How many people have completed 12 IMs and will now be able to get a slot for Ironman Hawaii? (Part 2)

My last post triggered some discussion on the TriTalk forum’s thread on the WTC Announcement.

A few people came up with other ideas for “guesstimating” the number of eligible athletes. One example was user Stengun who wrote the following:

I recently attended the Ironman Lanzarote "Special Achievement" Ceremony. For those of you who don’t know: They give a special award/medal for anyone that’s completed 5 Lanzas or more. I did go this year, and felt quite excited by it. However I left feeling a bit average and not very special by end. This was because of the numbers of people receiving this award. I assumed it would be me and hand full of others. But it was not. There must have been 40+ people all receiving this, and not just people with 5 Lanza finishes, there where plenty with 10+ and the one guy had 18! Remember this is just Lanza finishes. So almost everyone would most likely have other finishes at other event (as do I). I understand some events like Lanza have a very loyal following and that could skew the numbers a bit. But I’d estimate, there’s an equally loyal following at the other big and long standing events.

With similar qualifications as in my first post, this is certainly something I can look into! Here then is a list of the long standing Ironmen and the number of athletes who have raced in all six years that I have age group data for:

    • IM Canada: 50 athletes
    • IM Coeur d’Alene: 17 athletes
    • IM Lake Placid: 28 athletes
    • IM Wisconsin: 26 athletes
    • IM Lanzarote: 28 athletes (This number seems to be consistent with Stengun’s observation.)
    • IM France: 8 athletes
    • IM UK: 23 athletes
    • IM Switzerland: 4 athletes
    • IM Austria: 17 athletes
    • IM Western Australia: 23 athletes

This is a total of 224 athletes from 10 races. Trying to remove Kona qualifiers (again, using the crude 10-Hour-barrier as outlined in the first post) reduces this number to 207.

Then there are at least 6 more “long-standing” IMs (Arizona, Florida, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Germany, maybe Louisville) – which would give a total number of 331 athletes that have consistently race their “home race” in the last six years without having raced Kona.

It is a bit hard to estimate how many of these have completed 12 or more races overall. I’m guessing that not all of these would have raced the required number of “other” races (either at home or in another race), but that this number can be balanced by those athletes who have missed a year here or there but have done other races a few more times.

So this would give a slightly higher number than when estimating by “at least 8 races”. (That number was 273 which is in the same ballpark.)  If I had to give a number, I’d put it at around 300. But based on all this analysis, I’m very certain that the number can’t be close to “a thousand” that people have been throwing around.

How many people have completed 12 IMs and will now be able to get a slot for Ironman Hawaii?

Changes to the lottery system

The guys at IMTalk scored a real scoop this week. The day after the Kona race they interviewed Andrew Messick, the new CEO of WTC, the company who owns the Ironman brand and runs most of the Ironman races. In the interview (listen to the full interview here, the announcement regarding the lottery starts at 22:50) he announced that

“We’re changing how our lottery works. For athletes who have done 12 or more Ironman over their career – and who are still racing – we are going to guarantee that they have a chance to race Kona.

Andrew also announced that when you’ve entered the lottery and get not picked, you will get an extra chance when you enter the next lottery. In my opinion, these are very smart moves on their part, again encouraging people to continue to participate in Ironman races (or the lottery) and choosing one of their races instead of a Challenge or Rev3 race. (On a more personal note, this may give me a chance to get to Kona, but I would still have to finish 10 more IMs.)

Analyzing the data

This change in the lottery system prompted Thomas Peoples to send me an email with the following issue:

I’m interested to see how many people have completed more than 12 IM races for this new lottery system.

I don’t really have all the required data to do a proper analysis:

  • As I focused on PROs, I don’t have the agegroup results for all races (for about probably about 1/3 of races I only have PRO results).
  • My results only go back to 2005.
  • It is tricky to properly match results from different races, for example there are differences in spelling or the handling of special characters (technically “synonyms”). (Are Andi Boecherer and Andreas BÖCHERER the same athletes?) Especially on the female side, athletes change their names after marrying (two notable examples are Bella Comerford/Bayliss and Marilyn McDonald/MacDonald).
  • One other issue is “homonyms” – different athletes with the same name. For example, there are probably more than one “Peter Brown” or “David Smith”.

