It’s 24 hours since the start of the 2017 Ironman World Championship in Kona and I’m taking my first look at the age group results. This year drew the largest field yet, with over 2,300 athletes competing at the event. Conditions were hot, humid and windy – typical for Kona. My preliminary examination of the data suggests this year’s results were also pretty typical for the course.
Comparing the 2017 distributions with the amalgamated data from the previous decade suggests this year’s race trends slightly slower. The emphasis should be on slight here. The swim trended faster this year, the bike insignificantly faster and the run slower. That difference on the run seems to be enough to push back the overall distribution. The marathon appears to have been the area that challenged most.
Two points to note in this comparison. Firstly, the amalgamated data incorporates a range of years from Kona, some on the faster side and some on the slower side. Merging all that data can give some context to this year’s results, but also hides detail. Secondly, while trending slightly slower, Kona always has highly skewed results highlighting the impact of selection on race times.
As I often do I’ll start with the note that swim and overall figures in the table above include athletes who DNSed. That said, this is true of most years and based on that there’s nothing unusual in the figures from this year’s race. Perhaps the most notable thing in the table is how much participant numbers have increased in the last 6 or 7 years.
Comparing age group medians largely mirrors the trends picked up by the distributions – slightly faster swim and bike, slower run. Again, the shift in times is quite small and not universally followed.
The majority of the field come from the US, but it’s Germany that takes the majority of first place positions (Kona slots) in the age group divisions.
Tracking age group times for specific positions for over a decade shows how consistent results are in Kona. Not many races show such a tightly banded set of results for their major age groups. We can certainly say that 2017 was neither the fastest of slowest race of the last decade. It looks like it might just come in slightly lower than the average, but as before, it’s really not by much.
The winner of each age group at Kona receives a slot for the following year’s race, so we can quite precisely track the qualifying times at the World Champs. You can review and compare with previous years and other races on my Kona qualification page.
The final step of the analysis is tracking times for the top twenty athletes in the major age groups. At a race like Kona, with a primarily selected field we’d expect the front of pack to follow similar trends to the rest of the field. For the most part the top twenty comes out around the average with some variation either side. However, women above 35 seem to have performed much better with most of the top placers finishing ahead of the average.
The overall picture I’m seeing from this is of a normal year in Kona. A field composed of some of the fastest age groupers and largely typical conditions to race under.
You can access a spreadsheet of the results from the Ironman World Championship 2017 on my Google Drive.