Thursday, 27 May 2010

Predicting Race Times Through Curve Fitting

You will find many race time calculators on the web, which will ask you to enter your time for a specific distance and you will get back the predicted race times for various distances. More often than not, the race times predicted are either too high or too low than what you observe in real life.

Take me, for example. My best 10KM time is 48:48. If I enter this into the race predictor, the predicted race times which I get are:

5 KM - 23:26
Half Marathon - 01:47:35
Full Marathon - 03:46:58

Whereas my best times for these distances are

5 KM - 23:06 (predicted race time higher)
Half Marathon - 01:51:23 (predicted race time lower)
Full Marathon - 04:50:26 (predicted race time significantly lower)

These race predictors take one race time and apply a formula to get all race times.

Taking the same race times which I had:

Distance Hours Minutes Seconds Equivalent Minutes
5 0 23 6 23.1
10 0 48 47 48.78
21.1 1 51 23 111.38
42.2 4 50 26 290.43

Table 1: Race Distances and Times

 Now if I take that data and plot it, here's what I get:

Figure 1: Distance Vs Time According To Race Times

The blue curve which you see in the above chart, is a polynomial curve which has been fitted onto the data points (race times). The curve is in fact almost a perfect fit, the R-Squared value being 0.99.  

The formula for the polynomial curve is:

 y = 0.0799x2 + 3.3858x + 5.2075

Armed with this perfect formula, I thought I could predict race times for any distance. So I fired up IDLE and started putting in values:

>>> def CalculateTime(distance):
    time = .0799 * (distance**2) + (3.3858*distance) + 5.2075
    hours = math.floor(time/60)
    mins = math.floor(time%60)
    sec = int((time - math.floor(time)) * 60)
    print str(hours) + " hours " + str(mins) + " minutes " + str(sec) + " seconds"

>>> CalculateTime(10)
0.0 hours 47.0 minutes 3 seconds
>>> CalculateTime(12)
0.0 hours 57.0 minutes 20 seconds
>>> CalculateTime(21.1)
1.0 hours 52.0 minutes 13 seconds
>>> CalculateTime(42.2)
4.0 hours 50.0 minutes 22 seconds

Everything looks as expected. So I thought, let's predict other times, say for a 50K...

 >>> CalculateTime(50)
6.0 hours 14.0 minutes 14 seconds

That seemed reasonable. So what about shorter distances?

>>> CalculateTime(5)
0.0 hours 24.0 minutes 8 seconds
>>> CalculateTime(3)
0.0 hours 16.0 minutes 5 seconds
>>> CalculateTime(2)
0.0 hours 12.0 minutes 17 seconds
>>> CalculateTime(1)
0.0 hours 8.0 minutes 40 seconds

Woah! According to this model, I will be doing my 5K at a slower pace than my 10K and if I were running a 1K, I would be walking?!!

Not satisfied, I tried fitting other curves -- exponential, power, linear. But none actually gave me reasonable predictions across distances.

The polynomial curve was the only one which gave the relatively better predictions, but only for distances greater than 10KM.

The only place where I can use the polynomial formula, would be to define a lower limit of performance in a race or, in other words, the least expected time.

Which leads me to the conclusion that you can't reliably predict race times through mathematical formula. What a waste of time!

Monday, 24 May 2010

Sunfeast 10K 2010: Race Report

The Sunfeast 10K 2010 went mostly according to plan. I finished the race in 48:48 which translates to an average pace of 4:51/KM.

My goals were as follows:
  1. Finish -- Pass
  2. Get a personal best (beat 50:36) -- Pass
  3. Finish Sub-50 min -- Pass
  4. Finish Sub-48 min -- Fail
I was there at the race venue (Kanteerava Stadium) at around 7:30 AM. The Open 10K was scheduled to start at 8:10 AM, shortly after the elite women's start. By that time I had managed to get myself very close to the holding area gate. This was essential because last time I was far back in the holding area and it took me quite a bit of time to get to the start line, due to which I was dodging the crowd for most of the run.

When the gate opened there was a lot of pushing and shoving. Like last year, people did jump the fencing and come on to the track. When the race was officially started, there were a bunch of people who, with the pushing and shoving going on, fell on the track. Although, I don't think any of them got seriously hurt.

The weather was cloudy before the start of the race. It seemed that we will be racing in ideal conditions. But as soon as the gates were opened and the race started, the sun came out and it remained hot for the entire duration of the race.