But even with these caveats, I did some analysis. I have 55 athletes that with my limited data have 12 or more races. When I look for athletes that have 8 or more races (as I only have age group data for 2/3 of the races), I get 339 athletes.

This number has to be reduced by subtracting the athletes that have already participated in Kona. As I currently don’t have age group results for Kona, I have resorted to looking at the finishing time for the athletes and remove the “fast” athletes. If I define “fast” as having at least one result of under 10 hours (probably allowing them to be in the mix for a Kona slot) and remove all of these athletes, I’m still coming up with 273 athletes.

With all the uncertainties mentioned, my guess is that the number of athletes eligible for an automatic slot is about 250.

How is WTC going to handle this?

It will be interesting to see how WTC is going to handle these issues. At least based on their public facing data, they do not have a “unified customer view” across all their different races. (Although it would be quite valuable information for them – how many “repeat customers” do they have?) Therefore, I assume that when you try to claim your “12 IM slot” you will have to submit a list of your IMs which they would manually cross-check against results in paper, HTML, PDF or maybe even in a database. They would also need to have a way to make sure that these athletes have not been on the IM Hawaii start list (or finished?). One can only hope that WTC has the necessary data available and that they diligently check the claims before assigning a “12 IM slot”. I would be very interested in a “look behind the scenes” on how they plan to handle this issue.

IM Hawaii 2011 – Analyzing Results

What an amazing race! I guess everyone interested in the Kona results has heard of Crowie’s and Chrissie’s great wins by now – so I’ll keep my regular look at race results pretty short.

Race Conditions

The conditions in Hawaii were the best that I have seen in the last years (my data goes back to 2005). The race adjustment was calculated at 2:09, resulting in a new course rating of –0:25.

Male Results

The common wisdom was that a fast race would not be good for Crowie who usually finishes in about 8:15. This might have been correct for the Crowie we had seen in the last years, but this year he hit one out of the park:

Rank Name Nation Actual Time Expected Time
1 Craig Alexander AUS 08:03:56 08:19:51
2 Pete Jacobs AUS 08:09:11 08:39:47
3 Andreas Raelert GER 08:11:07 08:11:58
4 Dirk Bockel LUX 08:12:58 08:28:23
5 Timo Bracht GER 08:20:12 08:22:34
6 Mike Aigroz SWI 08:21:07 08:49:53
7 Raynard Tissink SAF 08:22:15 08:33:27
8 Andi Boecherer GER 08:23:19 08:44:15
9 Luke McKenzie AUS 08:25:42 08:42:27
10 Faris Al-Sultan GER 08:27:18 08:25:04
11 Tom Lowe GBR 08:29:02 08:28:46
12 Daniel Fontana ITA 08:31:20 08:33:12
13 Marko Albert EST 08:35:18 08:31:47
14 Rasmus Henning DNK 08:35:53 08:23:16
15 Cyril Viennot FRA 08:37:00 08:44:12
16 Courtney Ogden AUS 08:38:11 08:44:54
17 Andy Potts USA 08:38:36 08:29:45
18 Michael Goehner GER 08:39:38 08:34:09
19 Jozsef Major HUN 08:39:52 08:47:28
20 Joe Gambles AUS 08:40:40 08:38:41
21 Michael Lovato USA 08:42:39 08:46:51
22 Maik Twelsiek GER 08:43:03 08:36:52
23 Matthew Russell USA 08:43:51 09:16:35
24 Ian Mikelson USA 08:48:40 09:09:31
25 Jan Raphael GER 08:48:44 08:35:40
26 Mike Schifferle SWI 08:49:01 09:11:42
27 Matty Reed USA 08:50:00 08:42:57
28 Axel Zeebroek BEL 08:58:13 08:44:29
29 Chris Lieto USA 09:10:26 08:44:02
30 Petr Vabrousek CZE 09:13:42 08:55:47
31 Georg Potrebitsch GER 09:15:08 08:31:03
32 Balazs Csoke HUN 09:16:44 09:04:07
33 Sergio Marques PRT 09:18:26 09:02:45
34 Hiroyuki Nishiuchi JPN 09:26:42 09:24:52
35 Mike Neill CAN 09:34:46 09:01:51

