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!

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!

The First Ride of 2011!


First, Happy New Year!  What better way to welcome the new year, than with an awesome bike ride through Goleta, Ca.  While the weather was a tad on the chilly side, the brilliant, bright sun and clear weather made for a refreshing ride.

My goal for this ride was simply to take it easy, go the distance and feel my muscles out for what they can put out.  I was nervous that I lost some strength over the past few weeks since I haven’t been riding near as much as I’ve been running.

What I discovered is that my muscles are doing just fine.  While I did feel drained earlier than expected, I am quite happy with the outcome.  The ride lasted 01:08:34 and covered 17.8 miles at an average speed of 15.6 mph.  Not my fastest performance for the Goleta Loop, but I’ll take it.

Averages per Mile

The above chart shows the mile split times for average speed (column: blue), average cadence (line: red), and average heart rate (line: tan).   The reason why I built this chart was to see what cycling looks like compared to running.  Here are some highlights:

  1. It took me about four miles before I got warmed up.
  2. I have no idea why I don’t have data for miles 6 and 8.
  3. The cadence and heart rate remains fairly consistent, with speed having the most deviation.  I think this means I maintaining effort on hills and letting the speed slow down, where I should be trying harder to maintain speed with more effort.
  4. You can see that I cranked it up for the last two miles as the heart rate climbed steadily.
  5. Mile 16 is the fastest at nearly 20mph average thanks to a steady, downward slope.  You can see the cadence is significantly lower as well since I didn’t maintain effort during this split.

The point of this is to say that as I continue to train in 2011, I need to be fully aware of my body, my effort and what is happening around me.  It is fine tuning the “mental edge” and putting mind over body (to a point!).

The first ride of 2011 is in the history books.  Not only did I get to enjoy some beautiful weather, but I learned a lot about how I ride…  something to improve upon in 2011.

How the Attitude Makes the Race


Attitude.  Some people have it, others don’t. Some have a great attitude and others have an attitude in the ditch.  In fact we have it all the time and the attitude we live our daily lives with often dictates our success or failures.  You can suck up the inconveniences and push on, or you can let them get to you and whine instead of moving on.

It wasn’t until I started training for my first triathlon that I realized my attitude sucked.  Sure there was a lot of pain, sweating, and stinky gym workouts, but those were merely there to separate the men from the boys.  I realized this and quickly changed my attitude and used the pain and suffering as motivation to keep going.

Still, it wasn’t until I started my first triathlon that I realized that my attitude really needed adjusting. Competition was nothing like practice.  The clock was ticking, it was everyman/woman for themselves, the water cold, the transition area huge, and the run hard.  It all took me by surprise.

Sure I could have thrown in the towel and let the crowd get to me, the crappy transition area, and the competitive spirit.  But instead, I thought about the step I was taking and the next step just ahead of it.  I was going to get this done.  I wasn’t going to stop, I knew my attitude had to be tough, spirits high and life was good.

On the other hand, the poor attitude racers were plucked from the ocean as quiters.  The poor attitude cyclists wimped and whined their way back to transition only to whimp and whine through the run.

Clearly they had forgotten that they were in a triathlon, one of the most challenging and best sports on the planet.   They should be enjoying the challenge, focusing one the moment, their athletic ability and the fact that were going to finish.
What would you prefer, crossing the finish line giving it your all or crossing the finish line whining about the weather?

The attitude makes the race!

2010 Santa Barbara Triathlon Results Plotted!


As an Analyst, I love data and I love understanding patterns.  So, after finishing my 7th triathlon, the Santa Barbara Triathlon sprint, recently, I decided to do some analysis.  Check out the scatter plot below: (results here)

If you participated in this event, can you find yourself in the chart?

Seems like that group placing at the end really set themselves apart from the rest of the finishers.  Regardless of their finishing place, I am sure they had fun and I congratulate them on finishing the triathlon.

Another interesting thing is how tight the top 50 finishers are. From swim to T1, through Bike, T2 and run, the difference between places is just a matter of seconds.

Also, look at the distribution of T1 vs T2 times.  T2 seems much more consistent across the participants than T1.  Perhaps changing shoes is a much more consistent event than, say, removing a wetsuit and getting dressed.   Fascinating…

One of things that I keep hearing about this year’s event was that it was slower.  I personally took four minutes longer to finish the “same” course as last year (however, I had the flu).  So, the Analyst in me wants to prove or disprove this feeling.  Was the 2010 Santa Barbara Triathlon sprint slower than 2009?  You’ll just have to check back and see.

Expect the Unexpected: 2010 Santa Barbara Triathlon Sprint


Let me start this post by saying that I awoke in the wee hours of Saturday, August 28th with a severe case of food poisoning.  I was so sick, I wasn’t able to join friends at East Beach for the Santa Barbara Triathlon Long Course that day.  In fact, I didn’t even think I would compete in Sunday’s Sprint.

