Rotterdam marathon

Last Sunday 13th April, I completed Rotterdam marathon together with JaimeSerna and Manuel. In a race preview post I wrote that I arrived to this marathon a bit short of training, having completed just about 2/3 of the training plan. In the weeks prior to the race I had asked my brother what pace he intended to start with. Having in mind the lack of thorough training, I thought of starting at a pace slightly below 5’20″ per km but not below 5′. That rhythm, if sustained through the end, would allow a new personal best (at that point 3h45’35″, achieved in Paris, April 2012).

Jaime and I started the race together, departing from the box “E”. We ran together 15 kilometres, pacing each other, ensuring we would not run too fast or too slow. At km. 15 Jaime said he wanted to soften the pace a little and since then I ran alone. My intention up to then was just to try to sustain low 5′s until km. 25, just before the climb of the Erasmus bridge back to the city centre. I thought that climb would take its toll and wanted to arrive to it with some time cushion, climb it relaxed and see if after it I could go back to a similar pace.

Just when we crossed the bridge I saw that I had not slowed down but the pace was still at 5 minutes per km. This encouraged me. I took the second energetic gel bag and ate it (I consumed the first one at km. 15) and told to myself “let’s try to run a few more kilometres at 5′, one at a time”.

… and those were the best 10 kilometres of my race, from 25 to 35, where I employed less than 50′ and enjoyed it a lot. I was overtaking runners, very focused on my own pace, breathing correctly, drinking at every supply post, eating another energy gel bar at km. 33, refreshing myself with sponges…

Rotterdam marathon: pace (min / km) evolution.

Rotterdam marathon: pace (min / km) evolution.

Running at km. 40.

Running at km. 40.

At some point, seeing that I was maintaining paces of 5′ and that I had only a cumulative 1’30″ over the time for 3h30′, I thought that would be possible. However, at km. 36 I started feeling stiffer. The running was less smooth. Nevertheless, I told again to myself “let’s try to clock kilometres at about 5’20″ “, and so I did with the exception of km. 41, but offset with 42. The last 500 metres I sprinted to try to clock a time under 3h35′, which I did: 3h34’52″, a new personal best time in marathon.

Rotterdam marathon 5k splits, paces and predicted finish times.

Rotterdam marathon 5k splits, paces and predicted finish times.

Finish photo.

Finish photo.

From the marathons I have completed in these last 3 years, Rotterdam marathon does not have the best scenery (Rome, Paris), nor is the flattest (Berlin), or the one with the best start (Rome) or finish (Athens, Berlin)… but it has been in Rotterdam where I have enjoyed the most running, where I have had the best feelings and the best race management.

One take away for me of this marathon is something which I had read often: don’t give all out from start, keep something for the second half. After the race, I have made the numbers and the comparison: Rotterdam and Paris (my previous PB) have been the slowest 2 marathons till the half marathon.

Comparison of splits in the last 6 marathons.

Comparison of splits in the last 6 marathons.

Finish photo: 11th marathon.

Finish photo: 11th marathon.

In Rotterdam, the starting at pace above 5′ was not intended in order to keep faster paces for the second half. I wish I had had such confidence and good strategy from the outset. No, we started at those paces in order to see if we could be between 3h40′ and 3h45′. But I take the lesson for the future, for the 12th marathon…

Rotterdam marathon diploma.

Rotterdam marathon diploma.

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Running and support items

Few days ago I completed a survey from one of the sponsors of the 2014 New York Marathon, which I will run on November 2nd. I found the survey interesting and positive as it made me reflect on some topics which I would possibly would not have deemed very important to running. See some of the questions below and reflect on them in relation to your running habits.

NY Marathon survey questions.

NY Marathon survey questions.

Which devices do I usually use when running/training? The fact is that I always use a digital watch with GPS and often a heart monitor. No smart phone or iPod. What is more, if I am not wearing the GPS/watch it feels as if I had not run…

When you run, which of the following do you usually track? Mileage, results, weight… plus series times, average training paces, hear rates…

How important these training support items are important to me when running or training?

