THE TOPS EDGE CONFIRMED
We took an in-depth look for various patterns that resulted in greatest success. The first had seemed obvious: NBC announcer Al Trautwig would annually repeat some form of the following:
• As the swim leaders exited the water, “You’re not going to win with a great swim.”
• Almost breathless commentary about who’s in the “lead pack,” or “chase group” on the bike, and who had the best chance to enter T2 “in the lead” as if fastest bike could portend chance for victory
• The drama kicked in as the first off the bike quite often was passed early in the marathon, prompting Trautwig to point out, “You win Kona on the run.”
One thing Trautwig, and many coaches and experts I’ve spoken with about winning Kona appear to have missed in embracing thiking like Trautwig’s: the statements were, for the most part, anecdotal. Yes, true to a degree, but what I hadn’t heard was an analytical explanation about the best way to approach swim, bike and run to win.
Our analysis of the top 20 male and top 20 female finishers and their time splits don’t tell the whole story, they lead to a different interpretation: that balancing your race performance by the TOPS guidelines, according to your skill level, will result in a better finish.
Looking for patterns to explain top performances on a swim, bike, run percentage basis revealed a very surprising finding: to achieve and optimal finish time, go slow, then go fast.
More specifically, the closer we looked, the clearer it became.
ABOVE Peter Reid racing at the 2004 Ironman World Championship