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Friday, May 31, 2013

Week 3 Predictions: #Spealler and Stochastic Modeling

Welcome back for week 3 of the regional season. Looking at this slate of regions (Asia, North Central, North West, South West), it's pretty clear what sticks out: #spealler. What everyone wants to know is whether or not Chris Spealler can qualify for a 7th time, and if so, will he do it in as dramatic fashion as last year?

I'll attempt to answer that question in a couple of ways. One way is just based on experience watching the sport, sizing up the events and going by "feel" to some degree. The other way is to look at Spealler's chances the same way I'll be looking at everyone else's chances: with some stochastic modeling.

Before I get back to Spealler, I'll give an overview of how I did the modeling this week, because it's quite different than my week 1 and 2 predictions. This week, I wanted to look not only at who is most likely to qualify, but how likely they are to qualify. In other words, I wanted to estimate the probability of each athlete qualifying to the Games.

In short, this is done as follows:

  • Based on their performance in the 2012 Open, 2011 Games and 2011 Regionals, separate the 2012 Regional competitors into various categories.
  • See how frequently athletes in each category posted a very high (top 50 worldwide) or relatively high (50-100 worldwide) regional performance in 2012 (based on the cross-regional rankings last year).
  • For each athlete this year, place them in one of the categories based on their performance in the 2013 Open, 2012 Games and 2012 Regionals.
  • Depending on their category, randomly generate a worldwide ranking for each athlete this year. The category affects this randomized worldwide ranking, i.e. those who had better results in the past year will generally get a better randomized worldwide ranking this year.
  • Re-rank all athletes within a region based on these randomized worldwide rankings.
  • Repeat 1,000 times and see how often each athlete qualifies for the 2013 Games.
Now, for those so inclined, here are a few details on this process:
  • To get a large enough sample size to build this model, I combined men and women.
  • The process for creating the categories of competitors was not straightforward. There was quite a bit of judgment on my part to make sure that each category had sufficient athletes to be credible and that the categories produced results that made sense with each other. For instance, I wanted to separate out the top 2011 games competitors (I chose top 15), but that meant I could not further break those athletes down based on 2011 regional rank, because there just would not be enough athletes there to get a credible sample.
  • The process for randomly generating the numbers is as follows:
    • Generate a uniform random number between 0 and 1 (=rand() in Excel). If the first is lower than the athlete's chance of finishing in the top 50, assign him or her to the top 50. If not, then if it is lower than the athlete's chances of finishing in the top 100, assign him or her to be between 50-100. Otherwise, the athlete is assigned to be between 100 and 150.
    • Once we have assigned the athlete to the a range of ranks, generate another uniform random number between 0 and 1. Multiply this by 50 to get the athlete's exact place within the range. Generally, you'll need to be in the top 50 worldwide to qualify, but depending on how other athletes fare, it's possible to end up in the 50-100 range and still be in the top 3.
  • Here is a lifting of the categories I used to break down the athletes:
    • Top 15 at prior Games
    • Below 15 at prior Games, top 40 worldwide at prior Regionals
    • Below 15 at prior Games, below 40 worldwide at prior Regionals
    • Did not make prior Games, top 50 worldwide at prior Regionals, top .5% in current Open
    • Did not make prior Games, top 50 worldwide at prior Regionals, below .5% in current Open
    • Did not make prior Games, 50-100 worldwide at prior Regionals
    • Did not make prior Games, below 100 worldwide at prior Regionals, top 1% in current Open
    • Did not make prior Games, below 100 worldwide at prior Regionals, below 1% in current Open
    • Did not make prior Games, did not compete at prior Regionals, top 0.2% in current Open
    • Did not make prior Games, did not compete at prior Regionals, 0.2-1.0% in current Open
    • Did not make prior Games, did not compete at prior Regionals, below 1.0% in current Open

OK, before we move onto the model results, I promised some good old-fashioned analysis regarding one Chris Spealler. As I mentioned when the regional events were announced, I thought these events favored smaller athletes much more so than last year. It seems that has been the case so far on the men's side (Spencer Hendel failing to qualify and Josh Bridges dominating his regional are two pieces of evidence for this). I think Spealler will take a big hit on the overhead squat and a slightly smaller hit on the deadlift-box jump, but I see him faring well on everything else. 

There are at least 5 really tough guys in that region, so he'll certainly need to be at the top of his game. I tend to think Hathcock will break through this year, which would mean Spealler would probably need to beat out Patrick Burke in order to qualify (doubt he can beat Matt Chan). You never know with Burke since he really struggled in the Open, but he has been in the Games 4 years running. But all in all, with a gun to my head, I say Spealler makes it. I don't exactly know how, but I say he makes it.

Onto the model results. Because this process was time-consuming, and because it's most definitely in the early stages with a few kinks to get worked out, I only produced predictions for the South West and North Central this week. 

This process tends to give a lot of solid athletes a good chance of qualifying, but will rarely give anyone an extremely high chance of qualifying. Obviously, for someone like Rich Froning, I may be inclined to make some manual adjustments so that his odds go up substantially. But frankly, the Regionals are so tough these days that there are only a handful of athletes that we expect to cruise through to the Games.

This week, I have just produced the results straight up, with no modification. Take them for what they are worth: these models only take into account the performances from the past year, and obviously I have no idea how an athlete is feeling or how they have been training. On a large scale, I feel good about them, but there are certainly instances where certain athletes probably should be assigned a better chance than they are here (Kasperbauer seems like one, as you will see below, but then again, that is a very deep region).

OK, finally, below are the athletes in each region with the best chances of making it to the Games.

Enjoy the weekend everyone!

Monday, May 27, 2013

How is Jackie being won?

Friday afternoon, I saw a quote in the recap of the South Central men's event 1 recap from Mike McGoldrick: "The race is in the thrusters and pull-ups for time, so the row doesn't matter." That's always been my feeling as I approached Jackie, but is that really the case? In particular, is that the case for the athletes at the top of our sport?

To answer this question, I took a similar approach to looking at this workout as I did for Open WODs 2-5 this year (for more detail on the theory behind all this, see my post "WOD Design and Why It (Usually) Pays to be Well-Rounded"). Watching several elite athletes, I timed their splits on each movement. Once I had average times for how long each portion of the workout took, I could look at how much an improvement or decline on each portion of the workout would impact an athlete's final time.

What I did for each of the Open WODs was this:

  • Use the average pace for each movement to calculate a baseline score.
  • For each movement, reduce the average pace by 20%.
  • For the other movements, increase their pace by an amount such that the composite pace is still 1.00. If we have 3 movements, that means increasing the pace of the other two movements by 10% each.
  • Re-calculate the time for the workout. The percentage reduction in the overall score from our baseline is the "leverage" for that movement. Higher leverage generally indicates that a weakness on this movement will hurt an athlete a lot.
  • Repeat this for each movement.
Based on the archived live footage of the top men's and women's heats from the South Central and Northern California, I calculated splits for as many athletes as possible. Camera angles prevented me from getting the entire field, but in total, I got 11 men and 10 women (I only included athletes for whom I could get all three of their splits). Applying the approach listed above yields these results:

These results would indicate that actually, the row is the most important movement, by a longshot. A 20% reduction in row speed really hurts the athlete, even with an improvement in the other two areas. Problem solved, right?

Well, not really. This analysis is useful, but the underlying assumption here is that an athlete might actually vary by 20% on the row just as easily as they might vary by 20% on the thrusters or pull-ups. In reality, these athletes will all post row times that are much closer to each other than that. Our average row pace for men was a 3:24 (remember, these are elite athletes only). A 20% reduction in pace would give us a 4:15 pace - none of these athletes are rowing at that pace unless they're rowing for at least 10K. On the other hand, the average athlete took 38 seconds to complete the pull-ups. A 20% reduction in speed means taking 48 seconds - that's very possible, even for an elite athlete.

What I did to try to account for this is to calculate the standard deviation in the split time for each movement. For those unfamiliar, standard deviation is a measure of how much variation there is among a set of values. The higher the value, the more variation there is. Below is a chart showing the average time for each station, the average time with pace increased by 2 standard deviations and the average time with pace decreased by 2 standard deviations*.

You can see that even though the row takes much longer, there is much less variation. The coefficient of variation (standard deviation divided by average) was 3% for men's and women's row, 8% for the women's thrusters, 9% for the men's thrusters, 14% for the men's pull-ups and 24% for the women's pull-ups.

