This weekend’s 5-miler run takes us through the beautiful Lakeview Cemetery.  (Aside: I can’t believe how long I lived in Cleveland before discovering it.)

That via Google Earth (with “elevation exaggeration” turned on).  On the left side of this view is Euclid Avenue eastbound (upward), which really means northeast-bound, as we align to the lakeshore in these parts.  Parallel to it is the ridge that separates the Heights from the city.  It’s the ridge that provided most of our run elevation, too.

Baby names

(Though it’s not the names of babies I’m concerned about, so much as their name when they grow up.)

The SSA website has some simple data queries for names. (I’d prefer access to the raw data and wonder if that’s also available online.) Julian was born in 2007, and part of our goal was to pick a name that wasn’t outlandish, but also wasn’t all that popular. We settled on the 65th-most popular name given to boys in that year (in the US). I think we’re catching an upward trend: Of course, this is rank (i.e. “200” means the 200th most popular name), so increased popularity is down. I’d prefer to plot “% of total boys given that name”, if I could figure out how to extract that.

I’m surprised that there’s only a factor of 3 difference between the most popular name (Jacob, in 2007 just over 1% of all boys) and Julian (about 0.3%). Anecdotally, it seems like everyone has a Jacob, Michael or Ethan, and I don’t think I’ve met another J in his generation. Perhaps they’re all in a different demographic, together on a distant social island.

For boys, the popularity decay constant over rank is at 52 (that is, the 52nd-most popular name is 1/e (37%) as popular as the 1st), suggesting that (in the first moment, at least) there is more variety in boys’ names than girls: for girls, the 30th most popular name is 1/e as popular as 1st. Or, slicing another way, the 65th most popular girls name (Jennifer) was a factor of 5 less popular than number 1. I’m sure the Freakonomics guys have a theory about the difference in distribution, perhaps having to do with sex equality and Ivy League admissions.

Obligatory chill post

I seem to be the slowest among local bloggers to comment on our chilly weather. But, I haven’t seen anyone else present their observations around Friday lunch-time in graphical form. The data are from a nearby PWS via wunderground, but match a few points from my garage-mounted sensor. In related news, I’ve been trying internet radio as background to housework and building towers out of oversized Lego. Aside from Car Talk this morning via the WCPN feed and the WGBH classical stream, I also have Kent State’s Folk Alley channel and [1] on my bookmarks list so far.

[1] Admittedly, I added that one before I even listened to it. But, I did keep it there after switching it on.

Cleveland marathon

On Sunday I ran the Cleveland marathon, my first attempt at that distance. In short, I survived it reasonably well, finishing the race in 4:07, not far from my “A” goal of four hours. I finished the morning happy with the results of my training and under the impression that ratcheting up my performance the next time around (ahem!) will be quite feasible.

Supergolf slid into a probably-legal [1] street spot a bit after 6:00 for a 7-am start. There was still lots of close parking available; we camped out and watched a medium-sized downpour. (I must have been in a triathlon mindset where arriving an hour early is pushing it; setup here consisted only of pulling on runners and sauntering into the madding crowd.) 50F would have been about perfect without the rain, but I generate heat pretty well, so I stuck with my planned outfit: an ancient EMS tech T and my cheapo Adidas outlet-store shorts. This was the largest race mob I’ve encountered; the marathon and half-mary started together with about 6000 runners. I was surprised how quickly the herd spread out to leg-extending distance after the bell; it took me almost 3 minutes to reach the starting line, but was up to a full stride shortly thereafter.

The rain eased up after only a few minutes; as I recall, it was still sprinkling at the mile 2 water stop (enough for an easy joke about getting wet from careless cup-throwers), but not much thereafter. It remained pretty cloudy for 90 minutes or so, then ambient brightness increased slowly from there. The first couple of miles were downtown and semi-jovial; I passed lots of people (as usual, I started too far back) and trashbag-poncho-wearing wimps chatted while transforming their gladware into slippery road hazards. From downtown, the race continued onto the (closed to traffic!) Route 2 Shoreway, a stretch of elevated freeway with nice views of Lake Erie, the flats district and the Cuyahoga River. I don’t remember any of that; I do remember that the pavement was grooved parallel to my direction of travel (with approximately eight grooves per width of my left shoe), the painted lane markers were still slick from the moisture, and my passing-to-being-passed ratio was between six and seven. This is typical: miles 4-5 are difficult, then my legs would start to get into their long-run groove.

