Archive for the ‘new york’ Category

Boston, marathon field caps, and demand

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

I wrote an article for the Boston Marathon official program about the marathon’s historically early registration closing, and the options available to the B.A.A. for tinkering with their entry process. Now that the marathon is over and the paying customers have their copies, I’ll archive a copy here.


Coming attractions

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

A few notes on coming assignments while I struggle to find time to complete other thoughts:

  • I’ll be at the Millrose Games a week from today, January 29th.
  • I’ll also be at the Boston Indoor Games on the 6th of February.
  • Capping that, I’ll be at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Doha in early March, including the IAAF council meeting immediately following. (Fear not, I am in no danger of being given any responsibilities not involving data.)

So far, I haven’t been able to justify the trip to Albuquerque for the USATF Indoor meet, and the NCAA indoor meet, while long a favorite of mine, conflicts with World Indoors.

Lessons from the archives

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

I’m a bit of a pack rat when it comes to some things; I have convinced myself not to preserve, for example, printed results from most meets, but I do try to save my recordings from the mixed zone. My recorder does not come with Macintosh-compatible software, so I patiently play the recordings through 1/8″ audio cable into the microphone jack, re-recording them in Audacity and saving the files as MP3.

Some events produce dozens of short files, and the task is made more tedious by my distaste for listening to my own recorded voice. (“Who is that idiot asking the questions?”) Once I let go of the actual voices, however, I can listen to the rhythm of the meet and learn from the things which aren’t said.

For example, I’m clearing the 2008 Reebok Grand Prix now. I heard myself talking to Reese Hoffa while the crowd roared in the background; I could tell I was trying to show Hoffa that I was really interested in what he had to say, not what was happening on the track.

It’s also interesting to hear the tone of the interviews changing as the meet progresses. Early in a meet, the interviews are long and rambling, because nobody knows yet what the story of the meet will be, and the reporters want to cover all the bases just in case they wind up having to lead with the athlete standing in front of them. Later in the meet, we find one or two long press-conference type recordings which are The Story (can you say Usain Bolt?) and everything around them is brief and perfunctory. This becomes unfortunate when, for example, I dig back in the archives to find out what Linet Masai said after she beat Tirunesh Dibaba in 2009.

I hope this stuff turns out to be useful for someone someday, but right now its lessons for me are mostly secondary.

Athlete of the Year Finalists

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

The IAAF announced the five men and five women who are finalists for the Athletes of the Year this week. You’ll recall that voters were asked to nominate three names, with no restriction on which three (I could have nominated myself) and those were used to select the five finalists.

My male nominees did pretty well, with all three of them making the final five. I named Usain Bolt (how could anyone not?), Kenenisa Bekele, and Steven Hooker. I reasoned that I should limit the pool to Berlin champions and other World Champions (e.g. World Cross) and the major marathon winners. Bekele I named because of his 5,000m/10,000m double in Berlin, a difficult double to manage.

Hooker got the nod partly for the incredible drama of his win in Berlin, but there were other dramatic wins in Berlin. Hooker also had a very impressive indoor season, though, including near-World-Record winning vaults in New York and Boston, and to add to that he’s a great interview and very helpful to the press. Athletes take note: it does pay off.

(The other two finalists are Tyson Gay, who would have had the best 100m season in history if he hadn’t shared it with Usain Bolt, and javelin World Champion Andreas Thorkildsen.)

My nominees on the women’s side were less successful. Only one of my nominees, Poland’s World Record-setting World Champion hammer thrower Anita Wlodarczyk, was a finalist; the other four finalists are Yelena Isinbayeva (yawn), Sanya Richards, Valerie Vili and Blanka Vlasic.

I also nominated Allyson Felix, who like Gay had a very impressive season. Like Richards, Felix won an individual World Championship in Berlin (200m for Felix, 400m for Richards) plus a relay gold (both ran the 4×400m) but unlike Richards, Felix was winning her third consecutive World Championship, and I still think that counts for something.

I also went for a long shot and nominated Linet Masai. Masai’s 10,000m World Championship has been tainted by the bungled officiating at the start, but it was important just the same in breaking the near-total dominance the Ethiopian women have held over the long distance events in the last decade. Furthermore, Masai beat the world record holder in New York in May in an astounding race at Randall’s Island. Maybe she’ll have more chances to be Athlete of the Year, but I think we’ll be remembering 2009 as the year we met Linet Masai.

Now we’ll see how the final selection goes; it will be announced at the Gala next month. The winners will be selected by a much smaller pool of which I am not part, so I’ll know nothing until the press release arrives.

Forecasting a marathon on the fly

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Due to my role for this year’s ING NYC Marathon (about which more later) I decided I needed to be able to extract more information from marathon splits as the marathon is actually happening. I remembered that for previous Boston Marathons, David Monti of Race Results Weekly, doing a similar job to what I’m doing, had a fancy-dan Excel spreadsheet to take splits and project times.

While it’s possible that David added some kind of course factor to his spreadsheet, it seems more likely that he did what I did recently: he made projections based on simple math. For example, they’ve reached ten miles in time X, they have sixteen and two-tenths to run. If they run 16.2 at the pace they ran the last mile, they’ll finish in time Y; if they run it at their average pace for the last ten, they’ll finish in time Z.

