If there is a single condition that most significantly shapes an Ironman it is heat. On Saturday Ironman Texas was hot. The result was a level of attrition – particularly on the run – that was far in excess of the norms. A DNF rate of 15.5% quoted at the awards banquet would place Ironman Texas among such company as St George and Los Cabos, both heavily influenced by challenging conditions. As we’ll see later, despite these harsh conditions, front of pack age groupers and Kona qualifiers still managed to put in strong performances on a par with previous races.
The distribution of overall finisher splits, red in the charts above, clearly demonstrates that 2013 was a slower race than the previous 2 years. There is a definite weighting towards the slower times in the spread of results. The differences are more subtle on the swim which shows a pattern not dissimilar to past events and on the bike which again holds a familiar shape. The run however is more obviously skewed towards the right indicating that it was after T2 that the heat really took its toll. Throughout the differences are smaller than I might have expected based on reports.
Age division medians offer an alternative view of the splits. In this case we can see that the swim was on a par with previous events – there’s little to call in it and no consistent trend. It’s hard to distinguish the bike too; some divisions were faster this year, others weren’t. The run, however, presents a much more consistent picture – in all but two age groups average run time was slower in 2013. It’s on the run where most athletes suffered pulling down the median times and pushing up the DNF rate.
I look at the top twenty in each age group to build a better picture of the competition for Kona slots, but another interesting factor comes out when looking at results from tougher races. While harsh conditions may have generally slowed the field, their impact tends to be less obvious among the pros and front-of-pack age groupers. As can be seen in the charts below, those in line for qualification delivered times not too far from previous averages.
A large Ironman contains a wide range of abilities and those making the podium naturally tend to be the fittest. While some of the fastest athletes will make mistakes and detonate on the course, it’s those who are out there the longest that suffer the most. Their exposure time is greater and they may lack some of the preparedness to fully handle harsher conditions. Heat is particularly punishing on any mistakes in pacing and nutrition, it leaves little margin for error. So while the race averages slow down our pros and front-of-pack athletes who pace themselves well appear remarkably unscathed.
Conditions were tough in Texas this year. In general times were slower, but at the front of the race there was a group of athletes who held themselves together and paced themselves keeping some fast times in the results. The DNF rate was high, among the highest seen in the last year with the likes of Ironman Austria, Los Cabos and St. George.
I’ve uploaded a spreadsheet of the results and splits from Ironman Texas 2013 to Google Drive for those who’d like to compare splits in more detail.