Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Joggling 2.0

CTV interviewed me and Michael Bergeron about our recent joggling shenanigans. Guess I should at least share the video on my own site. Michael, by the way, has done many races and at this point should count as seasoned athlete of this niche sport.

Context: Back in March I finally decided to deal with a nerve-related injury in my leg (weirdly parallel to Reid's situation, minus Olympic standards and all that). It's healing, very very slowly. Once I started running more in April, I needed something to focus myself other than sub 3 minute kilometers. Joggling had been in the back of my mind for years, so figured why not.

Long story short, I'm running joggling the Bluenose 5k this Saturday. Not sure how it will go in practice. All I can say for certain is a 17 minute 5k is more than doable without juggling balls (PB for roads is 15:08), but this adds a hell of a new twist. My joggling PB is 17:28, and the world record is 16:51. Last week I joggled a 5:10 mile on the track (no drops!), so it's certainly possible. Given this will only be my third joggling race, in any eventuality there ought to be room for improvement.

UPDATE (May 22, post race)

I completed the 5k Bluenose in a time of 17:42. That's about 45 seconds slower than I'd have liked, but it was a hot day; times were about a minute slower for everyone. Oh well. On the plus side, I did beat my 'rival' Micael-Lucien Bergeron. And since it was an 'out and back' style race course, past the turnaround we definitely provided entertainment for the jogging masses.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Some new updates

Looks as though I haven't updated this page in about a month. Technically, I have been writing, except they've been appearing on Canadian Running. Check them out if you'd like.


I'm going to present some of my research at the EGU in Vienna in exactly one week. Check out my abstract here. I'm flying out Tuesday night, and hoping to see some of the city and culture. Thanks to Duolingo, I'm now 4% fluent in German, yay!

Montreal 5k:

Originally I was going to run 21.1k in Montreal,  but since the conference is eating up the chance for proper training, plus since I'm slightly injured with a forever tight hamstring. So it's the 5k for me (turns out lots of sitting and running do not cancel each other out). Also my wife Heather is running the 5k and raising money for the MOSD (Montreal Oral School for the Deaf ) on her personal fundraiser page.  You even get a tax voucher if you happen to contribute.

Finally, Stocks and options:

I'm learning a little more about stocks, and to a lesser extent options. It began with Jason Kottke's blog citing theBlack-Scholes as among the equations that changed the world, and realized I have never heard of it. It is useful (apparently) with options traders, who need to know what a 'good' price is for a call/put option. I had never understood options trading either. Figured it wasn't too late to learn.

Basically if you try solving for the brownian-type motion of stock movement, normalized to one-year periods, you get their famous equation, which is:

Where C is the option price, S is the strike price, sigma is the volatility, r is the interest rate if you bought a bond of some sort, and t is time. The sigma value is known as the implied stock volatility (IV), it might range from 0% (rock-steady) to 100% (stock could lose all or double its value in a year's time). Normally it takes some doing to calculate the number. What struck me as interesting is how interest rates are so low you can almost ignore them, hence setting r = 0 makes good sense. Doing so, you get a simpler equation:

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Moving cities

I'm moving to Montreal in the summer. The reasoning is simple enough: my wife found work there, and my postdoc position is close to 4 years old now. As much as I loved working my Halifax-based project, postdoc work is -almost by definition- temporary. All good things must come to an end. In the meanwhile, I'll aim to do more road races in Halifax, and hopefully the Calgary half in May.

I have already experienced Montreal for six years, though fewer if you count the first two were shrouded by cultural ignorance. Growing up in Ottawa, when you first see what a real city looks like, at first you don't know what to make of it. Happily Ottawa has gotten a lot better since I left it in 2005.

Not sure what my job will be in Montreal, but it's time to move regardless. Good thing there's lots to do either way. So all my life has been spent in three Canadian cities. Hardly worldly, but each has afforded me a slightly new perspective. Each city holds their stereotypes, some true, others are blatantly false.

Misconceptions, clarifications:

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Small-town Hockey Phenomenons

There is a book on my shelf, Passionate Minds, full of interviews of top scientists in their fields. Chapter 5 contains an extended passage from biotechnologist Leroy Hood that caught me.
...important were the opportunities that I had in the form of three outstanding High School teachers in a very small town in northern Montana...what was unusual about these teachers is they all cared about students as individuals...Maybe this is a consequence of just small towns, but if you're good in a small town, everybody knows it and you have enormous self-confidence about, gee, this is wonderful, I can really do all these things.
His second observation moves from my later talking points, but it's worth noting nonetheless:
I get [the best students] from small towns...Or I get them from places like New York City where, if they're number one, they know they're the best. I never got anybody that was any good from suburbia...There isn't a push to excel; there isn't the positive reinforcement.
My intrigue lies mainly in that first quote. But ironically enough, scientific talent is rather hard to quantify. I had the idea had to search where all the best scientists come from. But that fell flat, as the concept 'best scientist' is too subjective (and often too historical; Newton, Einstein, etc). Contemporary lists of sorted scientific talent are rare, and I hate using h-indexes (as secretly everyone does).

