Thursday, April 30, 2009

London Marathon 2009 Photos

A few photos

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SportTracks versus Ascent


200904300356.jpg 48 hours ago I couldn't have run round a goldfish bowl. I'm happy to say now that everything feels like it's back to normal and I can even walk down stairs without wincing at every step. That feels like real progress.

For as long as I have been using GPS devices to track my running (I started with the Forerunner 201 and am now on my third 305, having ditched the 405 after a single run), I have used SportTracks from ZoneFiveSoftware. It's so good I've paid for it twice. And, I even run it on a PC that sits on my desk as I haven't managed to get it to work reliably on my Mac, despite trying Parallels and Fusion. Others seem to have managed it, yet every time I've tried it, I've had trouble importing my history file, trouble getting it to reopen a logbook after exiting the application, trouble creating new logbooks and so on. So I gave up and stuck to the Vaio laptop on my desk that, once a week, would get opened, booted and used only for SportTracks.

I don't have to do that anymore. There's a new kid in town. Well, new to me. It's called Ascent, from Monte Bello software. It sells for £29, although a trial download lets you get used to it with up to 10 activities. So far, it rocks. It's as good as SportTracks - and I think that's saying something as SportTracks is really good. Ascent imported all of my old data going back to 2005 without even blinking - and even recognised the duplicates from the trial install where I'd synced it with my 305 and its most recent runs.

Here are a couple of data items from Ascent, from Sunday's London Marathon.

1) First, my pace graph. The start was very slow - it was more stop than start in fact. A bunch of guys were running out of pen 2 (runners aiming for 3:30 or better), roped together in a large square. I don't know what time they ran but I know people who ran 4:45 who passed them so I'm sure it wasn't 3:30 - but where the road narrowed early on, and there was a dense crush of people trying to get through, these guys stopped everyone in their tracks. Still, that might have been a good thing - fast starts are supposed to be bad after all. After that, I stayed pretty consisent, varying +/- 10 seconds from my target of around 5m 20s per km all the way up until about km 22. From then on, it all went wrong until km 35 when I gritted my teeth and tried to get home in at least a reasonable time

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2) And then my 5km split times - it's pretty easy to see how much I slowed down from km 20 onwards - really suffering from 30-35.

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Pace graphs in SportTracks are slightly clearer perhaps - but that's because it doesn't start the y-axis at zero and so the differences are accentuated. I need to figure out how to do that in Ascent or perhaps request it as an enhancement in the next version. It's quite clear from the graph below where I had to stop and walk for a bit! Looking at these two graphs more closely, along with the accompanying split data seems to show some differences in recorded times per km (some are 2 or 3 seconds, which would be accounted for by GPS smoothing and others are longer - e.g. km 28 on SportTracks is 7:58 yet is 6:27 in Ascent. I need to do some work on that.

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I like this new software. It will be great not to have to boot the PC - and I'll miss SportTracks but all good things eventually get replaced. Well, nearly all.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Before You Run ...

You wait around a lot ...

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Crowd Sourcing London Marathon Photos

200904282145.jpgBrowsing through some photos from the marathon, I wondered why the folks that take pictures at marathons around the world and then sell them to you don't crowd source their work.

There were maybe 250,000 or even 300,000 people out watching the London Marathon this weekend and many of them had cameras.

Assuming that the same technology that google uses to blur faces and number plates in Street View and the same technology that captures number plates for the Congestion Charge can be used to read the numbers/names on photos such as the one at left ...

Then why couldn't anyone who took photos upload them to a site where they could be searched by anyone looking for photos of themselves running?

A download would result in a small payment to the person who took the photo and a payment to the marathon photo company for facilitating the transaction. It would be like the iPhone App Store, but you wouldn't need any coding talent.

