Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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Running Math

So it’s just 7 days until my next half marathon and I’m really not sure if I’m going to be able to achieve my goal of a sub-2 hour finsih. I’ve been far more diligent in my training since… well, pretty much since the first half marathon I ever ran. I completed all my hill runs. I’m doing my interval training. I did the long Sunday runs with my running club1. I feel strong and I have improved my pace, but I just don’t know if I’ve improved it enough to reach my goal.

I’m hoping to see this (or better) when I cross that finish line next week:

Image Credit: Posted by Adam Fagen on Flickr.

The thing with races, you see, is that you always run way faster on race day than you do when you are doing a training run. You aren’t even really trying to do it – you are just full of adrenaline and the energy of the crowd takes you away and you start running and you don’t feel like you are running that fast but when you check your pace, you are. When I ran the Hollywood Half marathon I was convinced that the 2:15 pace bunny2 was screwing up, because Alicia and I were way ahead of her and I was thinking “there’s no way we are running faster than a 2:15!” And then it turned out that we were – we finished in 2:09:57!

But the question is, just how much faster do you run on a race than during training? For example, the longest distance that I do in training is 20 km and my 20 km training run this time was 14 minutes quicker than my 20 km training run last June for Scotiabank. My finish time for Scotiabank last year was 2:15:05. Which begs the question: will a 14 minute improvement in my 20 km training run translate into a 15 minute improve on race day?

To try to figure this out, I turn to my old friend, Math. As luck would have it3, I have records of my 20 km training times for my last 7 half marathons (plus the finish times for my last 7 half marathons, of course). Now, I once swore to my MBA stats prof that I would always graph my data, so here’s a graph of said data:

The times are shown in seconds per km (rather than minutes:seconds per km) because despite all the awesome things that MS Excel can do, handling time values is not one of them. As you can see, my pace for my 20 km training time is not a good predictor of my pace on race day. On the plus side, my race pace is *always* faster than my training pace, but it has ranged from a mighty 1:15 per km faster (Scotiabank 2011) to a meagre 0:08 per km faster (Edge to Edge Tofino half marathon, of the horrible hills and knee injury infamy). I run an average of 0:46 per km faster on my races than my 20 km training runs, but given the aforementioned wide spread of the data, I wouldn’t take that average to be a good predictor Moreover, I hope it isn’t, because if I run my race next Sunday at 45 seconds faster than my 20 km training run, I’ll finish the half marathon in 2:13, which is despairingly slow.

Just to be sure that the graph wasn’t misleading me, I ran a linear regression analysis and found there is not, in fact, a statistically significant linear relationship between my 20 km training time and my pace time4. I even tried calling the Edge to Edge Tofino half marathon an outlier, so I could remove it from the data set, but there’s still no statistically significant relationship.

So, in conclusion, apparently my 20 km training pace is not a good predictor of how I’ll do next week. There’s just too many other facts at play I guess – whether I was giving ‘er on my training run or not, conditions on race day, whether the race route is insanely hilly à la Edge to Edge or a beautiful net downhill like Scotiabank5.

Something that Daniel taught me that he does with his races is having not just one goal, but a staged series of goals. If you only set a goal that you know you can achieve, then you aren’t going to have to push yourself to achieve it. But if you only set a goal that is really, really hard to achieve, you run the risk of not being able to appreciate what you do achieve because you didn’t reach that single, really tough goal that you set for yourself6. So I’m going to go into this race with three staged goals:

  1. a sub-2 hour half marathon – This is my ultimate goal. As described above, I don’t know if I will achieve this, but I don’t think it’s totally out of the realm of possibility7.
  2. a new personal best. My current PB Is 2:07:23, so I don’t acheive a sub-2 hr but I do better than 2:07:23, I willl be happy.
  3. finish. Even if I don’t set a new PB, it will still be an accomplishment to finish a half marathon. And given that this is my 12th half, I think finishing an even dozen of these races will be an accomplishment to be proud of.

