My son Ben and I participated in the Dover Sherborn Boosters annual triathlon this past Sunday. We really enjoyed it. It was his first, and my first in 22 years. Well over 300 folks competed, well-mixed in age and gender. They seemed like a pretty competitive, well-trained bunch to us, judging by the 95%+ who had lean cheeks and wetsuits and fancy bikes and bags that said "Boston Triathlon Team".
After the race, I was curious to get a better handle on how we'd done. All Sports Events had done a great job of running and timing the event, and their table of results was very detailed and useful. But I wanted to see it a bit more visually. The All Sports Events folks were kind enough to share the data file, and with a little fiddling to parse and convert strings to times, I got to this (click on the image to launch the Tableau Public interactive visualization):
Before the race, as I shivered un-rubbered on the beach waiting for the swim to start, I overheard a couple of guys my age talking about how now that they were in their forties, with their kids a little older and with more control at home and work (a state of grace I'm not yet familiar with), they had more time to train, especially on Saturday mornings.
Plotting 6th-order polynomial trend lines through the data revealed an interesting, if weak pattern that seems to confirm this life-stage effect, for both men and women. Average performance improves radically as you move from your teens to your twenties, declines as the realities of family life intrude in your thirties, improves once again as you rediscover your inner narcissist child in your forties, and then begins to decline again as Father Time eventually asserts himself (though with plenty of variance around the mean to give us hope). Like Shakespeare said, more or less.
Here's a regression, using R:
So, it helps to be a man, and under 60. Beyond that, it's likely about how hard you train, maybe your native gifts (VO2max), and possibly equipment, none of which I had data for. In short events like this, how well you can swim, and how efficiently you manage transitions, also really matter. But I didn't create variables for those in the regression.
What do you see? Thanks again to the organizers and volunteers for a great event!