The 2018 Ironman North American Championship, Ironman Texas took place over the weekend. It’s a large race with over 2,500 athletes starting, 80 Kona slots on offer to age groupers and a fast course to compete on. This year was exceptional – the fastest seen on the course (the 2016 times involved a heavily reduced bike) – in some instances a sub-9 wouldn’t even see you in the top 15 of your age group.
Here’s the usual notes ahead of the graphs. The bike and run course on this years race are reportedly slightly short, but not to a degree that I’d anticipate hugely influencing times. Two miles shorter on the bike, as reported, would be 6 minutes difference at 20 miles per hour for example. I’ve have excluded the 2016 race from this analysis though, as it’s bike course was much more significantly shortened.
I’ve also seen the pictures and videos of bike pelotons. Drafting obviously aids bike (and run) splits, but I don’t have the data to produce any meaningful analysis of this. I’ll leave discussion of what might be done for another day, I don’t think there are easy solutions when you want 2,500 racing at once.
It was clearly a good day for racing in Texas. Both swim and run distributions trend ahead of the 2011-2017 aggregate results. It’s the bike that’s exceptional though. What was a top 25% bike split in previous years is a top 50% bike split this year. That’s quite a shift. You can also see a leading peak in the 4:30-4:45 range, with a full 10% of age groupers coming in under 4:45.
Allowing for the fact that prior to 2017 figures include DNS numbers it doesn’t look like there’s much difference in DNFs for this years race. Percentages of DNFs are mid to low on bike and run. Nothing that suggests either exceptional conditions or anything tougher than usual.
Of course we see big jumps forward in the age group bike medians in the above charts. Swim and run faster too, but on the bike times are often 30 minutes faster or more.
There’s a largely US field at Ironman Texas, but the slots get distributed over quit a range of nationalities in attendance.
Tracking times for specific age group positions over the years shows how this year’s race was clearly faster than before. While all times appear to have gotten faster, there’s a tightening of times at the front. First place in each age group isn’t necessarily that much faster than before, but 5th or 10th have often closed in on it. When you move back to 100th place in an age group the improvement isn’t necessarily on the same scale either. Overall though, times were faster across the top 100.
I’ve calculated a slot allocation based on the start numbers and from that estimated the automatic qualifying times in each age group. Final numbers might vary on this. Roll downs aren’t factored in. Fast aren’t they! For comparison with other races, you can check my Kona qualification page.
Finally, the top twenty in each age group. With rare exception times are significantly faster than average and faster than previous races. From 30 through to 50 men needed a sub-9 to qualify and women a sub-10. There aren’t many races that can claim that, not least when 80 slots were distributed over the field.
You can access a spreadsheet of the full results from Ironman Texas 2018 on my Google Drive.