Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

Oakwell Hall parkrun review

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017 | Sport

I try to test up for the week or two before a race. However, as I’m also chasing my Parkrun 250 club (I have a long way to go), I couldn’t resist doing a Parkrun the day before the Leeds Half Maraton.

As I didn’t want to do my usual 10k run there-and-back, that meant driving. And, as I was already in the car, we decided to take the whole family and head over to Oakwell Hall.

As a Parkrun, it’s a mixed bag. The organisation is brilliant. There were loads of volunteers and cake at the end. It was also scenic: probably the most scenic I have done with the exception of Lyme Park. However, on the downside, a lot of it is done on man-made pathways that are only two people wide. Therefore, for the first 2 km, you are constantly being bottlenecked and forced to stop or slow down. It’s two laps, and nobody lapped me, despite me taking it easy.

This is how I did in the Leeds Half Marathon 2017

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017 | Sport

Sometimes, I think it would be fun to run a marathon. Then there are other times. Times such as this, when I have just run a half marathon, and still remember just how painful it was. To do the easy half of a full one.

I completed my first half marathon last year and managed to complete it in 2:28:00. This year I had set myself a base target of 2:15:00 and a stretch target of 58 minutes. It’s quite a range, but I thought if I really want to push myself, I might as well go for a world record.

Favourable conditions

The temperature was a lot kinder this year. Gone was the 25-degree heat. Sunday gave us 17 degrees and some cloud cover.

The other thing I changed this year was the amount of sustenance I took on. Last year I stopped at every water station (I stay stopped, you don’t really slow down as you grab a bottle on the way past) and took on some food as well.

I don’t take anything on on my training runs: I just go out and run for two hours. My training runs are always faster. I also skipped the water station in last year’s Abbey Dash and set a personal best 10k time. So, this year, I avoided all food and skipped one of the water stations.

The result

Drum roll, please… This year I managed it in 2:03:42. That’s the official chip timing, I didn’t get my GPS quite perfect.

Notice how it condescendingly marks the whole thing as a “walk” (I ran the whole thing).

I managed to take a good line: you always end up running further than the actual distance because you are dodging around people. So an extra 150m over 21.1km is pretty small.

Most importantly, I took 24 minutes off last year’s time and beat my target by 11 minutes.

How did I feel about it?

I should be chuffed. But, if I had that ability, I would probably spend far less time stressing and enjoy life a lot more. It was a great time: but if I could just found an extra 4 minutes, I could have broken 2.

I did try. My pace was pretty erratic because of how hilly the course is. However, I did enough to give myself a chance in the first half the race and spent the 3rd quarter chasing down the gap.

But, towards the end, I ran out of steam. For the last 4 km, I was running on empty. I didn’t even notice the people cheering me on the finishing straight.

I’ll get it next year. It’s a race between me and Kipchoge. Who can break 2 first…

How does track cycling work?

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017 | Sport

Did you experience a little confusion when watching the Olympic action at the velodrome last year? I certainly did. So I looked it up. Here are the ins and outs of track cycling.

Road cycling is pretty straight forward. People start at one point and then try and ride to the other point as fast as they can. The one who gets there first is the winner. Things get slightly more complex when there are stages and time trials, but the basic idea remains the same.

This is not so with track cycling. There are different disciplines and whole new skills to be learned with each one. This guide takes you through the most popular.

It’s all about the slipstream

Much like road cycling, being at the front is hard work. You have to move all of the air out of the way. In comparison, if you are sat behind another rider, it is much easier because you can cruise behind in their slipstream. This is critical throughout track cycling.

Team pursuit

In team pursuit, each team has four riders that have to complete a distance of 3km. Each member of the team will take it in turns to ride at the front, doing most of the work, before falling to the back and allowing the next member to take up the strain.

Only three riders need to finish the race. In theory, the team could go the entire race with all four riders. However, often one rider simply cannot keep up with the pace. Or, more often, the team will work tactically so that one rider does an extended spell at the front, burning all of their energy, before allowing the remaining three to finish the race.

Sprint

Spring is a competition between two individual riders. Distances vary but is often three laps of the track. In sprint races, you will often find the riders going very slowly for the first lap or two. The reason is that if the riders went off fast, the rider at the back would tuck into the front rider’s slipstream, save their energy, and then pass them on the final lap.

To prevent this, the front rider will cruise around at a walking pace, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. They will then suddenly rush off, hoping to catch the other ride unprepared. The other ride attempts to keep close enough to perform the undertake, often riding around the top of the track so they can rush down for a sudden gain of speed.

Keirin

Kieran is a race of 2km. However, for the first three-quarters of the race, the riders follow an electric bike around the track and must keep behind. The bike gradually increases in speed before pulling off the track near the end of the race, at which point it is a free-for-all.