Luckily, I recovered enough that I felt comfortable competing.   Late Saturday night, I put the final checklist and plans into place and set my alarm clock for 4:30am the next morning.

Waking suddenly to the bitter sound of “beep, beep, beep,” I immediately hit the snooze.  “OMG! It’s already time to get up…  I need at least another hour,” I said to myself.   But, triathletes don’t need another hour, so I got up, got dressed, packed the rest of my stuff into my GYST transition bag, loaded the car and headed toward East Beach.

Parking was easy and I met some other triathletes, which helped brighten my mood. As we walked along the waterfront above the transition area, I can hear the waves off in distance. We talked about how cold the ocean water was projected to be and agreed that today’s swim was not going to be a walk in the park despite the calm conditions.  This was real!

Being at the transition area so early, I was able to choose the best transition spot, the outside end of the 1140-1180 bib range.  Five rows down from swim in and very convenient.

Of course, setting up transition was super simple with my GYST transition bag. Set it down, unfold it, and you are set to go!  The wetsuit is ready, the change of clothes, the shoes, snacks and water bottles are there and ready to go.

For some reason time really seemed to fly.  I had plenty of time to stretch, make multiple trips to the bathroom, chat with other triathletes, and focus on the task ahead.

But then I found myself in the porta-potty when they announced the first wave was leaving in fifteen minutes!  OMG! I still had to put on my wetsuit and do a practice swim.  However, fifteen minutes is plenty of time to wipe your butt, put on an over-sized wetsuit, and walk down to the beach.

The practice swim confirmed what we all have been hearing for the past few days, the water was really, really cold!  I also realized that entry into the water might be an issue as I watched a group of swimmer get taken out by a wave.  Once past the breaking waves, the feet didn’t seem to mind the cold much, but the hands and face protested.  I started out with side stroke and got into a rhythm and then transitioned to crawl. But the ice cream headache during crawl was a bit much for my food poisoned, recovering body so I stopped to tread water for a bit before heading back to shore.

Uh-Oh, WAVE!

Lining up at the start was a little scary.  It was the first time that I realized just how far apart each of the buoys were.  Was this really a 500m swim?  Looks to be a lot longer! Time to concentrate.

The first wave left and the 2010 Santa Barbara Triathlon sprint had begun! I could see that very few people were swimming with their heads in the water.  They also seemed to take a while to get around the first buoy and make progress toward the second. Not very reassuring as the second wave, my wave, lined up at the start.

Then they announced 30 seconds, time to focus.  I pulled my goggles down, checked my swim cap and took a deep breathe.  Then the countdown began.

The horn blew and the wall of men in front of me disappeared.  I remember seeing feet, splashing, and then looking up and seeing a wave. A giant and thinking to myself that this was going to suck.  Why didn’t I look up before I entered the water and waited two seconds?  The wave hit me and a few others, flooding my face with salt water and knocking the wind out of me.  Time stood still.

Unlike the others, I was still standing where I was hit.  I immediately dove into a side stroke, but quickly noticed that something was wrong.  I was out of breathe and every movement of the arms and legs felt like I lacked power.  Was it the cold.

While getting to the first buoy and turning to parallel shore didn’t take long, looking the length of the buoys and barely being able to see the far buoy was psychologically distressing.   This was going to be a long, painful swim.

Despite my body trying to tell me to stop, I pushed on, doing any stroke I could muster that would keep me moving toward the end.  From side stroke, back stroke, dogie paddle, to crawl, I kept myself going, absolutely determined to see this through to the end.  While I realized that my goal of 55min was probably not going to happen at this point, I knew that I still had to give this event my all.

Rounding the last buoy, I realized how wide I went.  I went so wide that I was in a world of my own, seeing blue and white caps splashing about 20 meters to my right.  I must have swam crooked for a little too long… oops.   I swam straight toward the chute on the beach.  While others were starting to stand up, I gave myself a few extra strokes and then exited the water.

My heart was racing, I was out of breathe, cold, and wondered if doing this was really such a great idea.  Of course it was, the hard part was now over and the fun was just about to begin!

The Little Piggy Goes “Wwweeeeee”

T1 was pretty fast. All I had to do was strip off the wetsuit, toss on the shorts, GPS, helmet and shoes and go.  While I had some issues getting my Polar watch off and replacing it with the Garmin GPS, not putting on the gloves, socks and switching shirts like I did last year really saved some time.  I grabbed the bike and mounted.

Those first few pedal strokes after the swim are some of the most amazing to me.  You are covered in salt water, the wind is drying you off and your legs are still a little confused about what you want them to do.  Yet, you can feel the power being transferred to the road and it is exhilarating.

It wasn’t long before I caught up to a few cyclists and went whizzing by them.   I was moving at a speed just under 20mph and it felt great to pass someone else for a change.  I had ridden this course almost a hundred times over the past few years, so this really was like a Sunday ride to me.

