2012 Goleta Beach Triathlon – Initial Result Analysis


Being a Data Analyst and Triathlete mean race results are super exciting for me.  The results are almost as exciting as the real event… almost!  I find it interesting to see which Age Groups were fastest and how they compared between the Sprint and Olympic events. Data can tell you a lot about an event, its character and even help you make a smart decision in choosing an event to compete in. If you are a competitive triathlete, do you know how the top 10 stack up?

Overall Results

So, without further ado, here are some interesting insights from the preliminary 2012 Goleta Beach Triathlon results by SB Timing with analysis by TrainingMetrix:

Three distinct races and three distinct finish time patterns.

The blue line is the Sprint, the Green line is the Olympic and the Orange line is the Duathlon event.   What fascinates me the most about these lines are their long tails.  While there was one person who finished the Sprint in three hours, the Olympic course had a much shorter “long tail” of finish times.   The Duathlon was a tiny event and probably a great event for anyone who wanted to place in their Age Group and get a quick medal.

In each of the events, the top 10 stand out as you can see a steep slope from the y-axis, defining the “pro” or “competitive” athlete from a more recreational athlete.

Surprising Sexes

After looking at the counts of Male and Female athletes by event, I was shocked to see that while the Sprint and Duathlon had an equal distribution of M to F, the Olympic event was 2/3 male, 1/3 female.  In fact for every female, there were 2.33 men competing.

Very distinct distributions by event.

At the risk of offending someone, I will limit my inferences as to what the male domination of the Olympic means.   I will simply say further research and participant interviews will be needed.

What Does Age Have To Do With It?

Looking at the count of participants by Age Group, as well as the Average Age by event, we can see the Olympic event is favored by older athletes.  The Sprint histogram by Age Group trails off more steeply after the 40-44 Age Group, while the Olympic event has a sudden drop off at the 55-59 Age Group. (see charts in section above)

The averages by event indicate this as well, the average age of the Sprint triathlete is 36.1 vs 37.5 for the Olympic.  Given this insight, the Olympic is clearly dominated by more experienced Men.

So, Are The Old Guys Faster?

Well, yes.  This is where we see a major difference in the results between the Olympic and Sprint events.  The fastest Age Group for the Sprint is the 35-39 group, whereas the Olympic’s fastest Age Group was the 45-49 (the 65-69 group was fastest but only had one triathlete, so this is statistically insignificant result).

The older Age Groupers are faster in the Olympic event.

Likewise, in general the Sprint tended to have faster athletes in the younger age groups (<40), but the Olympic tended to have faster times in the older age groups (40+).  This makes sense as it takes time to build up the endurance to be a fast endurance athlete. Not to mention speed comes with experience, which comes with age.

What about those Top 10?

The top 10 is an interesting place to look and it certainly illustrates just how competitive each event really is.  For instance, the Sprint is the most popular and has the widest range of athletes and abilities, whereas the Olympic has the more seasoned athletes and is the tougher course.

And the results support this.  The top 10 for the Sprint had an average finish time of 0:48:10 and an 0:01:56 deviation (4.0% of the average).  Not only is this a really insanely fast time, but the top 10 finished closely.  Compare this to Olympic which had a finish time of 2:12:52 and an 0:03:40 deviation (just 2.7% of the average).  Wow, imagine bustin’ your butt for over two hours and have a top 10 finish come down to less than four minutes.   Those older, more experienced athletes know how to race!

One last word on the top 10.  The top 10 are both dominated by men (sorry ladies!), with 9 of the 10 Sprint finishers Men and all 10 Olympic being men.

Summary

Data is a fascinating that can help each athlete determine the best race for their goal.  The 2012 Goleta Beach Triathlon offers very distinct events for triathletes of all types. From a distinctly older Olympic event to the Sprint with its equal Sex mix and faster younger athletes, you can easily see he evolution of the triathlete in the data.  Makes me wonder how many of the triathletes in the top 25% of the Sprint will be competing in the Olympic in a few years?

Cheers!

Survey: Triathlon Training Solutions


One thing that is near and dear to my heart is analytics.  The second thing that is near and dear to my heart is triathlon.  What happens when you put the two together?  Triathlon analytics that can be applied to race results, triathlon training and nutrition.

It is such a fascinating topic to me that I recently created a solution called TrainingMetrix, which is still under development.  One of the goals of TrainingMetrix is to produce the best triathlon training analysis solution that gives you the feedback to perform.  I call it focused performance.

If you currently track workouts and nutrition via a 3rd party online solution, Excel, or just a simple notebook, please take the following survey (via SurveyMonkey): Triathlon Workout Tracking Survey.  The information will help me create the next generation solution that will help you perform your best.

Cheers!

Triathlon Training Update – January 2011


It has been a while since I gave an update on my triathlon training.  Seems like after last year’s Carpinteria Triathlon, I went into hibernation.  For one reason or another, it was simply time to slow down, deal with life and do some regrouping.  So, the winter months were not exactly the most productive in terms of triathlon training.

