Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Exploring the "analytics" a little further

I like to use race analytics to try to answer questions I have about how a given race is unfolding or to reveal something otherwise not obvious, and I thought it might be worth spending some time looking at what's possible with the new IonEarth "analytics" (I have a hard time calling plots of speed against time  an "analytic," but we get what we get).  So, here's Justin Savidis's "analytic" plot:

First, let's get rid of the chartjunk - the stuff that doesn't add information but clutters up the plot with a bunch of noise.

Aaaah - much better.  Goodbye, altitude curve and insane, ridiculous temperature curve!  To get rid of a given curve, click its name in the box to the right side right above the plot.

One of the things I do like about the IonEarth analytics is that they flag checkpoint locations on the x (horizontal) axis (and it should be noted that this is really the only place in their "analytics" where they provide distance information).

When the instantaneous speed curve (the green one) is horizontal and at 0 on the Y axis (chartjunk alert!  IonEarth needs to move some of those labels to the right side of the plot and move temperature up to the altitude curve), the team isn't moving.  What we can see is that Justin's longer rests have almost all been in checkpoints so far.  We can also see that he stopped for about three hours on the trail earlier this morning.  So that's kind of revealing.

Contrast this with Brent Sass's plot:

For the most part Brent is taking his rest on the trail.  This should not be a surprise, for a few reasons:

  • Brent is racing and he's not going to let checkpoint placement location control his run/rest schedule
  • Brent's got mad skillz and is expert at wilderness travel.  He knows how to camp and he's comfortable doing it
None of this is hugely surprising.  But one thing we can learn from these "analytic" plots is teams' run/rest schedules, and it's enormously interesting to compare those.  And, of course, it was on this plot that we could tell that Martin was just not giving his dogs a break as he hot-footed it to Rohn.

It's a lot harder to use IonEarth's "analytics" to do things like figuring out who's traveling together (often sort of interesting) and how teams are moving in relation to each other.  I'll start to look at those questions in subsequent posts.


  1. I'd have to really disagree with you about the altitude and temperature curves not mattering-- both of those are HUGE factors in any team's performance, especially temperature on this year's race.

  2. Of course they matter a lot, but that doesn't mean that they should be plopped down in the middle of a speed plot. There are too many other, non-captured variables that can impact performance that plotting altitude and temperature alone can be very misleading when trying to figure out what's going on with a team's performance, and some of it is just obvious anyway (teams parking in the middle of the day). I also suspect that there's no solar shield on the trackers and that they're overestimating temperatures on sunny days, which is unhelpful. Better to look at the wunderground.com wundermap of Alaska.