Monday, November 30, 2009

Low-Key Hillclimbs: best scores ever

Since thanks to Ron Brunner and Dean Larson, I now have the complete set of Low-Key Hillclimb results (the '90's pages were lost when Giorgio Cosentino, the webmaster at the time, had his account expire, and I wasn't backing up his stuff, and I lost the older stuff when my UNIX account from grad school got flushed). Anyway, a bit of work saved then doing backups resulted in a lot more work today reconstructing results. After typing in data from scans of Dean's printouts, getting some of the HTML from the Wayback machine (and all of 1995), regenerating 1996-1997 HTML from the data I'd typed in, and mining data from the existing HTML, I now have a nice set of times for every week the series was run. The exception was 1998 where I barely had anything to work with, so generated all fresh HTML using my current scripts, modifying the scoring algorithm to match that year's.

The series started in 1995 with the top rider getting 100 points, everyone else a score equal to the % of this time. Men and women were grouped together. Then at the end of the series of twelve events the top six scores were summed. This worked out fairly well, except results were too strongly influenced by who showed up. A really fast guy shows and everyone else's score is reduced substantially from what it would have been, essentially reducing the importance of that week's result. I played around with some regression methods using a model assuming a linear combination of rider and climb coefficients, but that was too complex for general use. So I stuck with the simple normalize-to-the-fastest method.

In 1996 I separated men and women, so the fastest in each got 100 points. This was better, but since the number of women is generally small, they were even more subject to random fluctuation. Additionally this year I switched to a method where only one climb of the entire series was discarded, the lowest score for each rider, considering missed climbs to be zero. Then the next-lowest was multiplied by one, the next lowest by two, the next by three, etc, up to the highest scoring of the nine climbs which was multiplied by eight. These were then summed. This was okay, but led to some really high scores. It was also a bit too complex, as it wasn't so clear going into a given climb by how much one had to finish ahead of someone else to pull even in the overall, since the scores were resorted each week. Another issue is it still gave a lot of credit for simple attendance. Low-Key is supposed to be a fun fall activity, not an obsession, so when other life events get in the way, one shouldn't be punished for that. So in retrospect I think the 1995 method of keeping scores for only half the weeks was better.
Tracy Colwell, 1996 Low-Key Hillclimb men's point leader.

But I moved to Austin at the start of the 1997 series, so there wasn't any time to make any changes: 1997 used the same scoring scripts, written in awk, as 1996.

In 1998 I was barely involved at all, and Tracy Colwell took over the scorekeeping. Changes: more divisions with separate scores for not just men and women, but also for mixed tandems, recumbents, and tricycles. This year all scores counted and were simply added. It was a short series, with only five climbs completed, so this wasn't so bad.

That was it for version 1 of the Low-Keys. It was sort of a victim of its own success: bigger and bigger turnouts made it harder to manage, and with me not around to help, it simply didn't come back for 1999.

Kevin and I finally restarted the series in 2006 after meeting again at John Peckham's memorial ride. In a way the existence of the Low-Keys today is in memory of John, a way to use tragedy to catalyze good. A fresh start. I'd learned Perl while at Austin, and started redeveloping scoring scripts in that language. With a renewed appreciation for simplicity, I went back to the 1995 method of counting half the climbs completed so far, rounded up (modified for volunteer credit). But to avoid the issue with a fast rider suppressing everyone else's score, I used the median time for men and women (not counting tandems) as the 100 point reference. This worked out better: more consistent results for each rider week-to-week, at least among the men for whom the larger turnout provides for more stable statistics.
Tracy Colwell leads the pack in the first Low-Key of version 2: Montebello Road in 2006.

This system has worked so well, other than modifying volunteer credit a bit, it's stayed in place 2007-2009, and will be used again in 2010.

So here we are: thanks to Dean and Ron, and with a bit of work myself, we have eight years of wonderful data. Treating each week's climb with the "Low-Key version 2" algorithm of median normalization, I am able to accumulate lists of times and scores for each of the climbs or each of the riders. For example, here's the top twenty scores ever posted, out of 4945:
#  climb              week    name               time   score
1 Sierra_Road 2007(8) Christine_Thorburn 25:53 151.191
2 Bear_Gulch 2008(4) Jennie_Phillips 16:47 143.694
3 Montebello 1997(1) Tracy_Colwell 25:40 143.506
4 Bohlman_-_On_Orbit 1997(8) Tracy_Colwell 24:56 143.316
5 Mount_Diablo_(N) 2006(3) Kate_Ladan 62:57 142.759
6 Mt_Hamilton 1998(7) Joe_Lansing 132:31 141.687
7 Mount_Diablo_(S) 1997(3) Michael_Denardi 48:04 140.967
7 Mount_Diablo_(S) 1997(3) Tracy_Colwell 48:04 140.967
9 Quimby_Road 1998(5) Tracy_Colwell 24:18 140.466
10 Montebello 1997(1) Michael_Denardi 26:18 140.051
11 Montebello 1996(1) Henrik_Johansson 27:04 138.978
12 Lomas_Cantadas 2008(8) Tim_Clark 15:16 138.865
13 Soda_Springs 1997(5) Tracy_Colwell 30:03 138.602
14 Bohlman_-_On_Orbit 1996(6) Tracy_Colwell 26:13 138.525
15 Bohlman_-_On_Orbit 1997(8) Eric_Albrecht 25:58 137.612
16 Sierra_Road 2007(8) Lucia_Mokres 28:30 137.31
17 Montebello 2007(1) Chris_Phipps 26:05 137.252
18 Page_Mill 2006(6) Tracy_Colwell 33:12 137.199
19 Lomas_Cantadas 2008(8) Clark_Foy 15:28 137.069
The top score by far is from a multi-time Olympian. That seems right.

One note in the above: Joe Lansing's score was as a tricyclist. There were two tricyclists on Mt Hamilton that Thanksgiving of 1998. Pretty cool. Mark King broke Joe's trike record this year. Mark also rode the MegaMonster in 1998.

I'll post more such stuff on the Low-Key pages, as soon as I am able to write some HTML generators...

1 comment:

Alison Chaiken said...

I guess trying to stay with Christine up Sierra Road was motivating to Lucia!