  • Using a training plan: Extremely important. Very often is essential to find the courage to go out and run, especially when the weather conditions are not the best. It is also very important to push yourself, go for the last series repeat, etc.
  • Being part of a runner community: I initially thought this was not very important. False. It is. Being able to discuss with friends how you are evolving, how you felt at races, taking part together in races, etc., also makes it much better.
  • Having/finding a training partner: I also thought that this was not important as most of the time I run alone. Nevertheless, when I have the opportunity to run in Toulouse, Madrid or wherever in Spain with my marathon pals and other friends it makes it so much better.
  • Helping me to find routes in my area of varying distances: Very important. When you have lots of distances already measured, it reduces the thought process of deciding where to go and reduces uncertainty.
  • Providing comparative data and the ability to compare my running results with other marathon runners: the comparison with other runners is not so important to me, but being able to compare my runs with previous ones to sense how I am evolving it is very important.
  • Having one central place to store my running/training data, race results, training information, etc.: again, extremely important.

What about you?

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Rotterdam Marathon preview

Next Sunday, April 13th, I will take part in the Rotterdam Marathon together with the usual suspects (Jaime, Serna and Manuel). I am arriving to this marathon a bit short of training as I already reflected at the time of running Blagnac’s half marathon about a month ago. I may have completed just about 2/3 of the training plan I followed, having run just about 500km in the 16 weeks preceding the marathon. Thus, in this preview instead of talking about how I arrive to it I wanted to focus on the front of the race.

Rotterdam marathon is one of the fastest marathons in the world nowadays. On top of that, I learnt a few weeks ago that Kenyan athlete Eliud Kipchoge will take part in it. Kipchoge has today the 7th best time (1) in the distance (2h4’5″), achieved in only his second attempt at a marathon, in Berlin on the 29th of September 2013, when Wilson Kipsang beat the World Record (2h3’23″). I then wondered whether on Sunday a new world record could be set.

To be clear, setting up an athletics record is not an easy feat. Especially not in a marathon. But taking that question as a departure point I deep dived a bit into the data in order to learn more about the race.

The last time the marathon WR record was set in Rotterdam was in 1988 (26 years ago), when Belayneh Densamo left it at 2:06:50. Since then the WR has been beaten 8 times; once in Chicago, once in London and 6 times in Berlin, among them the last 5 times (see here the progression). Thus, we could confidently say that Berlin is the fastest marathon nowadays.

I then made a comparison of those 4 fast marathons over the last 14 years (since 2000), to see which one was the fastest race each of those years. See the results in the table below:

World fastest marathons (2000-2014).

World fastest marathons (2000-2014).

In the table you may see that out of the 14 years Berlin was the fastest of the 4 marathons in 7 (50%), however Rotterdam was the fastest marathon in 4 of those years (with a best time of 2h4’27″). By average winning times it would came 3rd (with a 2h6’32″) just after Berlin and London.

A curiosity, only twice in the past 14 years has the same runner won both Rotterdam and Berlin marathons in the same natural year: Felix Limo (2004) and Patrick Makau (2010) (2), both times each runner made a faster time in Rotterdam.

My train of thought then suggested: you are only paying attention to the winners’ times, you should compare more times to sense the profile of the race. I then found the following terrific website with all time best performances in track and field (maintained by Peter Larsson). With that database the analysis was rather simple.

I focused on the top 100 all-time marathon best times, of those:

  1. Berlin: 15 of the 100 all-time best times were achieved in Berlin, with a top 5 average time of 2h3’53″ and a top 10 average of 2h4’18″.
  2. Chicago: 13/100; 2h4’29″ (top 5); 2h5’4″ (top 10).
  3. Dubai: 18/100; 2h4’39″ (top 5); 2h4’46″ (top 10).
  4. Rotterdam: 14/100; 2h4’40″ (top 5); 2h5’54″ (top 10).
  5. London: 14/100; 2h5’02″ (top 5); 2h5’15″ (top 10).

