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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Regional Predictions Week 3: Central, Meridian and West Regionals

We're back for one final week of Regionals.  You can get some of my thoughts on the first two weeks of Regionals on the podcast I posted earlier this week.  Every year, we seem to have a few seemingly shoe-in athletes not make the Games, but last week was full of surprises.  There have been 18 men and women from last year's top 15 at the Games who have competed at Regionals in the first two weeks, and six (33%) have failed to qualify.  Those types of athletes generally get a 70-85% chance of qualifying in my modeling, so this is a bit atypical.  Two of those, Josh Bridges and Valerie Voboril, have each qualified at least three times in the past.

On the flip side, we've seen some athletes finally break through this year (e.g. Elijah Muhammad) or get back to the Games (e.g. Spencer Hendel).  Hendel is one of the few athletes to qualify for the Games, fail to qualify for multiple Games in a row, then qualify again.

I'm sure we'll have some surprises in store in week 3, so it should be a fun one to watch.  Enjoy the weekend everyone!

(Note: West Regional predictions revised 5/30 to remove Ben Stoneberg and Emily Carothers, who are not competing. All other athletes' chances increased as a result.)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Podcast Episode 10: Post-Murph Chat and Regional Update

Anders and old pal John Nail catch up post-Murph on Saturday afternoon.  Unfortunately the iPhone caught a case of Rhabdo about 7 minutes in, so the conversation gets cut a little short (but SWEET!).  To make up for the lost recording, Anders wraps things up on Monday with some thoughts on the first two weeks of Regional competition.

Check for week 3 of regional predictions Wednesday or Thursday this week.  Enjoy!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Regional Predictions Week 2: California, Pacific and East Regionals

One week is in the books, and things went pretty well from a prediction standpoint and a viewing standpoint.  Before we get to predictions for week 2, here are some thoughts on what we've seen so far:
  • From a viewing standpoint, I thought the events improved throughout the weekend.  "Randy" wasn't bad, but to me, any workout with just a single movement just isn't quite as fun.  "Tommy V" was simply too many rope climbs to really be a great spectator event.  The long chipper on Saturday was pretty entertaining once the run ended (Emily Bridgers and Anna Tunnicliffe had a nice battle in the Atlantic).  The handstand walk followed by the snatch was OK, but nothing great.  But Sunday was good for some high drama.  The handstand push-ups on event 6 really caused some serious shifts in the leaderboard and it gave us some good battles, like Camille vs. Natalie Newhart in the South.  Event 7, while in my opinion not quite as good of an event as last year's pull-up/OHS workout, provided some great theatrics.  The men's final in the Atlantic was the only event that I had to watch live, and I (along with with plenty of others it seemed) was rooting for Elijah Muhammad to finally get his trip to the Games.  His comeback on that event was exactly the type of drama the sport needs.
  • In the past couple weeks, I complained a bit about the fact that only two attempts were given for the max snatch, but my reasoning was that it left athletes vulnerable to being penalized significantly for a single mistake.  But watching the event, I also felt like having only two attempts made for an awkward viewing experience.  I think we're trained to expect three attempts on something like this, and it felt odd that the event was over after only two tries.  It just moved too quickly, in my opinion.  If there were three attempts, I think you'd get more athletes really pushing the envelope on that third try, but generally we got some pretty safe lifts for most athletes.
  • Speaking of the snatch, for men, the average load lifted was 236 lbs. in the Atlantic and 226 lbs. in the South, and that includes 2 lifters in each region who had no good lifts (those counted as 0 lbs.).  For women, the average were 151 lbs. in the Atlantic and 144 lbs. in the South, including 1 athlete in the Atlantic and 3 athletes in the South who had no good lifts.  By comparison, the averages on the hang snatch event last year were 224 lbs. for men and 137 lbs. for women.  Remember, those fields included about twice as many athletes, so you'd expect the loads not to be quite as high, not to mention the fact that the lift was required to be from the hang and power snatches were not allowed.  I think it's safe to say athletes were not as close to their maxes this year.
  • The predictions were generally pretty decent in week 1.  The only major surprise qualifier was Whitney Gelin from the Atlantic, who I had pegged with a 1% chance.  Otherwise, every other qualifier had at least a 13% chance of qualifying.  Of the 9 athletes I predicted with greater than a 50% chance, 7 qualified.  After the regionals are over, I'll update the calibration plot that I showed last week.
  • For this week's predictions, the only significant manual adjustments I made were to boost Mat Fraser's chances a bit (not quite the same amount as I boosted Camille's last week, but close) and to boost Kara Webb's chances (I treated her as if she was a top 15 Games finisher).

