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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.

Favorites

  • 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%.

Favorite

  • 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.

Kona 2011 Rating Report is ready for download!

The Kona 2011 Rating Report focuses on

  • the Kona pro field (men and women),
  • my predictions for Kona 2011,
  • a look at the 2010 Kona results, the KPR standings and qualifying races and also
  • the previous results of the Kona participants.

This is the ideal information to have when following the Ironman Kona coverage! If you haven’t already, please join our mailing list to be notified when new reports become available (just use the form in the sidebar on the right).

Download the Report here.

Feel free to share with others interested in a statistical look at the upcoming race.

Here’s what John Newsom from the IMTalk podcast says about it:

Thorsten provides us with up to date, succinct information on the top pro athletes. No longer do we need to spend precious time searching through pages of results for athlete information for those we know little about and likewise we have a quick reference tool for the top pro’s as well. The additional statistical analysis of results allows us to remove hype and bias and factoring in strength of fields, toughness of courses and other factors to find out who the real fastest athletes in the world are at any given time.

Interested in my 2011 Pre-Kona Rating Report?

I’m currently working on a Rating Report that looks at some of the data I’ve collected and analyzed during this year. The report will focus on

  • the Kona pro field (men and women),
  • the previous results of the Kona participants and
  • my predictions for Kona 2011.

I think that it is going to be a 10-page-plus PDF that will be the ideal information to have when following the Kona coverage. There is a form in the sidebar where you can leave your name and email and I will send the report to you as soon as its done. (You can also send me an email with your email address.) Of course I won’t spam you, but will send out some interesting statistical data.

Update: The report is now available – more info in this post.

Kona TOP3s who didn’t qualify in an Ironman (outside of Hawaii)

With the KPR, every pro that wants to race Kona has to complete at least one Ironman in the “qualifying year” outside of Kona. Now that I have a good number of race results in my database, I can have a look at recent TOP3s in Kona that would not have been able to race under the new qualifying rules. (Even so, my data may not be 100% up to date or complete – please let me know any errors in my post.)

Here’s an overview:

  • winners: Michellie Jones (2006), Chris McCormack (2007), Craig Alexander (2008 and 2009), Mirinda Carfrae (2010)
  • 2nd places: Sam McGlone (2007), Yvonne van Vlerken (2008), Mirinda Carfrae (2009)
  • 3rd places: Kate Major (2007), Virginia Berasategui (2009), Julie Dibens (2010)

This is one winner from each year and 11 out 30 possible (5 years * 3 spots * m/f) places! To me, this was a bit of a surprise, I thought that it was “just” Crowie who only raced Kona.

Where did they get their slots?

  • The TOP10 in one year used to get an automatic spot for the following year.
  • For some time, the 70.3 champions got an automatic qualifier for Kona.
  • Even though the number was pretty small, some 70.3 races also had some pro slots.

Does this large number of athletes who didn’t race an IM during the year (or none at all) mean that WTC should change the qualifying rules? For now, I don’t really think so:

  • With the exception of Macca, all 2010 TOP10 athletes qualified under the new rules. This shows that the new rules have been accepted, even if a bit grudgingly.
  • Giving any number of TOPx athletes from Kona slots for the following year would be a bit unfair compared to those that have to race to qualify: They have a full year to focus on the next Kona race. While this may be a disadvantage, it usually allows them to get to Kona a bit fresher than those that have to race in the summer to get a slot.
  • Especially on the women’s side, the 70.3 champions fared quite well in Kona (even if it meant that it was their first IM). However, the way the points system works now, all the 70.3 champion has to do is to race an Ironman – this should give them enough points to qualify. Also, I think it is fairly reasonable to expect pros not to race Kona as their first Ironman.

So even considering the large number of athletes with good Kona results  that wouldn’t have been able to race under the new KPR rules, I don’t see any need for major changes based on the analysis of the data. From a WTC viewpoint, you could even say that the KPR succeeded in drawing athletes to race more often. However, as indicated earlier, I suggest to wait for the Kona race before a final verdict on the KPR.

A question from Chrissie Wellington: Do women have to race more often for a Kona slot?

Chrissie Wellington has posted a long and as usual thoughtful blog post on “Thoughts, comments and suggestions on the KPR”. One of her points is as follows:

[It] seems that, because the women are competing for 30 total slots, they are having to race more, than the men who are competing for 50. Those at the cusp of the men’s cut off have done far less IM racing than their women counter parts.  In short, some data suggests that the women are racing more to accrue sufficient points to get to Kona.

I thought that with my database of results, I should be in a pretty good position to have a closer look at this question.

All qualifiers

First, lets have a look at the number of races that the Kona qualifiers have raced:

NoOfRaces1

This graph shows the relative frequency of the number of races that female (red) and male (blue) athletes have raced. The shape of the graphs are very similar, and the average number is also pretty close (2.66 for the male, 2.82 for the female. To me, there is no significant difference between the genders.

There are no changes when we limit the number of males to 35 (as with women), either the top 35 or the low 35 qualifiers.

Athletes close to the cutoff

But Chrissie didn’t seem to look at all athletes. So I looked some more and limited the athletes to the 10 above and below the cutoff. With only 20 items in each dataset, the graph looks a bit wonky, but the base shape is still pretty similar:

NoOfRaces2

Here, the male average is 2.25, and the female at 2.85 races – the difference between the genders is a bit larger than for all qualifiers.

So, did females race more often?

Even though Chrissie is a lot closer to the female athletes than I will ever be, her intuition of females racing more often is not supported by my data analysis:

  • Female athletes have a similar average number of races, regardless of weather they qualifies or were close to the cutoff.
  • The larger difference in the averages of athletes close to the cutoff seems to be caused more by the male athletes racing less than the females being “pushed” into racing more often. (Maybe some of those male athletes weren’t really interested in qualifying for Kona and didn’t chase points.)
  • Also, the data gets a bit skewed by prolific female racers close to the cutoff (Miranda Alldritt with 6 races, Hillary Biscay with 5 races) and Mary Beth Ellis having to win three IMs within eight weeks in order qualify.

Then again, I may be missing something, so please leave a comment or send me an email.

Another idea: Change the points scheme for the females

There is however, one thing worth discussing a bit further: Because the size of the female fields are usually a lot smaller (average pro fields are 10 for the females and 18 for males), it is much easier for the females to score quite a lot of points even when they are far behind from the top racers. (I.e. it is much easier for a female to finish in the top 10 than for a male.) The way I see this, it results in the women racking up more points than their male counterparts (case in point: Male cutoff at around 3.000 points, female cutoff at 4.600; male counterpart to the last female qualifier “only” needs 4.200 points).

Chrissie discusses some changes to the points scheme in her blog post as well (although I’m not sure her thoughts were limited to the females). Maybe WTC should have a closer look into this?

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