 200 km (100 km) bike and 20 km (10 km) run? Grand Columbian is running a longer-than-140.6 event this year: 5 km swim (rather than 3.9), 200 km bike (rather than 180) and 50 km run (rather than the 42.__ km marathon).

Is the market worldwide, nationwide, or regional? The triathlon crowd is pretty well-heeled, and for branded races people will travel the globe, or at least the hemisphere. I have no doubt that Ironman Cozumel competes head-to-head with the Silverman, run at about the same time of year.

What other than market share might inform WTC's possible dominance? The brand is (so far) pure gold, although I personally believe they are diluting it with too many halves. They are careful with the 5150 series (note that you won't see the word Ironman associated with that series). WTC has lots of pull with governing bodies, like USA Triathlon, because of its market position. Access to an adequate supply of elite athletes is a must for a major event. WTC locks them up somewhat because the grand-daddy of all races is Kona, and you only get to go by qualifying in an Ironman-branded race. But money talks: the 222/111 series (new and not yet profitable) is paying two-time Ironman Kona winner Chris McCormack to run and tout its races. Rev3 has managed to get top contenders interested. But the Great Illini? Well, I managed a top-15 finish in 2008; there's not much of an elite field there.

Not sure what this all adds up to. I do wonder this (if you made it this far): what thoughts on a paper written on competition policy issues in triathlon?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Upcoming trip

On Saturday I fly to Boston, where I will meet P__ (her first visit there). We are staying in a hotel at Copley Square. That is close to the happenings surrounding the Boston Marathon. I hope P__'s being there, and some tourist activities, will keep my teeth from itching the way they do when a race is coming.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

DOJ/FTC -- really?

Danny Sokol (at antitrustprofs blog) posted a link to this WSJ article on squabbling between the DOJ and the FTC. This is an old story, but there are some twists to which I had not been privy. First, there are some ad hominem remarks that this reporter dug up by Commissioner Rosch. Second, although he may be taken out of context, I don't normally expect to see Commissioner Kovacic speaking loosely about these kinds of matters.

The author reprises the old saw that how your deal comes out depends on where it is reviewed. Maybe so, maybe not -- but his reference to the Whole Foods litigation is a wrong example. I sent the author this e-mail:

"Dear Mr. Catan:

There is a mistaken suggestion in the quoted paragraph below:

"One example: The FTC lost its initial effort to get a preliminary injunction from a federal court to halt Whole Foods Market Inc.'s purchase of Wild Oats Markets Inc. But it was able to continue to challenge the deal in its own courts anyway, eventually forcing the company to settle. If the Justice Department had been reviewing the deal, that court loss would likely have ended the matter. Whole Foods declined to comment, as did the two agencies."

Although you are correct that the FTC was able to continue with its administrative process after losing at the preliminary injunction stage in district court, the FTC did appeal its federal court loss to the court of appeals, which reversed the lower court. DOJ could have, and likely would have, done the same thing. With the reversal DOJ could have proceeded with a suit seeking a permanent injunction, which might have brought about the same settlement that the FTC was able to negotiate. DOJ and FTC might well have approached Whole Foods differently, and the agencies' different procedures can bring about different results in some cases, but Whole Foods is not the right example.

Thanks for this interesting article."

I've long believed the FTC should review all mergers. The agency has the institutional competence to do so and is more politically insulated (and mergers are political footballs). Merger policy potentially has more diplomatic ramifications than does conduct enforcement, and the continuity the FTC provides allows for better cross-border cooperation on that front. And merger review is the sort of first-order regulation for which an independent agency (like the FTC) is particularly well suited. Interestingly, the complaints by entities like the Chamber of Commerce about the unpredictability of review don't recognize that review can become much more predictable -- and, if recent years are an indication, more predictably interventionist -- by consolidating all matters in one agency, if you pick the FTC.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fitness Electronics and Me

Two quick notes (both of which are, at root, pathetically self-congratulatory):

(1) On Saturday I followed in the footsteps of Paula Radcliffe, running a 15k "race" on a treadmill. In theory, I like the idea -- you train at your race pace without the annoyance of constantly checking a Garmin (which I do not own), and without having to worry about whether you're running too fast or too slow until you hit the next mile marker. So I set the incline at 1%, set the pace at 7:53, and ran the fastest 9.3 miles of my life. But . . . And it hurts me to admit this, Paula . . . Running on a treadmill for nine-plus miles is, well, kind of, umm, boring. I was listening to an audiobook, which helped some, but by the end of the run I had cataloged every roll of wrapping paper in our basement storage room. I had also categorized each extra blanket or quilt by color, fabric type, and family-of-origin, and created a mental list of the cassette tapes I thought were still in my circa-1992 Case Logic storage case (I was badly wrong on that last). Seriously, it was b-o-r-i-n-g boring.

(2) After partially tearing my Achilles tendon in January 2010 playing basketball, I finally had to come to terms with the whole "I run forty miles per week so I can eat anything I want" self-delusion. Having not seen the thin side of 200 (or, if I'm being honest, of 210) since around the time that my role model Bill Clinton was making his last runs from 1600 Pennsylvania to the local McDonalds, I decided to give the whole "eat less" part of "eat less, exercise more" a try. It worked remarkably well; I'm down to 186, a number I haven't seen since my senior year of high school. And I owe at least some of my success to a fancy-schmancy body fat monitor scale -- no matter how fit I thought I was, it kept telling me inconvenient truths about my body composition. And it was really cool over the past six months to watch as my "metabolic age" fell from my late 30s. Christmas was the best; according to the scale, I went into the holiday with a metabolic age of 18 (and without the acne. Double bonus!). But for a few weeks now, the scale has been reporting a metabolic age of 13. I'm proud, of course. But am I alone in not wanting to go back quite that far?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Shamrock Shuffling

Spring was merely a phase change between 40, rainy and windy last night and 75 and sunny this morning. I headed downtown with some trepidation to join 40,000 people for the race that kicks off the official training season (also the day they turn on the drinking faucets in the park).