Sports is another matter. Rankings are all modern, and critics do not shy away from choosing favourites. I live in Canada, and, moreover, hockey is a sport at which Canadians excel. Consider the number of Canadians on the all-time points list (only 3 of the top 20 are from other countries). Roughly half of the league is Canadian; it was notable when at the 2015 season debut, it was revealed slightly less than half of the NHL was Canadian the first time, ever. Hence we dominate both in quality and quantity.

Since I am more familiar with Canadian geography than other places, I chose NHL to use as an example finding out, where exactly does the talent come from.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Update, etc

It appears I haven't been writing much lately. But appearances, they do deceive sometimes. Long story short: I got offered a chance to be part of the Canadian Running Magazine online posts.

I've already written print pieces for them, but soon I'll have my name added to their blog roll too.
UPDATE: here is is. It's not a full-time gig, but it does give me incentive to stay on schedule. I tend to thrive on deadlines, and wither without.

If all goes to plan, the piece I wrote a few days ago will appear on their homepage (about correlations between indoor race times and XC). I'll then upload my version of the same piece later on. There will be a lag between the two, but eventually there will be no difference save for the latest post.

My life is relatively simple by most standards. Although my take on running is perhaps more complex. Unlike most bloggers encamped in the field of training or pure analytics, I'm somehow part of each. By example, I'm racing an indoor 3000m tomorrow, but today I'm playing with data.  So it goes. They feed well off each other, and somehow running analytics comes easily to me.

What will I write about for CR? Perhaps regional and temporal trends in Marathon Canada's data. Looking forward to the running USA 2015 annual report (coming in March). I'm interested in learning more about drugs and doping, though finding good data there is a challenge. And I want to try more joggling this year.

What I will do is continue browse the world of athletics data, seeking interesting tidbits. A distraction of late is my interest in markets and stocks. There's so many numbers and I've never explored them much until now. With markets down across the board and the Canadian dollar undervalued (compared to its PPP), seems like an interesting time to invest. Mostly it's a new curiosity, and partly practical planning the future. Nevertheless, it won't stop me from writing here. Cheers.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Chicago marathoners: where do they come from?

In an apparent mini-series of marathon maps, today I plotted the travel origin for runners of the 2014 Chicago marathon. I colour-coded separately for states, Canadian provinces, and international countries. Hover over each region to find out how many travelled from that location in order to race.

Why did I choose the Chicago marathon in particular? Two reasons:

1) It's a large, international-friendly race, which makes such a global map worth plotting

2) There's a comprehensive Google spreadsheet for all the data, which is not always easy to find.

I'm not sure if you can learn anything too deep from this data. I was maybe a little surprised just how many racers are local; 42% of all Chicago marathon runners come from the state of Illinois. On an international scale, an unexpectedly large contingent of Brazilians came to race (361), more than from any single European country. No jet lag, which is a plus, but I thought those from Brazil had tougher visa conditions than Europeans to travel stateside, but perhaps that doesn't matter for a race like this. Also there are many marathon races to choose from in Europe, with comparatively fewer in South American cities. Anyhow, it reminds me I'd like to go visit Argentina again sometime soon.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

A global map of major marathons

Using a newly-uncovered online tool called CartoDB (thanks Alex!), I assembled a map of all the marathons available at arrs.net based on location and number of participants (in 2014). Some have a participation number of '0' because the actual number wasn't available to me.

My criteria was a minimum 50 500 runners, and/or a winning time (male) of 2:40-ish. I've included marathons that don't fit this criteria if they happen to be in an interesting place (such as Easter Island). Certainly there's also a few I've missed. Among those listed, it's surprising how many marathons can be found deep inside Siberia. Conversely, only a handful of registered marathons exist in the Rift Valley a.k.a. the heart of running. Might one even claim an inverse relation to marathon density and local talent?

Since it did not take much additional effort, I also included PM2.5 concentrations (μg/m3) at each marathon location. The WHO determined breathing values higher than 25 μg/mare 'less than ideal'. Perhaps factor that into your next 'destination' marathon (and if you'd like to see more discussion and a ranked list of clean-air marathons, check out the piece I wrote for Canadian Running).

Without further ado, here's the map. Click on individual races to get more info.

In case the above map does not survive, here's a static image: