Archive | IM Hawaii

Analyzing Kona Finishing Times Through the Years

This post looks at the times and splits at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, highlights some of the exceptional results and tries to spot some long-term trends.

The graphs were developed for Ironman as part of their coverage during what would have been race week. Greg Welch and I had a chat about it that was shown as part of their “Kona Celebration Week Daily Show 6 – E Ola Mau” (starting about 1:07 into the show) which you can still watch on the Ironman Now Facebook page. Many thanks to Greg and Julia for joining me on this awesome journey through Ironman history!


Overall Times

The first graph looks at the overall finishing times of the Top 10 in Kona, both for the men (blue) and women (green) from 1986 up to 2019:

(For a hi-res version of this and all other graphs, just click on them.)

A few key points:

  • There are a lot of “ups and downs” in the times – a sign of how variable the conditions in Kona are. It’s never a good idea to race Kona with a specific time goal in mind.
  • 2004 has been a particularly slow year with a lot of wind on the bike. Normann Stadler rode by far the fastest bike split with a 4:37 – only two years later he rode a 4:18, setting a new bike course record. Both years he was winning the race!
  • A recent example of a fast year is 2018 when bike and overall course records were set – conditions on the bike course were very fast with reportedly hardly any wind.
  • The closest the women have come to the male finishers is still 1988 when Paula Newby-Fraser finished 11th overall.

Details for the Men’s Times

The next chart look at the men’s Top 10 and a couple of the course records:

2 MenTop10

You can distinguish between a few phases:

  • Dave Scott brought down the course records in the first half of the 1980s down to sub-8:30.
  • Then he and Mark Allen had their epic battle in 1989 (with a new course record of 8:09).
  • Mark continued to race at that level, setting his last course record in 1993 and winning his sixth title in 1995. Luc Van Lierde set another CR in 1996.
  • After that there was a period of “slower years” with winning times just under 8:30 for quite some time.
  • Between 2005 and 2015 the winning times hovered around 8:15, with the notable exception of Craig Alexander’s course record in 2011.
  • Since 2016 the winning times have come down, with two new course records in 2018 (Patrick Lange for the first time under 8 hours in Kona) and 2019.
  • Jan Frodeno’s course record in 2019 is especially notable as a wider Top 10 indicates that the conditions were not that quick.

The swim plays an important tactical role but can be neglected for the overall finishing times. Let’s have a look at the bike and run splits to see where these faster times come from. First, the bike:

3 MenBike

As before, the chart shows the bike times for the Top 10 men, with the winner’s bike time indicated by the darker blue line. Again, most of the course records are indicated.

  • It’s clear that the winner almost always had the fastest bike leg or is at least quite close to the fastest split. There are very few exceptions such as 2007 or 2017 when the race was won by strong runners (Chris McCormack and Patrick Lange).
  • The bike times have been getting faster in “steps”: In the 1990s (just under 4:30) and mid-2000s (just under 4:20) by German “Uber Bikers” (Jürgen Zack, Thomas Hellriegel, Normann Stadler) and then again after 2016 with Cam Wurf setting two new bike course records in 2017 and 2018 (now just under 4:10).
  • Similarly, the bike times within the Top 10 have come down – sub-4:30 is roughly what is needed these days.

The next graph has a closer look at the Men’s Run Splits:

4 MenRun

  • Maybe even more than for the bike leg, the winners are very close to the fastest run time among the Top 10. There are only a few exceptions, for example Normann Stadler in 2004 and 2006 or Sebastian Kienle in 2014.
  • Overall, the run times have not come down since Mark Allen’s 1989 course record. Even if Patrick Lange has set a new course record in 2016, he and Dave Scott are still the second and third fastest runners in Kona history!
  • The same applies for the rest of the front finishers, you can still finish in the Top 10 with a 3-hour marathon.

Details for the Women’s Times

Of course the look at the women’s finishing times is also interesting:

5 WomenTop10

There are some interesting data points:

  • Paula Newby Fraser has been the athlete bringing finishing times by quite a lot: Her first course record was a 9:49 in 1986 – she brought that down to just over 9 hours in 1989.
  • Erin Baker was able to break Paula’s record in 1987, but Paula took it back just one year later.
  • Paula’s fastest time in Kona was 8:55 in 1992.
  • After that, times were a bit slower until Chrissie Wellington took the course record with an 8:54 in 2009, followed by Mirinda Carfrae with an 8:52 in 2013.
  • Daniela Ryf set two new course records in 2016 and 2018, bringing the current record down to sub 8:30!
  • Chrissie, Rinny and Daniela have also increased the pressure on the rest of the women, resulting in the Top10 times coming down from about 9:45 in the early 2000s to under 9:15 in recent years.

Here’s a look at the women’s bike splits:

6 WomenBike

  • As for the men, the winner consistently posts one of the fastest bike splits
  • It’s again Paula Newby-Fraser who brought the bike records down from 5:22 in 1987 to 4:48 in 1993.
  • It took Karin Thuerig, a world-class athlete even among the time trial specialists, to set new course records in 2010 and 2011.
  • That time wasn’t broken before 2018, when Daniela Ryf leveraged the perfect conditions to lower the record to 4:26.
  • As for the overall times and the men’s bike times, the female bike times for the Top 10 have come down since about 2012.

Here’s the last graph – a look at the female run times:

7 WomenRun

  • This graph shows the same message as before: The winner is almost always within a minute of the fastest split. This is true even for Daniela who isn’t really known as a speedy runner!
  • There’s been some improvement in the run times in the years of Paula, Erin, and Heather Fuhr (all of them about 3:04), then a bigger step down to Lori Bowden’s first sub-3 marathon in Kona in 1999.
  • Chrissie and Rinny brought these times down to just over 2:50.
  • Until Anne Haug in 2019, the run times have been a bit slower than that.
  • The Top10 run times haven’t changed much in the 2000s, it’s still possible to finish in the Top10 with a run split over 3:15.

Expectations for the Future

Are there any trends we can look for in the next few years? Here are a few speculations:

  • We’ve seen a lot of improvement on the bike, but maybe there’s still some potential left for the top women.
  • On the marathon, I think that there will be some faster times needed for a Top 10 finish, potentially aided by more even bike rides, better nutrition or heat adaption and maybe new, faster shoes.
  • For a Top 10 finish, I expect the men will need a run under 2:50 and for the women under 3:10.
  • Any overall improvements will likely come from a close race where two or more athletes are battling for the win. On the men’s side, it might be a front bike group that forces Frodo to bike and run hard, and on the female side I don’t think that we’ve seen Daniela running to her full potential quite yet.

Where do you think we will see improvements in the next years?

Ironman Hawaii 2020 – Seedings

Today, October 10th would have been race day for the 2020 IronmanWorld Championships in Kona. The whole 2020 racing season has been disrupted, including the Kona race which has first been postponed to February 2021 and then completely canceled.

This post has a look at what my seedings could have looked like – obviously even more caveats apply than for my normal seedings. For example, almost none of the athletes mentioned have raced since Kona, even fewer on the full distance. The result is that the 2020 seedings mainly ending up as a mixture of the 2019 seedings plus the results of Kona 2019. Therefore, take these more as a discussion starter than some definitive endpoint – after all results are always determined on the racecourse!

I can’t wait to see a return to racing and hopefully a more normal 2021 season, including new results by the main contenders – leading to even more interesting speculations for the next Kona race on October 9th, 2021.

Last Race’s TOP 3

Male Race Results

Rank Name Nation Swim Bike Run Time
1 Jan Frodeno GER 00:47:31 04:16:02 02:42:43 07:51:13
2 Timothy O’Donnell USA 00:47:38 04:18:11 02:49:45 07:59:41
3 Sebastian Kienle GER 00:52:17 04:15:04 02:49:56 08:02:04

Female Race Results

Rank Name Nation Swim Bike Run Time
1 Anne Haug GER 00:54:09 04:50:17 02:51:07 08:40:10
2 Lucy Charles-Barclay GBR 00:49:02 04:47:20 03:05:59 08:46:44
3 Sarah Crowley AUS 00:54:05 04:50:13 02:59:20 08:48:13

Course Records

Leg Gender Record Athlete Date
Total overall 07:51:13 Jan Frodeno 2019-10-12
Swim overall 00:46:29 Jan Sibbersen 2018-10-13
Bike overall 04:09:06 Cameron Wurf 2018-10-13
Run overall 02:39:45 Patrick Lange 2016-10-08
Total female 08:26:18 Daniela Ryf 2018-10-13
Swim female 00:48:14 Lucy Charles-Barclay 2018-10-13
Bike female 04:26:07 Daniela Ryf 2018-10-13
Run female 02:50:26 Mirinda Carfrae 2014-10-11

Seedings for Male Race

# Name Nat Expected ESwim EBike ET2 ERun Kona Consistency
1 Jan Frodeno GER 07:59:02 00:48:48 04:20:18 05:14:06 02:44:56 80% +0% -20% (5)
2 Patrick Lange GER 08:02:15 00:50:59 04:26:09 05:22:09 02:40:06 54% +0% -46% (4)
3 Sebastian Kienle GER 08:05:51 00:53:17 04:16:51 05:15:07 02:50:44 76% +0% -24% (8)
4 Ben Hoffman USA 08:09:17 00:51:17 04:25:54 05:22:11 02:47:06 76% +16% -8% (9)
5 Timothy O’Donnell USA 08:10:27 00:49:17 04:23:41 05:17:58 02:52:29 82% +14% -4% (9)
6 Joe Skipper GBR 08:12:48 00:54:12 04:22:35 05:21:47 02:51:01 89% +0% -11% (4)
7 Braden Currie NZL 08:13:36 00:49:42 04:30:15 05:24:57 02:48:39 82% +0% -18% (3)
8 Bart Aernouts BEL 08:13:40 00:56:14 04:26:05 05:27:19 02:46:21 70% +24% -5% (8)
9 Florian Angert GER 08:14:04 00:49:44 04:23:16 05:18:00 02:56:04 n/a (no Kona Pro race)
10 Cameron Wurf AUS 08:15:38 00:53:25 04:17:21 05:15:46 02:59:52 100% +0% -0% (3)
13 Javier Gomez ESP 08:17:58 00:49:44 04:30:05 05:24:48 02:53:10 100% +0% -0% (1)
17 Alistair Brownlee GBR 08:19:26 00:49:00 04:22:43 05:16:43 03:02:43 100% +0% -0% (1)
19 Lionel Sanders CAN 08:19:33 00:55:03 04:18:11 05:18:13 03:01:20 58% +16% -26% (5)
27 Josh Amberger AUS 08:30:40 00:48:34 04:28:58 05:22:31 03:08:09 18% +0% -82% (3)

Seedings for Female Race

# Name Nat Expected ESwim EBike ET2 ERun Kona Consistency
1 Anne Haug GER 08:47:11 00:55:30 04:54:20 05:54:51 02:52:20 62% +38% -0% (2)
2 Daniela Ryf SUI 08:47:21 00:56:34 04:44:22 05:45:57 03:01:24 33% +25% -42% (6)
3 Lucy Charles-Barclay GBR 08:50:30 00:49:56 04:50:09 05:45:05 03:05:25 51% +49% -0% (3)
4 Laura Philipp GER 08:57:01 01:00:20 04:49:34 05:54:55 03:02:06 100% +0% -0% (1)
5 Sarah Crowley AUS 08:59:03 00:55:39 04:53:29 05:54:08 03:04:55 56% +44% -0% (4)
6 Teresa Adam NZL 09:02:47 00:53:29 04:52:04 05:50:33 03:12:14 100% +0% -0% (1)
7 Heather Jackson USA 09:04:02 09:06:07 04:51:51 05:57:20 03:06:42 94% +6% -0% (5)
8 Carrie Lester AUS 09:05:32 09:05:30 04:54:17 05:55:41 03:09:51 73% +0% -27% (5)
9 Corinne Abraham GBR 09:07:18 01:03:00 04:53:18 06:01:19 03:05:59 100% +0% -0% (4)
10 Daniela Bleymehl GER 09:11:05 00:59:48 04:48:27 05:53:15 03:17:50 82% +0% -18% (2)

Qualifying for the February 2021 Kona race as a Professional

Note: Ironman has been forced to cancel the February 2021 race. 

With all the canceled and rescheduled races that would have carried Kona slots, the Pro qualifying system also needs to adjust – otherwise the fields would be very small and a lot of deserving athletes wouldn’t have a chance to qualify. Andrew Messick, the CEO of Ironman, has sent a Message to Pro athletes on June 30th that outlines the elements of how Pro qualifying for the February race is likely to work. He himself admits that “we have very little insight into what is going to happen in the next few weeks and months”, but outlines the framework for Pro qualifying going forward as “the best we can do at this point”. This post has a closer look at what the implications of Andrew’s outline of what can be expected.

No Validation Required for Automatic Qualifiers

With the formal suspension of Pro qualifying rules for the current qualifying year, Ironman has also waived the requirement of slot validation for Automatic Qualifiers (former Kona winners, the most recent podium, and likely also the 70.3 Champion).

This means that Daniela Ryf, Anne Haug, Lucy Charles and Sarah Crowley can plan for February without needing a previous Ironman finish, as can Patrick Lange, Jan Frodeno and Sebastian Kienle on the men’s side. (Tim O’Donnell is also an AQ, but he had already validated at IM Cozumel.)

It’s not totally clear if that also applies to the 70.3 Champion, but it’s unlikely that Gustav Iden will be interested in preparing to race Kona in February when he has his eyes set on the Olympic Games later in the season.

Slot Allocations to reflect where Pro athletes are

As there are expected to be significant travel restrictions, slots shall be offered where athletes are.

Let’s have a look at where Professional Ironman athletes came from in 2019 and what share of the prize money they have made:

Continent Pros Prize Money
Europe 276 (58,7 %) 1.394.250 $ (56,5 %)
North America 110 (23,4 %) 595.500 $ (24,1 %)
Oceania 45 (9,6 %) 403.250 $ (16,3 %)
South America 24 (5,1 %) 28.750 $ (1,2 %)
Africa 10 (2,1 %) 39.250 $ (1,6 %)
Asia/Pacific 5 (1,1 %) 6.000 $ (0,2 %)

The majority of Pros comes from Europe (about 57%), with North America following in second place. Next is Oceania (mainly Australia and New Zealand), they have made a bigger share of prize money than their share of Pro athletes indicates, for South America it’s just the other way around. Africa and Asia/Pacific are very small compared to the big continents.

What will this mean for Kona Pro slots? In 2019, there were 57 men and 44 women who qualified for Kona. (There are fewer women as some slots are assigned based on the ratio of Pro men and women in a race.) Up to IM New Zealand in March (the last qualifying race before races were canceled because of Covid), 19 women and 20 men had already qualified which would leave between 25 and 37 slots still open. (Have a look at my Kona 2020 page for details.) Let’s apply this number of open slots to the percentages above and see which potential races there are for these slots.


With 56% of the Pros, this would mean that between 14 and 21 slots would be assigned to the European races.

Currently, the following European Ironman races are planned:

  • September 6th: IM Hamburg
  • September 19th: IM Italy
  • September 20th: IM Austria
  • October 4th: IM Barcelona
  • October 11th: IM France
  • October 11th: IM Vitoria
  • November 7th: IM Portugal

With the exception of Barcelona, all of these are rescheduled races, so it’s six or seven potential races with slots for February 2021. This would mean between two and four slots for each gender would be available in each of these races.

North America

North America has a smaller share of the Pros, roughly 24%. That would still result in about 6 to 9 slots for the North American races.

Currently, the following North American Ironman races are scheduled:

  • September 19th: IM St. George
  • October 17: IM Texas

With St. George as the designated Regional Championships (usually resulting in additional slots), it seems possible that all North American slots are awarded at these two races.

There are additional races that have been planned as qualifiers for the October 2021 race:

  • September 27th: IM Chattanooga
  • November 7th: IM Florida
  • November 22nd: IM Cozumel
  • November 22nd: IM Arizona


As noted above, Pros from Oceania have been more successful than their number would indicate, let’s work with a number of 13%. This would result in 3 to 5 slots per gender.

Currently, the following Australian Ironman races are scheduled:

  •  September 13th: IM Australia (canceled after writing the post)
  • September 27th: IM St. Cairns

Assigning the Oceania slots in these races shouldn’t be a problem. It seems that in order to “make space” on the Pro calendar for these races, 70.3 Sunshine Coast and 70.3 Western Sydney are no longer Pro races.

In addition, there is a 2021 qualifier:

  • December 6th: IM Western Australia

South America

Regardless of which South American quota you want to use, they should receive about one slot.

However, there are currently no Pro races scheduled for South America, IM Brasil has been rescheduled but not as a Pro race. It’s unclear where South American athletes will be able to qualify, especially with all the Corona problems they are currently suffering from, travel restrictions are likely to take some time before being lifted.

In fact, South American Pros have very little earning opportunity after the cancellation of IM Mar del Plata there is no longer a South American Regional Championship, IM Brasil isn’t a Pro race on it’s rescheduled date, and all Professional 70.3s have been canceled as well.


There aren’t very many African athletes (their quota corresponds to less than one slot), but there is a Pro race scheduled:

  • November 15th: IM South Africa

In the past, this has been a Regional Championship and a popular early season race for a lot of Europeans (unlikely to want to travel to South Africa late in the year), but at least one slot each still seems very likely.


The Asia/Pacific region has had a very low number of Pro IMs for some time, and there haven’t been many Professional athletes. Depending on where athletes are located, they will have to look to European or Australian races if they want to qualify for Kona.

In addition, Ironman has been removing all Pro 70.3s from the calendar – probably a mixture of the difficulty of organizing Pro races with a sizable purse in these times and because they have to focus on putting on Pro races in other regions.

Flexible Prize Money and Slot Allocation to payment to field sizes

With all the uncertainties, the prize money and the slots available at a race will be determined relatively close to race date based on the number of Pros who start  race. Andrew says that “we will not know the total prize purse until the race weekend” and that they want to pay deeper into the field to give more Pros a chance to earn some money. A similar approach will be used for the number of Pro slots: According to Andrew a “minimum allocation of slots will apply, with additional slots .. for every X number of athletes”.