Taking into account the top 100 times, Rotterdam marathon falls to the 4th place, seeing the irruption of Dubai as one of the top marathons, with all those times achieved in the last 6 years (run since 2000).

I then went a further step and made the following graph taking into account the top 1,000 times achieved in the last 45 years and highlighted in red those achieved in Rotterdam:

Marathon top 1000 times vs. those achieved in Rotterdam.

Marathon top 1000 times vs. those achieved in Rotterdam.

With those top 1,000 times, I then went back to compare the head to head of Rotterdam vs. Berlin, this time not only comparing winners times as above (Limo and Makau) but all those runners who run consecutively Rotterdam and Berlin, and checked in which race did they achieve the fastest of the 2 (or 3) times. See the results:

Runners among top 1,000 marathon times having run consecutively in Rotterdam and Berlin.

Runners among top 1,000 marathon times having run consecutively in Rotterdam and Berlin.

Of the top 1,000 marathon times, 16 runners achieved some of then running consecutively in Rotterdam and Berlin (or viceversa) (3). I made this comparison assuming that they must have been in a similar fitness (though not necessary). Of the 16, 9 of them achieved the better time in Rotterdam, 7 in Berlin. Among those times, the best 4 were achieved in Rotterdam (James Kipsang Kwambai, Patrick Makau, Geoffrey Mutai, Abel Kirui).

Then, having seen all these times, tables and graphics:

  • In the last 16 years the marathon WR has been beaten once every second year (8 times).
  • Rotterdam is arguably between the 2nd and the 4th fastest marathon.
  • However, the best time in Rotterdam (2h4’27″, Duncan Kipkemboi in 2009) is only the 14th best time overall.
  • Kipchoge PB is among the top 7 times after only his 2nd attempt at the distance.
  • Kipchoge ran in Berlin in September 2013 (2h4’5″), chances are that he beats that time running consecutively in Rotterdam in 2014.

Given the size of the feat I would not bet much on it, but I would not discard it either. Either way, I will only discover what happened about 2 hours after the race, at the front, has finished.

In case you feel like cheering me up and feel sorry for being thousands of kilometers away, don’t worry: click on this link and you will arrive at a website provided by the organization in which you can leave either one or two support messages that will be shown to me when I run by the kilometer 37 or I am just 500m from the finish line (my bib number for this race will be 1599).

Finally, find a classic picture from my brother (and marathon pal) Jaime symbolizing this marathon:

(1) Excluding times from Boston and other races not qualifying for IAAF world records.

(2) A year later, in 2011, Patrick Makau set a new WR in Berlin, 2h3’38″.

(3) Felix Limo, Geoffrey Kipsang and Jackson Koech run 3 consecutive races in a row each.

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1907 Voisin-Farman biplane

In a previous post I discussed the importance of  Issy-Les-Moulineaux in the history of French aviation. I focused the first part of that post in the first 1-km closed circuit flight by Henri Farman on the 13th of January 1908.

In this post I just wanted to leave a couple of pictures taken at the Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace (Le Bourget) showing a replica of that plane and an article appearing two days later in the L’Aerophile explaining the achievement (in French).

Article appeared on 15 January 1908 in L'Aerophile.

Article appeared on 15 January 1908 in L’Aerophile.

1907 Voisin-Farman biplane.

1907 Voisin-Farman biplane.

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Issy-Les-Moulineaux: cradle of European aviation

The city of Paris, among other things, can pride itself for the role it played in the early development of aerospace and aviation. In my opinion and to my knowledge there 3 or 4 quite important places in Paris where one can breath the history of those times, one of them is Issy-Les-Moulineaux. In a previous post I mentioned the space dedicated to the aviation history in the gallery of the village placed at the Musée Français de la Carte à Jouer.

