Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Wednesday Search Challenge (7/2/14): Why could I run on water?

Here's a fun Search Challenge for the first week of July.  

After I went to the IRE conference, I had a nice run from the middle of the park to the edge of the Pacific Ocean.  Oddly, though, I seem to have acquired the ability to run on water!  This surprised me a bit when I got my running track as plotted my Android device.  

See that bit of red line that extends into the water?  Interesting, eh?  Trust me, I can run reasonably fast, but not on water.  (Yet.)  

This little map represents my run.  It took me about 38 minutes to run this loop out and back.  

Because this quantified self wants to know, I'm turning these key questions over to you.  Can you help me figure out what happened here? 

1.  How is it possible that, while running on the beach, I seem to have run on the water?  What is a non-supernatural explanation for this? 
2.  What was my speed while running this course?  (In either kph or mph, I'm happy with either.)  
3.  While running in the park I noticed that the ground I was running on was not quite what I expected.  What kind of ground was I running on? 
4.  (Extra credit)  Here's a picture of something I ran past at the end of Lincoln Way, just off the end of the road.  What is it?  (No, I know what the windmill is.  What I'd like to figure out is what's the blocky thing with all of the graffiti on it.  What's that?  Although the story behind why there's a windmill at this particular location is interesting as well.)  

As always, be sure to tell us HOW you found the answers to these questions!  

My answers on Friday, July 4th.  


    First thing I tried was searching for a known running route which is what I would do when visiting another city but it looks like you chose your own route. Fitlink is an example. Or I will use MapMyRun/Ride/Hike or Strava to find established routes.

    In Google Maps I tried creating a “walking route” but it sticks to the roads. I actually got out my Garmin, converted coordinates to UTM & tried mapping your route but I don’t have a detailed map of San Francisco. The reason that I did that is because I can go off road/trail to get exact measurements for off-trail routes. On ‘my’ Google Maps I’m locked to established roads/pathways despite switching to walking route. One thing I did notice on my Garmin is that at an area nearby there were different elevations depending on high/low tide. That might explain your “running on water”.

    Going back to my apps I saw in GooglePlus you use Strava. Searched for Dan Russell Palo Alto and there you are. As well your map in listed in recent activity. You ran 6.1 kms in 38 minutes. So your pace was 6.24 per kms but actually it was 39.19 correct? Still much faster than my running pace. I hope you appreciate the fun I had doing this.

    I come back later with answers to the other questions later, I hope.

    1. Here's a handy conversion chart.

      So at a pace of 6.24 min/km = running 9.38 kms in 1 hour OR 10:17 min/mile = 5.83 miles per hour.

      No matter how often I've been asked my running pace I always end up having to use a chart. These calculations don't stick with me. My running time is a bit closer to yours than I thought but I would still eat dust.. Your bike average speed is on par but I'm sure that's because I ride outside the city. I'm impressed that others got such accurate readings without using your Strava data. Well done>

  2. Using Wikimapia [Query Great Hwy, San Francisco ]I find that the object on the beach is a sewer overflow outlet (graffiti makes it look much more interesting). And according to a comment added in Wikimapia the windmill was “A gift to the city from banker Samuel G. Murphy. A restoration was completed recently”. Also interesting in Wikimapia for this area is the white lines on the beach.

    Still working on the ground surface. Nothing unusual appeared using Street View in Google Maps but I'll check into it more.

    1. =============
      Alternate method -
      Using Map my Fitness website I was able to recreate your route coming out at 6.09 kms so that’s close. It gives us the ability to go off-road something I can’t seem to do with my Google Maps. I remember doing that when I would ride and forget to turn on my app/garmin. Not sure if my link will permit access since it’s a login website.

    2. I just thought of another method but I can't do it without Google Earth. If anyone is familiar with importing custom maps into Google Earth you can copy Dr. Dan's map, import it into GE, lay it over the GE map & you will be able to calculate the distance. This is a handy tool whenever you have an unofficial map & you want something more accurate.

    3. I expected that Runners Blogs would address any unusual surface on the running trails but so far again nothing stands out - pavement, dirt and some sand, that’s about it.

    4. Rosemary, fwiw - still didn't see a Canadian soccer pegperson, but did run across this version - all up to Costa Rica to represent NA.
      frozen soccer
      my favorite -

    5. Remmij - great image of the Canadian sport we are known for. I guess if we aren't in the tournament we don't get a soccer pegman. Lots of children play soccer here mind you. We are resting our hopes on Eugenie Bouchard (tennis @ Wimbledon)-maybe then we can get a special peg?man. :)

    6. modded -…just for grins - good luck against Simona Halep…

    7. I had another look at the Google Map & I just noticed that when in Satellite mode I can see from the Sewer Overflow looking down there appears to be a large green patch of something (I hate to think it what it could be). The Satellite image is dated 2014 and is likely low tide. The Street View is 2013. Dr. Dan did run across this patch which I verified in Strava. Anyone else see it?