With these values in hand, instead of calculating the leverage as I described earlier, I used the following method:
  • Use the average pace for each movement to calculate a baseline score.
  • For each movement, reduce the average pace by 2 standard deviations.
  • For the other movements, increase their pace by a number of standard deviations such that we composite to a 0 standard deviations moved. If we have 3 movements, that means increasing the pace of the other two movements by 1 standard deviation each.
  • Re-calculate the time for the workout. The percentage reduction in the overall score from our baseline is the "normalized leverage" for that movement.
  • Repeat this for each movement.
Applying that to Jackie, we get the following:

What we see here are two very different stories: 
  • For the men, the workout is balanced. Thrusters are most important, but the row is critical as well. The pull-ups aren't vitally important for these athletes because nearly all of them are going unbroken.
  • For the women, the workout is won or lost on the pull-ups. The row doesn't separate the ladies that much, nor do the thrusters. However, athletes who were strong on the pull-ups could make up 20 seconds or more on that station alone.
To understand how some of the top athletes hit this workout, consider Jason Khalipa and Pat Barber:
  • Khalipa set the current record (5:04) largely based on his blazing row time - his row pace of 314 meters/minute was 2.0 standard deviations above average, his thrusters were right at the average and his pull-ups were 0.8 standard deviations above average (remember, these "averages" are for the elite of the elite).
  • Barber finished 15 seconds behind Khalipa (5:19), almost entirely due to the row. His row pace of 274 meters/minute was 2.1 standard deviations below average, and even after going 1.8 standard deviations above average on the thrusters and 1.6 standard deviations above average on the pull-ups, he still couldn't make up all of the ground he lost on the row.
In my view, this is an excellent way to understand the strategy for each workout, but there are limitations. The biggest problem is that data like this doesn't always exist without the benefit of video footage. The process of gathering it is also time-consuming and challenging (I'd love a bigger sample size, but it takes about 15 minutes to get the splits for a single heat). And obviously, this particular analysis really only applies to elite athletes - for someone shooting for a Jackie time closer to 8:00, the row is probably less of a factor since it's likely the pull-ups or thrusters that are sapping more of the time. The averages and the standard deviations need to be calculated using athletes of a similar caliber for them to make sense. 

Still, I hope this has provided some insight into what's behind some of the times we're seeing these athletes put up at regionals. Enjoy week three everyone!

*You may notice that for the women's pull-ups in particular, the bars with plus and minus 2 standard deviations are not evenly spaced around the original average. That's because I calculated everything based on the pace (i.e. reps per minute) rather than the time (i.e. minutes per rep). When I converted it back to the time (because it's easier to visualize), the symmetry disappears. For example, 25 miles per hour converts to 0.040 hours per mile, 20 miles per hour converts to .050 hours per mile and 15 miles per hour converts to 0.067 hours per mile. The miles per hour are symmetrical, but not the hours per mile. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Quick Hits: Regional Week 1 Recap and Week 2 Predictions

Welcome back, all. It's been a long week for me with my Final Assessment last weekend - I haven't really haven't had a day off work since the prior Monday. I've been able to keep up with Regionals and update my predictions a bit, but not as much as I'd hoped. This upcoming week should be better for sure.

But either way, I wanted to throw out some initial reaction and analysis based on week 1 of the competition, and afterwards I'll put up my predictions for top 5 in each region (men and women this week). On with it:

