Ironman Weymouth made it’s debut on Sunday. Although technically the third year of racing in Weymouth it was the first under the Ironman banner. The new branding brought with it 30 Kona slots and a larger field, taking numbers from 450 to nearer 800. Small by Ironman standards, but still a step up in size. The UK now has 3 Kona qualifiers to choose between so part of this analysis will look at how there races compare. Although this year’s race looks to have been slower than the previous Challenge events, it also appears to be the fastest of the 3 UK Ironman races.
Perhaps the most notable feature of Weymouth was a novel distribution of slots. While the same mechanism for slot allocation was used, all over 55 age groups were merged into one for the purposes of allocation. If you want to see the impact of this on qualification for the older age groups you’ll find details towards the end of this post.
I’m not going to go into too much detail directly comparing Weymouth with the Bolton and Tenby courses. We’ll use the most recent finisher distributions from each to compare these races. It is worth noting that these courses have seen changes over the years and quite varied conditions, but a single year snapshot gives a reasonable picture of the events. As it stands Weymouth is the fastest of the 3, with the bike section in particular trending ahead of the others. Not surprising given neither the UK or Wales is known for a fast bike. Differences in swim and run are much smaller; it’s really this faster bike split that’s shifted the overall results.
I think it’s fair to say that Weymouth looks to be the fastest of the three courses. It’s not fast in comparison to central European events, but the smaller field may also contribute to that in comparison to those larger races. The difference doesn’t appear to be huge though and in less favourable conditions could be smaller still.
As an additional comparison the chart above contains the distributions for the previous years of Challenge Weymouth. Note the y-axis has a slightly different scale to accommodate the short swim in 2014 (a single lap due to conditions). Ignoring the swim we can see that both bike and run were much slower at this year’s race. Probably some course changes involved here (and bearing in mind the shortened swim in 2014 would tend to speed up subsequent stages), but also the additional athletes broadening the range of performances at the race.
|Listed Athletes||Swim Finish||Swim DNS/DNF||Bike Finish||Bike DNF||Run Finish||Run DNF||Overall DNS/DNF|
Comparing the DNF/DNS rates over the last 3 years we can see there’s a small rise in both bike and run DNF rates. The big difference in swim and overall DNF/DNS comes down to a matter of reporting. For 2016 these figures contain all the DNS athletes as well as the DNF athletes, prior to that the numbers are purely DNFs. It’s reasonable to expect that the overall DNF rate this year was slightly higher than before, but not significantly.
Sure enough, when we compare the medians across the 3 years of racing in Weymouth, this year’s race comes out the slowest. this appear to be true for most, if not all age groups. There’s not much difference between this year’s and last year’s swim, after that though 2016 is distinctly slower.
As we’d expect from a small race with relatively few Kona slots the majority of athletes were from the UK with a small number coming from Europe or beyond.
In the biggest age groups the trend in finish times is fairly clear – this year was slower. In smaller age groups, all of the female age groups for example, there’s less of a pattern and in some instances we see a faster race.
|Slots||Winner||Average Kona Qualifier||Final Qualifier|
Unusually, I’ve been able to use the official slot calculation rather than having to do my own this time (this uses exact start numbers where I estimate from registered numbers). Using that slot allocation I’ve calculated the automatic Kona qualifying times from the results. Of course this doesn’t factor in the potential to roll down so final qualifying times may differ. You can compare with other races on my Kona qualification page.
Plotting the top twenty age group finishing times for the 3 years of races at Weymouth again puts this year’s event towards the back. That said, when it comes to Kona qualifying times aren’t always that far behind last year or the course average (considering that average includes a short swim year). This would suggest one of the bigger factors in a slower race is a larger middle to back of pack.
Finally, let’s look at how the slots are allocated at the different UK races.
|Wales 2015||UK 2016||Weymouth 2016|
It should be noted that Wales will not have fifty slots this year so you won’t see as many slots in the biggest age groups. Ironman UK is probably the better guide in that respect. Merging the 55+ age groups at Weymouth helps keep the number of slots in the biggest age groups up even though the total allocation is only 30. For women it doesn’t make much difference. In most European races women make up about 10% of the field and so each age group tends to get allocated the minimum single slot.
What affect does merging the older age groups have on qualification for those over 55?
|55+ Rank||Age Group||Finishing Time||Age Group||Finishing Time|
It’s not surprising, but the top ten men over 55 all came from the 55-59 age group. With this merger 60+ male athletes are effectively locked out of qualifying at Weymouth. Few women over the age of 55 completed the race, but second place did go to F60-64. That’s still not enough to qualify and in a larger field we’d likely see more 55-59 athletes coming up ahead.
You can access a spreadsheet of the full results and splits from Ironman Weymouth 2016 on my Google Drive.