After a nice long weekend (with a short trip to visit friends), here is the next post in my series of thoughts on different aspects of the KPR. The focus of this post is the type and number of races that count towards Kona qualifying.
This question has two different aspects:
- How many races should count?
- Should 70.3s count towards Kona qualifying?
Number of races
An issue that has been discussed for as long as the KPR has been announced is the number of races that count for Kona qualifying. There are different views on this issue: One type of athlete would like to be able to qualify in once race (and therefore argue for just one or two races counting), other athletes want to be rewarded for racing often (and want as many races as possible to be included). It is probably impossible to come up with a number of races that would satisfy both types of athletes. The 2013 changes have been aimed at pleasing the first type (better points for top 3 places), but have probably resulted in even more racing by those willing to race often and thereby increasing the required cutoffs.
My view is that WTC shouldn’t encourage a behavior where athletes have a chance to qualify for Kona by racing themselves into the ground. We are now at a point where Kona qualifying by racing often makes it virtually impossible to have a real off-season. Racing often may work for a season or two, but will usually catch up with athletes after some time and force a longer, usually unplanned downtime. There will always be athletes that are willing and able to race four or five Ironmen a year, but this is probably too much for the typical athlete and also doesn’t allow proper peaking for all these races.
Therefore, I think that the KPR should limit the number of Ironman races that count towards Kona qualifying. The current system allows for five scoring Ironman races. If you add Kona (which is the goal after all) and maybe another sub-par Ironman performance, this could easily mean six or seven IMs per year! I think that no more than two or three IMs should count for Kona qualifying. Last summer (when analyzing the impact of the new KPR points system), I was also simulating the impact of only two races for Kona – and except for some „edge cases“ close to the cutoff line there was hardly any difference in the athletes that would have qualified.
It has been argued frequently that one of the goals of the KPR was to force athletes to race more WTC races and therefore increasing the depth of the Pro field in races. The depth of Pro fields in the 2014 races indicates that there is sufficient interest in racing Pro and „forcing“ athletes to start often is no longer required from a business viewpoint.
70.3 for Kona?
Another question that has been discussed for a long time is whether results from 70.3 races should count for Kona qualifying. The idea behind including 70.3s is that if an athlete needs just a few more points, this shouldn’t force him to race another Ironman. Instead, by finishing reasonably well in a 70.3, the last few remaining points could be collected in a race that’s easier on the body. I’m not sure that the current KPR fulfills that goal, to me it looks more as if the 70.3 points also increase the cutoff points and therefore encourages even more racing.
At the time that the KPR was introduced, the 70.3 series wasn’t as well established as it is now, and being able to get Kona points in 70.3s was probably an extra benefit for the 70.3 series. I don’t think that this is necessary any longer: The 70.3 series is attractive by itself and manages to attract a lot of interest without any cross-promotion from IMs.
One issue that the 2013 KPR changes addressed was the relative merit of 70.3s and IMs. In the old system, a P-1000 IM was hardly any more „valuable“ that a P-750 or P-500 70.3. After the changes, all IMs have more points that every 70.3 (the only exception is the 70.3 championship as a P-3000 race). Therefore, winning an IM is more valuable than racing well in a 70.3 – as it should be for Kona qualifying.
I don’t really see a problem with 70.3s counting towards Kona qualifying. As far as I can see, the influence on the cutoff number by adding 70.3s into the KPR is relatively small if you limit the number of 70.3s. In addition, if you reduce the number of IMs counting for Kona qualifying, you also have to reduce the number of 70.3s. My suggestion would be to reduce the number of 70.3s from three (as it is today) to one or two (depending on weather two or three IMs count for Kona qualifying). In order to not reduce the number of races counting for Kona too much, I’d suggest points from two IMs plus one additional 70.3 or three IMs plus two additional 70.3s.
My assessment: A reduction of the number of races should be seriously considered to limit over-racing, but 70.3 should remain a part of Kona qualifying.