  • Streaming video coverage of the Regionals has been great so far. While the production value still leaves a lot to be desired, the fact is we can now watch far more live regional action than ever before. For me, this meant I was able to take some crucial 10-15 minute breaks from working on my F.A. to watch Josh Bridges basically wipe the floor with everyone. Speaking of which...
  • Josh Bridges basically wiped the floor with everyone. Wow. I had a sense he would do well, perhaps even win his region, but he looked like a legitimate contender for the title. By my count, Bridges was top 3 in the world on five of seven events. And quite frankly, Rich Froning hasn't been pushed in either of the past two Games, so let's hope Bridges can make things interesting this year.
  • Sam Briggs also looks like the woman to beat this year. By my count, she was top 3 in the world on four of seven events. If Annie does not compete, I think Briggs has to be the favorite right now based on her 2011 performance (4th at the Games), her dominance of the Open and then what we saw last weekend. There aren't a lot of holes in her game.
  • That being said, let's not get caught up in all the "world records" we've seen thus far. These top times in almost every event are going to fall, and with the Central East men's region going in week 4, I wouldn't be surprised if they own 4 or 5 of the 7 records when the dust settles. And as I showed last year in my very first post, the later regions do tend to have an advantage in most events.
  • Please, can we go a week without a judging fiasco? Without being at the SoCal region in person, it's hard to comment, but we had two issues that clearly stunk:
    • Ryan Fischer's temper tantrum and subsequent tongue-lashing by Dave Castro. No one really came off looking good here. The videos I saw of Fischer's no-reps did look pretty questionable, but these judges are volunteers, and as a community, we can't afford to have athletes intimidating them like that if we want to have any judges left. These events simply don't happen without volunteers. That being said, it still came off a little distasteful for HQ to make an example out of Fischer, but it's probably a good idea to get out in front of this.
    • Athletes being briefed incorrectly on the minimum standards for event 2. Not sure how this is possible - and I saw one commenter say Boz actually did brief them correctly - but either way, I can't believe there could be an issue knowing the rules for an event that has been released for a month.
  • I wish HQ would just come up with a solid stance on the whole "former champions get a pass to the Games" issue. In prior years, they had said former champions received automatic invitations for life. Recently, they've been boasting that even the former champions have to earn their way. Now they go and invite Kristan Clever, who finished 15 points out of 3rd place last weekend. Smart money says they're going to invite Annie if she's ready. I'd have no problem if they just said that former champions get automatic invites, but when you leave things vague like this, it just comes off as if HQ is making up the rules as they go along. That's not what the sport needs going forward.
Before I move onto this week's predictions, let's take a look back and see how last week's predictions turned out. I ended up hitting 7 of 13 men's qualifiers (4 qualified from Europe), and of the 20 athletes I predicted to be in the top 5 of their region, I got 10 right. That sounds pretty good, but it's roughly the same as you would have done just basing your picks off the Open. However, I did look at how my model did predicting the entire regional field (I didn't post any picks outside the top 5, but I had them set up).
  • Due to time constraints, I looked back at 3 men's regions: SoCal, North East and South East. 
  • The R-squared for my picks (based on predicted rank vs. actual rank) was 49% in SoCal, 22% in the South East and 40% in the North East.
  • The R-squared if you had picked solely based on Open performance was 39% in SoCal, 18% in the South East and 34% in the North East. So I did do a bit better as we look at the whole field.
  • For athletes in those regions who finished in the top 0.5% of the Open worldwide, I looked at how past Games and Regional experience affected their shot at the Games. 
    • Of 2012 Games competitors, 38% made the Games this year. 
    • Of those completing all 6 events at the Regionals last year, 5% made the Games this year. 
    • Of everyone else, 10% made the Games. 
    • Interesting how the newcomers fared slightly better so far. Let's see if that holds up through 3 more weeks.
It's still early, so we'll have to wait until week 4 is in the books to really see how my model held up. I'm hoping to make some headway on an alternate model this week to give estimates of the chances of each athlete making the Games, but I haven't got there yet. Anyway, on to the picks.

1. David Levey
2. Jaco Van der Vyver
3. Jason Smith
4. Neil Scholtz
5. Daniel Crous

1. Chad Mackay
2. Rob Forte
3. Brandon Swan
4. Kieran Hogan
5. Brendan Clarke

Canada East
1. Albert-Dominic Larouche
2. Matthew Lefave
3. Jeff Larsh
4. Jonathan Daniel
5. Jay Rhodes

Northern California
1. Jason Khalipa
2. Neal Maddox
3. Gabe Subry
4. Garret Fisher
5. Shaun Eagan

South Central
1. Jason Hoggan
2. Aja Barto
3. Bryan Diaz
4. Paul Smith
5. Drew Bignall

Top 10 Overall
1. Jason Khalipa
2. Neal Maddox
3. Albert-Dominic Larouche
4. Chad Mackay
5. Gabe Subry
6. Rob Forte
7. Brandon Swan
8. Jason Hoggan
9. Aja Barto
10. Bryan Diaz