While I agree that there needs to be a lot of flexibility, I hope that Ironman is going to “fix” the prize money and the number of slots before race start so that Pros have a better understanding of what they need to be shooting for.

Kona 2019 – How the Male Race Unfolded

Here are the results of the top finishers and the athletes that had an influence on the outcome of the MPRO race (full results can be found here, a similar detailed look at the women’s Pro race is in the works):

Rank Name Nation Swim Bike Run Time Diff to exp. Prize Money
1 Jan Frodeno GER 00:47:31 04:16:02 02:42:43 07:51:13 -05:27 US$ 120,000
2 Timothy O’Donnell USA 00:47:38 04:18:11 02:49:45 07:59:41 -14:44 US$ 60,000
3 Sebastian Kienle GER 00:52:17 04:15:04 02:49:56 08:02:04 02:54 US$ 40,000
4 Ben Hoffman USA 00:51:01 04:24:01 02:43:08 08:02:52 -08:39 US$ 22,500
5 Cameron Wurf AUS 00:52:25 04:14:44 02:55:03 08:06:41 -08:38 US$ 19,000
6 Joe Skipper GBR 00:52:28 04:16:18 02:53:30 08:07:46 -09:42 US$ 16,000
7 Braden Currie NZL 00:47:41 04:30:30 02:46:25 08:08:48 -05:06 US$ 14,000
8 Philipp Koutny SUI 00:52:20 04:15:14 02:57:50 08:10:29 -16:10 US$ 12,500
9 Bart Aernouts BEL 00:57:03 04:19:47 02:51:08 08:12:27 -02:03 US$ 11,000
10 Chris Leiferman USA 00:52:29 04:24:20 02:52:19 08:13:37 -00:16 US$ 10,000
21 Alistair Brownlee GBR 00:47:33 04:19:58 03:13:00 08:25:03 n/a
22 Lionel Sanders CAN 00:52:22 04:15:22 03:13:42 08:25:54 11:21
33 Josh Amberger AUS 00:47:28 04:27:16 03:25:25 08:44:29 19:57
38 Maurice Clavel GER 00:47:40 04:38:33 03:28:39 09:01:05 43:56
Boris Stein GER 00:54:15 04:13:18 DNF
Patrick Lange GER 00:47:40 DNF

Here’s the Race Development Graph for these athletes (click for a hi-res version):

Kona Men

Here are the main groups that formed during the race:

  • Front Group in Swim
    This year a true front group of eight athletes was able to build a decent gap of more than three minutes into T1. The group wasn’t just strong swimmers, most of the athletes in the front group were also ready to push the pace on the bike and stay away from the rest of the field. The way the race developed it’s no surprise that both winner Jan Frodeno and second-place Tim O’Donnell were in this group.
  • Swim Chase Group
    The second swim group was a lot smaller than what we’ve seen in the past – and without a strong biker willing to set the pace they were quickly joined by the “third group” that had the slower swimmers but strong bikers. No one from the second group was able to stay with the “bike power” when the climb to Hawi started. There were a few good results by those in the second group (most notably, Ben Hoffman in fourth), but they needed a strong run to place well.
  • Bike Chase Group
    Quickly after the swim, a strong bike group of seven athletes formed around Cam Wurf, Sebastian Kienle and Lionel Sanders. They overtook the athletes from the swim chase group and started to eat into the lead to the front but never came closer than two minutes, at the gap at the turnaround in Hawi. The best runner in this group was Sebastian Kienle who took third place.

Kona Champion: Jan Frodeno

The graph for Jan’s race is relatively uneventful – he was always at the front of the race:

1 Frodo

However, the graph does not tell the full story of the masterclass he delivered in Kona. He was swimming in the first group with Josh Amberger, building a gap of more than three minutes to the rest of the field. On the bike, the lead swim group stayed away from the rest of the field. Initially, the group consisted of nine athletes, before the climb to Hawi it had shrunk to five, then Josh Amberger and Maurice Clavel also fell away. After 95 miles, Jan didn’t seem to be too happy with the pace and tried to rally Tim O’Donnell and Alistair Brownlee, the last two who were able to stay with him. When they didn’t share in the work, he put in a last hard effort on the bike and dropped them. After the race Jan said that this was one of those awesome races where the body was just able to deliver what he asked for. (Check out his interview with Bob Babbitt after the race.)

By T2 he was 2:19 in front of TO, then took some extra time in T2 to cool down a bit further. (You can see in the graph how almost everyone made up time to him in T2.) At the start of the run the gap was down to 1:27 but once he started running on Ali’i, Jan was able to extend the gap to 2:42 at Palani (after 7.3 miles) and to 4:08 at the turn in the Energy Lab (16.2 miles). Jan posted the fastest marathon of the day (2:42:43), winning with a new course record (7:51:13) and a margin of 8:28, the largest winning margin since 2004 when Norman Stadler won by more than ten minutes in front of Peter Reid.

Jan JM

It’s hard to imagine how anyone could have been able to beat him this year with the tactics he chose and the performance he was able to show whenever it mattered. For comparison purposes: Even if Patrick Lange had been healthy and able to ride with the big group as he did last year (a shaky proposition given that there was a lot more bike power in the group this year), he would have been at least 3:30 behind Frodo at the start of the run – meaning he would have had to run a new run course record of low-2:39 just to be able to catch up to Frodo – a lot of pretty big “if’s”! It’ll be a tricky puzzle for the other athletes to come up with a strategy on how to put more pressure on Frodo for next year’s race.

Second Place: Tim O’Donnell

American Tim O’Donnell was able to improve on his fourth-place from last year and a third place in 2015. He finished second even after a less-than-optimal 2019 season:

2 TO

He was swimming with the front group and then was also able to stay with Frodo for most of the bike. He kept the pace honest after the turnaround in Hawi, and even if he was dropped by Frodo in the last part of the bike, he didn’t lose too much time and started the run in second place, about two minutes behind the lead but also two minutes ahead of the other podium contenders. With a running injury most of his Kona run training was done by pool running, and he was close to pulling out a few weeks out. But he felt good once on the run in Kona. Even if he was losing time to Frodo, he was able to keep the gap to the other runners around two minutes and didn’t seem to have many “low points”. He claimed second place with a 2:49:45 marathon, was the first American to go sub-8 in Kona – and also set a new “family Kona run record” held until this year by his wife Mirinda Carfrae with a 2:50:26 from 2014.