I'm pretty sure all of this could be pretty much fully automated and so the variety of photos available to runners would be multiplied enormously at practically no extra cost to the services that allow you to search for photos.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

London Marathon 2009 - Result

In words ... too hot

In feelings ... very disappointed

In time ... 4h 17m 39s

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Clouds - the McKinsey View

McKinsey have published a potentially provocative report on cloud computing and it's good to see it available on slideshare, although watch for the typo in the link title (thank you to Daryl Mather, no relation, for surfacing this for me).

Their key findings are:

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Economical Forecasting

The weather forecast for tomorrow has shifted again

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If this holds, then the rain has shifted to Monday and the weather for tomorrow's marathon looks "ok" - not great, but ok.

But, I did wonder today whether both of these paragraphs are true:

The weather is a complex system for which there are many variables. It takes a great deal of computing power to figure out even very localised immediate forecasts, let alone system wide forecasts. And forecasts - even at a trend level (i.e. the next few days will see more sun than rain) - are notoriously inaccurate. Such predictions frequently get duration and severity wrong and their results are often the exact opposite of what actually happens. Forecasters will hate the use of that word "prediction" which implies crystal ball gazing rather than the use of multi-faceted models built by the brightest people in the land backed by years of research. But the empirical data says they're wrong more often that they're right.

The economy is a complex system for which there are many variables. It takes a great deal of computing power to figure out even very localised immediate forecasts, let alone system wide forecasts. And forecasts - even at a trend level (e.g. house prices will next rise, rather than fall) - are notoriously inaccurate. Such predictions frequently get duration and severity wrong and their results are often the exact opposite of what actually happens. Forecasters will hate the use of that word "prediction" which implies crystal ball gazing rather than the use of multi-faceted models built by the brightest people in the land backed by years of research. But the empirical data says they're wrong more often that they're right.

No wonder we're not sure if the economy is coming out of recession, going deeper, stabilising, growing or shrinking. House prices up? Down? Flip a coin? Build a model? Play Baccarat as a cipher for prediction?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Adidas 83040 update

If you were hoping to follow a runner - me or anyone else - during the London Marathon, you've probably sent the word "run" in a text message to 83040, the Adidas tracking service, and had no response.

Well, good news! Text "run" to 83040 again (I know you've done it once - if you haven't had a URL back by text, they've forgotten who you are) and you'll get the URL (I just tried it, I know it works).

So ... text "run" to 83040 and, if you want to follow me, my number is 22801.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

London Marathon 2009 - Music Mix

If you're running and wondering about what kind of music should accompany you, here's my playlist for Sunday

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Let me know if you want an iTunes exported playlist (obviously I can't send you the music, but I can send you the export file)

London Marathon 2009 - Weather forecast

The BBC is telling me it's going to be wet, wet, wet on Sunday

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That might be just right ... let's see if they stick to the same story through the weekend

Adidas 83040

The Adidas "Track your runner" text service for the London Marathon still isn't available ... they're running out of time!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

If the hat fits

Passing by a railway bridge in Chelsea yesterday, I saw this sign

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

London Marathon - Setting The Targets

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Just seven days before the last marathon I ran, in 2006, I set out my targets in this blog. They were:

  • Finish inside 4 hours
  • Be in the top 10,000 finishers

Looking back at that post, I was amazed to see that I'd even suggested that I might finish in 3h 52m (I actually ran it in 3h 51m 8s).

This year, I thought I'd set myself roughly the same goal, although plainly I want to better my time, even if only be seconds. But what of the position? Should I be thinking about improving that?

I checked back over the previous few years and someone with a time of 3h 51m 8s would have placed as follows:

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That's a spread of 3,083 between the lowest place number and the highest place number. That's a much bigger spread than I'd imagined would be the case. Part of it might be weather related (2007 - where I would have placed highest had I run my time - was a very hot day and overall performance was down) but 2006 and 2008 saw much the same weather (damp and rainy throughout the race). So what's going on?