I did this for mile splits and for 5km splits, which are the numbers I expect to get in New York. I added some conditional formatting to show me if the leaders were speeding up or slowing down, and if they’re ahead or behind course record pace, using colors. (I suppose if I was really a spreadsheet champion I could use varying shades to indicate how far they were from course record pace.) Adding sheets for the wheelchair athletes will also happen before race day.

I had 5km splits for Robert K. Cheruiyot’s Boston Marathon course-record run handy, so I plugged those in and it worked like a champ.

A sheet which would take a finish time and place and calculate prize money with time bonuses would be pretty cool too, I guess, but it’s not quite as algorithmic–it’s more ahead-of-time data entry. New York does have a deep time bonus structure, and the total prize money package will vary widely depending on how fast the pack runs.

If you have any other ideas of useful and/or interesting on-the-fly calculations, take a look at the sheets and let me know what to add. I did the original work in Calc, and exported to Excel, so I haven’t tested the Excel version. (Here’s the original .ods version.) You are, of course, welcome to use these yourself during whatever marathon you’re watching; you can see the appropriate cell to change to set the course records.

Berlin starts tomorrow

Friday, August 14th, 2009

I had dinner with the team last night, and we checked out our positions in the media tribune this morning. The stadium is, of course, gorgeous, an imposing classical temple from the outside, a soaring modern bowl on the inside. The royal blue track surface colors the whole venue.

We will be encouraging readers of the competition blog to submit comments and questions. I’ll promote some to the front page and answer them on the fly if things aren’t too busy; I may also answer questions without posting the question itself. I’m not sure yet how quickly I’ll be able to check Twitter.

Interesting news over the last week:

  • The IAAF Congress passed a false start rule (or, more accurately, a no-false-starts rule.) I understand why the athletes complain–sometimes you just twitch–but there’s nothing that kills the drama of a sprint final like three or four false starts or so.
  • I’m reading now that the World Cross is going to become biennial. This might be pragmatic but I don’t like it.
  • The Jamaicans tried to withdraw four athletes. Then they withdrew the withdrawl, but only because Diack asked them. Honestly, even the Kenyan federation isn’t that pig-headed: when they yank a top athlete off their team, it’s done months in advance and the replacement is nearly as good. Obviously if Team USA wants to continue global domination, the forward-thinking route is for USATF to become more opaque and arbitrary in order to keep up with the Jamaicans and the Kenyans. (I’m joking, of course.)
  • I can understand that an athlete who’s been injured as long as Paula Radcliffe might want a shakedown race before a championship-level marathon. I’m not sure why she chose a half-marathon one week before Berlin, though. A six-hour time change and, well, a half-marathon with only six days of recovery? Kara Goucher’s chances are looking better and better. (Mikitenko pulling out doesn’t hurt, either.)
  • I tried to go to the Usain Bolt press conference yesterday, but I got bad directions online and couldn’t find the venue in time. Finding one’s way around in this city is like navigating by waves on the ocean; even Google’s maps show streets going where the satellite photos clearly show buildings (and buildings where there currently are none).
  • The Local Organizing Committee is using the most underwhelming tag line in marketing history as the motto of the Championships: “Have a Good Time.” Seriously, that’s it. We asked one of their media staffers about it last night (after the beer but before the ouzo–long story) and he refused to offer his own opinion (good man) but did say it was chosen by a market research firm, which should tell us everything we need to know.

I’ve entered the Media Race, which is on Monday. Rumor has it that Wilson Kipketer is running, and saying he wants to run sub-1:50.

Tyson’s analysis

Monday, June 1st, 2009

I’ve been fascinated recently by how finely sprinters are able to break down their races. I suppose it’s no more surprising than the 1/50 slicing needed to break a 10,000m race down into 200m segments, but I love hearing them talk about plans and goals for 20m segments of a race which lasts less than twenty seconds.

At any rate, there’s a lot of that in my Tyson Gay follow-up on today.

Also, Gay has to rate as one of the most polite athletes to give a press conference. I’ve seen him on-screen looking positively scared of the reporters (in Osaka, after winning) and while he had plenty to say and not much shyness on Saturday, he also started his answers to two different questions (completely sincerely) with “Yes, ma’am.”

Reebok Grand Prix

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

The report on the Reebok Grand Prix was posted this morning. I’ll be emptying out my notebook on Tyson Gay later today for a follow-up.

There were a lot of articulate and likeable women winning races last night. Another quote I haven’t (yet) seen in use, from Carmelita Jeter: “I’m doing better because I have a new coach, and I’m actually listening to him now. It’s not just in one ear, out the other, like it used to be.”

Running in Bolt’s shadow in New York

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

You can find my preview of Saturday’s Reebok Grand Prix on

Millrose, Hooker scares and Nelson’s MoYo

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

I covered the Millrose Games last night.

Of note: a British journalist of my acquaintance commented on the headline’s use of “scare” with a world record as the subject. (I didn’t write the headline.) I don’t have a problem with the personification (anthropomorphization?) of records, myself; in the past I’ve had them celebrate birthdays and get drivers’ licenses to illustrate age.

Also, for those who didn’t read the USATF release word for word, Adam Nelson announced that next year, when his wife has finished law school, they’re moving back to Athens, Georgia to open a yogurt shop. I guess that’s what you do with an MBA and a law degree. The name of the shop will be “MoYo”, because Nelson’s nickname as a child was “Mo”. But the name works even if you don’t know that, and even if Nelson is pulling our collective legs.