M2 TO Finish Line

Third Place: Sebastian Kienle

After last year’s DNF, Sebastian Kienle was able to add another Kona podium to his palmares:

3 Sebi

The typical question for Sebi’s swim is “how much time does he lose”. This year he was just under five minutes behind the swim leaders and about 90 seconds behind the swim chase group. He was probably hoping to be a bit closer to the front, but it was still better than in 2017 when he was more than four minutes behind the group or in 2016 when he started the bike with a three-minute deficit to most of the other contenders. As in 2017 Lionel Sanders and Cameron Wurf were within a few seconds of him, and it took the strong bikers only ten miles to bridge up to what is usually the “main group” on the bike. Apparently Sebi was content to have Cam Wurf set the pace and see the gap to the front of the race slowly coming down. However, at the turn in Hawi the gap was still over two minutes and then even got larger again. It’s not clear if that was a result of hard riding at the front or the pace slowing down a bit in the chase group, but the gap was 4:02 for Sebi at the end of the bike.

As was expected before the race, Sebi was running well and he was able to quickly overtake Alistair Brownlee, Lionel Sanders and Cam Wurf after they had surged a bit out of T2. Towards the front, Frodo was more than four minutes ahead in the lead, and Sebi was more than two minutes behind Tim O’Donnell and not making up time to him. But for most of the run he was extending the gap to fourth place, until at the very end Ben Hoffman was running extremely well and Sebi had to dig deep to keep a margin of less than a minute to Ben.

M3 Sebi Run

Overall, it was a solid third place for Sebi. On one hand, this will be a result he’s happy with after last year’s DNF and his extended rehab over the winter. On the other hand, he’s had the worst relative performance among the Top 10, about three minutes slower than what was expected from his previous results, whereas Frodo and TO were five and almost 15 minutes quicker than expected. This shows that Sebi probably didn’t have a stellar day in Kona and that he has some untapped potential for next year’s race.

Fourth Place: Ben Hoffman

Ben’s race day had a good start and end, but a challenging “middle leg”:

4 Ben

Ben was able to swim with the main group and started the bike exactly four minutes behind the leaders. He was able to stay with the group for the first 50 miles of the bike but then fell back in the climb to Hawi. At the turn he had lost 90 seconds to Wurf and Kienle, that small gap to the chase group grew to more than eight minutes in the second half of the bike. He started the run in 13th place and even though he was just slightly slower than Frodo he only gained two spots in the section on Ali’i Drive. But then he ran the fastest second half marathon of the field, even outsplitting Frodo by two minutes. Shortly after the Energy Lab he moved into fourth place and it looked as if he might even be able to challenge Sebi for the podium. In the end he ran out of space, finishing in fourth place just 47 seconds behind Sebi, posting the second-fastest marathon of the day.

Fifth Place: Cameron Wurf

Cameron Wurf finished in fifth place, continuing on his move to the podium after a 17th in 2017 and a ninth place in 2018:

5 Cam

As in 2017, he came out of the water with Sebastian Kienle and Lionel Sanders. Cam had a great swim at IM Italy just three weeks before Kona and in 2018 he was just three minutes behind Josh Amberger and the other fast swimmers – so he was probably hoping for a smaller gap at the start of the bike. But there have been a lot of reports that the swim conditions were quite a bit harder this year with more swell, and this probably impacted the not-quite-as strong swimmers such as Cam more than the strong swimmers such as Josh or Frodo. Cam’s swim time was about 90 seconds slower than last year.

After the swim, Cam was the most aggressive rider, at the turnaround on Kuakini, less than five miles into the bike, he was already working his way through the group of swimmers that were two minutes faster in the water, and it almost looked as if he’d be able to shake Sebi and Lionel who were 20 seconds back but also working their way forward. By the time everyone had passed the slightly faster swimmers, Cam took the lead closely followed by Sebi and Lionel. Cam said after the race that he didn’t quite have good legs as last year when he was able to work his way to the front by 20 miles, but he was still setting a faster pace than the swimmers he had already overtaken, and in the climb to Hawi the group got smaller and smaller. At the turn in Hawi the gap to the front was down to just over two minutes, but that’s pretty much where it stayed for most of the ride back into Kona. (It’s interesting to note that since 2013 – maybe even longer – the T2 leader in the men’s Kona race was always in the lead group in Hawi.) According to Boris Stein’s data the wattage dropped quite a bit on the return leg, and probably the wind also impacted the group’s ability to make up more time to the front. Cam mentions in his blog post that he either had to work against a headwind, shielding the rest of the group or was shielded by the group in the tailwind sections. It was only in the last section of the bike that Cam was able to ride away from the group, but Frodo put in another effort in the last 25k of the bike, and the gap grew again. Back in town Cam was third off the bike but 3:45 off the lead. With Boris Stein DNF’ing, for the third year in a row Cam had the fastest bike split in Kona.

Cam also had a solid run, a 2:55 was probably the best he could realistically hope for and another nice improvement after a 3:19 in 2017 and a 3:06 last year. He ran a controlled, even pace and was able to overtake two more “big names” in triathlon: Last year Javier Gomez was the first triathlete Cam was able to overtake on the run (when Javier ran out of gas at the end of the marathon), this year he was able to run by Lionel Sanders and Alistair Brownlee at around ten miles into the run when they had to pay for their aggressive pace on the section along Ali’i.

It’s interesting to speculate if Cam’s Kona performance was impacted by his race at IM Italy just three weeks before or if he’s just had “a bad day” in Kona. It’s clear that even with further improvements in the run he will need a cushion in T2, and consequently will have to continue to race aggressively on the bike. A faster swim might make things easier, but he will still need a few “matches” to burn on the bike in order to shake the better runners if he wants to place even higher up next year.