One option I wondered about is whether the organisers have changed the way that they allocate places. For instance, I found in 2003 that having the same finish time gave you incremental placing (decided I'm not sure how - maybe the chip timers record, but don't publish, can go sub-second):

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In other years, people with the same finish time are given the same place number - but then the next place awarded reflects however many people had the same time. So that can't be it.

Any other ideas?


Sunday, April 12, 2009

London Marathon 2009 - two weeks today

guards2.jpgJust finished my last long run before the marathon. Home to Tower Bridge and back, following the last 4 miles of the marathon route itself, nearly arrested by some burly policemen who were closing off the road in front of Buckingham Palace for the Changing of the Guard - I thought the crowds were starting early to get the best places ahead of the marathon.






Last time I ran London, in 2006, my race profile looked like this:

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Plainly I went out too fast - I started the race on the white line (literally at the very front, with 1000s of people behind me, of whom at least 10,000 overtook me in the first 2 miles despite me going as fast as I could). I'm not sure if I'm starting in the same place this year, but I know enough this time to get over to the side as quickly as possible. And then I can run a little more like I ran in NY later that same year:

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I finished a little slower in NY - 3:58 versus 3:51 - but I put that down to it being the second marathon in a year. My plan for London is to go out at a pretty even pace of around 5:20 to 5:30 and try and maintain that through the whole race, so finishing around 3:50 (allowing for some slowdown at the end).

For those out to watch the race, here's the course map - but there will be better maps in the newspapers in the couple of days beforehand:

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The total since September is just short of 800km. This year's totals compare pretty favourably with those for London and New York in 2006, although I was little behind last month (put that down to a week of skiing).

Saturday, April 11, 2009

London Marathon 2009

200904111145.jpgThe London Marathon team have put in place a "track a runner by text" service this year. The New York folks had this in 2006 and I'm delighted it's made it to London this year.

If you want to track a runner - any runner - text the word "run" to 83040 (it's a service run by Adidas) and they'll text you back a link (or, they will do - it's not quite working yet but they promise it will be in a few days). Still, text now so that they know you want to get the link when it is working.

If you want to track my progress, my running number is 22801

Once you've signed up, the service will text you when I cross each 5km point. I'm not sure if it will be the same as it was in NY, but the time you'll get sent is my "gun" time (i.e. how long after the starting pistol was fired did I cross that point), not my actual time (i.e. how long after I actually crossed the start line did I reach that point). But if you're on the route, you'll be able to figure out roughly where i am, using an average of 5m 15s to 5m 30s per km.

Hope to see you somewhere on the route.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Reading Half Marathon 2009

Last Sunday was the Reading Half Marathon, a race I've run once before. It's a well supported race - the organisers said around 16,000 runners this time. The course is an out and back from the football stadium - you start outside but finish by running into the stadium itself, which is a real buzz (nearly as big a buzz as just finishing it). I ran 1:43:48 according to the official timer - which is around a minute slower than my best ever time.

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My plan was to run faster than I had at Fleet two weeks ago and break 1:45 if I could. I'd spent the previous week skiing - with the inevitable apres-ski, not my usual preparation for a race, so I was thinking that my chances were low. The first 3 or 4km were slow - there were a lot of people around, even though I started at the front of the 1:45 section (plenty of people who had started alongside me were walking within 2km so I don't think too many people pay any attention to where the organisers think they should start).

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You can see from the pace graph that I ran the bulk of the race faster than 5min/km (which I need to do to get inside 1:45) - and there's one km at the mid-way point where I realised I was a bit behind plan and needed to catch up. If I add elevation, you can see that the fastest km was actually on the steepest climb - around mile 7.


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And then, finally, just because it really surprised me to run a negative split - here's the run split into 10km chunks showing that I ran the back half faster than the front half.

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I looked at my training log for the last few weeks and it's over 5 weeks since I ran longer than 21km. I hadn't realised that. So now I'm a bit worried that whilst I can run a fast half, I might not have the stamina for the second half. I couldn't have run another 21km after Reading, that's for sure.