Kona Statistics 2012: Performances By Age Category

This morning has been spent almost exclusively in the confines of Excel. Firstly importing Mike’s Kona power data in preparation for some analysis later this week and then producing a broad set of charts from the Ironman World Championship results spreadsheet I built last night. Incorrectly built as it turns out, a trivial error on my part resulted in lots of duplicated female competitors all upgraded to the PRO category. Clearing up that mistake was an unhelpful detour that means I’m going to start my analysis with something simple: a quick breakdown of the result set for male and female finishers by category.

This is really summary data. You can’t learn anything useful that might help you prepare for your own races or specifically for Kona. The trends you will see are largely those you would expect, average and fastest performance declines with age particularly as we approach the eldest competitors, while the slowest performances tend to hold steadily across the categories. The average 70+ man or woman is still beating a number of athlete half their age. Bad days aside this is a reflection of the standards needed to qualify across the board and the presence of non-qualification slots also in the mix. Age is as effective on men and women, the declining trend in performance is consistent over the genders.

Each graph below is divided by age category and shows fastest, average (mean) and slowest finishing times within those categories. In two instances I have excluded results that skewed the graph due to timing chip errors causing missing data, otherwise the records are complete. DNFs are also excluded, even if a competitor completed earlier stages of the race. Only those who finished count here.

The Men

Ironman World Championship 2012: Male Swim Performance by Age Category

Ironman World Championship 2012: Male Bike Performance by Age Category

Ironman World Championship 2012: Male Run Performance by Age Category

Ironman World Championship 2012: Male Overall Performance by Age Category

The Women

Ironman World Championship 2012: Female Swim Performance by Age Category

Ironman World Championship 2012: Female Bike Performance by Age Category

Ironman World Championship 2012: Female Run Performance by Age Category

Ironman World Championship 2012: Female Overall Performance by Age Category

There is little to be learnt about the execution of the race. Interesting as it is to see the broad levels of performance at different age groups and perhaps speculate where you might fall on the day we can’t take lessons into our next races. What we can see looking at the averages is a sharper race than many, even in tough conditions, clearly the influence of the qualification system. Later this week I’ll produce graphs comparing swim, bike and run performances to examine their relationship and see how that compares with Roth.

In the mean time for Brits (and the Irish), here’s a separate list of results.

All Ironman Results and Statistics

A growing collection of results and statistics for the whole Ironman race calendar.

Find out what it takes to place in your age group or to qualify for the Ironman Worlds Championships in Kona.


  • James Hartwright

    Do you think people tend to perform further below their potential in Kona than elsewhere? Qualifying is difficult and then unless you’re going for an AG podium the pressure is off for the actual Worlds. Also people may not be fully recovered from their first IM of the season and Kona is a tough course.

  • Difficult question to answer. I think it’s reasonable to divide age group athletes into 4 groups: qualifiers versus non-qualifiers, and those looking to enjoy the experience versus looking to perform their best. Intuition (i.e. a guess) suggests that for the most part the lottery slot entries will be looking to enjoy the experience, while the qualifiers will be more divided with the fastest looking to perform. My athlete, Mike O’Brien, was very explicit that he did want to perform at the race, not just turn up. I don’t think this necessarily means podium chasing in the fastest age groups, simple getting a good time.

    The graphs in this post do show that there are slower athletes present in every age group (the green lines) or as you get to the oldest age group you inevitably slow down. Some of those slow athletes are having bad days obviously, but I suspect many of the slower athletes in the 18-50 region are lottery slots. The enjoy the experience group probably lie somewhere between the slowest and average for their age group, perhaps a little faster than average depending on their natural fitness. Other factors of course are the more focussed may burn themselves out in the build up from too much training, or execute an aggressive race plan that sees them blow up on race day.

    Only way you could really dig into this is by surveying participants on their method of entry, goals, rating their performance and looking at previous times. Something Ironman could do, but for the rest of us there’s no easy access to that sort of data. Would be interesting to see.

    My personal view is that athletes chasing results will either perform to potential or really suffer, while those enjoying the experience will tend to come out roughly where present fitness dictates (though that might not be the best they’re capable of).