One final note: I'm planning to record a podcast this weekend with John Nail.  We'll be doing the podcast after the Memorial Day "Murph" workout at my old gym, and we'll be chatting about regionals, my (still unfinished) road back to being a full-fledged CrossFit athlete again, whether Hamm's is truly the best cheap beer available and other subjects of vital importance.

And finally, predictions are below.  Enjoy week 2 of Regionals, everyone!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Regional Predictions Week 1: South and Atlantic Regionals

In each of the past four years, fans who've watched the CrossFit Games have seen some really cool stuff. At the Games, you get to see athletes put up some insane weights (377-lb. overhead squats, for instance), you get crazy-brutal events like a 2-hour triathlon or the burden run, and you get to see some events with excellent finishes (like Josh Bridges holding off Rich Froning in "Push Pull" last year).  But what you don't typically get is a lot of drama.  With the exception of last season's men's competition, the men's and women's titles have basically been decided by the time the last event rolled around, and even in that men's final last year, you never felt like Mat Fraser could really pull it off.  You have to go back to the 2010 men's final to really get a big shift at the end, and even that was weird because it was hard to tell that Graham Holmberg was actually going to catch Rich as you were watching.

No, the Games is not where you go for drama.  That would be Regionals.  If you've been to the event in person on a Sunday, the tension in the air is unavoidable.  Watch Sevan Matossian's documentary "Only Three" about last year's Central East Regional and you'll see what I mean.  For that reason, the Regionals have long been my favorite part of the season as a spectator.

For the third year, I'll be posting predictions for each athlete's chances of making it to the Games.  In the past, these predictions have been fairly well-calibrated, meaning that, for instance, athletes with a 50% chance of qualifying in my model do typically make it to the Games around 50% of the time.  That doesn't mean the model is perfect, of course.  If it were, I'd give a 100% chance to the 5 athletes who were going to make it.  But then again, no model is perfect, and if there were a perfect model, well, there'd be no drama.  So keep in mind these are all in good fun.

For more background on the model and how it works, listen to the CFG Analysis Podcast Episode 8 or read up here.  In theory, the model should be getting better each year as we get more data from past years to help calibrate it.

Before we get to the predictions, here are some general thoughts on this year's Regionals:
  • As far as loading goes, this year is roughly the average of the past four years.  The required weights in the metcons are lighter than last year, but there is more lifting overall (48% vs 37%).  Although the exact number depends on the numbers we see in the snatch event, the LBEL looks to be around 0.72, which is lower than 2012 (0.92) but higher than 2011 (0.68), 2013 (0.60) and 2014 (0.58).
  • Olympic lifting movements play a huge role, even more so than in the past.  Every single lift falls into the "Olympic-Style Barbell Lifts" category that I've defined, and even if you restrict that definition to only snatches, cleans and jerks, that's 36% of the points.  Thrusters, overhead squats and sumo deadlift high pulls make up another 12%.  Historically, this entire group of movements is worth about 33% of the points at Regionals.
  • Burpees are nowhere to be found for a second straight competition after appearing in every competition from 2008-2014.  Very curious on the reasoning from HQ here...
  • I like the move to the Games-style scoring system.  This won't punish a single poor performance quite as much (Sam Briggs would have made it to the Games last year under this system), and it rewards elite performances on certain events more so than the past Regional system.  More old school thoughts on the scoring system here.  If I had my druthers, this is the scoring system I think I'd go with.
OK, well let's get to the predictions.  The only manual adjustments I made this week were to bump up Camille's chances a bit (despite her being in the highest-rated cohort already) and to put Sam Briggs into a slightly higher cohort (equivalent to athletes finishing below 15th at the Games last year but top 40 at Regionals last year).  Enjoy the weekend everyone!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Podcast Episode 9: Regional Preview (with CrossFit Naptown)

Today Anders is joined by Peter Brasovan and Jared Byczko of CrossFit Naptown in Indianapolis.  Both competed on Naptown's Games-qualifying team last season and are back on the Regional-qualifying team this year.  The guys discuss the 2015 Regionals, including thoughts on whether anyone will fall off the True Form treadmill, dealing with challenging judging standards, the importance of strategy in this year's events and whether anyone who misses the 6:00 time cap on "Randy" will make the Games (hint: NO).

Be on the lookout for Regional Predictions for the South and Atlantic Regionals tomorrow evening (Thursday, May 14)!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Podcast Episode 8: How Do I Make Regional Predictions?

Today's podcast covers the method behind the madness of predicting each Regional athlete's chances of making the Games.  I'll post the week 1 predictions early-mid next week, and we'll have another podcast talking about the events themselves.

Since I never posted it last year, here's the final calibration plot of how last year's predictions ended up.  Things shaped up pretty well.  The mean-square error was 4.02%, compared with 4.43% in 2013 and 6.07% if you gave every athlete the same chance of qualifying.