1. Mona Pretorius
2. Rika Diedericks
3. Carla Nunes da Costa
4. Nicole Seymour
5. Janine Prinsloo

1. Rush Anderson Horrell
2. Amanda Allen
3. Amy Dracup
4. Jessica Coughlan
5. Kara Webb

Canada East
1. Camille Leblanc-Bazinet
2. Michelle Lentendre
3. Lacey Van Der Marel
4. Jennifer Lymburner
5. Isabelle Tardif

Northern California
1. Annie Sakamoto
2. Sarah Hopping
3. Miranda Oldroyd
4. Chyna Cho
5. Katie Hogan

South Central
1. Jenn Jones
2. Candice Ruiz
3. Amanda Schwartz
4. Holly Mata
5. Jenna Gracey

Top 10 Overall
1. Camille Leblanc-Bazinet
2. Michelle Letendre
3. Jenn Jones
4. Ruth Anderson Horrell
5. Annie Sakamoto
6. Candice Ruiz
7. Amanda Allen
8. Sarah Hopping
9. Amanda Schwartz
10. Miranda Oldroyd

Enjoy the weekend!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Testing, testing... 2013 Regional Predictions

The first weekend of Regionals is finally here! Unfortunately, this is also the same weekend I'll be taking my Final Assessment (which of course isn't actually the final hurdle to clear to finish my actuarial testing), so I'll have little to no time to follow the action live. I may not even be able to tune in for the live broadcasts on Sunday afternoon (the humanity!). Anyway, point being, it's a busy time right now.

At the same time, I did want to give predicting the Regionals a shot this year. For this first week, I had to compromise a bit: I've got a set of predictions for the four men's competitions this weekend, but I didn't have time to get through the women. On top of that, I knew the methodology I'd really like to use would be too time-consuming for this first week, so I opted for something a bit simpler. Consider this a sort of beta test for making Regional predictions.

Making these predictions posed quite a different challenge from the Games predictions for a few reasons: 1) we only have one set of results so far this season; 2) there are about 15-20 times more athletes; 3) there are multiple regions, meaning an athlete's success is dictated (to some extent) by the strength of his/her region. With that in mind, here is the basic methodology I employed to make these predictions:

I felt that using only the 2013 Open results to predict the 2013 Regionals was insufficient, so I decided to go back and grab the 2012 Games results and the 2012 Regional results. I wanted to develop 3 sets of models: for athletes who qualified for the Games last year, I would use all three competitions to inform these predictions; for athletes who missed the Games last year but competed in Regionals individually, I would use the 2013 Open and 2012 Regionals to inform these predictions; for the rest of the athletes, I would use only the 2013 Open.

To build these models, I had to go back in time a year and look at how the 2011 Regionals, 2011 Games and 2012 Open related to 2012 Regional results. Gathering all this information was time-intensive, and also forced a couple limitations upon me. First, I only had 2011 Regional information available for athletes that reached the final event (i.e., the top 12 in each region). This meant I had to be consistent in making my 2013 predictions and only use Regional results in my predictions for athletes who reached the finals in 2012. Also, because I often had funky Open result coming through for athletes with common names (Ben Smith, for example), I wound up limiting my work from last year to athletes finishing in the top 7.5% of the Open. This gave me confidence that the scores I did use were correct.

Anyway, let's go ahead and give the top 5 for each region this year (men only - sorry, not sexist, just short on time):

South East
1) Chase Daniels
2) Brandon Phillips
3) Guido Trinidad
4) Elijah Muhammad
5) Irving Hernandez

North East
1) Daniel Tyminski
2) Austin Malleolo
3) Spencer Hendel
4) Mike McKenna
5) Dan Goldberg

1) Frederik Aegidius
2) Mikko Aronpaa
3) Mikko Salo*
4) Lacee Kovacs
5) Jakob Magnusson

Southern California
1) Kenneth Leverich
2) Jeremy Kinnick
3) Josh Bridges*
4) Ryan Fischer
5) Bill Grundler

Top 10 Overall Performers of the Weekend
1) Kenneth Leverich
2) Daniel Tyminski
3) Austin Malleolo
4) Spencer Hendel
5) Chase Daniels
6) Frederik Aegidius
7) Jeremy Kinnick
8) Brandon Phillips
9) Mikko Aronpaa
10) Mikko Salo

