Monday, October 28, 2013

Rock/Creek's StumpJump50k Vs. UpChuck 50k: Elevation Wars

UpChuck 50k Logo StumpJump 50k Logo

It's very hard to get an idea of how difficult an ultramarathon course might be just by reading an elevation profile. Hopefully, it will show the cumulative elevation gain/loss, and it better show the altitude at which you'll be running. But it's really hard to judge how steep certain sections are. For example, the StumpJump50k map looks like shark teeth. Many of the hills look straight up and down, but this is due to the map's aspect ratio. Courses that are really long get squeezed so much that their hills can look incredibly daunting when in fact they may be gently rolling.

Using my course data from RunningAHEAD, I've created the following elevation maps comparing the StumpJump 50k to the UpChuck 50 (yet another excellent Rock/Creek race, with a storied beginning). The first shows the entire course for each race, while the subsequent maps show 5 mile sections providing a more accurate portrait of each climb. I've also developed a crude algorithm to detect notable sections with at least 100 meter ascents or descents at 10% grade. The algorithm is a work in progress, but it does a nice job characterizing the StumpJump so I thought I'd see what it would do for the UpChuck.

Also check back next week as I'll provide a summary of UpChuck's historical finishing times in anticipation of it's next running on November 9th.

DISCLAIMER: Elevation data are notoriously inaccurate so don't read too much into these results. Feel free to download the code and data and explore yourself. plot of chunk unnamed-chunk-2

plot of chunk unnamed-chunk-3

plot of chunk unnamed-chunk-4

plot of chunk unnamed-chunk-5

plot of chunk unnamed-chunk-6

plot of chunk unnamed-chunk-7

plot of chunk unnamed-chunk-8