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?
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.
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.
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).
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.
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?