In developing these models, what I found were two key things: 1) athletes who reached the Games last year have a much better chance of reaching the Games this year than other athletes, even given a similar Open result; 2) similarly, athletes who competed at a high level at Regionals last year have a much better chance of reaching the Games this year than other athletes, even given a similar Open result. In 2012, 81% of athletes who made the 2011 Games and were in the top 0.5% in the world in the 2012 Open ended up finishing in the top 50 worldwide at Regionals. Of those who reached the finals at 2011 Regionals but did not make the Games (still top 0.5% in the 2012 Open), that percentage drops to 33%. For those who didn't make the finals at the 2011 Regionals (still top 0.5% in the 2012 Open), the figure drops to 14%.

Sure, last year we had guys like Scott Panchik and Marcus Hendren who made a splash in their first Regionals, but for every one of them, there were generally about 6 other guys with similar Open performances who didn't do anything special at Regionals. Meanwhile, you had veterans like Patrick Burke who put up sub-par Open performances and still excelled at Regionals. To be sure, there will be some new faces who do amazing things at Regionals this year, but it's just hard to predict exactly who those will be.

These are interesting facts, but they make for somewhat boring predictions (i.e. huge advantage to prior Games athletes). This is why I'd like to work on some different techniques for next week (or maybe the 3rd or 4th week - no promises). Ideally I'd like to make some sort of stochastic model that gives a probability of reaching regionals for each athlete, not simply a best estimate of how each athlete will do.

So again, consider these a beta test, and don't take them too seriously. Enjoy the weekend, and I'll see you again soon!

Before I go, I'd also like to give a shout-out to Michael Girdley (see his blog at for some 2013 Open analysis and more). Through some programming wizardry, Michael has been able to pull down all the detail from the 2013 Open (including age, height, weight, current maxes, etc.), which will allow for some more in-depth analysis of the Open (some of which he's already done on his site). I'm looking forward to digging more into that in the coming weeks and months.

*For Josh Bridges and Mikko Salo, I manually entered them with a Regional and Games result of 47th for last year (i.e. last place at the Games). They were special cases of athletes who have done exceptionally well in the past but missed last year due to injury. This was my compromise on them.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Quick Hits: All Regional WODs Announced

We're back for the third post in three days. Today HQ finalized the lineup of Regional WODs for the individuals and announced all of the team WODs. I'm not going to be covering the team WODs at all, since that's never really been an emphasis of this blog (maybe someday), but let's go ahead and break down the individual lineup now that it's complete.

Here's a recap of some of the key metrics I typically track:

  • Currently, I have calculated the average relative weight at 1.49 and 1.01 for women. This is above the past two years for each. I should note that these numbers lack a little bit of precision at the moment for two reasons: 1) the average load that will be attained on the OHS 3 RM is not known yet; and 2) I had to make a new assumption about the base weight for the weighted front rack lunge (I used 75-lbs. as a 1.00 on this one, equivalent to a 135-lb. clean). I'm reserving the right to adjust this after watching the competition and gauging just how difficult those lunges appear (or just trying it myself, I suppose). Regardless, the key takeaway here is that the average loading is at or above what we've seen in prior regionals.
  • If we limit that to metcons only, the numbers drop to 1.13 for men and .75 for women. These are right in line with prior years.
  • Despite the average-to-above-average loading, the load-based emphasis on lifting (LBEL) is just .64 for men and .43 for women, which is below both of the past two years. Why? Simple: lifts account for only 43% of the points this year, compared to 48% in 2011 and 67% in 2012. As I mentioned yesterday, that's a bit deceiving because rowing is not counted as lift, but yet it tends to favor larger athletes. I still believe this year's programming favors smaller athletes more so than last year and probably about the same as 2011 (do I smell Spealler for a 7th straight, perhaps?).
To illustrate these a bit better, here's a chart showing the average loading and LBEL for the past three regionals. Note the spike in LBEL last year.

