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Ironman UK: Past Performances and Kona Qualification

This week’s racing comes – relatively – close to home with Ironman UK taking place in Bolton. An event I have some familiarity with having qualified there in 2009 and having since sent a number of athletes there to race. The course has changed over the last 5 years, but the principles remain the same – Ironman UK is not a place for a fast time. While I often gloss over course changes for the UK I have separated out the results at Bolton for a closer look.

Distribution of Finisher Splits at Ironman UK 2009-2012 (Bolton Years)
Distribution of Finisher Splits at Ironman UK 2006-2008

These are the charts we would expect from a slower Ironman course, peak split times are comparatively slow and the distributions are weighted towards the right. The generally broad spread of each distribution reflects the field at Ironman UK – it’s a smaller event in comparison to its continental counterparts with less depth in the age groups. The move to Bolton in 2009 had a small impact on the finishers splits, generally a little slower than before.

Median Splits by Age Division at Ironman UK 2009 - 2012 (Bolton Years)
Median Splits by Age Division at Ironman UK 2006-2008

Since moving to Bolton the median times have been somewhat slower, particularly in swim and bike. Not universally, but the general trend has been towards slower times. It’s worth noting that the Bolton data will be slightly skewed by the occasional short run year (most noticeable in the male pro run median). The main point of note though should be the slow averages in comparison with the European races we’ve seen in the last month.

Provisional Kona Slot Allocation for Ironman UK 2013
Division Provisional Number of Kona Slots
F18-24 1
F24-29 1
F30-34 2
F35-39 2
F40-44 1
F45-49 1
F50-54 1
F55-59 1
F60-64 1
M18-24 3
M25-29 5
M30-34 6
M35-39 7
M40-44 7
M45-49 5
M50-54 3
M55-59 1
M60-64 1
M65-69 1
Total 50

Provisional Kona slot allocations are taken directly from the Ironman UK website. I’ve not checked or compared these against athlete numbers in this instance. Ironman UK is a good option for qualifying – the allocation of 50 slots is generous for a smaller race and the competition is generally not as strong as the likes of Austria or Frankfurt.

Top 20 Male Age Group Performances at Ironman UK in Bolton
Top 20 Female Age Group Performances at Ironman UK in Bolton

Looking at the average splits (Bolton only) it’s obvious the times required are slower than on the continent. However this has to be considered in the context of the race and 10 hours in Bolton is not necessarily the equivalent of 10 hours in Frankfurt. For a man in his thirties 10 hours would be a good target for qualification while 10:15-10:20 might work for those in their forties. Women as ever will need to win their age group to have confidence of a place. Times are fast for the course, but not unreasonable targets for athletes who have already come close to qualifying in Europe.

As an example (anecdote), I qualified by roll down on the 2009 Bolton course with a time of 10:04:47 (third in age group) three weeks after a 9:22:09 in Roth (way down in my age group). Those in the region of 9:15-9:40 at fast European Ironman races have the potential for a slot at Ironman UK. Obviously it’s all dependent on race day itself.

I’ve two athletes in Bolton this weekend. Neither are racing for a slot, but I know plenty who are. It’s a good choice for it. However that doesn’t make the process any easier – they still have to race well.

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Comments

  • Natarsha

    Russell, can I ask from your experience and knowledge regarding Kona slots, why do the women have so fewer spots? This looks incredibly unfair.

  • Natarsha,

    It comes down to the rules for distributing Kona slots which roughly state that slots are distributed proportionally to each age group with at least one per age group. The very simple answer is that relatively few women race Ironman in Europe it’s typically no more than 15% of the entire field. With fewer athletes racing there are fewer slots available so only the largest female age groups get more than the minimum 1 slot.

    The actual maths used for the distribution process and the minimum of 1 slot per age group actually means that the women get more than 15% of the slots in general. Were the distribution truly proportional to the size of each age group there would be fewer slots for women and more for men in their forties!

    The fairness of this is another debate, but the result is that women generally have to win their age group in order to qualify which can feel very hit and miss. You can be in superb shape, but if the right competition is there on the day you can easily miss out. Of course it’s the same for the men, but for women it only needs 1 faster person to turn up.

    I’ve written a bit about how the distribution is done (or at least my attempts to understand it) here: How are Kona Slots Allocated?

    Russ

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