Category Archives: Sports

Forecasting 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia

This a short post to share my forecast for the coming football 2018 FIFA World Cup to be played during the following five weeks in Russia.

As I introduced in a similar post four years ago for the 2014 World Cup (here), I have a work colleague who not only is a tremendous aircraft salesman but also has a great sense of humor and manages in his free time late in the night to set up a contest for office staff to try to guess winners, matches’ scores, top scorers, etc., of major international soccer competitions. The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, which will start this week, could not be missed. Nacho managed to set up the contest in time.

I have approached the game of forecasting this World Cup with the same method as previous times, as I have not watched a single match of national teams’ football since the previous World Cup and I have no clue of who is who and how they come to the competition. I have relied on ESPN rankings, and used its offensive and defensive coefficients to build with a simple algorithm all the scores of the competition:

  • taking into account the coefficients of both sides
  • when the difference between them was narrow, I put a draw, if resulting coefficients were high 2-2, if low, 0-0.
  • the same for victories, if the difference was high 3-0, if small and low coefficients, 1-0.
  • I also checked the numbers that different scores were repeated in the group phase in the previous two World Cups, as the most repeated ones are 2-1, 1-0, 0-0, in order to assign them in similar proportion.
  • I also checked the amounts of goals scored in the group phase of previous 2 World Cups (100 and 136 goals), to adjust the overall number of goals I would distribute.
  • Checked the goals the previous top scorers managed in World Cups to a assign a similar number.

What did I forecast?

  • A World Cup won by Brazil against Spain in the final in the penalty shootout.
  • An oddity: the algorithm provided that Spain would face 3 shootouts in this World Cup, we will see.
  • The forecast also provided that England would beat Colombia in a shootout, that may be even odder, given the historical bad luck of England at shootouts.
  • As top scorer I put Neymar (Brazil) with 6 goals.
Forecast_world_cup_2018

2018 FIFA World Cup Russia forecast.

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Repaso a la evolución histórica del palmarés de la Copa de Europa

Esta es una pequeña entrada futbolera para compartir la gráfica de debajo tras la consecución de la decimotercera Copa de Europa de fútbol por el Real Madrid.

Copas de Europa & gap

La gráfica presenta la evolución de las Copas de Europa conseguidas por el Real Madrid y todos aquellos clubes que en algún momento de la historia han sido el segundo equipo con más copas. Por orden: Benfica (Lisboa), Internazionale (Milan), Milan AC, Ajax Amsterdam, Bayern Munich, Liverpool y de nuevo Milan AC.

La idea me surgió tras un intercambio tuitero con Andrés a raíz de este tuit.

Algunas curiosidades que se observan en la gráfica:

  • Es ahora, en 2018, cuando con 6 la distancia, medida en Copas de Europa, entre el Real Madrid y el segundo club con más títulos es más grande.
  • Históricamente la distancia media ha estado en 2,8 copas.
  • La moda, es decir la distancia más veces repetida entre el Madrid y el segundo, ha sido de 3 copas. Esa fue la distancia en 24 años, el 38% de estos 63 años de Copa de Europa (ver histograma debajo).
  • La distancia mínima se dio entre 1994 y 1998, tras ganar el Milan AC su quinta Copa de Europa en Atenas y hasta la consecución de La Séptima por el Real Madrid en 1998 en Ámsterdam.

A partir de esas curiosidades, me surgieron después otras tres ideas muy visuales y rápidas de ejecutar y que incluyo más abajo:

  • Un histograma con el número de años que se ha dado cada distancia en Copas de Europa.
  • Una tabla donde se muestra en cada momento qué clubes eran los segundos en el palmarés.
  • Otra tabla donde se muestra cuántos años ha sido cada uno de esos el segundo en el palmarés.

Histograma

 

Tabla_segundos

 

Tabla_anos_segundo

De momento, y hasta la vuelta del gran Milan AC, el Real Madrid podrá disfrutar de la delantera en el palmarés hasta al menos 2026.

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Maratona de Lisboa 2017

On Sunday October 15th, together with my friend Juan and brother Jaime, I took part in the Maratona de Lisboa.

marathon_expo

Retrieving the bibs at the marathon expo.

Since some years ago, I always follow the same 16-week training plan to prepare for the marathons. That lead to a start of the plan at the end of June 2017. However, I suffered an otitis in July which took over a month to recover from and forced me more or less to stop. I took again the training plan in mid-August, when there were only 10 weeks left. I then had a clear objective: to get a level of fitness to finish comfortably the race, no more.

Lisboa_weekly_mileage

During the 16 weeks of the nominal training plan, I completed:

  • 520 km of running, thanks to a streak of 7 weeks between mid-August and end September in which I averaged 56 km per week.
  • 14 series / intervals training sessions, out of the 28 included in the plan, a mere 50% and not with the fastest paces of the last years.
  • 8 long runs of over 20 km, with 2 of them of 31 and 32 km, and another two days of 28 km split in morning and afternoon double session trainings.

Another good thing of the training season is sharing the progress of it with my brother Jaime and Juan, which helped in overcoming the inertia to stay quiet and to go out to train. See how Jaime explained his own experience in his blog here.