I think we'll have to wait and see how things actually play out to truly judge this year's programming as "good" or "bad," but on paper, I think it looks pretty decent. I think HQ restored some balance after going probably a little bit overboard with the lifting last year, and they hit a wide range of movements (20 by my count, about the same as prior years). When lifting is used this year, it's at or above the level of prior years, but that's offset by a heavy dose of bodyweight movements, which has been more typical of programming at the Games in the past.

My one concern is the lack of running. We do have some sprints (in the final event only), but in total, there are less than 300 meters worth of running this year. I'm going to assume that's a logistical issue, but I think as we move forward, HQ should not continue to ignore any sort of distance running for the first two rounds of competition and then test it in a big way at the Games. My feeling is that you want the athletes who will perform best at the Games to qualify for the games. Having a bunch of bad runners qualify for the Games and then having them run a 15K just doesn't make sense to me. Let's hope this is something that can get worked out with better venues in the future.

Well that's it for me for now. I'll be back in the next couple weeks to make some sort of predictions about Regionals, although I can't commit to how specific they'll be. I haven't taken a stab at predicting Regionals before, and I fully expect it will not be easy.

See you all again soon.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Quick Hits: Regional WODs 4-5 Announced

We're back again for another quick one today after HQ decided to announce Regional WODs 4 and 5 just a day after surprising us with 1-3 on Monday night. For the full descriptions and movement standards, check the Games site. But to recap, here's what we've got:

4) 100 wall balls (20/14 to 10'), 100 chest-to-bar pull-ups, 100 pistols, 100 single DB snatch (70/50)
5) 21-15-9 of deadlifts (315/205), box jumps (30"/24")

First, a quick look at what this does to our key metrics:

  • The average relative weight is now 1.45 for men and 1.01 for women. For both men and women, this is slightly above the average for what we've seen the past two years (note that I've still got an estimate in there for the average load on the 3 RM overhead squat, so these could change slightly). However, one thing that's interesting is that the women's loading is a higher percentage of the men than in past year's. Excluding the 3 RM, the women's average load is about 72% of the men's load, compared with about 65% for the prior two years.
  • The load-based emphasis on lifting (LBEL) is .67 for men and .45 for women. For men, that's actually slightly lower than each of the past two years, while the women are higher than 2011 but lower than 2012. I think that's attributable to the fact that one workout is extremely light ("Jackie") and another is entirely has no lifting at all (30 burpee-muscle-ups). I think it's a bit misleading to say this programming favors smaller athletes, however. One of the "bodyweight" movements so far is rowing, which is not technically weighted but generally favors larger athletes. Overall I think the programming has been about as balanced as the past two years. I expect more of the same on day 3.
  • The average time domain is back more in line with what's typical. Assuming that the 3 RM is basically a time domain of 0, then the average time domain so far is roughly about 8:00. I say roughly because it's tough to say with any certainty how long the average athlete will take on these events. I estimated 6:00 for #1, 6:00 for #3, 23:00 for #4 and 5:00 for #5. I think we can probably expect about 20:00 combined on day 3, assuming there are only two more events.
Every year at the Regionals or Games, there's an event that makes you go, "Wow, the bar has been raised again." In 2011, seeing 45 deadlifts at 315/205 was a shock to a lot of people. In 2012, the 225-lb. hang cleans in event 2 was a game-changer, as well as the insane combination of movements and loading in event 6. This year, I look at event 4 and wonder how these athletes are possibly going to recover from that before event 5. Without having attempted it yet, I suspect this will be much more taxing than the 2011 version of "The 100s," which was awful. The chest-to-bar pull-ups and pistols alone would be a crushing day at the gym for most of us. And because the women's scaling on this is really not that much different than the men, I question how many women will actually complete this under the 25:00 time cap. Of course, the level of athlete tends to surprise me each year, too, so we will see.

As far as event 5, we saw some top athletes go unbroken on this in 2011, and I suspect we will see that from a good chunk of the field this year. I think the top athletes will probably be bunched just under 3:00, with the differences mainly coming down to transition time and who can cycle the box jumps slightly faster. However, remember that athletes did this one relatively fresh on the morning of day 2 that year; this year, they will be just a few hours removed from potentially the most grueling workout in regional history. Recovery will be critical here.