I find it very interesting that most of the TOP 11 (with the exceptions of Andreas Raelert and Faris) raced faster than expected (even considering the good race conditions), sometimes even by quite a large margin:

  • Crowie by 16 minutes
  • Pete Jacobs by 30 minutes
  • Dirk Bockel  by 16 minutes
  • Mike Aigroz by 28 minutes
  • Raynard Tissink by 11 minutes (even coming into the race with a recent virus infection)
  • Andi Boecherer by 21 minutes
  • Luke McKenzie by 17 minutes

These are also the names of the people who will probably think that they had a great race. Others were closer to their expected times (Andreas Raelert, Timo Bracht, Faris, Tom Lowe) were probably hoping for a little bit better results, even if they managed to finish in the top spots.

This goes to show that you can’t have a "ho-hum race” and still expect to finish in the TOP 10 for IM Hawaii.

Female Results

There is a similar “green color scheme” for the top spots on the women’s side. The exception is Chrissie Wellington who was few minutes slower than expected – but she still had to uncork a special performance to win the race after the beating she took from a bike accident just 10 days before the race.

Rank Name Nation Actual Time Expected Time
1 Chrissie Wellington GBR 08:55:08 08:51:37
2 Mirinda Carfrae AUS 08:57:57 09:13:42
3 Leanda Cave GBR 09:03:29 09:40:25
4 Rachel Joyce GBR 09:06:57 09:32:31
5 Caroline Steffen SWI 09:07:32 09:31:47
6 Karin Thuerig SWI 09:15:00 09:19:18
7 Sonja Tajsich GER 09:15:17 09:28:32
8 Heather Wurtele CAN 09:17:56 09:29:40
9 Caitlin Snow USA 09:18:11 09:40:42
10 Virginia Berasategui ESP 09:19:52 09:40:53
11 Catriona Morrison GBR 09:22:07 09:27:56
12 Tine Deckers BEL 09:28:21 09:36:32
13 Kelly Williamson USA 09:29:08 09:34:21
14 Natascha Badmann SWI 09:31:21 09:31:35
15 Mary Beth Ellis USA 09:34:06 09:14:24
16 Linsey Corbin USA 09:39:01 09:30:29
17 Samantha Warriner NZL 09:43:25 09:27:40
18 Amanda Stevens USA 09:50:11 09:36:21
19 Joanna Lawn NZL 10:02:33 09:30:59
20 Tyler Stewart USA 10:04:15 09:36:46
21 Uli Bromme USA 10:19:09 09:56:07
22 Jackie Arendt USA 10:21:02 09:56:52
23 Silvia Felt GER 10:31:10 09:35:55
24 Heleen Bij De Vaate NLD 10:35:58 09:38:27
25 Maki Nishiuchi JPN 10:36:33 10:18:55
26 Miranda Alldritt CAN 10:38:49 10:50:49

Ironman Hawaii 2011 Predictions

The following post is an excerpt from my recently released “Kona 2011 Rating Report”. Please visit the download page when you’re interested in some more statistics around the upcoming world championship race. The Rating Report is also ideal if you’re going to watch the Kona race and want to know some more background on the racing pros.

Male Winners

Based on previous results, Andreas Raelert and Marino Vanhoenacker are the clear favorites for Kona. They’ve had great results in last year’s Kona and produced the two fastest results of all time over the Ironman distance. One could argue that Crowie should also be included in the favorites and it’s tricky to bet against a two-time-winner and with a great pre-Kona result in winning the 70.3 world championships. However, his latest results over the IM distance were not really top-notch (“only” a fourth place in Kona 2010 and – compared to this summer’s blazingly fast times by Andreas and Marino – a relatively slow win in Cour d’Alene). He is also hurt by his lack of really fast times, he just seems to produce adjusted times between 8.15 and 8.20.