Sixth Place: Joe Skipper

After finishing seventh last year, Joe Skipper moved up one spot and claimed sixth place:

6 Joe

Last year, Joe was in the group with the fast bike riders out of the water (just 3 seconds behind Cam Wurf) but then was not quite able to match the pace Cam Wurf set at the start of the bike, falling back to the second big bike group that was able to make up time in the second half of the bike. This year Joe was also losing time to Cam at the start of the bike: At the Kuakini Turnaround after 5 miles he was about a minute behind and for a while he was dangling just off the end of the group. He had to put in some extra work in the first 25 miles to not get dropped and was the last one of the swim group to bridge up to the strong bike group. He stayed in that group of seven almost until T2 but had a flat five miles out. Fortunately, he quickly got a wheel change and only lost 90 seconds. He started the run in 10th place, after a bit of back and forth in the Energy Lab he was able to gain a few places, eventually finishing in sixth place with an even-paced 2:53 marathon.

Seventh Place: Braden Currie

After last year’s fifth place, Braden was again able to finish in the Top 10, but his day was very different from last year:

7 Braden

In 2018 Braden was quickly dropped from the front group in the swim, losing almost two minutes to the leaders. This year, he swam with the front group of eight athletes, starting the bike just ten seconds behind Josh Amberger. But while last year he was able to stay with the group on the bike, this year he was falling further and further back as the race progressed. It was only 12 miles before he fell out of the front group, then he was also dropped by the chase group in the climb to Hawi. At the turn he was five minutes behind the lead, and he lost further time on the ride back to Kona. By T2 he was more than 14 minutes behind the lead in 22nd place and about eight minutes behind the Top 10.

Often, athletes mentally struggle when they get dropped from the bike groups in Kona. Braden probably had some negative thoughts on the bike as well, but even if he was hoping for a better position at the start of the run he showed that he was still fully engaged. He set a solid pace in the first section of the run, and it only took him until mile 10 to move into Top 10. He continued with his even pace, running a 2:46 marathon (third-best of the day) and was able to climb into seventh place in the end.

Eight Place: Philipp Koutny

Philipp Koutny was a surprise in the Top 10 – before the race I had pegged his chances at only 9%:

8 Philipp

For the swim and bike, Philipp was able to stay with the chase group – he was never more than 15 seconds away from Sebi or Lionel. He was also running well even when others from the group started to struggle. He was fifth going into the Energy Lab, just a minute behind Cam. Philipp’s pace dropped slightly after that, but he only lost three spots to finish in eighth place.

Ninth Place: Bart Aernouts

Bart Aernouts delivered another Kona Top 10 performance:

9 Bart

As is typical for Bart, he lost almost ten minutes to the leaders in the swim, starting the bike about five minutes behind the strong bike riders. Last year he was closer and found some company while working his way forward. This year he had to work on his own and wasn’t able to make up ground to the front. In the last section of the bike he was able to ride with Chris Leiferman and a few others, and he started the run in 18th place, about 13 minutes behind the front. Bart has the experience and patience to run well in Kona, slowly working his way towards the Top 10. Once on the Queen K, he was starting to overtake athletes struggling to run well, and at the start of the Energy Lab, shortly after the half-marathon mark, he was already in 13th place. On the way back into town he was able to overtake a few more and ended the race in ninth place. Usually at least one athlete from last year’s podium is able to finish on the podium the year after, but this year Bart was the only athlete from the 2018 male podium even finishing.

Tenth Place: Chris Leiferman

Chris Leiferman was the best-placed male rookie in Kona 2019:

10 Chris

In his first race in Kona, Chris had a decent swim and exited the water with the strong bikers. When they picked up the pace to chase the lead group, he let them go after about 20 miles. He continued to lose time to the front but was probably able to ride his own pace and save his energy for the final part of the race. He started the run with Bart Aernouts in 18th place and slowly worked his way forward. By the Energy Lab he had climbed into 9th place. He struggled a bit on the way home, but only lost one spot (to Bart) and finished in the last money spot.

Going Well for Some Time: Josh Amberger, Maurice Clavel, Alistair Brownlee, Lionel Sanders

Here’s a look at a few more notable athletes who were in a good position for at least part of the race:


As in 2017 and 2018, Josh Amberger had the fastest swim of the day, even if this year’s conditions didn’t favor an attack on the swim course record. He seemed to get the pace “just right” in order not to be isolated on the bike but also creating decent separation from the front group to the chasers. He was riding with the front group but then fell back in the climb to Hawi, at the turn he was 45 seconds behind. He continued to lose time, but it took the chase group until mile 80 before catching him. Josh was not able to stay with them and then lost a lot more time in the last section of the bike. He reached T2 with a gap of 11 minutes to the front and 7 minutes to the chase group. He then finished the race with a 3:25 marathon in 33rd place.

Maurice Clavel was also able to swim with the front and even doing some work in the climb up to Hawi. But then he “popped” after 65 miles and lost almost 23 minutes in the last 100 minutes of the bike. He did not recover on the run, finishing in 38th place.

Alistair Brownlee was in the mix for a good while longer. After swimming with Josh, he was pushing the pace in the early part of the bike and seemed a bit surprised that he had a 20 second lead after the out-and-back through Kona. After that he settled into the front group and let Maurice Clavel do the work in the climb to Hawi. He fell back after the turnaround at Hawi: German television reported a drafting penalty, but it turned out to be a fast wheel change after a slow leak. He quickly worked his way back to the front group, at the first timing mat nine and a half miles after Hawi he was already back in the group, just two seconds behind Frodo. Apparently he let Frodo and TO know that he wasn’t too happy that they hadn’t waited for him (but how would they know what was going on with him?) and Frodo said after the race that it was a sign to him that Ali was working at his limit. When Frodo pushed the pace in the final 15 miles of the bike, Ali was the last one to fall back but then lost four minutes to Frodo and entered T2 with the chase group.

After his injury worries for most of the season, Lionel Sanders had a decent swim in the chase group with the other strong bikers Cam Wurf and Sebastian Kienle. He was able to ride the whole bike leg with that group, starting the run just four minutes behind the lead. Both Ali and Lionel surged at the start of the run, moving into third and fourth place on Ali’i Drive. But then they started to struggle after the turnaround, 3.7 miles into the marathon and as soon as they were on the Queen K they lost more and more time to the front. Misery loves company, and the two of them run-walked the rest of the marathon together, finishing 21st and 22nd with 3:13 marathons.