I have to say, day 2 was pretty much right in line with what I expected after day 1 was announced. We did get one of the "long, grinding metcons" (#4) and we got another dumbbell lift (single DB snatch), and of the four movements that were in both 2011 and 2012 that weren't used on day 1, two of them came up on day 2 (deadlift and box jumps). What does that mean for day 3? I'd think that some big Olympic lifting is still yet to come. We've had no barbell snatch or clean so far, so I suspect one or both of those is coming on day 3. I also feel like handstand push-ups are almost a guarantee as well. But again, it doesn't look like we'll have to wait too long to find out.

See you all again after the announcement for day 3.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Quick Hits: Regional WODs 1-3 Announced

Well, I had considered putting a last-minute wild-ass guess for Regional WOD #1 tonight, but instead HQ decided to go ahead and announce WODs 1-3 early. In case you haven't seen them yet, head to the Games site now to take a look at the full details, then mosey on back this way for some quick reaction.

So here's what we've got:

1) "Jackie" - Row 1,000, 50 thrusters (45/45), 30 pull-ups
2) Overheard squat 3RM (technically a ladder); rest 2:00, then:
3) 30 burpee-muscle-ups for time

Briefly, here's what we have right now in terms of some of the metrics I typically use:

  • Although I'll have to wait until the competition is done to determine the average loading on the overhead squat, I've put in estimates of 255 for men and 175 for women at the moment. Through three events, that puts us with an average relative weight of 1.77 for men and 1.24 for women. That number doesn't mean too much to me, given that one of the three events is a max-effort.
  • The load-based emphasis on lifting is 0.78 for men and 0.55 for women. This is lower than 2012 but heavier than 2011, so I think days 2-3 will probably be right in this range, too. In other words, there's no reason to expect days 2-3 to be exceptionally heavy or exceptionally light.
  • The average time domain here is very short. Most men will be around 6:00 on WOD 1, and WOD 2 is essentially a max-effort (i.e. time domain of 0). WOD 3 is kind of tough to predict, but the time cap is 7:00, so the average should be a bit shorter than that (maybe 5:30 for men, 6:30 for women?). That means we're looking at an average time of around 4:00-5:00 through three events, so I'd fully expect another long, grinding metcon on day 2, in the style of 2011 WOD #4 ("The 100s") or 2012 WOD #4 (squat/pull-up/jerk).
Beyond the numbers, I think the programming looks decent to me right now. I'm not a huge fan of "Jackie" for top athletes because it's so light and the 45-lb. thrusters present a potential judging problem. However, I do like that we've got an event that really puts an emphasis on rowing, rather than uses it as sort of a space-filler. If you're rowing a 3:45 or 3:50 at regionals (for men), you're probably toast on this one.

The overhead squat ladder I like, largely because it's a bit different than the typical ladders we've seen in years past. Having to get the weight overhead presents a bit of a challenge, and the fact that the time between lifts is not structured adds some strategy. Ultimately, it's basically still a max-effort workout, which is fine, because we've come to expect one of those at the Regionals and Games each year.

The burpee muscle-up workout will be really intriguing to me. The fact that the rings are set at a predetermined height (only 7-4 for men and 6-10 for women) could give taller athletes an advantage. I may have to test this out myself (I'm 6-3), but I wouldn't be surprised if the taller guys actually go to something like a jumping muscle-up. Hopefully it's not that big of an advantage. Still, I I think this one will test the athletes' conditioning as well as simply gymnastics proficiency, and I think you could really see some shake-ups in the standings on this one given the complexity of the movement.

So what's left on the table for days 2-3? Well, there haven't been any true Olympic lifts announced yet, so I'd venture to say a heavy dose of cleans, jerks and snatches are yet to come. I also think they'll go back to a dumbbell lift for at least one event again. Handstand push-ups are almost certain to come out, as well as running (hopefully more than last year). But actually, the full list of movements that haven't come up yet but have been in both 2011 and 2012 regionals is relatively short:

Snatch, deadlift, handstand push-up and box jump (technically double-unders, too, but in 2012 they only came up as a minor part of the snatch ladder)

Of course, we don't have to wait much longer, so all these predictions will be moot soon. And when they do, I'll see you all again for a more complete breakdown of the Regional events. Eventually I'd like to put together some sort of predictions for results, but I'll plan to wait at least until all the events have been announced. See you all again soon!