Thursday, March 5, 2009

Umstead Marathon Elevation Profile

It is 2 days until The Umstead Marathon , and now that training is over and I am forced to rest, I am left with nothing to do but obsess about the the race. So this post is for my fellow running geeks who will do more analysis and strategizing for a run than was done for the Normandy Invasion.

I ran Umstead last year, and I took the track from my GPS watch, and uploaded it to this website MapMyRun. This website can create an elevation profile based on the track. It uses actual elevation maps instead of the ridiculously bad recorded elevation data from the watch. The result isn't that accurate but it does give a rough idea.

Umstead Marathon Elevation profile (click for bigger picture)
Unfortunately it smooths over all of the much shorter, steeper hills, like Bubble's favorite "The BMF" or "Big Mother F%#$er" on Turkey Creek. But it does show that very little of the course is flat, and that you are either going up or down. To calculate the absolute "hilliness" of the course we apply a fast Fourier transform (FFT) to the curve and derive the coefficient of the gradient and multiply by an integral of the inclines divided by the declines over distance. The result: pretty damn hilly. To get a better idea, let's compare it to the most well known marathon, Boston, which has a reputation of being "hilly":

Boston Marathon. I think the little pimple towards
the end is the Legendary "Heart Break Hill"
Hmmm. It looks like if you dropped a marble at the start of Boston, it could roll on it's own to a 3:15 finish without much effort. OK, so Umstead is hillier than the typically wimpy city road race, but for you runners who whine about every little incline (Shannon), lets put it into perspective. Here is the Grandfather Mountain marathon held in Boone, NC:

Grandfather Mountain
The red indicates some pretty steep inclines. So Umstead is not even the hilliest marathon in NC. So what is a really hilly course? How about Pikes Peek:

Pikes Peek Marathon
They had to invent new colors just to represent this one. In case you didn't notice, all of these pictures are at a different scale which makes it hard to compare. So lets put them at the same scale:

Comparing Umstead to Boston, Grandfather Mountain, and Pikes Peek

So to every one who is running Umstead this weekend, before you start complaining when you are trudging up Cedar Ridge, think of this picture and be glad.

Recent Posts