DNFs: Patrick Lange, Boris Stein

There were quite a few athletes who traveled to Kona with hopes of a good result, only to have to see their days end much earlier than anticipated:


Most notably, defending champion Patrick Lange called it a day after just two and a half hours, reportedly blacking out after coming down with a fever just before the race. It seems that he decided to take some more risks than usual in the swim and was able to stay with the front group. But once on the bike, he immediately started to fall back. At the turn on Kuakini after five miles he was already 30 seconds back and had lost contact with the lead group. After 30 miles the chase group caught up with him, and he wasn’t able to stay with them either. He pulled out shortly after that when passing by a few spectators at the side of the road near the turnoff to Waikoloa. It’s an interesting coincidence that Björn Geesmann was taking care of him – who has since become his new coach. (It’s not apparent on the graph above that the group had passed him as he dropped out before the making it to the next timing mat which would have shown a gap.)

Another athlete who DNF’d is Boris Stein. Boris has been struggling with injuries for the last two seasons, and it seems he started the race knowing that he probably wouldn’t be able to finish – and in fact he pulled out shortly after starting the run. Boris is usually the slowest swimmer to make it into the big bike group, and this year was no difference: He exited the water seven minutes behind the leaders but just 90 seconds behind the strong bike riders. It took him 30 miles to ride up to them and then stayed in that group until T2. According to Cam Wurf he put in some short surges to ride away from them but wasn’t able to make his efforts stick and consequently just ended up wasting energy. He might have chosen a different race plan had he been healthy.

Photo Credits: Jan Frodeno by James Mitchell, Tim O’Donnell and Sebastian Kienle by Ingo Kutsche Photo.

Ironman Hawaii 2019 – Analyzing Results

Kona2019LogoCourse Conditions

Last year’s conditions were super-fast – this year’s results indicate that times were slower by maybe two minutes (2018 adjustment 4:18 vs. 2:13 for this year). The bike was about five minutes slower than last year, but a bike adjustment of 6:39 is still one the fastest ever in Kona. (Cameron Wurf is a good example of this difference: Last year he rode a 4:09, this year a 4:14, still the 9th -fastest ever in Kona.) The slightly slower bike was balanced with a run that was about three and a half minutes faster than last year.

We’ve seen Jan Frodeno break the men’s course record from last year: His 7:51:13 was 1:26 faster than last year’s winning time. Anne Haug’s 2:51:07 marathon is the third-fastest ever in Kona, but still 41 seconds slower than Rinny’s 2014 course record.

Kona Qualifying

Kona offers Automatic Qualifier slots for the podium finishers:

  • Women: Anne Haug, Lucy Charles, Sarah Crowley
  • Men: Jan Frodeno, Tim O’Donnell, Sebastian Kienle

These slots still have to be validated with an Ironman finish before August 2020.

Male Race Results

2019 Kona Frodo

Rank Name Nation Swim Bike Run Time Diff to exp. Prize Money
1 Jan Frodeno GER 00:47:31 04:16:02 02:42:43 07:51:13 -05:27 US$ 120,000
2 Timothy O’Donnell USA 00:47:38 04:18:11 02:49:45 07:59:41 -14:44 US$ 60,000
3 Sebastian Kienle GER 00:52:17 04:15:04 02:49:56 08:02:04 02:54 US$ 40,000
4 Ben Hoffman USA 00:51:01 04:24:01 02:43:08 08:02:52 -08:39 US$ 22,500
5 Cameron Wurf AUS 00:52:25 04:14:44 02:55:03 08:06:41 -08:38 US$ 19,000
6 Joe Skipper GBR 00:52:28 04:16:18 02:53:30 08:07:46 -09:42 US$ 16,000
7 Braden Currie NZL 00:47:41 04:30:30 02:46:25 08:08:48 -05:06 US$ 14,000
8 Philipp Koutny SUI 00:52:20 04:15:14 02:57:50 08:10:29 -16:10 US$ 12,500
9 Bart Aernouts BEL 00:57:03 04:19:47 02:51:08 08:12:27 -02:03 US$ 11,000
10 Chris Leiferman USA 00:52:29 04:24:20 02:52:19 08:13:37 -00:16 US$ 10,000
11 Jan van Berkel SUI 00:50:53 04:32:09 02:47:36 08:15:19 -06:30
12 Tim Reed AUS 00:51:02 04:25:53 02:55:51 08:17:37 -05:49
13 Michael Weiss AUT 00:57:05 04:21:37 02:54:34 08:18:02 01:05
14 Andy Potts USA 00:50:57 04:24:16 02:58:58 08:19:30 01:20
15 Daniel Baekkegard DEN 00:47:35 04:37:18 02:49:50 08:19:38 06:40
16 Tim Van Berkel AUS 00:51:44 04:31:01 02:52:37 08:20:16 00:22
17 Matthew Russell USA 00:52:23 04:17:25 03:07:22 08:22:18 -00:06
18 Kristian Hogenhaug DEN 00:52:21 04:15:21 03:10:28 08:23:36 02:28
19 Cyril Viennot FRA 00:52:18 04:29:08 02:57:48 08:23:53 -04:42
20 Nils Frommhold GER 00:50:47 04:24:29 03:05:10 08:24:56 14:56
21 Alistair Brownlee GBR 00:47:33 04:19:58 03:13:00 08:25:03 n/a
22 Lionel Sanders CAN 00:52:22 04:15:22 03:13:42 08:25:54 11:21
23 Marc Duelsen GER 00:52:21 04:28:26 03:01:14 08:26:35 01:20
24 Daniil Sapunov UKR 00:50:55 04:33:57 02:58:07 08:28:22 -10:49
25 Will Clarke GBR 00:52:20 04:30:29 03:01:13 08:29:00 -00:31
26 David Plese SLO 00:52:28 04:31:56 02:59:56 08:30:03 06:57
27 Mario De Elias ARG 00:56:59 04:36:06 02:53:11 08:30:59 -14:28
28 Matt Trautman ZAF 00:52:14 04:25:06 03:11:25 08:33:05 10:43
29 Eneko Llanos ESP 00:51:03 04:40:18 02:56:21 08:33:29 13:12
30 Frank Silvestrin BRA 00:50:55 04:41:52 02:59:04 08:37:06 -05:14
31 Tobias Drachler GER 00:52:08 04:41:40 03:01:59 08:40:44 17:27
32 James Cunnama ZAF 00:52:12 04:27:59 03:16:19 08:41:19 21:42
33 Josh Amberger AUS 00:47:28 04:27:16 03:25:25 08:44:29 19:57
34 Clemente Alonso McKernan ESP 00:51:41 04:43:10 03:03:54 08:45:40 25:32
35 Daniel Fontana ITA 00:51:01 04:41:59 03:13:17 08:51:17 17:40
36 Joe Gambles AUS 00:51:47 04:31:01 03:26:18 08:54:14 34:01
37 Jesper Svensson SWE 00:47:42 04:27:33 03:41:22 09:00:53 44:52
38 Maurice Clavel GER 00:47:40 04:38:33 03:28:39 09:01:05 43:56
39 Mike Phillips NZL 00:50:55 04:33:55 03:36:02 09:05:29 48:14
40 Stefan Schumacher GER 01:04:31 04:30:16 03:26:58 09:08:54 36:13
41 Lukas Kraemer GER 00:57:50 04:48:40 03:54:52 09:47:15 1:18:37
Boris Stein GER 00:54:15 04:13:18 DNF
Patrik Nilsson SWE 00:50:49 04:25:51 DNF
Matt Hanson USA 00:52:23 04:38:34 DNF
Patrick Lange GER 00:47:40 DNF
Andi Boecherer GER 00:50:52 DNF
David McNamee GBR 00:50:59 DNF
TJ Tollakson USA 00:51:44 DNF
Cody Beals CAN 00:52:16 DNF
Franz Loeschke GER 00:52:19 DNF
Andreas Dreitz GER 00:54:26 DNF
Kennett Peterson USA 00:57:07 DNF