And, they did. By the time we came down from the highway, past Edgewater and into Lakewood I was in a running mood. I lived between 8:30 and 8:45 for the next several miles, passing a few more people, but I’d found about the right pace surroundings by this point. There was a good crowd gathered at and around the turnaround at W. 117th (we had run West from downtown, then went South a block and turned East to run along a parallel road back toward the city). I had been running with Nic until I took a short break for weight optimization near mile 5, but caught back up with him and Emily at about mile 9, as we approached the Detroit Rd. bridge back into downtown.

Somewhere amongst obsessively checking my Garmin for pace (and playing the game where I check my circulating O2 partial pressure by seeing how long it takes to calculate my average pace from total time and distance) during this interim, I thought about how much sexier my ankle muscles were than at the beginning of my training in January: another indication that my brain had switched from glucose as a fuel source to that funny steam coming up from vents in the street. I have put my ankles to good use, though: I’ve run about 350 miles so far in 2008 [2]; I wonder how much I’ve run in the first 27 years of my life combined? Anyway, I am probably in the best physical shape of my life, and like the idea that I still have lots of room for improvement.

Mile 10, right before the bridge: a small pep band. Blue marching uniforms, shiny Sousaphones, 4/4 arrangements of 70s pop tunes, oh my! They noticed one runner hollering a “Go Band! Yeah!” as we jogged by, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

The half-marathon crowd started to speed up as they approached their turnoff; I sped up a bit, but mostly resisted the herd mentality and looked around for blue bibs to stick near. The trip through downtown was quick, and a few miles later I could see the familiar clock tower of the BRB. Around the art museum and botanical gardens, past CIM and onto MLK we went. MLK was closed to traffic as well (I wasn’t sure, since it has nice paths alongside); most of the street is well-shaded, but the open sections revealed that the sun had come out in full. I chatted with a group of first-timers also timidly still aiming for four hours for much of the MLK leg, and said hello to Janet, with whom I had the fortune of doing a training run a few weeks ago and who would have been far ahead of me under more favorable circumstances. I felt rather not-like-I-hit-a-wall through miles 18 and 19 and made the turn onto the lakeside running path back toward downtown.

At mile 20 I checked my watch for a finishing-time prediction: I had 10k left to run and was just over three hours. I think it took a good mile to synthesize a quotient, during which time I also decided that the likelihood of keeping up my 9-minute pace (9:05 average at the 30k mark) was quickly diminishing. I felt some of the 21-mile wall that marathoners describe, but also found that the headwind threw off my stride a bit. It was time for a few calories (my last 2 clif blocks; I chewed 2 at mile 8 and mile 15 as well) and a water stop. I wasn’t sure if Señor Asthma (my alveolae are Spanish) was bugging me or not, but an albuterol assault helped significantly. So, either I was having trouble or I have a great suggestion for next year’s Tour de France contestants.

[Photo: running back toward downtown, ca. mile 22]

Around mile 22 I walked through a water stop and saw someone quad-stretching by bending their knee and holding their foot up behind them. My oxygen-deprived cingulate cortex said “ooh, that would feel good!”, and before I could intervene my knee passed about 30 degrees of flex and instigated a hamstring cramp the size of, well, my hamstring. Given the options of starting to run again or fall to the ground crying, I elected the former; this worked well, as my the time I’d run through the cramp/pain, I had another mile under my belt.

From there on we were back in downtown. I caught up to Joe H., who also runs with the Lyndhurst Second Sole group and with whom I’d been exchanging cruise-control settings all morning; he was nice enough to wish me luck before taking off. I kept my slow jog until a short uphill near Browns stadium, which I walked, then picked up to “if I’d been running like this the whole time, I’d have finished before breakfast” pace for the last couple of miles through the crowd. The final quarter-mile or so was a straight stretch to the finishing arch; the gratuitously overamplified PA and cheering clumps of spectators or long-finished half-marathoners gave me plenty of energy for a final a tempo stride to the end.

[Photo: the home stretch]
[Photo: almost there]

And that was it [3]. I grinned, I t
hink; it took a few seconds to realize I was in as much non-injury, exercise-induced pain as I’d even been in, but not so much that I minded or doubted for a moment that what I’d done was a bad idea. I clicked ‘stop’ on my watch, grabbed a water and a chocolate milk and wandered into the crowd.

[1] I worry too much; by 30 minutes later cars were parked in much less-legal spots all around us.

[2] For a better training summary, see my training summary graph. I aimed for a (increasingly-long) long run each week, which pops up above the cluster of midweek faster runs. I’ve apparently learned how to run faster as well: a linear fit to the pace for all of those runs reveals that I would have run 5.9 mph on New Years Day and am increasing by 0.006 mph per day. That underestimates my gains, of course, since I would run faster yet if eight miles was still my “long, slow” run, but gives me an excuse to use Excel for a blog post nonetheless.