But, it wasn’t like I spent the winter in bed.  In contrast to last winter where I spent quite a bit of time improving my physical side, this winter I focused more on the mental side.  I spent time reflecting on 2009 and 2010 triathlon seasons, studying “the mental edge” and positive visualization.  I learned a lot about what it meant to perform mentally whether during training or during a race.

Studying the Mental Edge

Two books helped me focus and provided some surprise inspiration.  Two of the books, “Zero Regrets” and “Spirit of the Dancing Warrior” are summarized in my post, Some Inspiration: Apolo and a Warrior.  The third book, Dan Millman’s Way of the Peaceful Warrior, is an interesting tale that parallels the other two.  Simply by being focused, in control, and breathing calmly, one can become a warrior at everything they do.

All three books have made me reconsider my approach to everything, but I am learning that becoming a warrior requires discipline, practice and even more discipline.  However, when I achieve the warrior state whether swimming, biking or running, the results are fantastic.  It is like I am transported to a land where gravity works with me, not against me and every step or stroke is pure bliss.  The hard part is getting to that state, which requires one’s mind to let go of all thoughts, step above any muscle pain and focus on breathing.  It takes practice.

C is for Consistency

Speaking of practice, my physical workouts have been sporadic.  Like I said before, life can be quite busy at times, especially during the holidays and end of year.

Daily workout score with moving average.

As you can see in the chart above, my triathlon training is rather inconsistent.  Each marker represents a workout with the value being a function of time and intensity.  Not only has the frequency of workouts dropped off, but also the intensity, starting in mid-January.  In fact, February has been dismal with more zero intensity days since I was an office potato.

The primary workout each week has been a cross training workout that combines strength with cardio training. The workout starts with intervals on the treadmill, then two circuits of strength and usually ending with more intervals on the bike or elliptical.

Weekends would include a long bike, run, swim or combination of the three.  I also started attending a group swim workout at the local pool, which proved to be highly beneficial.  Not only is it a longer pool, at 50m, but very motivational as swimming with other more competent athletes really makes me push harder.  My swim workouts have gone from 500-600 meters to well over 1 kilometer.

Going Forward

So, what’s next? Keep moving forward.  My first triathlon is the Ventura Triathlon at the end of June.  This gives me plenty of time to build my competitive spirit and get back into shape.  With the goal of completing the olympic course at the Carpinteria Triathlon in September, it is clearly time to come of hibernation and get going.  Bears can spend an entire year in their caves!

Putting Ironman in Perspective


I want to be an Ironman.

Over the past three years, I transformed myself from a cubicle dwelling office potato to a sprint triathlete.  After finishing my first practice triathlon three weeks before my first real competitive event, I knew I had the multi-sport bug.  Life was never going to be the same again!  That was the goal, after all.

Looking back over my past eight sprint finishes and now, looking forward to the future, there is one place for me to end up.

Enter the Ironman.

To be an Ironman means that you have mastered the art of multi-sport endurance.  Swimming 2 miles, cycling 115, and then finishing by running a simple marathon.   This is not your typical walk in a park…  at least for many people on this planet we call Earth.

Sprint Triathlon vs 1/2 Ironman & Ironman

The triathlon chart above compares the distances of my previous sprint triathlons to distances of the Half Ironman (70.3) and Ironman (140.6).   My reaction to seeing this chart was along of the lines of, “I think the journey has really just begun.” My longest sprint was the UCSB Triathlon in March 2010 with a distance of nearly 20 miles, just a fraction of the 140 miles of a full Ironman.

My super hairy, audacious goal (shag) has been set…  see you at the Ironman finish-line in a few years.  But which one?

 

Mapping 2010 Workouts


One of the cool things about using a GPS enabled heart rate monitor, such as the Garmin 305, is that you can easily map your workouts.  Not only does this provide you with pace, distance, and elevation data, but it also gives you an entirely new source of motivation and inspiration.

Take the images below, for instance.  I took all of the data from Garmin Training Center and imported it into Google Earth.  Suddenly, in front of me was an entire year’s worth of workouts and races.   Wow…

Greater Santa Barbara and Goleta Area

You can see in the above map how concentrated my workouts are in certain areas of greater Santa Barbara/Goleta.  The waterfront of SB, to Goleta, the airport, and UCSB.  Included in this map are the UCSB Triathlon, Santa Barbara Triathlon Chardonnay 10-miler and my Jesusita Trail runs.

Looks I got around on foot and the bike, but one thing bugs me… how isolated the groups are. Perhaps, in 2011, I will have to bridge the gaps.

Carpinteria

I had some issues where Google Earth would not draw Carpinteria routes with Santa Barbara.  So, the above map is the area just off the right of the Santa Barbara/Goleta map.  Workouts in this area include the turn-around for long bike rides via the 150 and the Carpinteria Triathlon course.  Most of these workouts originated at East Beach in SB, but some started at the Carpinteria State Park.