Issy is a suburb just at the southwest of Paris, where the Périphérique crosses the river, south of the XV arrondisement.

At the turn of the XX century there was in Issy a military field dedicated to training. With the advent of aviation, that field started to be dedicated to aviation by the several pioneers who decided to relocate their activity there.

One of the images that symbolizes the French nascent aviation industry at the time is the one shown in the picture below. In it we can see Henri Farman (car racing pilot and aviator) flying the 1907 Voisin biplane winning the Archdeacon Prize for the first closed-circuit kilometer flight in Europe. That flight took place in the military field at Issy-Les-Moulineaux.

Henri Farman winning the Archdeacon Prize for the first closed-circuit kilometer flight in Europe (file from Wikimedia Commons, unrestricted picture belonging to the Library of the Congress).

Circuit of the first 1km closed circuit flight at Issy.

Circuit of the first 1km closed circuit flight at Issy.

The circuit can be seen in the following graphic at the gallery of the village of Issy. The circuit was marked by 3 poles planted on the ground. Two poles marked the depart and arrival. One pole located at 500m marked the turning point.

The morning of of the 13th of January 1908, Farman took off with the Voisin biplane equipped with an Antoinette engine for a flight that lasted 1 minute and 28 seconds (thus at an average speed of 41 km/h). With this flight, Farman, won the Archdeacon Prize, which had been set back in 1904 by  Henri Deutsch de la Meurthe and Ernest Archdeacon, with an allocated sum of 50,000F.

In fact, apparently, Farman had achieved the feat already 2 days earlier, but it was only on the 13th of January that the flight was officially controlled by a commission from the Aero-Club de France (an institution created in 1898 to encourage the development of flight by individuals like Ernest Archdeacon, Jules Verne, André Michelin, Alberto Santos-Dumont, Henry Deutsch de la Meurthe among others).

In the picture with the circuit you may locate the aviation field by seeing the wind rose and the river Seine on the top of the image. Today, that field is the Heliport of Paris, the street surrounding it being called Rue Henri Farman.

That first closed circuit in Europe may be the most iconic image of Issy, but it was not the first happening nor the last aviation achievement that took place there, see some others below:

  • 1905 (March, 26): at the initiative of Ernest Archdeacon a glider type Wright, towed by a car, rose to about 10m.
  • 1906 (August, 18): the Romanian Traian Vuia flies for about 11-24m rising just 2.5m above the ground.
  • 1907 (July, 11): Louis Bleriot makes his first flight aboard his monoplan VI Libellule.
  • 1907 (November, 5): Léon Delagrange flies aboard a Voisin-Delagrange over 300m in a semicircle.
  • 1907 (November, 17): Alberto Santos-Dumont makes his first flight on the XIX Demoiselle.
  • 1910 (March, 9): Elise Raymonde de Laroche obtains her pilot licence, being the first woman in the world to receive one.
  • 1910 (June): the first metallic plane ever is tested in Issy.
  • 1911 (May): the raid Paris-Madrid was organized, with departure from Issy. Among the 8 pilots taking part in the race was Roland Garros. That day one of the airplanes suffered an accident when taking off, crashing against the authorities and killing the then French war minister, Maurice Berteaux.

It goes without saying, that this shall be a mandatory stop for any aviation enthusiast passing by Paris.

Aviation room at the Gallery of Issy (Musse de las Cartes a Jouer).

Aviation room at the Gallery of Issy (Musse de las Cartes a Jouer).

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Musee Mecanique (San Francisco)

Luca and I visited the Musee Mecanique during our honeymoon last year. It is located at the Pier 45 in San Francisco and it includes a private collection of hundreds of mechanically operated musical instruments, arcade games, voyeurism slot machines and, possibly, the only existing steam engine motorcycle (built in 1912). The entry to the museum is free of charge and you will go by spending some quarters by playing to the different games, as we did. Fair deal.

