Thursday 26 March 2015

I've Bingoing round in circles all day, and all I got was a saggy ball bag

The other day, one of my work colleagues asked me for an example of an innuendo. So I gave her one.

True story (hi Cicik!).

The Bingo Race is rife for naughty punnage. Race Director (and possible psycopath) James Adams and his wife spent the week before the race gently fondling the runners' balls, making sure that their ball bags were nigh on full to bursting. And so followed a week of testicularly-focussed Twitter posts from the man himself, and much giggling from all of the immature children present on the day (i.e. me).

Ball bags swinging in the breeze. C/O James Adams

Scrotums-aside (which incidentally is a good tip for endurance running...), the concept of the race was another psychological mind-fuck from the same deviant mind that brought us the Piece of String Fun Run. Billed as the World's Most Unfair Race (TM), the concept is to put your race finish into the hands of fate. Each runner was given a race bib with three numbers written on it, which were randomly selected from our own personal ball bags the night before. I was reliably informed that said three numbers had been replaced for the race itself, but I did wonder... 

Friday 20 March 2015

Never tell me the odds!

Just a quicky. Being a bit of a stats geek, I was interested to see what the probabilities of finishing the Bingo Race looked like, and how we should expect tomorrow to pan out. As a quick primer, the plan is that we each have our own ball bag (giggle) with 30 numbered balls in. After each lap (about 2 miles each), we randomly select a ball. If it matches one of the 3 balls on our bib, it's ticked off (by which I mean a tick is physically placed over the number, not that the balls are somehow anthropomorphic and a bit miffed to be chosen). If not, we just run another lap and try again. Then we keep going until we have ticked off all three numbers. So we may be finished in 3 laps or it may be 30. Interesting stuff. 

Now to be clear - I really don't care about how many laps I will have to run from a racing point of view. Tomorrow is going to be fun, and in all honesty I would be perfectly happy running for the full 100 Km. I'm looking forward to a nice long run with some good friends, and I'll just run until I stop. Run Stupid (TM), and don't think about things as you go. However, it is quite an interesting question to answer - as you go along, what are your chances of the misery finally being over at the end of the current lap? 

So being a stats geek, I thought I'd have a quick play. I won't go into the details, but in a nutshell I treated this as a ball and urn problem - there are 30 balls in total, 3 of which I want to pick (green) and 27 of which I don't (red). I performed a random "race", where each lap I calculated my probability of pulling out the final green ball this time (using a hypergeometric probability distribution), then randomly chose a ball (using a pseudo-random number generator) and updated the numbers for the next "lap". I repeated this whole process a million times and averaged over all of them to get a good model for any given set of idiots runners. 

Simple. Got it? Good.

This figure shows the probability of completing your set of 3 numbers after the current lap. Obviously this is zero for the first couple of laps, and there is a vanishingly small chance of being done on the third. After each lap the odds improve, but really very few of us will be finished in fewer than 15 laps. In fact, if we look at this in a slightly different way and ask what percentage of finishers we should expect to see at each lap, we see that half of the runners will be running over 23 laps.

The odds don't look good for a quick finish I'm afraid, but honestly that's what I'm counting on! But to everybody else that's running and was hoping to be at the pub quickly - sorry guys! I'll be interested to see how tomorrow actually pans out, and how closely it correlates with these predictions. Obviously it doesn't account for people stopping for other reasons along the way, but I couldn't be arsed including a DNF coefficient in the model. 

Right. Let's play Bingo!

Wednesday 18 March 2015

New training partner

Phew! Well it's been a busy few weeks but it's starting to calm down a bit now. A couple of weeks ago, we finally moved into a new house after about 6 months of waiting, and it's been a bit hectic as you might imagine. But after a week and a half of decorating, ripping out bits of the kitchen, and "fixing" the electrics and plumbing, we're now just about sorted. This has slightly thrown off my training over the last few weeks, but now I can get back to preparing for the Grand Slam later this year. I have about 6 weeks now before the first race begins, the Thames Path 100 (the "easy" one), so should probably think about doing some training...

To be fair, my laziest week is still pretty active. Even on my laziest weeks I cycle about 35 miles a day for work and run 3 or 4 times a week. But it will be good to get back to being able to use my gym (once it isn't crammed with boxes) and not feeling like I can't get a good solid run in as I need to get another coat of paint on the doors. Is there any more thankless task than painting doors?! They replaced all of them which we thought was nice of them, until I realised I had 8 fucking doors to sand, prime and paint. Fun times. 

Anyway, it's all back to some semblance of normality now so hopefully I can get myself in some kind of shape for the race. Since we don't like to do things the easy way, we also got a new dog, Saphie, three days after moving. She has been rehomed from a family who were struggling to deal with her and 3 (soon to be 4) kids, which was perfect for us with our little girl. She is absolutely fantastic with Lottie, and seems perfectly happy to be hugged, cuddled, poked, prodded and ridden like a horse by her. She tends to get a resigned "sigh" look in her eyes that speaks to this being fairly standard for her, but at least she only has to deal with one little human now!

Also, being a husky cross, she is a big fan of running, so has become my training partner in the mornings. We start most days with a nice fast 5 Km run, and tried out a 10 Km run at the weekend which damn near killed the poor thing. She definitely needs to work on her endurance, but we'll soon sort that out! She's still only a puppy, so just needs to work on her pacing. My only worry is that it's a little like running with a weight bench or pulling a tyre, except the complete opposite; instead of it feeling easier when I take off the harness like with my tyre pull, I suddenly realise that it wasn't me that was pushing the 5 min/mile mark!

Anyway, I will be at the Bingo Race this weekend (The World's Most Unfair Race) which should be an interesting experience. It will probably not surprise you to learn that this idea comes from the same mind that brought us the Piece of String race. The concept is that you have three numbers on your race bib, and after every 2 mile lap you draw a new bingo ball. You finish when you pull out all three of your numbers from your ball bag (tee hee). You could be done in 6 miles, or you could be running for the full 10 hours. Knowing my luck though, I'll be finished in an hour! And where's the fun in that? If that happens, I think I'll carry on, or else go off for a long run nearby. It'll be good to see how my endurance is at the moment and what I need to work on over the next few weeks.

Last up, I am hoping to actually race these Grand Slam races and try for some decent times this year. The record for all 4 races is about 70 hours, which I feel like I should be able to beat if all goes well. I'm looking for a bit of help with crewing for some of these races, so will be hitting up some friends to see who fancies spending about 17 hours following me and forcing gels down my throat. I wonder if I'll have any takers...