Female Race Results

2019 Kona Anne

Rank Name Nation Swim Bike Run Time Diff to exp. Prize Money
1 Anne Haug GER 00:54:09 04:50:17 02:51:07 08:40:10 -14:43 US$ 120,000
2 Lucy Charles-Barclay GBR 00:49:02 04:47:20 03:05:59 08:46:44 -09:21 US$ 60,000
3 Sarah Crowley AUS 00:54:05 04:50:13 02:59:20 08:48:13 -12:51 US$ 40,000
4 Laura Philipp GER 00:59:03 04:45:04 03:02:11 08:51:42 02:22 US$ 22,500
5 Heather Jackson USA 00:59:12 04:46:45 03:04:17 08:54:44 -09:25 US$ 19,000
6 Kaisa Sali FIN 00:59:14 04:53:53 02:57:18 08:55:33 -05:02 US$ 16,000
7 Corinne Abraham GBR 01:02:46 04:51:15 02:59:28 08:58:38 -11:38 US$ 14,000
8 Carrie Lester AUS 00:54:15 04:50:01 03:09:37 08:58:40 -07:23 US$ 12,500
9 Daniela Bleymehl GER 00:59:06 04:45:08 03:19:32 09:08:30 -01:35 US$ 11,000
10 Linsey Corbin USA 00:59:09 05:00:25 03:03:50 09:09:06 -00:45 US$ 10,000
11 Maja Stage Nielsen DEN 00:59:04 05:00:47 03:05:47 09:10:28 -11:02
12 Imogen Simmonds SUI 00:54:10 04:53:25 03:21:00 09:13:20 04:56
13 Daniela Ryf SUI 00:54:20 04:54:19 03:20:36 09:14:26 30:17
14 Sarah Piampiano USA 01:04:36 04:57:04 03:08:54 09:16:29 02:00
15 Gurutze Frades Larralde ESP 01:04:38 05:08:07 02:58:45 09:16:50 -12:11
16 Els Visser NED 01:02:44 04:51:43 03:19:42 09:18:42 -12:49
17 Kristin Liepold GER 01:15:24 05:02:21 03:00:24 09:23:13 -07:01
18 Annah Watkinson ZAF 00:59:14 05:05:19 03:16:09 09:26:03 -02:33
19 Susie Cheetham GBR 00:59:02 05:00:17 03:22:41 09:27:21 16:41
20 Svenja Thoes GER 00:59:07 05:02:16 03:23:49 09:30:50 22:55
21 Mareen Hufe GER 00:59:12 05:03:28 03:22:52 09:30:51 08:17
22 Lesley Smith USA 00:59:03 05:14:16 03:11:40 09:31:40 10:12
23 Nikki Bartlett GBR 00:59:14 04:58:09 03:31:24 09:34:04 06:02
24 Caroline Steffen SUI 00:59:01 05:08:44 03:23:53 09:37:11 22:51
25 Laura Siddall GBR 01:04:34 05:04:43 03:28:20 09:42:52 27:57
26 Kimberley Morrison GBR 00:58:58 04:54:22 03:45:23 09:44:19 22:58
27 Nina Derron SUI 00:59:05 05:11:48 03:30:52 09:46:27 16:16
28 Jeanni Seymour ZAF 00:54:07 05:08:17 03:37:55 09:46:54 38:48
29 Martina Kunz SUI 01:09:17 05:08:43 03:24:20 09:48:17 06:29
30 Bianca Steurer AUT 01:04:32 05:19:49 03:35:43 10:06:31 36:02
31 Lauren Brandon USA 00:49:08 05:11:20 04:10:13 10:16:10 50:28
32 Danielle Mack USA 01:08:16 05:33:15 03:35:16 10:22:35 41:57
33 Meredith Kessler USA 00:54:21 05:28:47 04:57:36 11:27:45 1:05:40
34 Jennifer Spieldenner USA 00:54:00 05:22:41 05:03:36 11:28:22 n/a
35 Sue Huse CAN 01:51:02 05:39:16 04:11:50 11:52:45 1:53:55
Jen Annett CAN 01:02:49 05:12:03 DNF
Camilla Pedersen DEN 00:54:13 05:23:58 DNF
Jocelyn McCauley USA 00:54:02 DNF
Sarah True USA 00:54:03 DNF
Kelsey Withrow USA 00:54:17 DNF
Mirinda Carfrae AUS 00:59:10 DNF
Emma Bilham SUI 01:01:17 DNF

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