Going up the first hill, I came upon two young-ins making their way up the hill on mountain bikes.  As I approached them at high speed, I yelled some words of encouragement.  As I passed them, I could hear the frustration of my passing them in their heavy breathing.   One remarked to the other to get moving, to which he replied with a gasp.

Going down the hill toward the Biltmore, I was reminded of the Geico commercial where the little piggy goes “weee” all the way home.  This was fun, I was hauling ass, so what the heck.  At 33mph down the hill, I let out a big loud “wwwweeeeeeeeeeeeeee.”  I don’t think the volunteers were amused.

The turn around came quickly and I thought I was slightly ahead of last year’s pace. Knowing that a run was about 12 minutes away, I backed off on my return ride to East Beach.  Even still, I kept passing people.

I even passed people climbing up “hell hill,” the hill that I came screaming down just a few minutes before.   There were three cyclists making their way up the hill and that was the motivation I needed to get to the top.  “I’ll pass you and you and you, and you,” as I started my climb.  Before I knew it, I got to the top and looked back just before the turn…  to my astonishment, it looked like the other rides were just starting their climb.

Settling in and cruising back to East Beach was fun. I knew the bike was coming to and end rather quickly and I wanted to enjoy it.  Turning on to Cabrillo Blvd, leaving the volunteers and officer in my dust, I turned my attention toward T2 and the run.

Dismounting and running back to my transition was a blur.  I didn’t notice the crowd or much else.  I was in my zone, mentally ready to finish this event.

Body Says Stop

T2 was quite fast.  Rack the bike, slip off the helmet, change shoes, grab the waist pack and go.   It went as easily as it sounds.

Unfortunately, about a quarter mile into the run, my entire right leg from hip to heel decided it had had enough and started cramping up.  I pushed on, focusing on my form, lift the heals, push forward from the hip and stare at the horizon.

I then noticed my GPS was showing some odd readings.  For instance it said I had covered 2,600 miles and was going 86mph! If only!  Without the GPS, I had no idea what my pace was and my strategy relied upon knowing the pace and keeping my run consistent. But that was before my right side decided it had had enough.

The run was one of the most painful of all, and I found myself limping along.  I was crushed, this wasn’t how I expected to end this event.  Still, I pushed on, and brought the event home, crossing the finish line in 1:08:44, a full four minutes longer than last year. <results posted here>

Crushed, but Motivated & Content

Yes, my time was worst than last year.  I suffered through a freezing cold swim, had the time of my life on the bike, and pushed through one of the worst cramps I have ever had on a run.  I even did it while still recovering from food poisoning the day before.

Even factoring in all of the above points, comparing times to last year leaves me crushed.  The Santa Barbara Triathlon was an event that I was sure I could pull off a decent personal record in.  Unfortunately, things happened that prevented this from happening.

Did I give this event 150% effort? Yes.  Could it have gone a lot worse? Yes.  Am I so crushed that I’ve lost motivation to go on?  No.

Triathletes have good and bad events.  The 2010 Santa Barbara Triathlon is perhaps one of my bad events.  There will be others in the future too, but I must learn from this and move on.

With that said, I have three weeks to get ready for the 2010 Carpinteria Triathlon.  See you there.

Triathlon #7: Santa Barbara Triathlon


Just under one week away on August 29th, I will embark on my seventh triathlon journey.  This journey is going to be short, fast, and sweet.

I completed the 2009 Santa Barbara Triathlon Sprint in just over an hour and four minutes.  With a full year of training, three additional triathlons and a lot more experience and new gear, I expect to better that time.  In fact, I am aiming for a sub 50 minute result.  Yep, I want to shave fourteen minutes off my time from last year.

With a team reorganization this year, a new triathlon coach, and the realization that my life obligations can and did make training difficult, completing in the Santa Barbara Triathlon is going to be pretty sweet.

The Santa Barbara Triathlon Sprint presents many unique challenges that will separate the men from the boys (or women from the girls):

  1. The distances are short. This eliminates the middle guy. Unless you are a beginner triathlete looking to get your feet wet with something simple or a die hard sprint triathlete, you probably won’t find the extremely short distances appealing for the money.
  2. Every second in transition counts! Being such a short event, an extra few seconds in transition could actually cost you a few places in the rankings.
  3. The run is flat. The two mile run is along the bike path.  While flat is usually great, it means that it is going to be fast compared to a more hilly route like the UCSB Triathlon.
  4. The bike is only 5.62 miles. Being just shy of six miles, the bike is truly a sprint.  Out and back on the same route, there are hills, inclines, sharp turns, and scenic views to keep the rider on his/her toes.

The race is compelling. The journey will be even more compelling. Crossing that finish line is going to be so sweet.

Hope to see you all there.