Call these Monday Musings if you will...
Ironman released last week updates to the Kona Points Ranking System for the professionals. It was met with cheers and jeers so to speak via the social networks. Again, I don't know that is the right way to go about it, but until there is a viable Professional group to take these issues to, then maybe it is. I will say that there are 4 Ironman Pro Ambassadors that we can take some of these concerns to...so that might be a start.
I write this after IM Frankfurt. A race that pushed Amy down to 27th in theWomen's KPR. If you take out the two automatic qualifiers and one who hasn't yet validated for Kona, she is 24th so certainly on the 'bubble' since 28 qualify at the end of July. These are my thoughts, though she does echo some of them. I've blogged about the KPR before. Here are a few quick thoughts of the current system (which ends 1 September 2013):
- 35 women and 50 men qualify for Kona. My 'opinion' is that these are fair numbers of qualifiers based on the total number of athletes in the women's and men's KPR, respectively. Let's just say about 10% of the athletes qualify for Kona. This is just a simple %age, and this is just my opinion. The number of women and the number of men who qualify...based on the total number of racers...is roughly equal. To get down to brass tacks, a higher %age of women qualify. This says nothing about the 'fairness' of the points distribution or prize money as you can argue that those certainly are not 'fair' anymore based on my %age rules. Your opinion may vary.
- To get to Kona as points are now, women have to score more points than the men (nearly 5,000 vs. 4,000). On the surface this makes is appear more competitive. But, the reality is that you are spreading the same points among fewer athletes (women) so you are going to have higher scores required. A system like this rewards racing more than it rewards placing highly. In other words, male or female, you can have 4-5 6-10th place finishes in an IM and make it to Kona whereas someone like Amy who was 10th the previous year in Kona and validated with an uncharacteristic 6th will have a hard time making it without racing a 3rd IM. Again, a 10th in Kona does not guarantee a spot even with what most would consider an 'ok' IM validation or at least a 'prize money' validation. Again, more racing is required as opposed to higher finishes. So depending on your definition of competitive, the women's KPR appears to be more competitive based on points. My take is that it is actually a bit less competitive in terms of depth of fields (generally).
- Added after more thought. I (we) think that the above scenario is compounded by counting up to 5 full 140.6 mile scores. Anyone who races 5 fulls in a calendar year is not setting themselves up for their best Kona...opinion. So, qualifying for Kona via 5 races is not giving the best field. Maybe 3 would make more sense.
- Summary. I personally think that the spot allocation is fair between genders. I think that the way that points are set up now makes it more difficult for some of the women to qualify for Kona because they end up being forced to race more. Not because it is more competitive in terms of field depth or tightness of field necessarily but because fewer athletes with the same number of available points means higher scores. And, counting 5 IMs is too many.
My thoughts about the new system which starts September 1, 2013 are that it is going to end up being a 'better' system and one that qualifies a 'better' field for the World Championships. A few key points, and I have not done any real analysis of these numbers. I have asked IM if they did, and they said they did run past KPRs to see how they change. And, I am sure that Thorston at TriRating.com could do so as well.
- The IM races are now tiered more in-line with the 70.3 events. Worlds is 8000 points or 2x the value of a regional championship (reionals are 4000 points). All other IM events are 2000 point events. I actually think that this is key. When we talk about qualfying for Kona, I do not think that a regional 70.3 Championship which carries 1500 points event should garner you more points than a win at an IM. It used to since there were 1000 point races, but it won't anymore. Now, you pick points vs. $$ it seems for the P-2000 point races.
- Because of the new structure and %ages of points awarded, my first thought is that the points threshold will be lower than it is now for Kona Qualification. I don't know how much lower, I 'assume' that IM/WTC ran this analysis. I am sure that Thorsten could also (and I suspect will) run this analysis based on the 2011 and 2012 rankings.
- Top finishes are rewarded more, especially in Kona where 10th place now scores 3100 points as opposed to 2,500. While that may not seem like that many, when you combine it with a steeper drop off of points between positions at the P-4000 and P-2000 level races, you can see that finishing at the top in Kona will make it 'more' likely that you will be able to qualify for the following year. The biggest benefit of the even older system was that 1-10 were automatic qualfiers for the following year in Kona. Under this new system, with a reasonable validation and good 70.3 finishes, a top-10 athlete in Kona 'should' be able to qualify for the following Kona without too much trouble. I certainly think that this is a good thing.
- With the different point allocation of the new system, it does NOT seem that 'simply' doing 4-5 140.6 mile IM events and placing 6-10th will get you the points required to get to Kona, as it seems it does now. I put ' ' around simply because having done 5 140.6 mile events in 1 calendar year, it is no easy feat. Again, depending on your definition of competitive, the new system will reward being at the front of the field more than the current system. Again, even if 5 are counted...which they are...'maybe' the new system reduces the chance of qualifying for Kona by getting 4-5 lower finishes.
Arguments have been made for and against it. Others think that we should use prize money as a determining factor. Others think that the number of spots for men and women should be the same whether it be 35 each, 50 each, or some other number. These are my thoughts.