Saturday, 20 June 2015

Estimating Calories from random foods

Every piece of food you buy in Canada is equipped with a Nutrition Facts label.

This label presents an data total Calories, Fibre, Fat, Sodium, Carbs, Protein and micronutrients per serving. Of those, only protein, fat, and carbs contribute meaningfully to total calories. There are some odd trends in the labelling practises. For instance "Fat" and "Carbohydrates" have a "% Daily Value" (%DV) associated with them, but not protein. This is odd, since recommended protein intake is much easier to estimate a priori than either carbs or fat (more on that later). It's also odd that %DV of total calories is not given, since fat and carbs (whose recommended percentages are given) make up the bulk of food calories. Yet so much data is given, seems we could figure this out. Is it possible to reverse engineer the nutrition data given, make some simple assumptions, and sneakily obtain total recommended daily calories?

My Goal: using only the packaging of random food items (and one assumption about protein intake), I will determine the tacit daily caloric intake made by Health Canada.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

(Questionable) ideas for promoting road races

In the USA, for the year 2014, total marathon and half marathon participation numbers are at an all-time high. There are almost 100 races across the US with more than a thousand participants. All good news so far.

We've come a long way from the niche sport that was marathon racing 40 years ago; total numbers have since increased 20-fold. There is no reason to suspect a collapse of the system, as races require little capital investment compared with, say, a soccer stadium or an NHL-worthy ice rink. But there are hints that 2015 will see an absolute peak in race numbers. This could lead to a small, but noticeable, chain of events.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Drugs in sport: a manifesto of sorts

Here are some propositions for putting drugs in context with the broader definitions in sport.  There are no hyperlinks to news articles. There are no equations. There are no scientific articles and few drugs are actually mentioned in context. We assume the drugs work as prescribed. Anyone reading this far already has opinions on the matter of drugs in sport, therefore I am avoiding superfluous quotes from other op-eds.

I am searching for beginnings, rather than ends to the conversation on drugs in competition. We already know 'getting caught' is 'bad'. But why? What starting point brought us to this conclusion? These are seven propositions that seem, collectively, like as good a starting place as any. Basically I have assembled collection of (what appear to be) generally-true statements about drugs. Some statements are trivial, others contentious, some others vague. I'm curious what others see in them.

So here are the seven propositions for what we consider when bettering oneself at a sport:

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Bluenose weekend by the numbers

This year I didn't participate the Bluenose race weekend. Instead I happily watched from the sidelines to see others finish instead. In terms of local races I'm going to run Cabot Trail, with its strong tradition of international attendance and community support based around Baddeck, NS.

My goal this weekend was to watch runners I knew personally, and to see this year's contingent of Kenyans including World Champion Abel Kirui (it's an interesting story why he's in Halifax, for there is no prize money or appearance fees in these races). Little surprise Kirui won the half marathon by over 15 minutes (and while not, I suspect, running his hardest). 

But besides playing spectator, I was also interested to see how Blue Nose attendance would fare. To get right to the point, below are the 5/10/half/full finisher totals from 2004 to 2015. I do not include the kid's 2/4k runs. Although they do generate money for the race, it is unfair to call under-12 runners "competitors". It is more straightforward to count only those who've registered themselves.
Annual participation in the Bluenose race weekend.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Running gender bias

I was browsing the Running USA statistics page and came across this interesting tidbit. See if you notice a strange aberration:

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Calgary Half marathon

I'm running the Calgary Half marathon, May 31st.

Looking forward to it. Raced decently in Grande-Digue 15k last week. Flat(ish) course, cool weather and no wind helped too. Also having the Dal team there was nice boost. In total 8 guys under 50 min, which is something for a tiny race in northern NB. I other news our rag-tag team will be getting a little more serious as we're set to join Halifast.

Back to Calgary. Nice part about the Calgary 21.1k is their efforts to get people from all over Canada to take part. It's the national championships after all, but still impressive what they're doing. Strangest part about national-level road races in the past is the organizers inviting people, offering prize money/appearance fees etc but not posting anything interesting about them online. Often not even a headshot. I always wondered why go through the trouble of organizing people but not profiling them. No more!

Soon-to-be profile shot. Everyone gunning for a sub 74ish time gets one, and a 'fun fact', which is nifty. My fun fact is that I'm an atmospheric chemist. (guess they didn't go with my joggling angle!)

Friday, 10 April 2015


Today I was talking to someone who admitted his step sister is a naturopath. If I look up the definitional of naturopath in wiki, I find nothing unexpected:
Naturopathy or naturopathic medicine is a form of alternative medicine employing a wide array of "natural" treatments, including homeopathy, herbalism, and acupuncture, as well as diet and lifestyle counselling.
I rather enjoy that the word 'natural' is in quotation marks. It is clear enough to anyone that naturopaths do nothing meaningful. Or do they? While it is obvious homeopathic remedies are, by definition, empty promises, it is not hard to find people with differing opinions. For instance the placebo effect is, in fact, a real thing. Therefore simplest notion, that wellbeing is promoted through believing in alternative medicines is in itself healthy independent of the medicine's effects.