Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Run for the Donuts, An Actuary's Report

Most of the Carolina Godiva Winter Series races seem to have some sort of handicapping type system that generally adjusts for age.  An advanced math degree or actuarial certification isn't required to understand these, but certainly helps.

Run for the Donuts, the kick off event of the series, has a particularly convoluted format.  I won't go into all the details here, but the basic idea is you run as part of a 3 person team and run 5 loops of a cross country course.  The first two of those laps are run together as a team.  The total time of the team in seconds is then divided by the combined age of the team in years to calculate the "Donut Index".  The team with the lowest "Donut Index" wins.  If you are lost already, don't feel bad.

Shannon!  Stop taking pictures and stay on course!

There were some impressive performances this past Sunday.

George "Monk" Linney and Anthony Corriveau ran a quick 3rd leg of the relay in 6:26 together.  For a 1.1 mile loop that came out to roughly 5:50 mile pace.  Monk then proceeded to keep roughly the same pace through a 4th lap solo.  Keep in mind this was the day after a sub-16:30 5K.  Despite these superhuman feats, alas... their team did not win.

Jim Clabuesch, Karen Murphy, and Rietta Couper had the fastest time of the day overall in 38:49, making up a 51 second deficit going into the last lap to the team of ringers mentioned above.  But alas... their team did not win.  As it turns out, Jim, despite his seasoned veteran status and impressive collection of Godiva Winter Series shirts dating back to the 1980s (!), is too young to be an asset to his team (... and the fact that the scoring doesn't adjust for gender didn't help this team's case either!)

Very very young Matt Schumacher had the fastest split of the day, a 6:24... and his team came in "last".  As it turns out, having someone born in the 1990s on your team is a huge disadvantage unless they are allowed to drive a motorcycle around the course.

The team that won:  68 year old Chris Gould, 54 year old Patrick Bruer, and 32 year old Tom Maunz.  The most impressive part of their performance is that they were able to win DESPITE having someone in their 30s on the team.

So, what is the 'optimal' age for Run for the Donuts?

Let's compare the "Donut Index" to a standard age adjustment calculator (one is here:

The 4 minute mile is an incredible human feat.  In the Donut world, a 20 year old 4 minute miler is just as good as a 40 year old 8 minute miler or 60 year old 12 minute miler.  I don't know any 4 minute milers in Godiva, but we definitely have quite a few 60+ years olds that are well under 9 minute milers.  

Turns out the optimal age (in 5-year age bands) is around age 75.  A team of 3 75 year olds gets the most benefit of the Donut Index scale relative to how a standard running age adjustment scores.  

Equivalent performances to 40 year old running 6 minute mile
Donut Index of team of "6 minute milers"
(or age-equivalent performance)

Being born during Reagan's presidency (at least it was his first term in office...), I would have been a huge detriment to whatever team I was on.  As such, I sat out and was one of the volunteers working the 'black box'.  I had a great time basking in the sunshine on a picture perfect fall day, watching everyone suffer running loops around the Durham Academy course, and wolfing down donuts after the finish.  And clearly I gave way too much thought into this.
An addition for next year's event?

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