Omnium

Omnium is the heptathlon of the track cycling world. Riders compete in a series of different races including pursuits, elimination races and time trials. An elimination race is a simple race around the track where the rider at the back is eliminated each lap until a winner is found. Omniums will typically end in a points race. This could be over 100 laps, with points given every 10 for the first four riders.

Start running with Parkrun

Saturday, February 25th, 2017 | Sport

Just going outside and running is simple. But for us adults, we often need something a little more structured to get started. Parkrun is a great option.

If you are thinking about getting started with running, Parkrun is a great way to go. Founded in the UK it was quickly spread to almost every town and is rapidly spreading across the rest of the world too.

So what is it? It is a timed 5km run that takes place every Saturday. It is free, so you can simply turn up and do the run. At most Parkruns there is a huge ability difference between runners: some will complete it in 15 minutes, others will take 50. Everyone goes at their own pace.

As a Yorkshireman, one of the major appeals to me are the free t-shirts. When you reach 50 runs, 100 runs and 250 runs you get access to a special t-shirt for that “Club”. Actually, it is not free, but all you pay for is a few pounds postage. There is also a “25 Club” for those who volunteer as marshals.

Here are the technical details. You register on the website and are given a unique barcode to print out. Take this along with you to the run and when you complete the course a volunteer will scan your barcode so that your time can be sent to you.

Back on the trail

Saturday, February 11th, 2017 | Sport

Between Venla arriving and the nights being cold and dark, I have not been for a run up the canal this year. That changed last week when I finally got out there. It felt good.

My times have really slowed down in January. I went from almost setting a personal best at the first Parkrun of 2017, to struggling to keep it under 30 minutes for the rest of the month. My weight has not changed, so I wonder if Christmas turned all of my muscle into fat. I am hoping that bumping back up to two training sessions a week will reverse this decline.

Super Bowl LI

Thursday, February 9th, 2017 | Sport

Ah, I was so close again! Last year I predicted a Carolina Panthers vs New England Patriots Super Bowl (this was before the playoffs started, not before the regular season). The Denver Broncos beat the Patriots in the AFC championship game to knock me off by one.

This year, I predicted a Green Bay Packers vs New England Patriots. Alas, the Atlantic Falcons convincingly beat the Packers in the NFC championship game to once again knock me off by one result.

Still, it made for a good Super Bowl. The first three quarters were so-so. It looked like the Falcons were firmly in control. But then Tom Brady did a Tom Brady and suddenly we had a game on.

Turn out was good too: six of us, not counting Elina, Venla and Kearny who were all here, but had gone to bed. For once, I managed to make a reasonable amount of food.

NFL: Who are the real franchise quarterbacks?

Saturday, January 28th, 2017 | Sport

The term “franchise quarterback” is thrown around a lot in the NFL. There is an official meaning: teams can use their franchise tag to keep one key player at the club. However, more often when referring to QBs it is used to label quarterbacks who people expect to be at the teams for a long-run without any enforcement.

But who exactly is a franchise quarterback?

Philip Rivers, for example, is probably not the first person to come to mind when you think about the legendary quarterbacks of the NFL. However, Rivers has now been at the San Diego Chargers for 12 years. Only Tom Brady has been at his current club for longer.

Quarterback tenure in data

Below, I have tabled all of the NFL teams and their starting quarterbacks. I have included the year that they joined the club, and the team’s 2016 record.

Note that this is slightly different to the year they became starting quarterback. Many sat on the bench for the first season, for example. However, as it is a measure of how long the teams have kept them around, tracking it from the time they joined the team makes more sense in this instance.

It also does not include how long they have been in the NFL. Alex Smith, for example, was at the San Francisco 49ers for several years before moving on to the Kansas City Chiefs. Again, this makes more sense for what we are discussing.

The data

Team Starting QB Year joined team 2016 record
Patriots Tom Brady 2000 .875
Chargers Philip Rivers 2004 .313
Giants Eli Manning 2004 .688
Steelers Ben Roethlisberger 2004 .688
Packers Aaron Rodgers 2005 .625
Saints Drew Brees 2006 .438
Falcons Matt Ryan 2008 .688
Ravens Joe Flacco 2008 .500
Lions Matthew Stafford 2009 .563
Bears Jay Cutler 2009 .188
Panthers Cam Newton 2011 .375
Bengals Andy Dalton 2011 .438
49ers Colin Kaepernick 2011 .125
Colts Andew Luck 2012 .500
Seahawks Russell Wilson 2012 .656
Dolphins Ryan Tannehill 2012 .625
Redskins Kirk Cousins 2012 .531
Chiefs Alex Smith 2013 .750
Cardinals Carson Palmer 2013 .569
Raiders Derek Carr 2014 .750
Jaguars Blake Bortles 2014 .188
Titans Marcus Mariota 2015 .563
Bills Tyrod Taylor 2015 .438
Buccaneers Jameis Winston 2015 .563
Jets Bryce Petty 2015 .313
Vikings Sam Bradford 2016 .500
Browns Robert Griffin III 2016 .063
Texans Brock Osweiler 2016 .563
Eagles Carson Wentz 2016 .438
Broncos Trevor Siemian 2016 .563
Rams Jared Goff 2016 .250
Cowboys Dak Prescott 2016 .813

