After a hot and slow race last year at Ironman Texas, conditions in 2014 appear to have been a little kinder on the athletes. The DNF rate fell below 10% more comparable to other Ironman events and finish splits are in line with previous results. In some respects a return to form, but as we’ll see what’s more notable is the performance of the top 5-10% of the field who were significantly faster then before.
Let’s start at the broadest level – considering the median splits for each division in 2014 and comparing back to the previous 3 years of results. At this level the pattern we tend to see is one of faster swim, slower bike and faster run; it’s pretty consistent across the age groups. Among the pros though, the difference is small. Extremes aside the influence of conditions tends to be less pronounced among the faster athletes.
Next a little more detail by viewing the distribution of splits at the same races. To some extent the picture is a simple replication of the median charts: 2014 has a faster swim, slower bike and faster run and the result is faster finishing times. What should be noted is how the variation in these times depends at which point in the field you look. The median, 50% mark, naturally matches the median charts above, but as we move towards the faster end of the field things change. Considering the fifth percentile on the chart above: swim times are still faster, but not by as much; bike times match the previous years’ results; and the run times are faster by a bigger margin. The result is the top 5% go from finishing under 10:20 in the previous years to finishing under 10 hours this year.
If we pick out the top 20 athletes in each age group (in some cases this will be the top 5%) then we can view that pattern and it’s impact on Kona qualification in more detail above. In most male age categories we see finish times that are faster than before. Not always for the age group winners, but the gap between first place and twentieth appears to have closed in many cases. We don’t see this with any consistency among the women’s age groups where times, with the exception of the winners, tend to fall much closer to the average for each position.
The fastest athletes getting faster is a pattern I’ve regularly commented on now, but it’s not often as apparent as it was in Texas at the weekend. My general view is that while races grow and fill with a broad mix of athletes, those at the front continue to refine their training and racing. Texas may be a great example of this, but it’s hard to say with certainty. Perhaps it just happens that a lot more fast male age groupers entered this year, or perhaps conditions changed over the day favouring those who were off the course sooner. In a situation like this we can expect a number of variables to play a role.
The end result is it was a competitive year for Kona slots at Ironman Texas. As the top 20 charts show – Kona qualifying times were almost exclusively above average and in many cases the fastest seen on the course in 4 years of racing.
Additional Age Group Statistics
Details of the top 10 splits in every age group at Ironman Texas 2014 and for the previous 3 years. View or download the PDF (300KB) below
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You can view a spreadsheet of the full results with all splits for Ironman Texas 2014 on my Google Drive.