Which is the most competitive age group in triathlon?

Today’s my birthday. But even though I’m entering my last year in my 20’s, in triathlon, I’m already 30! Many triathletes will know that your age – that two digit marking on your left calf – is based on your age at the end of that calendar year. This obviously then determines which age group you race in, which are mostly divided into 5-year buckets (the exceptions are the youngest and oldest age groups). Last year I competed in the 25-29 age group. In 2015, I’ll bump up to 30-34.big-cake1084

This got me thinking about the age-old (sorry, bad pun) question of which age group is most competitive in triathlon? You constantly hear about how most endurance athletes don’t hit their peak until their 30’s, allowing for decades of building base fitness. The late 20’s, 30’s and early 40’s tend to attract the most number of participants. But, which is the most competitive?

Well, of course it depends on how you define competitive: the fastest overall time? most number of athletes in the top 15 at Kona? time of the 80th percentile finisher? You can slice it a bunch of different ways.

For the fun of it, I used these three approaches to see how things came out.

Fastest Overall Time

USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals – Olympic

2014  |  25-29 – 1:52:86  |  30-34 – 1:54:23

2013  |  25-29 – 1:52:54  |  30-34 – 1:54:44

IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships

2014  |  25-29 – 4:01:14  |  30-34 – 4:08:00

2013  |  25-29 – 4:13:45  |  30-34 – 4:15:02

IRONMAN World Championships

2014  |  25-29 – 8:52:14  |  30-34 – 9:03:37

2013  |  25-29 – 8:47:36  |  30-34 – 8:37:26

Top 15 Age Groupers at 2014 IRONMAN World Championships

By Age Group

30-34:  7   |   35-39: 3   |   40-44: 3   |   25-29: 2

By Place

1- 30-34
2- 35-39
3- 40-44
4- 40-44
5- 30-34
6- 30-34
7- 30-34
8- 30-34
9- 30-34
10- 35-39
11- 35-39
12- 30-34
13- 40-44
14- 25-29
15- 25-29

Time of 80th Percentile Finisher at 2014 IRONMAN World Championships

M30-34
M25-29
M35-39
M40-44
M18-24
M45-49
M50-54


Well, any way you slice it, 25-29 and 30-34 are both pretty darn competitive age groups. It likely depends on the distance, with the 30-year old age groups generally fairing better in longer distance triathlons, where the young bucks still have the top end speed to race faster at the shorter distances.

Can’t wait for another fun year of racing!

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