I stuck to my target pace for the initial stage of the race and didn't take water for the first 5 KM. Things started getting a bit tough between the 5 and 6 K mark, where we had to deal with a slight gradual incline. When I started getting side-stitches, I decided to try what Paula Radcliffe does when the pain starts: count backwards from 100. 

I kept the counting going till the last stretch. I was pretty drained out towards the end and couldn't manage a final sprint.

Regardless, a good race.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Obtaining Transcripts from Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) -- How-TO

Update  September 18 2014: The original blog-post was written close to four years back. Things have changed since then. However, a lot of you have provided vital knowledge in the comments. Please look at the comments for the latest information.

This post contains details regarding the procedure for obtaining OTs from CUSAT (the college from where I did my engineering). I had a tough time getting my OTs done. This is to help others so that they don't face the same difficulties which I did.

Disclaimer: I have tried to be as accurate with the details, but there could be discrepancies as things change and memories fade. As with all things, rely on your personal judgment. If you mess things up after reading something listed below, don't blame me. I claim no responsibility. That said, if you do find something which could be corrected, let me know.

For those who don't know transcripts or Original Transcripts or OTs are official documents which you will need for higher studies. OTs will contain all your degree marksheets in a sealed envelope, with each marksheet signed and sealed by the university. You will need to mail the OTs to the (foreign) university where you want to pursue higher studies. OTs are something which you absolutely need for pursuing an MS in U.S.A.

So without further ado, here is the procedure.

1. Getting Into Administrative Block

The OTs are made by a collaboration of people, all of whom sit in the Administrative Block (from hereon referred to as ADM). The people concerned are the examination controller, the accounts department, registrar, and a host of other people.

In order to gain audience with said people, you need to first enter the ADM. If you have never entered ADM, know that you first need to get something called a gate pass. The gate pass is issued to you by the security personnel present at the room to the right of the ADM gate.

Note: You need to carry a valid proof of Identity to obtain the gate pass.

Once you get the gate pass, you will sign in a register and be allowed to go inside.

2. Meeting the Examination Controller

Once inside your first course of action should be to meet the examination controller (EC). The examination controller's office is on the 1st floor of ADM, towards the right. You will need to carry an application, requesting for OTs. The application should contain the list of universities, where you are applying to, and their respective addresses. Some universities require you to send 2 sets of OTs. If so mention both addresses.

You should show this application to the EC. Let the EC review the application. Once done, the EC will ask you to pay the required amount of cash.

Note: If you are requesting the OTs on behalf of somebody else, you will need to carry an authorization letter and the application for OTs. 

3. Paying Cash

CUSAT only accepts cash for OTs (I'm not sure about DDs). No cheques. No online transfer. So carry the required amount and a little more. The cash required when I got my OTs done in November 2009 was

  1. Single OT - Rs 1200
  2. Two sets of OTs to the same address - Rs 1200 + Rs 600
Note: If the two sets of OTs requested by the foreign university are to be sent to different addresses, then the cost is Rs 2400 and not Rs 1800. 

The cash counter is on the ground floor. Give the application, which you showed to the EC, to the person at the cash counter. (S)He will go through it and calculate the amount which needs to be paid. Ensure that this is the same amount which you calculated. If it's less than what you calculated, be wary and check again.

Once you pay the amount, you will be given a receipt. Safeguard this receipt. Scan it.

4. Meeting the Examination Controller, once again.

After getting the receipt, you should go to the examination controller (on the 1st floor if you remember). Show the EC the application and the receipt once again. Let the EC review it once again. If it's up to the EC's satisfaction, (s)he will stamp it and ask you to proceed towards J-Block.

5. J-Block

The J-Block is on the same floor and is a room which will remind you of the stereotypical government office. You will not see a single computer in sight and the whole room is full of files, files, and more files. You should find out the people who are responsible for your branch's transcripts and hand over the stamped application to them. They will take it from here and get your OTs ready. Be sure to get their phone number and an expected date when the OTs will be done.

But wait, this is not all. There is more, much more, to do.

6. Follow up

Just because you wrote an application and paid money, doesn't mean that your OTs will get done automatically. No. You have to follow-up. Call the university at least weekly once to get the status of your OTs.

7. Mailing the OTs

Most Indian universities which I know of, hand over the OTs directly to you. And you are expected to post the OTs to the respective foreign universities. Not so in the case of CUSAT.