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At the departure area before the race.

The circuit of the marathon would take us from Cascais to the West for about 6 km and then back to Lisboa passing again through Cascais and Estoril, along the road that follows the coast line running through the Forte de São Bruno de Caxias or along the Torre de Belém to finish at the Praça do Comércio.

Circuit_profile

The circuit was rather flat except some ups and downs in the first half. The main inconvenient of the race would be the heat. Even if the organization advanced the race departure time in a good last minute decision, at 8 am the temperature was already above 17° C, which at the end must have been around 30° C.

Cascais_2

My race strategy was clear: to complete the marathon comfortably at a pace I was used to; for that purpose I would try to run a 3h45′ marathon, a time around which I had already finished 6 marathons. At the beginning I tried to catch the 3h45′ pacers but I found it impossible after having departed a bit behind them. I kept clocking kilometres at a higher pace than I should till km. 15 and still I passed the half marathon mark in 1’30” faster than the pace for 3h45′, however the pacers were running still faster, much faster than required for a 3h45′ though.

Pace_Lisboa

From the km 30 I felt that I was not able to run at the target pace (5’20” per km), and decided to soften the pace to a more comfortable one, around 5’40” which from 37 to 41 became more of a 6’00” with some more time lost in the water stations.

Lisboa_2

During the last kilometres I wondered whether I would still make a time below 3h50′, which I did not for a matter of seconds. But I still ran at a comfortable pace. This one was a marathon to run for the pleasure of running, now that I can. I had not particular objective. I crossed the finish line at the Praça do Comércio with a great feeling of accomplishment in 3h50’12”, my 17th marathon.

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With the 3h50’12”, I finished in the 1,289th place, that is about the upper 28% of the 4,670 finishers. See the diploma from the race below.

Diploma

I then waited for my brother Jaime and Juan to see them finishing and to cheer them for one last effort.

Finisher_duo

Finisher_trio

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San Silvestre 2017

Last December 31st again, we bid our farewell to the year 2017 by running with friends the San Silvestre Vallecana (in Madrid).

Long ago is the day since I first ran it in 1998, this year being my 17th participation in it. This time we were only four in the group: Nacho, Juan, my brother Jaime and me. We missed as well the good quality pictures we had taken in 2016 by Sara or the video prepared by Nacho.

Group.png

Nonetheless, it was a great experience, even if run at a very soft pace we had a few sprints, plenty of jokes and we crossed the finish line together. All in all, 1h07’23” net time according to the chip, the fastest time I have managed in the last four years.

Above all, it is always a pleasure to close the year in such a healthy way running along the colorful streets of Madrid.

Salida.png

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Corrida de Noël 2017

Since 1998 I have taken part for the most part of the years in the San Silvestre Vallecana in Madrid, in the evening of December 31st. That is a great tradition.

However, I have not yet shared in the blog another such tradition that I have been taking part in since 2015: running the  Corrida de Noël in Toulouse, organized the weekend before Christmas on a Sunday morning.

That is another great event, in which around a thousand runners take part in different distances races all dressed up in Santa Claus or Père Noël costumes.

Warm up

This time the circuit of the race took us from the Saint Sernin Basilica on two loops around Capitole, Alsace-Lorraine, Metz, Pont-Neuf, Saint Cyprien, Pont St Pierre and back to Saint Sernin, for a 7.2 km-long race which took me 34’54” to complete.

Circuit

running

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Marathon Sevilla 2017

On Sunday February 19th, together with my brother Jaime, I took part again in the marathon of Seville. This was the second time that I was in the departure line of that race, after a failed attempt in 2015 when I fell sick the day before the race (see a related post here). Ever since, I had the idea of coming back to get that one done.

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Picking the running bibs on the Friday before the race.

Early November 2016, right after the good finishing experience at the marathon in Dublin, I decided to rest for only 3 days and continue with a good training schedule, trying to get a shape to target a new personal best (PB) time at the marathon in Seville.

Mileage_Sevilla_2017

During the 16 weeks previous to the race (the standard training plan that I follow to prepare marathons since 2013 (1)), I completed:

  • 724 km of running, which is the second highest training volume I had done ever for a marathon (behind the 780 km I did prior to Athens marathon),
  • 21 series / intervals training sessions, out of the 28 included in the plan, a 75% (the second highest completion only behind the 25 sessions I did for Athens marathon). Most of those sessions (18) were completed at the best or second best pace I ever managed in those particular training sessions. Thus, I was going relatively fast.
  • however, I did not complete any long run of 3 hours. I did complete some of 2h30′, once in a split training session going up to 30 km, but that was not up to what is required by the plan. In previous seasons, I had completed more and longer long runs. This was the weakest point of my training this time towards achieving a PB.

Another good thing of the training season is that sharing the progress of it with my brother Jaime, I managed to convince him to join me in running the marathon, which he did, even if the difference in training volume made us decide that we would run on our own during the race itself. See a post with his experience in his blog here.

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Before the race at the stadium.