Footnotes:

  1. Except for a few weeks where I have something else going on on Sunday morning, in which case I completed my long runs on my own at another time. []
  2. i.e., the person who runs at the pace that will result in finishing the race in 2 hrs 15 mins. Races have people like this for all sorts of different paces, so if you want to achieve a specific finish time, you can run with the corresponding pace bunny. []
  3. Where by “luck”, I mean, my nerdy habit of keeping records of everything. []
  4. I was hoping, before I started this, that I’d find a statistically significant relationship and then I could use the equation of the line to predict my finish time! Math, you have dashed my hopes! []
  5. Happily, next Sunday’s race route is also net downhill! []
  6. I’ve seen this happen before where someone sets a stretch goal and though they didn’t quite reach it, they really improved over their last race, yet they are sad at the end of the race and can’t enjoy the fact that they set a new personal best or took at a good amount of time off their previous race. []
  7. Unlike the last few times where I started training with a sub-2 hour goal, but wasn’t really diligent in my training and knew by race day that I would not be anywhere near that. []

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National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week

Did you know?

  • In Canada, you are 5-6 times more likely to need a donated organ than be eligible to donate one.
  • An organ donor can save up to 8 lives!
  • 230 Canadians die while waiting for an organ donation every year.
  • Although 91% of Canadians say they support organ donation, but only 44% have signed up to be a donor.

It is National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week, so I urge you to consider signing up to be an organ donor. When you die, you can’t take your organs with you, but you can prevent up to 8 people from joining you in death by the simple act of registering your intent to be an organ donor.

If I or one of my loved ones ever finds myself in need an organ transplant, I’ll be hoping that other people have made their desire to be an organ donor known. So it only seemed fair that I sign up to be an organ donor myself, in case I end up in the situation where I’m eligible to donate and my organs could save someone’s life.

I have two reasons why I feel personally compelled to spread the word about organ donation. First, when I played in the Longest Game of Hockey for CF, I learned a lot about cystic fibrosis, a disease that often results in the need for organ donation. And I met people who were only alive because someone had donated a set of lungs and I met people who knew that, at some point, they too would need an organ donation to keep them alive. These were all amazing individuals who deserve a chance to live their lives.

The second reason I feel compelled to promote organ donation was because of the comfort it gave to my family when we were able to donate my dad’s eyes after his death. Though my father died in the type of circumstance where he would have been eligible to donate organs (in hospital as a result of Neurological Determination of Death)1 and he had made his desire to be an organ donor know, he was unable to donate any organ other than his eyes because he had metastatic cancer and the risk was too great that the cancer could have spread to his organs.)). But he was eligible to donate his eyes and when we received the phone call from the Trillium Gift of Life Network asking for the donation, it brought us great comfort in a very sad time to know that my dad’s generosity would give three people the ability to see who would otherwise be blind.

In addition to the need for organ donors, there’s a need for blood donors. This is something that I struggle with because while I’m healthy and eligible to give blood, I’m a big baby when it comes to someone putting a needle into my arm and taking my blood. It’s not that I’m afraid of it hurting – I know that it doesn’t actually hurt that much at all. It’s just that as soon as the needle comes near me and I start to think about blood pumping through my veins I get seriously queasy. Like ready-to-vomit, curl-and-in-a-ball queasiness. And I get that even for a routine blood test where they are going to take just a tiny vial. The idea of sitting for an extended period of time while my blood pumps out of me long enough to fill up a giant bag… it really freaks me out. But on the other hand, people need blood! Donating blood is actually on my list of 101 things do do and Daniel has offered to go with me and donate too. National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week has reminded me that I really should get on that!

Sources of data cited in this posting:

  1. Apparently, only 1% of people actually die in the circumstances required to be able to donate. []

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Doing All The Things!

So apparently I’ve decided to do all the things, which means that I have eleventy billion things to blog about and no time in which to write said blog posting1, which can only mean one thing. It’s time for a bullet list! List all the bullets!