CUSAT chooses to mail the OTs using regular Indian post! If you choose this method, there is no way to track the status of your OT package when it is in transit. There is a high chance of it getting lost as well. Instead I would suggest you courier it. CUSAT does provide an option to courier the OTs. But that too has its intricacies.

You can only courier your OTs through DHL.

So once the OTs are ready, you or your authorized representative has to go inside ADM and go to the people who have your OTs. Carry the cash receipt (section 3). Then you call the DHL courier chap and ask him to come to ADM.

Once he has come in, you can ask the ADM folks to hand over the OTs to the courier. Each package will cost you around Rs 1000/-

Only once you have handed over the OTs to the courier, is your job done.

8. Other Tips
  1. Apply for the OTs as early as possible. Expect the university to take 2 months to process your OTs. 
  2. Be polite and courteous to the people in ADM. Shouting at them is not going to get your job done any faster.
  3. Get in touch with someone who has gotten their OTs done recently and get details from them.
9. Conclusion

Getting your OTs done from CUSAT is a character building experience. I hope this how-to helps you and makes your experience smoother. Although be prepared for surprises. The world would be a much duller place without them.

Update: 18 Novermber 2010.
A commenter (Rahul) has provided more information regarding this process. I have listed down the points presented by him.

1. You need to write a letter to the examination controller, stating your intent to apply for OTs. Please write all relevant details (including your Name , Registration no, University name and address and your own address) in this letter.

2. Get a xerox of your s7 and s8 mark list (applicable for B-Tech students).

3. As soon as you enter the main building, on the left, there will be a cash section. Deposit the money (Rs 1200 per OT). Collect the challan.

4. Climb up the stairs and come to 1st floor. On the right, you will find examination controller's cabin where a couple of people sit.

5. Submit :
a. s7 and s8 mark list.
b. Application letter.
c. chalan.

Examination controller will verify the said documents, staple them and place a stamp on these documents. Remember to keep a copy of chalan for yourself (the cash counter should have given you two copies; so you don't have to worry).

6. Insist the examination controller you want to personally hand over these docs to the J-section. Take the stamped documents and submit them to the staff in the J-section.

7. Call the J-section once a week and follow up. Please email  rahulilr05 [at] Google's Mail Site [dot] com if you need the contact number of the J-section.

Update: 10 October 2011.

A commenter (Thomas) added this useful piece of information on getting transcripts directly in your hand.

To get the sealed envelopes in your hand rather than sending them directly, you need to fill up the following form.

Thomas: "I need to call the university to verify the exact procedure for this though."


Sunfeast 10K 2010: Prologue

Another edition of Sunfeast 10K is staring at us. This might very well be my last Sunfeast 10K for a long time to come.

1. Race Details

Like last year, the open 10K is scheduled to start at 8:10 AM. The route has been changed a bit.

Figure 1: Sunfeast Open 10K 2010 Race Route

Also, the race cut-off time is 2 hours --10:10 AM.

This year the race organizers have made the timing chip compulsory and due to that the registration costs were more. This means that everyone will be in one big holding area. Last year the people with the timing chips were allowed first on the course. I hope we don't see last year's chaos and commotion, when people started jumping the fence.

2. Controversy

A controversy regarding the Indian elite runners participating in Sunfeast 10K and the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) seems to be brewing. The AFI looks to be discouraging the Indian athletes from participating. An IAF official states:

“All affiliated units, boards, clubs, athletes and officials taking part or associating themselves in any manner with the event will be liable to face disciplinary action, including suspension, as provided for in the AFI constitution.”

Of course, the fact that the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) has recognized and given Sunfeast 10K the gold label doesn't seem to hold much value for the AFI people.

To know more read this article from RunInfinity.

3. Goals

Unlike last year, I haven't been training specifically for the Sunfeast 10K. The training plan which I have been following (Jack Daniel's Blue Plan), is something which is not specifically for the 10K. Regardless, I do have goals. 

  1. Finish
  2. Get a personal best (beat 50:36)
  3. Finish Sub-50 min
  4. Finish Sub-48 min
These goals, I'm ashamed to say, look exactly like my last year's. But at the same time I feel that I'm in better shape than last year to achieve them. In fact the IISc SNT run proves that.

I'm planning to maintain a hard 4:50/KM pace from the very beginning. One thing which is certainly a deterrent to my goals is the huge crowd. I can only hope that I don't have to zig-zag too much.

Let's RUN!