Oxnard, Ventura and Points South

This area is where 2010 began, with the Boney Mountain Trail Run, which is mapped in the lower right of the map.  We also have the Ventura Triathlon, Strawberry Fields Triathlon and the Camarillo Duathlon (not as an official participant) mapped out as well.  Pretty exciting.

2011 Inspiration

Looking at these maps has already provided some inspiration for 2011.  As I noted before, I would love to start connecting the gaps between Goleta, Santa Barbara and Ventura.  This is going to mean climbing some gnarly hills, many, many more miles on foot and on the bike.  But then endurance athletes are known for their insane abilities.

I seriously can’t wait until next year, when I can review the 2011 maps and see where I have been.  Who knows, maybe I’ll get some training in outside of California!

Building a Triathlon Training Dashboard


A number of posts back, I talked about the creation of a triathlon training dashboard that would help me track my workouts and training status. I viewed the creation of this dashboard as an essential part of my training, after all keeping logs and journals during any fitness journey can provide inspiration and help identify key areas of focus. Keeping track of your workouts, goals, and performance is a very important part of triathlon training.

As an Analyst by day, I understand the importance of tracking metrics that drive success as well as drilling down into the meaning behind them.  Just like when I drill down into Sales to understand a change in pattern, drilling down into my own life and training is just as important to help me do my best at the next triathlon.

The original goal of the dashboard was to summarize all of the different components that drive performance in a triathlon or workout and track them as I worked toward my goals. My thought was to take these key metrics of workout intensity, duration, nutritional intake, and even life components like stress and sleep quality, record them in Excel and have them automatically roll-up into a series of charts.  The training dashboard would then be a combination of nutrition and workouts in a single view that helped me understand how I was tracking toward goals.  And, if I was off pace for goals, a drill down capability to figure out where I was going wrong… was it nutrition?  was it lack of sleep?  what was causing my lack of true performance?

While the dashboard I was building in Excel was always considered to be a work in progress, it never developed much beyond helping me understand:

  1. how much time was spending on training by sport
  2. how my running pace and cycling speed was improving
  3. what my focus was for the week
  4. when my next race occurred

The bulk of my nutrition and workout data was still being analyzed in Training Peaks as Premium subscriber. While the Training Peaks solution offers a great way to summarize and share workouts and nutrition data, it does not do a very good job of putting it all together.  Each area of focus still reside in their respective charts and it is very difficult to correlate a poor diet back to a decrease in performance.

As I continue to develop my personal Excel training dashboard, I must recognize where I have been struggling and why it is not easy to create a brilliant dashboard for triathletes or any other athlete for that matter. Here is why:

  1. Capturing workout intensity is a mathematical formula that is very difficult to capture.  In fact, Training Peaks developed their own proprietary formula that uses a number of data points to calculate a Training Stress Score (TSS) that rates the workout.   The best I have come up with is a factor of time and heart rate.  This is the biggest obstacle.
  2. Capturing life variables such as stress, sleep quality and positive visualization in an objective manner is difficult.  While I can easily record a point score for each variable in Excel and average them in my dashboard, the score I assign is based on a relative feeling against yesterday or the day before.  Since I have never experienced “worst” stress, how do I know what it really is?
  3. Normalizing component scores so they roll up into a single score.  My life metrics, nutritional scoring, and workout intensity scoring are all on scales.  To roll them up, I need to make sure each metric is weighted correctly.

Solving these issues will help me cross some major hurdles and reinvigorate life into my existing dashboard.  I hope to, in the future, automate and possibly market the dashboard to my readers.  I really think that Training Peaks and other solutions have yet to truly deliver on triathlon training analytics, let alone deliver a meaningful triathlon training dashboard.  After all, Training Peaks was built for cyclists, not triathletes.

*Update, 10/24/2011 – After working on various training dashboards in Excel, I decided it was time to share them with the public.  I founded a company called TrainingMetrix, LLC, with the purpose of bringing simple, yet sophisticated training analysis to athletes of all types, include triathletes.  Check out our community for more information.

If you are interested in helping me out with this project and/or interested in testing a beta dashboard, please email me at:  aricrmh ‘at’ gmail ‘dot’ com.

For more posts on triathlon training dashboard, please click here.

Stay tuned for more exciting things to come!

Carpinteria Triathlon Results Posted


Hi All,

Just a quick post.  Today, I finished the Carpinteria Triathlon Sprint in 1:36:15, not exactly earth shattering, but given the crazy few weeks I’ve had, I think it is just great!

Placing 370th of 462 puts me about 20% better than the other athletes.  With a goal in 2011 of finishing in the top 50%, I have quite a bit of work to do this winter!

The results are posted on the Carpinteria Triathlon website (click “Results” on the left).   I took the liberty of plotting the Sprint course overall finish times.

2010 Carpinteria Triathlon Sprint results

The red triangle is me.  I wanted to see where I place on the graph and like it.  Note how much time is between 1st and 2nd place… a full 8 minutes!   That is impressive.

A full race report is coming soon… Cheers!