  • Both my teams’ winter hockey seasons have come to an end. My Burnaby team got knocked out of the playoffs yesterday, but we made a decent showing in both of our playoff games and besides, this was a rebuilding year. My Coquitlam team made it all the way to the finals and lost a heartbreaker in OT.
  • Speaking of hockey, remember the beginning of the NHL season when I joined a fantasy hockey league? As it turns out, I abandoned all gimmicks after week one and actually changed my picks each week (it’s the kind of pool where you get to pick new players each week) and would you believe that actually putting effort into it, rather than being goofy, resulted in me winning the pool? Now I am the proud owner of all the bragging rights!
  • Also, speaking of hockey, I’m taking another set of hockey lessons. I signed up for a class called “Shoot to Score” and based on this description: “The Shoot to Score program is designed for adults wanting to exclusively improve their scoring ability. The program will incorporate skating, passing and puck control but a major emphasis will be placed on developing a players wrist shot, snapshot, back hander, slap shot, one-timer and shooting while in motion“, I made the silly mistake of thinking that I’d be learning to shoot the puck. Instead, the class is being taught as “forward” class, with the other half of the rink being “defenceman” class and then at the end of the lesson they put the two groups together and run drills against each other. I’m a bit disappointed, because I really wanted to work on my shot, which is terrible, but I am learning a bunch of stuff that I think will improve my game, so I’m still going2.
  • Speaking of lessons, our salsa dance instructors told me that I’m good enough to move on to level “Intermediate 2”3! We are just at the start of our third set of “Intermediate 1”, so I think that’s pretty good, as they actually have 4 different sets of “Intermediate 1” classes that people can go through. The problem, however, is that our instructors don’t offer “Intermediate 2” on a night that we are available, so we have to hope that in the next set of lessons, they switch up the nights or we may need to find a new dance studio.
  • Speaking of working on stuff, I’m just 17 days away from my next half marathon4! Since my usual running partner, Alicia, isn’t running this race with me, I decided to sign up for a Sunday morning running clinic that was set up to train for the BMO half, so I’d have people to run with, as the long runs start to get a bit boring by the end of the training if you don’t have company. The group is run out of Fit First in Burnaby (the same place I did my running study) and I’ve enjoyed having company to run with5.

    Here’s a photo of my running clinic group – aren’t we a good looking group?

    I have more to say about my training, but I think that I’ve got a whole blog posting on that (spoiler: there’s a spreadsheet involved!), if only I can find the time to write it. I will say that my ambitious goal, which I’m not sure I will be able to achieve, is to run a sub-2 hr half marathon, which has been on my “to do” list since forever and is currently sitting my list of goals for 2015.

  • Speaking of my “to do” list, I’ve completed yet another item off my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days: #64: Go on a Paddle Wheeler cruise down the Fraser River). Daniel and I went on this cruise last Friday and we had a really good time. We tried to take a selfie that I could put in this posting, but could not get anything even halfway decent (at least in part because I didn’t think to take a photo until after we’d gone out on the ship’s deck in the rain and my hair becomes a complete rat’s nest at the slightest sign of a drop of water). Also, by sheer coincidence, a woman from our salsa dancing class was there with a bunch of her friends, and while there was no salsa music, we all had lots of fun hitting the dance to some old school tunes mixed with some current hits.
  • And speaking about my 101 list, I’ve also knocked #7 – “Be written about in the New Westminster Record” off the list, with this article about the Arts Council of New West, where I happen to be on the board of directors. I really like the photo we had taken:

    For the record, I didn’t know everyone else was going to be wearing black, grey or blue when I chose a red shirt!

  • And also speaking of my 101 list, I have just booked a trip to Halifax in May, which will knock #46 – “Go to Nova Scotia” off that list and will leave me just one province short of having been to all the provinces in Canada6. I’m going to a conference in Halifax to present some of my research, which will be fun. I’ll also get to stop by Toronto on my way home to visit the fam for a few days, which will be awesome. And, as it so happens, I’ll be there for my nephew’s birthday party, which will be doubly awesome!
  • Speaking of trips, Daniel and I have registered for the Montreal full and demi-marathon, respectively, in Montreal in September. So I’ll get to see some family then too, as I have family who live there and my mom plans to go there while we are there too.
  • And speaking of seeing my family, my sister is coming to present at a conference in Vancouver in June and my mom is going to join her for the trip. The kitties are very excited to see their grandmother again and to meet their Aunt Nancy!
  • And finally, speaking of people visiting, I get to see Sarah on Sunday, as she is going to be in Seattle, so I’m going to drive down there to hang out! So excited!