Discussion

I was expecting to see some correlation between the length of quarterback tenture and the results of each team. However, this was difficult to fine.

Sure, a lot of the play-off teams have the longest-standing quarterbacks. But then, the Chargers and Saints did not make the playoffs, despite having had the same quarterback for ten years.

Similarly, while there are a lot of rubbish teams with new quarterbacks, there are also the Cowboys, with one of the best records in the NFL, who only replaced Tony Romo, their quarterback since 2003, this year.

Here is the data in a graph:

There is nothing there. As with most of the stats in the NFL it probably suffers from the same critical problem: small sample size. When you only play 16 games per year, and those games only involve 11 minutes of actual play, almost anything can be luck.

49ers record season

Monday, January 2nd, 2017 | Sport

When I started following American football, there was only one sensible choice for who to support: San Francisco is the Mecca of software development, so the 49ers it had to be. As it happens, much like the team’s namesake, I had struck gold. Jim Harbaugh was in charge and doing amazing things.

In Harbaugh’s first three seasons in charge, the 49ers went to the championship game in all of them. He was the first NFL head coach to do this. The second of those saw the 49ers go the Super Bowl and were just one play away from winning the thing.

Then, in 2014, the team went 8-8 and Jed York fired him.

Jim Tomsula was given the head coaching job, while the two highly commended coordinators, Vic Fangio and Greg Roman, both left the team too. The team went 5-11. Tomsula was fired and replaced with Chip Kelly. This had promise. Kelly had taken the Philadelphia Eagles from a 4-12 season to a 10-6 season in which they went to the championship game, before being fired a year later for a still-respectable 7-9 season.

But this year, things have been even worse.

Should Kelly be fired? Well, maybe. But it is worth noting Bill Walsh’s record. Bill Walsh is the greatest 49ers coach of all time. In his ten seasons in charge, he won three Super Bowls. Even Bill Belichick’s record with the Patriots is not that good. What was Walsh’s record the first year in charge? 2-14. It was the equal-worst season ever for the 49ers. But they stuck with it, and it turned out to be the best decision they ever made.

2016 F1 World Championship

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016 | Sport

Yes, I realise I am rather late writing about this. I’ve been busy. Where possible, though, I have tried to make sure that parenting did not get in the way of watching the Grand Prix.

I am glad Nico Rosberg won. He earned it. Hamilton has not had any more reliability problems than Rosberg has. Rosberg does not whine about it, though, he just gets on with the job. He also comes across as a really nice, genuine guy. Slow and steady wins the championship: famously, his father Keke Rosberg (1982 world champion) is one of only two drivers to win an F1 World Championship while only winning one race (the other being Britain’s Mike Hawthorn in 1958).

I am also pleased that he has retired, though. It will save the family arguments. Keke Rosberg was Finland’s first world champion, and as such, Finland considers Nico Rosberg one of their own. However, Nico grew up in Monaco and races under a German flag. Therefore, Elina cheers him on, while I, being British, could naturally never support a German (unlike Finland, we were against Germany in the world wars). It will be nice to have that tension resolved!

Sub-28

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016 | Sport

It has been a good year for running. So far this year I have already smashed a bunch of records. I ran my first half marthon, went sub-60 in the Leeds 10k with an amazing 59:59 and then butchered that in the Abbey Dash with 56:45.

Parkrun has been going well too. My personal best of 28:50 had stood since 2014. However, I beat that in August, setting a new time of 28:11. This was the first time I had gone sub-28 in two years. On the 3rd of December, I beat it again, setting a new record of 27:16.

How? I have no idea. I suspect the timing was off. To take almost a minute off your personal best is suspicious: even if I have taken about 10 minutes off my 10k time this year. How long will this stand for? Probably a while. Though I have managed to repeat a sub-28 time in the two Parkruns since as well.

On Saturday, I am touristing it up at Temple Newsam Parkun, where my dad will be doing his 100th run. My personal best there is 29:29, so that is the target.