Friday, October 14, 2011

Analyzing the Ironman Run for Kona - Pro Women

In my last post, we analyzed the pro men's run off the bike, to determine what affect pacing might have on the race, and the dynamics of the first mile among the field.

It was clear that those with the least amount of fade/differential between their first mile time as a projected pace, and their actual pace, did better on the whole. It goes to show the value of the run in Ironman, especially the strength to hold a hot pace, if you're coming out of T2 hot. Or one could assume when a smart runner paces himself better out of T2, but within range of the leaders, we could see a surprise winner.

Truth be told, I never believed it was truly possibly to be that pace consistent among the pro's, like Ogden was. I honestly believed you would be too tired from the efforts of the bike in that heat, and you just fall to a sort of default pace. The athletes with the fastest default pace, who are best positioned when the heat really turns up toward the end, would find themselves in contention. Almost like a peloton and positioning for a field sprint. You have to be on the right wheels within the final K of a sprint finish, and in Ironman, that point is around the half-way point of the marathon.

Now Ogden has me rethinking that theory. However, Ogden did not win. He was not even in the top 10. But perhaps if Andi Raelert or Pete Jacobs don't run so fast for the first mile, they give themselves a better chance? We'll never know.

But what about the women? Do we see the same thing? I was able to record the 10 of the top 11 overall females, plus Julie Dibens, (leader off the bike, DNF due to injury).

Obviously, the women run the same course as the men, so no need to review the first mile profile again. Here's how the first mile panned out, according to overall place: (click on image to enlarge)

Here we see a MUCH different result and dynamic than we saw in the men's race. In this race, the lower differentials were found higher up in the top 10, as a general placing, whereas in the men's race, the better differentials were found closer to the podium, as a whole. 4 women actually would have been considered as pacing themselves better than Chrissie, but the only one who was in the top 5 was Mirinda.

So what does this mean? Well, I think there are a few things we can infer from this:

1. The bike plays a very large role, even more so in the women's race than the men's. The top girls are able to go out so fast, suffer some of the highest fall-offs of pace, and still hold/finish in the top 5 positions.
2. There is a big gap between the run ability of the top runners in the women's race, and the rest of the field. They can tolerate such a large differential, that even their slowing/default pace is much better than most of the other girls.

A few questions jump out at me when I see this...
1. Would Mirinda have won if she was smarter at pacing in the early miles? Can she go 2:45 with better pacing? Realize, compared to Chrissie, she did pace better, just not better enough.
2. Leanda Cave the same? Remember, she lead Chrissie and Mirinda by about 5:30 and 9 mins out of T2. Cut her 18 min differential in half, and she's right there with Mirinda trying to chase her down at the end, and making Chrissie sweat it out for awhile. Maybe even running well enough that Chrissie begins to worry, makes an error?

If these girls really want to beat Chrissie in the future, they need to recognize her weaknesses, and this is one that is now exposed. According to the data I collected, (and I missed a few), only 4 men ran the first mile faster than Chrissie.

Exciting information! What are you thoughts?

Coach Vance

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