Ironman Lake Placid 2015: Results and Analysis

What particularly marks this year’s Ironman Lake Placid out is the lack of a pro field. Without the pros there’s also little coverage of race day, so while my analysis of the results can tell you it was a slow day I can’t speculate as to why. Removing the pros clears the very top end of performers from the results, but the shift in times indicates that there was more to the slow down.

Update: this analysis includes the 2014 results when a storm affected swim times (some athletes only completed a single lap). As this will influence the comparison I’ve produced some updated charts which can be viewed here. The 2015 race remains slower than usual, but the margin is smaller than implied by the medians and finish time distributions below.

Median Splits by Age Group at Ironman Lake Placid 2015
Median Splits by Age Group at Ironman Lake Placid 2002-2014

Comparing the median splits from this year’s race with those from past events what’s quite apparent is that across the age groups this year’s race is slower. Unusually this is true in all three disciplines and largely consistent from youngest to oldest age groupers. This almost universal shift in times suggests conditions played a role in performance at the event.

Distribution of Finisher Splits at Ironman Lake Placid 2015 Compared With 2002-2014

This shift is perhaps better illustrated through the split distributions. Again comparing this year’s race against the past each distribution comes out slower. Removing the pros from the very front of the field will naturally have an affect, but the impact here is much larger than I’d expect. The median finish time falls back by at least 40 minutes on the previous averages.

Changes in Male Age Group Finishing Times by Place at Ironman Lake Placid
Changes in Female Age Group Finishing Times by Place at Ironman Lake Placid

Following finish times across a number of years shows that this year’s race – at least for those finishing in the top 100 of their age group – was much slower than 2014 and mostly slower than the previous 12 years of racing. I’ll note the picture is incomplete as 2005 results are missing from this data set. Even so this year’s result fall on the slower side for the race.

Top Twenty Male Performances and Kona Qualification by Age Group at Ironman Lake Placid 2015
Top Twenty Female Performances and Kona Qualification by Age Group at Ironman Lake Placid 2015

Looking at the front of the age group field (also the front of the race without the pros) most come out a little slower than the race averages and few come out faster. Where the 2014 race was much faster than usual 2015 sits heavily at the slower end of results. I’d note age group winners tend to fall much closer to the average, it’s really outside the top three where the gap opens, so Kona times aren’t too far off expectations.

A full spreadsheet of results and splits from Ironman Lake Placid 2015 can be accessed on my Google Drive. I’d be interested to know what race conditions were like on the day to help explain the shift in results.

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  • Greg

    Thanks for the graphs. What data are you using for 2014 IMLP results? A thunderstorm came through on the second lap of the swim and a bunch of athletes got pulled from the water. Because of that, the results on for 2014 only include the first lap of the swim for age group athletes, even for athletes who finished both laps. They dropped the second swim lap and T1 when calculating overall finish times. That’s why you see swim times of ~30 minutes in the results, and probably why 2014 looks like such an outlier in your graphs. Full finishing times including both laps of the swim are on SportStats website, the company that did the timing for the event:

    As for 2015, the day started out cloudy and cool, but around 1 or 2pm the sun came out and it got really hot. That might explain some of the slowdown, but it seems like that would mostly affect the run.

  • Gregg,

    Thanks for the comment. My 2014 numbers are from, checking the sportstats site I won’t be able to quickly extract those. This does explain the speed there, I’d forgotten that last year’s swim times were for a single lap. I didn’t analyse last year’s results because I didn’t have a good way to deal with the fact some had shortened swims in the records. I think I’ll redo the analysis for this race excluding 2014 to ensure the initial comparisons are fair.

    Thanks again for reminding me and catching that error.

  • Something that might have played a role for some participants this year was a fire right in the middle of town that started around 5 pm. There were people displaced and a number of businesses evacuated. Anyone who was in and around town had some kind of interruption as a result. I was in Lake Placid to volunteer for the race and couldn’t get out of town because my car (along with many others) were blocked into public parking lots. At midnight there were still a lot of people on the streets, including many competing the next day.

  • Thanks Jon. In searching for reasons for the slower times I’d read something about the fire, but hadn’t really got a sense of it’s scale or impact. certainly could have been a factor on the day. Hard to say how much.

  • Mary

    I competed this year, as well as in 2011 and 2013. I was 15 minutes slower than in 2013 when we had clouds, cool weather, and some rain. Thi year was much warmer on the bike and the run. A good number of athletes were dropping on the marathon with a lot of athletes walking.

  • michael

    I competed this year. The fire in town was the day before the race, so aside from this selfless competitor there was no effect on the day itself. As Mary mentions below, it warmed up fairly quickly and was sunny with little cloud cover on the run, with temps going from high 50’s/low 60’s at race start to high 70’s I think during the marathon.

    thanks for running the data!