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Side Effects

In my day job as an IT consultant and programmer, one of the tricky things that we are dealing with is side effects – making a change on one side that has some unforeseen consequence at another point. Thinking through potential side effects is an important part of implementing changes. Another example of side effects is in medicine, where the intended effects of a drug have to be weighed against other, possibly adverse effects.

Side EffectsWhen discussing the inequality of Kona slots (50 for the men, 35 for the women), one also has to think of effects beyond the simple difference of slots. Most everyone comes up with the immediate consequence that women require more points than the men – in 2014 it was roughly 4.900 vs. 3.500 points that were required for a July slot, and of course that also required more racing by female Kona athletes than for the male Kona qualifiers.

However, there is another side effect of the inequality: It pushes female Pros into the bigger point races. Basically, it doesn’t make sense for most athletes that want to make it to Kona to race in a P-2000 race: Even winning two of these won’t be enough for a Kona slot. (The exception would be those athletes that already have a good chunk of points, e.g. after finishing well in Kona or from 70.3 champs. For example, Meredith Kessler raced and won Ironman Arizona in November and Ironman New Zealand in March – a strategy that only made sense because she had 2.185 points from 70.3 champs and another 1.500 from 70.3 Auckland).

You can see this push into bigger races on two sides:

  • Most P-2000 races will have a relatively small female field. For example, IM New Zealand only had seven females on the start line, even though it paid ten deep.
  • The Regional Championships will have stronger female fields. For example, Melbourne and South Africa have almost the same number of male and female starters (Melbourne: 21m/19f, South Africa: 48m/32f)

This means that neither the distribution in New Zealand nor in Melbourne should be considered the norm. Field sizes are not determined solely by the different numbers of Pros overall, but are also heavily influenced by the different roles that the races play in athlete’s plans to qualify for Kona.

In addition, I would suggest to consider the side effects that an overall reduction of Kona athletes (even with an equal slot distribution) would have: Limiting the field size to 30 male and 30 female athletes (as has been suggested) would push the required number of points to around 5.000 and also force the male athletes to race more. A lot of athletes won’t be able to race Kona to their full potential as they will still be tired from qualifying. This can’t be in everyone’s interest so a reduction in the number of slots would also require changes to the KPR system if we want to have a great Kona race. Unless we have some good suggestions on how to achieve that, I don’t like the idea of reducing slots. But I don’t like unequal slots either, and that has already been discussed for a long time without seeing any change …

13 thoughts on “Side Effects”

  1. Sorry but every female who should be in Kona is in Kona.
    Regardless of requirement for more points it is much easier to get points for females.
    Currently there are 2nd and 3rd tier pros who get there. Pros who have virtually zero chance of placing or affecting the race. They want to go for whatever reason and this is fine but will never be competitive.
    In fact it has already started, pros running around to obscure ironman races trying to rack up the points to get to Kona. Subic Bay for example.

    1. Dee,
      thanks for your comment – even if I don’t agree with you 🙂

      A few points:
      1. Have a look at the female athletes that were close to qualifying for Kona: I’m sure that Angela Naeth, Amy Marsh, Sophie Goos, Rebekah Keat, Eimear Mullan, or Laura Bennett would have deserved to race in Kona, and would have had an impact on how the race developed.
      2. Your observation that some Pros race that don’t have a chance of placing well is valid for the men as well as the women. I don’t think that this is a valid reason to have fewer women than men.
      3. Most of the athletes racing 70.3s are not focused on points – instead they use it as a prep race for upcoming bigger races. Which race is then determined by date and location. Subic Bay is well placed for Melbourne for example.

  2. Just look at today’ Monterrey 70.3 for an example of the depth of the men’s field vs females:

    The top 10 men were within 8 minutes of each other; Tim Donn 3:42 while 10th place Tejeda 3:50.
    On the women’s side however the winner Tiseyre went 4 hours while 6th place Jahn was over 20 minutes back at 4:22. And 10th place Brandon was over 35 minutes back at 4:35. That is a huge spread.

    Your Angela Naeth was 3rd and 12 minutes behind the winner.

    1. Ooh, I agree that the female field in some IMs and 70.3s is pretty thin, resulting in low numbers and big spreads. But that is mainly a result of fewer women racing and women being pushed into the bigger points races (and not a result of the top women being “less deep”).
      I could not find a difference in the depth of the Kona male and female fields, so the top 50 in both genders are absolutely comparable.
      As for Angela – I don’t think it is fair to judge her from one result, especially at this point in the season. I’m sure we will see much better results from her in the future.

  3. Not judging Angela. I really like her and hope she does qualify for Kona. Just pointing out that in a relatively weak field she was 12 minutes back for third. A bigger spread by 4 minutes then the top 10 men!
    You have to admit this shows that the women’s field is much less competitive. I have not looked at the last Kona field specifically. However the Monterrey results are not much different than many of the races I see.

    1. Dee,
      I already addressed most of your arguments in my posts comments: The field in smaller IMs and 70.3s is not comparable to Kona & Regional Championships, therefore you can’t draw conclusions from these smaller fields.

      Let’s just agree to disagree, okay? 🙂

  4. Yes. No problem.
    I just believe, as a female, it is better to earn the spots legitimately, and not be given them because people are squawking “unfair.”

    It is beneath women to pull the gender card and demand the same number of slots as males when clearly there are not as many females competing and the level of competition is not the same.

  5. Hi Dee, I think one thing you are missing in your last comment is that the people doing the “squawking” are no the women placed 35-50 but members of the tri community as a whole who believe in the merits of equality.

  6. One has to be willfully obtuse to believe that the numbers will come up before the opportunity is there. Until there is equal opportunity we won’t see it. It has never worked in the past and there’s absolutely no reason to believe it will work now.
    Build it and they come – not the other way around.

  7. Looking at Monterey and suggesting the field was weak when Magali nearly went under 4:00 for a 70.3 is ridiculous. I think it is clear she absolutely was firing 100% at that race whereas the rest of the field was not at near the same fitness at their first race of the year. The same race was won by Heather Wurtele last year in 4:07 and I think it is tough to say she is not an outstanding athlete just because mags had an outlier outstanding performance (YES MAGALI!!!). The point of equal representation at the World Championship is it is the RIGHT THING TO DO IN 2015. You would need to be absolutely cemented in the dark ages to think that not having an equal number of women competing in the center stage race of triathlon is the right thing to do at the race where everyone is watching. Yes there are not equal numbers worldwide now but a lot of that has to do with the fact Europe is producing far fewer women participants because those countries do not benefit from Title IX opportunities. There is a disparity between countries legislating equality and those that don’t. You need to CREATE opportunity for women to make the most of it.

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