  • Andreas Raelert        30% (7-3)
  • Marino Vanhoenacker    25% (3-1)

In the Mix

  • Craig Alexander        8% (11-1)
  • Eneko Llanos            8% (11-1)
  • Tim O’Donnell        7% (13-1)
  • Rasmus Henning        7% (13-1)

Long Shots

  • Michael Göhner        4% (24-1)
  • Raynard Tissink        4% (24-1)
  • Timo Bracht             3% (32-1)
  • Faris Al-Sultan        2% (49-1)

Female Winners

On the women’s side, there is only one favorite: Chrissie Wellington. The only bad “result” she has had was her DNS in Kona last year. She has won all her IM races, and set another fantastic world-record time in Roth earlier this year. Even defending champion Mirinda Carfrae doesn’t have the IM results to get statistically close to Chrissie. The probability of Chrissie winning the race is less determined by her competition, but more by her chance of not starting or finishing. It seems that the most interesting speculation in the women’s race is how far up on the men’s side Chrissie is going to finish. The chance I see for a TOP10 finish for her: less than 2%.


  • Chrissie Wellington        70% (3-7)

In the Mix

  • Mirinda Carfrae        13% (7-1)

Long Shots

  • Catriona Morrison        5% (19-1)
  • Mary Beth Ellis        5% (19-1)
  • Caroline Steffen        3% (32-1)

Male TOP 3

Even if Crowie doesn’t look too good for a win (statistically speaking), he is a solid racer and a safe bet for a TOP 3 finish. Tim O’Donnell is only racing his second IM, on a good day he may contend for a podium spot together with a number of very experienced Kona racers.

Safe Bets

  • Marino Vanhoenacker     53%
  • Andreas Raelert         48%
  • Craig Alexander         42%

Knocking on the door

  • Timothy O’Donnell        30%
  • Eneko Llanos            22%
  • Timo Bracht            17%
  • Raynard Tissink        15%
  • Faris Al-Sultan        14%

Outside Chances

  • Rasmus Henning        10%
  • Andreas Boecherer        9%
  • Chris Lieto            9%
  • Michael Goehner        7%
  • Luke Bell             6%
  • Ronnie Schildknecht        4%

Female TOP 3

Mary Beth Ellis joins Chrissie and Rinnie as my podium picks. It remains to be seen whether she has properly recovered from her qualifying races. If she falters, there is an interesting mix of experienced and newer IM racers to grab one of the top spots.

Safe Bets

  • Chrissie Wellington        78%
  • Mirinda Carfrae        43%
  • Mary Beth Ellis        35%

Knocking on the door

  • Caroline Steffen        25%
  • Catriona Morrison        24%
  • Julie Dibens            19%
  • Karin Thuerig        16%

Outside Chances

  • Virginia Berasategui        10%
  • Kelly Williamson        9%
  • Yvonne Van Vlerken        8%
  • Sonja Tajsich            6%
  • Rachel Joyce            5%
  • Heather Wurtele        5%

Some Background

As this is the first time I’m publishing the odds for a race, I’d like to add a little background to how I arrived at these numbers:

  • Newer results are more heavily favored over older ones than in the ratings (aging factor of 0.55 instead of 0.8 per year).
  • Kona results are favored over other courses’ by a factor of 3.
  • The more results an athlete has, the smaller the chance of a DNF or “off race”.

At the start of developing my prediction model, Crowie was given hardly a chance of winning, so I added

  • Winning a race gives you an extra bonus (the adjusted time is reduced by 1%).

Of course, all this analysis can only take previous results into account. Factors such as recent results in shorter races (for example the 70.3 world championship), injuries or the impact of a focused Kona prep vs. lots of races are hard to gauge and aren’t part of my prediction model.

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