Couldn't find a cab but actually got a lift from strangers heading to the race. Turns out race was better organized than I expected. I was in the C corral which was the back of the fast runners with corrals going all the way to H. I worked my up to the front of the C corral. Very orderly start, took about 5 minutes to make i to the start but I was at full pace within 100 yards. The staggered start meant that everyone was much more spread out than the marathon for virtually the whole race. Was sub-8 for the first 2 miles and gave back a little time the rest of the way to finish in a satisfying 41:30.

Its by no means a PR but the best I have done at 8K since late 2006. Heat wasn't too bad but i used most of the water to douse my head and arms. Only real glitch was hitting a pot hole at 2 plus miles which broke my stride and my iPod which went flying and took me a few moments to recover my wind (but not the broken IPod).

Next week Lakefront 10 and a goal to stay under 1:30 for the race.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Meeting Expectations

I had this e-mail exchange with a friend. Here's the context: he sent around a workout that is supposed to ensure you hit a particular goal time in a 10K -- i.e., if you can complete the 8 week program, hitting the right times, you'll get the corresponding 10K result. The final week's workout is 3 x 2 miles at your goal pace, with a 5' easy jog in between. For what it's worth, I believe it when the crafter says this particular program will certainly do the trick.

My response:
There’s a certain unpleasantness to the realization that it is possible to structure a plan that will ensure a result with near certainty. Once you’ve hit the target workouts prescribing that you will run (hypothetically) a 38’ 10K, is there any pleasure in actually doing so? I’m not a little let down, having been excited about my Cherry Blossom result, to learn that it’s within 30 seconds of what Jack Daniels and Don McMillan would have predicted on the basis of my National Half performance, which is, in turn, nearly exactly what they would have predicted on the basis of my workouts in the previous months.

At the marathon distance, at least for amateurs, the uncontrollable variables (e.g., wind) start to overwhelm the controllable variables, so there’s still the possibility of surprise.

It doesn’t get better for the elites, who may be running to compete rather than for personal bests. Ryan Hall can probably tell you within a minute how fast he will run Boston this year (I think he’s running). He thus knows that if nobody else runs faster than that, he will win, and if somebody else does run faster, he will lose.

D__'s rejoinder:
I'd be perfectly content with the lack of surprise associated with hitting the marathon time that my 10-mile times predict. Even with my 2-minute siesta in [a recent race], my performance suggests that I should be running a 3:02 marathon. If my gut had behaved, my predicted time woulda likely been 2:57 or so.

Who's right?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

To Run 22 or Not to Run 22

A consistent theme of most marathon training programs I have seen is the 22-mile long run. I'm rolling into Boston with a longest run of about 18 miles, and it is too late now to change things. I wonder if it's enough.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Best Race in DC

Today was the Cherry Blossom 10 miler. It's a big race, and a serious race (the purse brings in a dozen or so second-tier Kenyans and Ethiopians). It's a beautiful race. It's flat, it winds along the river and harbor and through avenues of cherry blossoms. The amateur field is also fast; after a 6:02 first mile I was still running in a crowd.

They also run a very nice 5K, starting after the main event. It follows Independence to Memorial Bridge, across to the gates of Arlington Cemetery, and back. P__ ran that, but not before she watched the elite runners finish the 10 mile. I'm a big fan of combining a 5K with a longer race. It makes the day a family event rather than yet another day devoted to the guy or gal who already spends all weekend training by him- or herself.

The elite runners are a sight to behold. Local hard-man Michael Wardian, the six-time winner of the National Marathon and perennial top-three in world ultra championships, was already 30-seconds back when I saw the group go by on an out-and-back, them at mile two, me just past mile one. And I haven't yet mentioned the elite women. They started ten minutes ahead. Standing in the corral watching them preparing to start, I was captivated by several pairs of sinewy legs that reminded me more of the starting corral at the Kentucky Derby than a (human) running event.

The race is extraordinarily well put-on. They have the best race t-shirts of any event I've attended: cotton short-sleeve unless you pay for the technical t-shirt (I'll post later on why cotton makes the best race t-shirt) with a legitimately artistic design that evokes the feel of spring in DC. It's the single best time of year to run in one of the best places to run. Warming up on the walkway around the Washington Monument, seeing the sun rise over the Capitol, fist-bumping nearly everybody I've ever met running in DC -- it's an event that makes me glad to be part of this community.

My first mile was a mistake, but it was downhill, so it's not all my fault. I pulled it together after that, having banked 20 seconds or so, and ended up with fairly even splits for the two halves of the race. I PR'd at the intermediate distances that I bothered to notice, and overall. I am learning to drain the tanks in general: today I hit the redline at about mile seven; felt the blinders coming on around mile nine; a couple of hundred yards from the end wondered, thickly, whether that was what it feels like to pass out while finishing a race (no, I didn't). After cheering D__ across the line (he now owes me a beer!) I slowly jogged the 5K course trying to find P__. I didn't catch her on the course, but it was a good warm-down.