Results are in from Ironman Boulder, a new race on the calendar meaning there’s no course history to compare them to, but I can see how it stands up against other races on the North American circuit. The quick summary: slower. Finish times clearly trended slower than we see at most other US races; Boulder doesn’t appear to be a particularly fast course.
The median comparison highlights this and gives a little more insight. Swim times are generally comparable to the US aggregate of 2013, bike times are actually a touch faster, but it’s the run where the damage is done. Median run times in Boulder are almost universally slower than the 2013 US medians. There are exceptions, M18-24, F18-24 and the male pros for example, but they are few.
The split distributions adds further detail. While swim medians are similar between other US races and Boulder, the front of pack at Boulder (top 5-10%) is actually a little slower than the aggregate. Similarly while the median bike time at boulder is faster than at the US races, it’s front of pack athletes are largely the same. The run remains consistent – from the front to the back of the field in Boulder – it was slower. There’s enough difference in the run splits that we see a similar shift in the overall finish times.
Boulder is at altitude and I was curious if this was a factor in the drop off in run times. So for comparison the above chart plots distributions for Boulder age groupers – making up 6% of the field – besides those for visiting age groupers. The very simple assumption is that most visitors will not be acclimatised to altitude. There is certainly a big difference in bike and run distributions for the locals; in fact they tend to be the same or better than the aggregate US distributions.
It might be acclimatisation playing a role, but given it’s reputation as a triathlon Mecca I wouldn’t rule out the quality of the Boulder field being stronger. If I add in other Colorado residents the run remains faster, but the difference is not so significant. Whatever the cause, visiting athletes should note the competition from locals is likely to be tough.
Given only a year of data the top twenty charts don’t really tell that much. Of note is the steep drop off from first to tenth and back to twentieth in every age group – it’s unusual to repeatedly see such big gaps between each finisher. Kona times for the men range from sub-9:45 for the under 40s and sub-10 for the under 50s. The womens’ field is a little more varied with times between 10:30 and 11:30 in the main.
One year of results isn’t enough to establish a pattern, but the early signs are that Boulder is going to be one of the slower races on the US calendar. Those visiting the area from lower altitudes may come off worse with locals and Colorado residents tending to perform better on the run.
I’ve uploaded a spreadsheet of all the results and splits from Ironman Boulder 2014 to my Google Drive.