Wednesday, March 6, 2013

On Competition: Dinosaur Tales and AG Stats

Regular readers (you know who you are) of this space know that I have recently upgraded my triathlon race and training database--it is chock full of obscure data about a topic of little interest: my triathlon experiences over the last 12 years.  In an on-going public-disservice attempt, find below another installment of ireeverant data compilation and analyses.

This time what I examined is the nature of my direct competition in the races that I've raced through the years.  I'm talking about the old guys--the dinosaurs--especially those who live and race in and around New Jersey each summer.  I decided to make this analysis personal by looking at whom I race the most and how we've done--mano-a-mano.  My first pass was to sort my database and to find all guys who are +/- 2years of me and who have raced me at least 5 times over the last 12 years.  The two-year thing is an attempt to focus on guys who more than half the time are in my AG (though, I've included races with these guys when they were not in my AG--for example, once every five years, Mick and I are in different age groups).  Here, as best as I can tell, is that list of 24 guys:

So the person I've raced against most through the years is none other than the infamous Mickey Syrop! 25 of the 126 races, I've raced have been against the Mick--just about 1 out of every 5 races I have ever done over the last 12 years!  You can puruse the list and if you're familiar with the Jersey Dino scene, I know many of these names are familiar to you.

You can also see that I compiled my W/L record against each gentleman--for example, I have bested Mick 18 od the 25 times we have raced through the years.  I decided to take another cut at the above and regroup the result:

I've taken the (some-what controversial) liberty of grouping folks into three categories: "The Top Five", "My Peers", and Guys Chasing Me".  I expect I'll take some grief for this and would feel that any I receive is probably justified.  In any event, let me explain my thinking:

What I'm attempting to do here is "let the data speak".  I've ordered my old-guy competitors by our head-to-head record.  In so doing, I do get three pretty clear groupings.  The first is a group of 5 guys who are (in these races) clearly better than I:  Des, Wes, Rip, Wes, and Nace.  As you can see, this group has had little trouble kicking my butt through the years.

I took the liberty of using a bit of judgement (and looking at their performance against each other in these races only to rank them).  In so doing I see Des, Ken and Rip as being the top 3.  It's hard to separate them and I certainly wouldn't argue with anyone who ordered them differently but this is my view of the correct order.  For what it's worth, Des was the ITU World Champion at the Olympic distance several years back.  Of course, both Des and Rip seem to have disapeered from the local scene and of the group above, Ken is undoubtedly the best still on the job.

Wes is a great competitor and definitely the best runner of this group.  Nace is an outstanding old man triathlete as well, whom I was only able to best when he got rung up for two drafting violations (during his liberal drafting philosophy period) at the National Championships in 2003.  Over the years as Nace has expanded to ITU and LC racing, he has developed the most impressive resume of the above group.

These 5 guys were the gold standard for me during my first 4-5 years in the sport.  They represented the pinnacle that I strived to emulate.  During these early days, these guys motivated me to train harder, to buy new equipment, and to try to reach my full potential as an old guy triathlete.  Without them, triathlon wouldn't have been as important to me and i surely would not have achieved even the modest success that I have enjoyed.  Of course, there are better dinos roaming the earth--in the US Jeff Cuddleback and Joe Bonness come to mind and probably the best in the world is a Dutchman named Rob Barrel--as I've expanded my focus to LC and International racing, these later fellows have come to represent the true pinnacle.  None-the-less, I owe a lot to these "Top Five".

The next group of four represent my peers.  As I mentioned, Mick is the guy I've raced against most--he is a long-time and oft injured SC triathlete who is a real joy to count as a friend and competitor.  While I have the upper hand over the 12 years, it must be said that when Mick is fit and ready to race that he is better than I.  He often races when he is not which partially explains the above record.  What I've found through the years is that as the season progresses and Mick races himself into shape that he becomes a much tougher competitor.  In any event, I hope we have many more contests in the days ahead!

Tom Dillon is a better SC triathlete today than I am.  At one point I was 9-1 against him...he has won 4 of the last 5.  Tom has always been a better swimmer and over the last 2-3 years has dramatically improved his bike and his run has not suffered as much as mine.  A classic case in point is Lake Lenape last year, where he outswam me by a small margin and then I closed the gap by posting the best bike split out of the whole 200+ field.  But Tom was 3rd OA on the bike and just 8 seconds back.  He had no trouble out running me and beat me comfortably.  When Tom is fit, like he has been, he is out of my class.

Tom Senff used to beat me regularly but I have been having my way with him as of late.  Mercer is probably the closest to me in overall ability and I've been getting the slightly better of him as of late--although we are very close to each other at this time.

Of course, the composition of the race has a lot to do with the above results through the years.  There is no question in my mind that I could have beaten even the Top Five guys at the right time on the right course (say 2007 when I was at my relative competitive peak and at Bassman with its ultra long bike segment).  On the flipside, there are times and courses where i would have had no chance against these guys.  But at the end of the day, these are the 9 guys who have been most on my mind when I race at local sprints during the summer.  Indeed, if you look at the races that I've competed in and tabulated who won my AG when it wasn't me, what you find is:

Wes Burns 10
Des Nunan 4
Mickey Syrop 4
Tom Dillon 3
Ken Lehner 2
Rip Wagner 2
Nace Mullen 2 
Tom Senff 1
Mercer Craft 1

The last group is probably poorly labeled.  I'm sure they don't think they are chasing me--as with me, if they are chasing anybody it's the Ken and Wes and Rips of the world.  Anyways, I have done comparatively better against this group through the years.  It's not to say that they'll stay in this grouping.  In fact, I was very lucky to beat Jack at Lenape last year and he seems to be on the upswing.  Perhaps, like Tom Dillon, he is on the break of eclipsing me in our local battles.  Time will tell.

If I have offended anyone with this discourse, I apologize!  I hope to stir the pot a bit of course but let me emphasize, that all of the competitors on this list have my utmost respect.  You have had a primary and causal effect on the satisfaction that I have enjoyed in this great sport of triathlon.  I thank you all!

To end this post I'd like to share three big data dumps.  The first shows my AG win and podium (top 3) record through the years:

The next two charts display how my cumulative win (the number of wins divided by the number of races at any point in time) and cumulative podium percentage has changed over time.  I could obviously through more words at this but i think the data is fairly self-explanatory and I'm way past a reasonable word limit at this point!

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