So, as you can see, I am clearly doing all the things and I haven’t even talked about, you know, work, teaching, and various other gadding about that I do. I also hear there’s this cool thing called “getting enough sleep” that I’d totally love to check out someday, if I can only find the time!

  1. As a microcosm of my doing all the things, while writing this blog posting, I’m also doing laundry, doing dishes, baking cherry squares for the bake sale that my office is having tomorrow, watching the Winnipeg Jets v. Anaheim Ducks playoff game and being kneaded on by Crick. Oh, now I’m being climbed all over by Crick. Crick is really turning into quite the lap cat, especially when I’m trying to type something. []
  2. Incidentally, if anyone knows of any good classes where I can actually learn to shoot the puck, let me know! []
  3. Daniel’s done Intermediate Level 2 before, so it’s just been me that needed to develop my skills a bit more so we could move on []
  4. The BMO Vancouver []
  5. Though to be totally honest, I really miss running with Alicia! []
  6. Newfoundland, I will conquer you one day! []

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Goals for 2015 – check in

A blog posting over on Rick’s blog reminded me that it’s the end of Q1 for 2015 and this a good time to check in on how I’m progressing on my 2015 goals!

My first 4 goals were running related:

  • run 2 half marathons – I’ve registered for (and am actively training for) the BMO half on May 3 and just today I registered for the half at the Rock’n’Roll Montreal in September!
  • run a sub-2 hr half marathon – I’m hoping to achieve this as-of-yet elusive goal at BMO, but if I don’t, I’ll just re-double my training efforts and try to do it in Montreal.
  • run 800 km – So far, I’ve run 236 km – or 29% – of this goal. And we are 25% of the way through the year, so I’m on track for this one.
  • add 5 new medals to my collection – The only races I’m scheduled to do so far are the two halfs, plus I signed up for this “virtual run”, because I’m totally addicted to race medals. I signed up for the Hot Chocolate 5 km and was really excited that I was going to get a hot chocolate-shaped medal… until I discovered that it conflicted with my hockey playoffs! So I gave my bib to a friend1 to run in my place. So I’ve got 3 medals lined up, but I still need to find two more medal-bearing races at some point during this year!

There’s a few goals on which I’ve made no progress (including the 100 pushup challenge, writing a will, applying for a research grant, organizing all my closets2 and losing the last 5 lbs of my MBA weight3.)

I’m well on my way to the goal of “pay off 7.5% of my mortgage principal”4, and I’ve made 14 of the 15 new food/drink items that I aimed to make in 2015! I’ve also completed 3 items from my 101 list (with 2 more items booked to be completed in the next 2 months), so I’ve at least made a dent in trying to knock 15 items off my list. I’m just barely achieving my goal of “Bring lunch to work more often than I buy lunch at work”, with having brought lunch on 53% of my workdays so far this year5. I’ve achieved “set up a new investment plan”, so it’s nice that I have one thing totally completed!

As for my goal of writing 115 blog postings, well, this one will only be my 14th blog posting this year! Yikes! It’s not like I have a lack of ideas of things to write about, but just that I never seem to find the time. Speaking of which, how exactly is it April already??

  1. Who shall remain nameless so as not to implicate said friend in having been a race bandit! []
  2. I didn’t even remember that was a goal until I just did this check in! []
  3. Though I seem to be holding steady where I am and can fit into a pair of jeans I haven’t been able to wear for quite some time! []
  4. I’m at 3.34% of my principal paid off in 2015 so far, and am planning to put my tax return and more of my teaching money towards it, plus the amount of principal I pay off with my regular payments. []
  5. I really need to improve on this one! []