    8. Rosemary - the ball is bouncing favorably - believe grass was the surface…
      Go Eugenie!
      blow by blow, many pics
      …couldn't pick — ;)
      L'hymne national du Canada
      L'hymne national du Canada, Shatner style

    9. Well I didn’t find an answer as to what the green vegetation but it appears to be fanning out from the overflow. I saw it was called the North Overflow Outlet so I went in search of the South to compare the two. No such vegetation at the South outlet. I can only speculate that this vegetation is a byproduct of an overflow spill and possibly something in the runoff. - very clear image of a green mat - in Broadmoor no greenery

  3. 1. Walking on water--- As someone that grew up in San Diego, my guess for this one came much more quickly than the info to back it up --the tides.
    I took me a bit to track down some cartography references, but this one makes a few references to shoreline mapping :

    “Typically, shoreline indicators are represented by physical features that exist consistently at all
    locations within the scope of the study; that are sufficiently defined to ensure consistent
    interpretation by individual mappers (i.e., repeatable); and that provide consistent representation
    of shoreline position (i.e. reliable) (Pajak and Leatherman, 2002). In addition to traditional
    datum-referenced shorelines such as the mean high water (MHW), these features often include
    the tops of coastal bluffs; the toes of coastal dunes; the most seaward vegetation line; the most
    recent high water line (HWL); coastal beach and berm crests; the vegetation change between
    Spartina patens in the upper marsh and Spartina alterniflora in the lower marsh; the wrack line;
    the wet-dry line; the algal line on rocky outcrops; and the interface between vertical
    seawalls/bulkheads and open water. (Boak and Turner, 2005, O’Connell, 2005, Thieler, et al,
    2001). “

    2.To determine your speed, I pulled up the Google map of Golden Gate park, and created a walking route that matched yours. It came out to 3.6 miles, but I couldn’t drag it off of the street and on to the beach, So I am going to approximate about 4 miles. Using a pace converter (runner’s world has quite a few : It looks like about a 9 ½ minute mile and a pace of about 6.32 miles an hour (Good job! your way faster than I am …)

    3. the path-- this one was difficult, my guess is dirt? I found a few references to dirt trails in the park including thisone :

    4. extra credit: My first impression is that this is a storm drain that flows to the ocean. This website mentions that there was a water treatment plant at Golden Gate Park that opened in the 50’s: :

  4. Unless this answer is too easy, I would think that the tide could easily explain your walking on water. The data that google used to get that map happened to be at higher tide than when you ran.

    google earth ruler let me track out your course as 3.7 miles. Wolfram Alpha is what I turn to for tricky conversions, so threw "3.7 miles in 38 minutes" in there and it gave 5.84mph or 9.4km/hr (or a quarter of the speed of the world's fastest man, Usain Bolt).

    I could not find anything about strange trail surfaces in golden gate park. Might have to look a little harder.

    Enjoyed finding out about the concrete structure. I ended up learning that the beach is called "Ocean Beach" which helped in the search. [ocean beach san francisco concrete] as a search gave me a link to the Ocean Beach Master Plan where I hoped to find a map with structures like this labeled. Was trickier than I hoped, but eventually found the sewage transport map which clearly labeled this as a "wet-weather overflow structure" also called an outfall.

  5. Replies
    1. augmented octo-skepto-dan brow
      next to last row, far right
      trying less text, more visual… what I thought about on my run in place [in wading pool to simulate surf]…
      everything old is new sorta again, but that would be redundant.
      Rauschenberg take via Kahn

  6. Good day, Dr. Russell, fellow SearchResearchers


    Found what app you used and visited the site to try to get information. I'll try to enter data in other apps.

    [Golden Gate Park Polo Field] in Google Maps. There changed to Earth view) Found the site for question 4 and name of Windmill: Murphy Windmill.

    Took Pegman to street view. There found Photosphere of site. Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

    [beach construction near Murphy windmill]

    The Murphy Windmill differs from traditional specimens from the Netherlands because its sails turn clockwise, rather than the typical counterclockwise motion.

    [Great Highway San Francisco]

    Great Highway Improvements Set to Begin

    Great Highway Pavement Renovation and Streetscape Improvement Project

    I'll continue my research later.

    Thanks Rosemary and Remmij for the links about light switches.

