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Fun with Spreadsheets

October 29, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments


It just so happens that I like spreadsheets.  A lot.

So when I decided it was time to step back and look at 2013’s results with a bit of a bird’s eye view, it meant I got to have fun with spreadsheets 🙂

Actually, what kicked this exercise into full gear was a conversation with my wife – as I was telling her I was having trouble finding direction in this sport.  At a quick glance, it’s easy to look back at 2013 and see a lot of last place (or near last place) age group finishes.  But with a deeper look, there are some positives to take away, and some information to focus on going forward.

Are you excited?  I’m excited!!!  Let’s take a look.


First, I wanted to get a summary of how my season went compared to the M30-34 age group I raced in.  We all know I didn’t win many races.  As the purple line depicts, I was a bottom 20% of the pack finisher across the board (though I only came in last once, at Lakeside).  But I’m happy (relatively speaking) with how my swim did this year.  I even managed to be front half of the pack out of the water in one race.  I’d like to get to the point where I’m front half of the pack out of the water in all my races, but for now at least my swim is respectable.

I think the picture this paints here more than anything is the direct parallel between my run results (two thumbs down to those) and my overall results.  And just how much I got my butt kicked on the run this year.  If I want to do better, I need to run better.  Period.  I know what my focus this winter needs to be!

It also shows that I have better results against the field in shorter duration races.  I have the burst speed to race competitively, but not the stamina to keep it up.   But, I suspect, the longer distance races also draw more experienced race fields overall, whereas shorter distances may draw more recreational, novice, and bucket list athletes.  Not really sure what to do with that, but it’s an interesting thought exercise.

The biggest surprise in this picture?  Must be my bike split from Cincinnati.  Had I had to guess (before seeing these results), my gut instinct was that Toronto Island was my best bike race.  And sure enough, Toronto Island was my better time over the 20km distance.  But compared to the field, I did better in Cincinnati.  Again, not really sure what to make of that… but… interesting at least.


Okay – so here’s a possibly pointless exercise.  If my goal was to finish in the top 5 of my age group (which, sure, I’d love that), how much faster would I have to be in each discipline?  Or, rather, how much faster than me was the 5th place finisher in each of my races?  Because the distances are all different, the results here are in seconds/100m for the swim, in seconds/km for the bike, and in mm:ss/km for the run.

Ultimately, I think it tells the same thing as the first graph.  That the improvement needed in my swim is less than is needed in the bike (and that my run is just crap!!)

And, much like the first graph, I see two (potentially) interesting trends:

  • The difference between my time and the 5th place time is more extreme in the longer durations on the bike.  At Binbrook (30km) and Lakeside (40km) I was not able to keep up, where as I was closer at Cincinnati (20km) and Toronto Island (20km).  I need to work on my bike endurance!!
  • In all 3 distances, I was closest to 5th place at Cincinnati.  What’s unique about Cincinnati?  Well, it’s the only race of the 4 above that isn’t run by Multisport Canada.  I’m starting to wonder if there is a difference in the skill level of the field


A potentially more useful version of the graph above: instead, lets look at what it would take for me to improve to place in the top 15 of my age group (or top 8 in the case of Lakeside, as there were only 9 of us in my age group at that race).  Top 15 may be a much more realistic goal for 2014 than top 5.

There isn’t much surprise here – similar patterns, just less distance between my own result and the 15th place finisher.  In fact, in 3 of the 4 races, I actually swam a faster split than the 15th place finisher (and even had one faster bike split).  Excluding for Cincinnati, I’m pretty consistently 20 seconds/km off a competitive pace (which, isn’t a negligible amount – that’s 10 minutes to shave off a 20km race… yikes).  But I’m a solid 2:00 – 2:30/km off the pace on my run.  That’s going to be the trickier one to make up.

Okay, so what did we learn from this?

Really, not much that we didn’t already know…

  • I’m a terrible runner
  • I’m not quite as bad at the other two disciplines
  • My swim is mid-pack competitive (Yay!!!)
  • I’m a lot closer to a top 15 finish then a top 5 finish
  • I like spreadsheets way too much

Next up is to figure out what I’m going to do with this information.  Which is good, because this post is long enough as it is.  I’ve got a few ideas, but feel free to send any suggestions my way.


  1. October 30, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Wow, that is some attention to detail. I say good on you for tracking it as it will only make you better.

    Now get runnin’ brother.

  2. October 30, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    Ooooh – I love stats. I follow a strange mix of blogs – mostly ones that relate to my love of running/triathlons, with a few that relate to my career as an Educational Technologist/Learning Designer. I’d clicked on lots of links and from the title of your blog today, I assumed that it was going to be one of the ones related to my job. What a fab surprise!

    I have a MASSIVE spreadsheet on Googledrive that includes my training plans between now and September next year (when I’m going to do my first 70.3). It gives me such a sense of satisfaction to know that I’m following a plan, but your post has really made me realise that where I’m failing is in my analysis of my results. I have so much detail from my Garmin about all of my races (pace, heart rate, cadence etc etc etc), but I don’t really do anything with it. What a waste!!! Sadly, I have very little tri data to analyse. I raced twice this season, but despite paying for chip timing for the second tri, we were only given overal finish times with NO splits >:-(

    Is there a running club near to where you live? I started running on a treadmill, but couldn’t afford to keep going, so I started running outside and soon realised that I preferred it. However, I ran on my own for over 18 months as I assumed that clubs were only for ‘good’ runners. I then did a local 5k and realised that I finished ahead of some people in club vests (admittedly they were twice my age), which made me think that maybe I could join a club. In the first year that I joined a club, I took over 8 minutes off my 10k time, as well as completing my first 5, 10, 13.1 and 26.2 mile races! My running club has taught me how to pace myself well and the wisdom of experienced runners has been invaluable. I am now a ‘Run Leader’ and a part-qualified running coach. It’s easy to assume that everyone knows how to run, but working with qualified and experienced coaches has taught me so much about technique, which has helped me to remain injury free.

    Finally, if you want to get faster, you need to do speed work. It hurts, but it’s the only way you’ll improve. For lots of helpful advice, I’d recommend that you have a look at my coach’s blog: http://www.runcamp.co.uk/blog.html He’s a TeamGB Age Grouper – running is his top discipline.

  3. November 7, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Wow! I love spreadsheets also, just never figured of comparing myself to the field in my races. I have been focused mostly on m complete picture of training and less on the field. For instance one of the goals at the end of the year was to get a sub 2 hour sprint (completed). I could not track this on a graph of course. For fun I wiil have some of my spreadsheet data up soon, not the same detail level but still in the same vein. Good post my friend.

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