The owner of the museum, Edward Galland Zelinsky, explains in its website how the collection originated.

Musee Mecanique

Musee Mecanique

We had a great time there discovering what kind of games were played decades ago in feasts, remembering the kind of games we did play in the late 80s and 90s and seeing the great commonality in the mechanisms that operate otherwise seemingly different games. The same or similar mechanisms are used to make games of soccer, baseball or ice hockey. Or the contrary, different mechanisms are used to conceive very dissimilar machines to play baseball.

See some of the pictures we took in the museum.

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We definitely recommend the visit to the museum as part of a walk to the Piers of San Francisco.

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Museum of Playing Cards (Paris)

During the past week we spent some days in Paris and we were staying at a hotel in the suburb Issy-Les-Moulineaux (1). One of those days, I had to spend some time while Luca was studying and I decided to go and visit the Musée Français de la Carte à Jouer (French Museum of Playing Cards), which I learnt that same day that it was located just some blocks away from our hotel.

The museum is the only museum dedicated in France to playing cards and one of a few in Europe (apparently it received in 1999 the European prize for the museum of the year). The museum covers the origin of playing cards (certainly from the far East, even if there are different hypothesis), the uses they are given (to play, to learn (to memorize things, to learn to count…), to fantasize (tarot)), some historical facts related to the cards, etc.

At first I thought it would simply cover the playing cards we are used to when playing poker or bridge and explain different games, but I was mistaken. It did not enter into the games themselves, but it covered many other types and variations of cards, used for different games. Think of role plays, think of the cards used in games such as Monopoly, think of theme cards, etc…

As always that one visits a museum I was looking for some practical take away to learn.

  • Taxes: it was Charles V (or I, in Spain) who charged taxes over playing cards for the first time in history, in Castile in 1543. That measure was quickly copied in other countries. In France, those taxes were introduced by Henry III in 1581. In the France right after the revolution a fiscal framework for playing cards was established that lasted till 1945. It reserved to the National Print the right to print in black the cards of the figures… In England it was ace of spades the card that the administration kept the right to print.
  • Spanish playing cards: in the picture below you may see 3 packs of Spanish playing cards, printed by Heraclio Fournier (2). You may notice that the suits are different, using golds-cups-swords-batons instead of spades-hearts-diamonds-clubs. Secondly, you may notice that there are slight differences in the figures are dressed and the symbols are drawn. That is because the 3 different sets use different portraits:
    • (left) today’s called Catalan portrait: that was the old Spain’s national portrait, not used anymore in Spain but the one most often exported (to Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil…).
    • (middle) Cadiz‘ portrait: also derived from the national Spanish portrait but differentiated in kind of clothes used and the inscription “Ahi va” (there it goes!) in the knight of cups. This portrait is also mainly used in exports (Mexico).
    • (right) portrait of Castile: its creation is relatively recent (end of XIX), at the initiative of the company Fournier, and is the one commonly used in Spain nowadays. (3)
Sets of Heraclio Fournier palying cards (printed in Vitoria, Spain).

Sets of Heraclio Fournier playing cards (printed in Vitoria, Spain).

If you happen to be by Issy-Les-Moulineaux, I recommend the visit of the museum (4.5 euros entrance fee).

Finally, the museum includes a documentation centre of the village which includes a small room dedicated to the history of aviation in Issy. This makes the museum a must-see of Paris (4). But I will discuss that in another blog post.

(1) If you are curious (as I was) about the etymology of the name of the village, Issy-Les-Moulineaux, can be found at the corresponding article of the Wikipedia. As a side note: the termination -y in the name of several villages in France is derived from the Latin -acus (“land of”), as Luca explained in her blog post “Ac Alors!“.

(2) There is in Vitoria a playing cards museum related to the company, see information about it here.

(3) I will leave to another day the explanation of my firm belief on the superiority of the Spanish game mus over any other playing card game that the reader may know.

(4) To my taste, at par with the Louvre museum ;-).

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