    One question, any of you having issues to publish? Since yesterday, when I enter a comment and click publish, my comment disappear.To get it back, 2 ways. a: go back and with luck reappears b. Write post again.

    1. Yes I have had my comments just vanish. Last week and this week. So I write them out in Editpad and then c & p. Today the first try vanished so I re pasted and went to preview and my comment was indeed shown there form my second try. From the preview it went OK. Definitely something haywire.

      jon tU

    2. Very strange. I'll try to let the Blogspot people know about this. (Although I suspect they already do...) Oddly enough, this never happens to me. SO... if this happens to you again, could you please drop me an email to my Google email ( with (1) what browser you're using? (2) what OS you're on (3) what exactly you're doing (e.g, typing a reply into the field vs. copy-paste a text into the field).

      Thanks. We'll try to track this down.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. I've lost comments before. On this question I had Chrome crash on me, but was able to recover everything I had typed. I use an extension in Chrome and Firefox called Lazarus . It has form and comments recovery. Please note it is no longer in the Chrome Webstore. You can install it in developer mode.

  7. Ramón - no problems posting from Canada. I have no idea if location has a bearing. That has happened on occasion in the past but it seems to sort itself out.

    1. Hi Rosemary. Thanks for your answer. I'll check my connections.

      Checking my Google Now cards, noticed Murphy windmill. I started visiting the provided links and yes, lost my connection again. I'll try to get back that card. One link talked about San Francisco gate and other was a surprise : wind mills world. Site has a lot of information about Holland windmills.

      If some of you get that card, check it, is very good.

  8. 1. Seeing that you were running on the coastline my first thought was tidal variation. Doing a search for [ google maps shoreline tidal variation ] wasn't too helpful with an explanation, but did give this example of someone doing one better than you in that it is "walking on water" WALKING THE SHORELINE OF KENT & SUSSEX – Parts 1 to 10

    [ "google maps" tides ] took me to Tidespy. To figure when you were there I looked at your Google+ postings and determined you were at the IRE14 conference deinfinitely on Friday when you gave your talk. You went for the run after so maybe between 4:30-6:30PM that coincides with low tide on Friday 6/28.

    2. For this question I headed over to Google Maps Engine Lite to redraw your running route. Knowing that Maps Engine Lite now allows you to measure,  I attempted to redraw your route. My route came out to approximately 3.6 miles. [ 3.6 miles in 38 minutes ] gave me to calculate an approximate average speed of 5.684210526315789 miles/hour.

    3. Currently this one has me stumped. I've pretty much confirmed that you were on a bridle path but can't determine anything other than it is a dirt trail.

    4. Haven't found anything.

    1. Good attempt with the redraw. I gave it a go & I had a hard time keeping line on the path. It kept sticking to the road. Good idea to use this tool however. Perhaps if I was using a desktop rather than my laptop.

      #3 I think solving #4 helps to answer this question. If you want to read my idea its posted but I haven't been able to confirm specifics.

  9. Good day, Dr. Russell and everyone!

    [strava gps inaccuracies]

    Having trouble with inaccurate GPS data plaguing your activities? See the information below to learn more about what bad GPS data is, why it happens, and how to prevent it.
    Why is GPS data sometimes inaccurate?

    [gps inaccuracies]

    Error analysis for the Global Positioning System. Wikipedia

    Any of you have tried My Tracks? One of my friends shared with me and it works with Google Drive. I haven't been tried any of these apps yet.

    [running speed map calculator]

    Sport Route Planner

    There created your route in Google Maps, entered your 38 minutes and got these results:

    Distance 5.11 Km, 3.17 miles
    Average Speed 8.07 km/h or 5.01 mph.
    Time per Km, 7 min 26 sec

    1. Ramón I used to use My Tracking but switched to Strava & now MapMyRide/Run/Hike. The latter is my choice right now but Strava has a couple nice features I miss. I gave Sport Route Planner a go but like many of these mapping tools I find that their ability to follow a path precisely is not great. What I could have done is use Garmins "Basecamp" (free to download) which allows much much greater control & flexibility. It's free & works flawlessly with Garmin devices.

  10. 1. How about this; you ran along the shoreline when the tide was out.

    2. Used Map Maker traced route; but gave up. Searched for map tool and found which worked well. traced the course 3x got the distance of close to 6km so your speed was about 9kph.

    3. Map Maker says most of it is asphalt.

    4. Its the outlet from combined sewer overflow structure. Has a nice explanation and explanatory diagram

    4. Windmill built in 1902 to pump 30,000 gallons of fresh water per hour to reservoir top of Strawberry Hill.


    jon tU

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.