Archive for September 3, 2012


Out of the 5,877 male triathletes in the United States between the ages of 45 and 49 who are ranked by USA Triathlon, we sit in 578th place. Just inside the top 10%.

When you think about it like that, after only 13 months of “triathloning” – I’m not sure that I could expect to be doing much better.

Except that I do. And I am.

That is the strange dichotomy about competing in races. There is a large part of me, let’s call it as much as 80% that knows that the only person that I am ever really “competing with” out there is me. I’m not a professional athlete, never will be.

I learned a long time ago that you can put a cat in the oven, doesn’t make it a biscuit.

All I can do is continue to work hard, train smart, make adjustments in my workouts and approach, concentrate on refining my swim, improve my bike and run and on race day let it all hang out. Leave it up to organizations like USA Triathlon to determine how they define excellent, good, average and poor. We’re just trying to get the most out of the gifts that God gave us.

But then there is another part of me …. that nagging 20% that wants to compare myself to other athletes. Not individual athletes mind you. Just an overall sense of how we compare to people like us. Which is what makes the rankings from USA Triathlon all the more interesting to that 20% of me.

USA Triathlon Rankings out of 5,877

I don’t know Jay Reale, William Rogers, Neal O’Connor or Richard Spenser. It would appear that they are from Florida, California, Denver and Virginia. I’ve never met these men, probably never will. But I want to beat them. And the five names above theirs and the ten names above theirs.

It is good to have goals in life, even if they are abstract goals, otherwise why are we keeping score at all? No scoring system is ever going to be perfect, especially when you are trying to compare athletes from around the US competing on different days in different events – but the USA Triathlon rankings do their best.

The ranking system uses pace setters to determine a par time for each race. Every race has a unique par time, depending on who has competed. Because each race is unique, an athlete may receive a higher score in one race, even if they consider their finish time in another race better. The score is determined by a par time, which is based on the calculated times of what USA Triathlon calls its’ pace setters.

A pace setter is any athlete who received an overall ranking in the previous year. A calculated time is determined for each pace setter. This is calculated by taking their overall score from the previous year and dividing it by 100, and then multiplying that number by their finish time for the current race, which is converted to minutes.

This means that if John is a pace setter and he finished a race this year in 1:30:00, USA Triathlon can find his calculated time. If his score from last year was 95.234, we would divide it by 100 to get .95234. Then, they multiply that by his finish time, which would be 90 minutes. 90 x .95234 = 85.7106

Some races may have five pace setters, others could have 50 or more.

Everyone’s score for their race is determined by the par time, which is the average calculated time of the pace setters.

Par time is calculated by dropping the top 20 percent and bottom 20 percent of all the pace setters – only the middle 60 percent is averaged together. If there are 100 pace setters in a race, the top 20 and bottom 20 pace setters are not included, and the remaining 60 pace setters’ calculated times are averaged together to equal the par time.

After the par time is calculated, the time of every participant in the race is compared against the par time. If the par time of John’s race is 80 minutes, and he finished in 90 minutes, his score would be 88.888 (80 / 90 = .88888 * 100 = 88.888)

USA Triathlon uses the top three scores for each athlete averaged together to create your final ranking. So in our case, if we score better than 75.6818 at the Kerrville Half Ironman, we will drop our Lake Pflugerville Triathlon performance from our average score and replace it with our score from Kerrville.

Looking at some of the 70.3 times and their related scores of the competitors around us on the list, we should be able to make up some ground if we come through the chute in the 5:20 to 5:30 range which we are hoping for. A lot of things can happen on race day, most of them bad when it comes to the triathlon. But we are doing all we can to eliminate the variables down to illness, injury and mechanical failure. If one of those three things happen to us on September 30th, there really is not a whole heckuva lot we can do.

But we can work hard, train smart, perfect our nutrition plan, practice our transitions and make sure that we are as ready as we possibly can be to swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 and run 13.1. At the end of the day I know that I’ll be happy to have made it through to the finish line, collect my finisher’s medal and my hugs from Dawn and Landry no matter what the clock says.

But there is that 20% of me. O.K., maybe 25% that wants to kick some ass out there.

All right, 30. 30% but not any more than 30 ….

I don’t know, it could be as high as 35%, but seriously, it’s not more than 40.

40 tops.