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2016 Ironman 70.3 World Championship: Age Group Results and Analysis from Mooloolaba

While the Ironman World Championship is permanently based in Kona, the Ironman 70.3 World Championship moves location every year. This year the race was held in Mooloolaba, Australia; before that it was Zell am See, Austria. From the perspective of results analysis, such a total change in course means there’s little to learn through comparison. That’s not stopped me doing it. Just bear in mind that we’re talking about very different courses and conditions, and the same will be true next year.

I started analysing 70.3 World Championship results last year, which means this post will only be comparing Mooloolaba results with Zell am See.

Distribution of Finisher Splits at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship 2016 Compared with 2015

Overall, Mooloolaba is the quicker course of the two races. Although the sea swim is a fraction slower than Zell am See’s lake swim, the rest of the course trends faster. This is perhaps most significant when considering the run splits, which are 5-10 minutes quicker at the median. The overall impact on results is that the Mooloolaba course appears to trend around 10 minute faster.

DNS and DNF Rates at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship
Listed Athletes Swim Finish Swim DNS/DNF Bike Finish Bike DNF Run Finish Run DNF Overall DNS/DNF
2015 2738 2361 13.8% 2304 2.4% 2265 1.7% 17.3%
2016 2721 2676 1.7% 2653 0.9% 2576 2.9% 5.3%

Firstly, the large difference in swim DNF/DNS numbers between the two races would suggest the Zell am See figures incorporate more non-starters, while Mooloolaba numbers only contain those who registered on site. Moving beyond that difference we can see that the DNF on the bike was much lower in Mooloolaba, but despite being faster, the run DNF was higher. This may indicate that the bike course had less impact on athletes, allowing more to complete and generally faster runs off the bike. With more people making it to the run we then saw increased DNFs there. Not knowing exact DNS numbers makes it hard to compare, but it’s fair to say the DNF rate for Mooloolaba appears to have been lower.

Median Splits by Age Group at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship 2016
Median Splits by Age Group at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship 2015

As we’d expect the median times across age groups trend faster in this year’s race. If we look at the pro numbers we also see faster bike and run times, which I’d take as further confirmation that Mooloolaba is the faster course.

Top 10 Nationalities at the 2016 Ironman 70.3 World Championship
Count Percentage
Australia 680 25
United States 530 19.5
Germany 149 5.5
United Kingdom 134 4.9
New Zealand 94 3.5
France 91 3.3
Canada 85 3.1
Brazil 83 3.1
Japan 69 2.5
South Africa 68 2.5
Top 10 Nationalities at the 2015 Ironman 70.3 World Championship
Count Percentage
United States 625 22.8
Germany 333 12.2
Australia 230 8.4
United Kingdom 213 7.8
Canada 134 4.9
Austria 111 4.1
Switzerland 108 3.9
France 103 3.8
Denmark 92 3.4
Brazil 84 3.1

Another factor with a mobile world championship race is the mix of athletes changes each year. The number of US athletes is quite consistent; Europe and Australia aren’t so different in travel time. For the rest of the field, when the race is in Europe we see more Europeans and when it’s in Australia we see a lot more Australians. Not surprising, but another factor in the variation in times between world championship years.

Changes in Male Finishing Times by Position at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship
Changes in Female Finishing Times by Position at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship

To further emphasise the faster times in Mooloolaba the charts above show how times change across places in each age group. It’s a largely universal shift, although the difference is quite small at the front of many female age divisions.

Top Twenty Male Performances by Age Group at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship 2016
Top Twenty Female Performances by Age Group at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship 2016

Finally, times for the top twenty in each age group. Again, Mooloolaba much faster in most male age groups, the exception being the very front of M40-44 which saw some exceptionally fast athletes the previous year. For the women the difference is smaller, particularly at the very front, but still Mooloolaba comes out ahead.

Next year the world championship moves to Chattanooga in the US. We can expect an entirely different race again. The athletes will be fast having qualified at other races, but I can’t say what we will see from the course.

You can access a spreadsheet of the full results and splits from the 2016 Ironman 70.3 World Championship on my Google Drive.

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