The circuit of the marathon was the same than in 2015. It started from the stadium at La Cartuja, it then went to Triana and Los Remedios, crossed the river and went the bulk of it around the historic centre of the city, passing by Parque Maria Luisa, Plaza de España, the Cathedral, La Alameda, etc., from km. 33 to 38.

Recorrido_2017

The race strategy was rather clear: I would try to run from the beginning at a pace slightly below 5 minutes per kilometre in order to finish below 3h30′. There was a pacer for that time, but I feared that I wouldn’t be able to make contact with him at the departure, as it had been the case in 2015 and was the case this year.

I felt rather well from the beginning, thus, if anything I had to pace myself a bit slower. It was a cloudy and fresh day, conditions which I prefer for long races. However, being a bit cold obliged me to make a technical stop after the 15th km to go to the restroom. There, I lost almost 2 minutes, and passed from being about 40-50 seconds below the target pace to being about 1’20” above. I ran the numbers in my head, stayed cool and decided not to rush but to recover those seconds slowly. I thus continued with the target pace well enough until km. 27.

0006 (2)I then felt that it was becoming difficult to keep below 5 min per km. I opted for relaxing the pace just a few seconds for a couple of kilometres to see how the body was responding. From km 27 to 33 I was then shifting from 5 to about 5’05”-15″. Since I was not recovering the 2 minutes lost at km 15, I then considered shifting from plan A (below 3h30′) to plan B, a new PB (running below 3h34’50”).

A few minutes later, running at Avenida de la Palmera, I felt a bit stiffer, and saw that I would need to soften a bit more the pace, towards 5’30” per km and slower. I then ran the numbers again and forgot about plan B and thought of a plan C, i.e., achieving a new second best time in the distance: anything better than the 3h42’25” clocked in Dublin. I saw that this plan C would be quite doable as I had at that point a buffer of about 7-8 minutes to be consumed in the following 9 kilometres, so I let myself go.

Pace_Sevilla_2017

 

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My running during the last 3-4 kilometres was a disaster. Alternating some stretches of walking with sprinting, for average paces between 5’40” and 6’05”. At every kilometre that my watch was marking I ran the numbers again and saw that I would just make it, that new second best time, so I kept being relaxed. In the end I finished in 3h41’39”, about 40 seconds better than my previous 2nd best.

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Last sprint.

In the table below you can see a comparison of partial times of some of the last marathons I ran in the last years.

Marathon_comparison

You can see how in Seville I started rather fast, and was able to keep that pace until km 25. At the 30th I was slower than in Rotterdam, if only due to the stop at the km 15. If in Dublin I managed a comfortable negative split by running a slow first half, this time the pacing was the contrary: I ended with a much worse feeling even if clocking a slightly better time. But I had to try it, to see if a achieved a new PB. I have no regrets with having started fast and not having been able to keep the pace. I will keep trying it whenever I have completed a moderately good training plan and the race is rather flat and fast.

With the 3h41’39”, I finished in the 4,475th place, that is about the upper 44% of the 10,144 finishers. See the diploma from the race below.

diploma-dorsal-6973

I then waited for my brother Jaime to see him finishing and enjoy together the feeling of accomplishment. Two years before I had to quit. This time, both of us were meeting at the finish line.

This was my 16th marathon completed. Possibly not the last one.

IMG_20170219_133349026

 

(1) I have been using this plan to prepare for 9 marathons already. As all training sessions are recorded and loaded into an online tool of Garmin, this allows the comparison of the volume between different training seasons, or the comparison of specific training sessions in a given day / week from training periods for different marathons.

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San Silvestre 2016

solohayunaLast December 31st again, we bid our farewell to the year 2016 by running with friends the San Silvestre Vallecana. This is a tradition that is spreading throughout several cities and villages and that seems to be the origin of last year’s race’s motto: “Vallecana solo hay una” (from Vallecas there is only one).

Between injuries, illnesses, holidays away, etc., of the members that have been part of our group in the past, this year has been among the ones in which the group was less packed; we ran 4 of us together: Jaime, Nacho, Pablo (who became father of his second child just a few weeks before!) and me. In addition, we saw Juan at the departure (though he ran with other two colleagues) and we failed to meet Manuel.

As in 2012, when Nacho could not run, the fact that Sara could not join us running meant that she could came to the departure to take a few pictures (thanks!), much better than the ones we normally take with our mobile phones… see below.

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This year I subscribed again, after more than a decade of not doing so. And as usual, we ran from behind the pack and did not put a special effort in running at a moderate pace, thus we ended up the jog in 1h09’07”. See here the official time plus my Garmin recording.

This was the 18th San Silvestre in a row for Jaime, a remarkable achievement. I do not follow the count for Nacho or Pablo, but they both must have run between 8-10. From my side, this was the 16th one, after I ran it in 1998 for the first time.

On top of that, Nacho and I ran with a GoPro camera in order to film different scenes from the race. See below the video compiled by Nacho.

It was a pleasure to run through the centre of Madrid with friends again.

finish

Note: see the difference of this last selfie at the end with the pictures at the beginning…

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