[3] And, here’s the gmaps view of the course, as reported by my GPS track.

Training 2008-W14

Week 14 already! The marathon is at week 20, so lots of miles yet to log.

I started out the week sore from Sunday’s run, taking Monday to rest and hitting the pool Tuesday for a relaxed 1000 yd plus a few lengths of rotation drills. Swimming felt great, and my breathing was comfortable throughout (nasal cilia: “ahem, except for when you practiced flip-turns”).

On Wednesday I did a lunch run from the office: intervals of 1km, 2, 1, 1 with ~500m jogs in-between. At least, it was close to that. I used the garmin to measure the distances, but have it set statute measurement. I did just fine calculating metric distance and pace in my warmup and first interval, but after my legs starting suctioning available oxygen, my processing speed really slowed down. (I wonder what happens physiologically here — it does seem real: that doing calculations is much more difficult while running quickly when (I presume) I’m running an oxygen deficit. Just lower PO2 up there?) Anyway, according to the GPS output I ended up doing something that looked like intervals after all.

My usual weekend long run group was heading to Strongsville for the CWRRC Spring Classic half marathon, either to volunteer or run. Joining them seemed easier than plotting our my own route (13 miles was on my training schedule anyway), so I pinned on a race number for my first legitimate HM. Conditions were awesome: about 40 when we started and a bit foggy, warming up to perhaps 50 and sunny over the course of the race. The course was a reasonably flat route through the Mill Stream Run metropark: mostly two laps of an out-and-back, so we got to share high-fives a great number of times with colleagues of a different pace.

I covered the first 2/3 of the distance alongside a colleague of similar pace, but then Chris (who had never run 13 miles before – ha!) went superman on us and sped up for a negative split, finishing at 1:46:01. I kept my pace, picking it up a little bit in the last mile (must.. beat.. girls..) to finish in 1:48:10. That’s a PR for me (in the sense that I’ve also never run that fast in training), and a confidence-inspiring official 8:15/mile average, or 8:09 in GPS-land (which measured my run as 13.3, maybe accounting for starting so far back at the beginning, or perhaps I did a lot of drunken swerving after the water stops).

Training 2008-W13

A ‘long run’ week. Two more of these, with shorter-run weeks interspersed, followed by a couple weeks of taper before the upcoming jogging tour of Cleveland.

I did my tempo run Tuesday around SE-L. First shorts weather run of the season (low 40s, little wind), which always feels great and didn’t disappoint. 7.6 miles at 8:40/mile.

For Sunday’s long run, I found mention of a group run in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Sure enough, I show up circa half past six and there are gobs of runners stretching out and finishing their venti joes. More than a handful were there to touch up their training for Boston; fortunately for me, others took a more casual pace, so I had a few opportunities for chatting along the way. 18.1 miles at 9:12/mile “moving pace”, after the Garmin software graciously subtracts my 10-minute pause to shed some layers and load up on albuterol partway through.

Training 2008-W11+12

Last week, some intervals on the (indoor track) Tuesday: 5×800 at 4:00 with 200m jogs in-between. CFWU before, then some jogging afterward, say 4 miles total. I did legs+core strength training on Wednesday, which felt good but put me in the sore house for the balance of the week. Wimpy!

Sunday’s run made up for it, though. 16.3 miles at 9:06. Nice weather: chilly with dry streets. I don’t need any more long runs at that pace; though it felt great at the time, a week later my knees are still a little shaky. Motionbased plotted this pretty histogram of my pace.

This week was a cut-back before the distance-building ladder (ca. 8 weeks to go). 8x400m on the treadmill on Wednesday, then 7 miles Friday and 8 on Saturday, each at about a 10:00 pace.

If I lump last week’s long run in with this week’s runs (Sunday to Saturday), then this is technically my first 35-mile week. But, I won’t.


Actually, we have the English version of the title game, called Power Grid (but Funkenschlag is a much catchier post title).

Here’s the idea: players compete for scarce cities (up to 3 players may occupy a city; any players network of cities must be contiguous), scarce power plants (there are always enough available, but some are better than others) and scarce resources (whose cost changes with availability: e.g. as coal becomes more popular, it also becomes more expensive). A player with a good combination of resources, cities and power plants can make more money, which is used to purchase more of all three in the next round. The only random facet of the game is order of power plants in the face-down stack, but everything else is open and nicely deterministic. [*]

I think a graphical representation of the mathematical model for this game would make nice art.

I thought a simple plot of the bankrolls of each of two players in a two-player contest would give some insight into the game’s progress and eventual outcome, but it does not. I’ll try again when we put together a 5-player contest.

[*] Except for the unpredictable economic choices of follow contestants: ahh, the bane of economists everywhere!