Sunday’s Ironman Coeur d’Alene was historically brutal.
“We had a record number of athletes not finishing,” Ironman Regional Director Dave Christen said.
Christen said it’s Ironman policy not to share specifics on how many contestants needed medical attention or how many competitors failed to finish the race.
That makes it difficult to precisely compare this year’s Ironman finishing rates with past races.
But evidence indicates that many athletes didn’t make the finishline in Sunday’s 100-degree temperatures.
Based on the statistics on Ironman’s website, roughly 1,500 of the approximately 2,100 people who competed Sunday finished the race. That would mean about 28% of the competitors failed to complete the course.
It would be a record if 600 athletes didn’t finish. Four previous Coeur d’Alene Ironman races had 500 or more competitors fail to finish, but no race has eclipsed the 600 plateau.
By percentages, the 2021 race might not quite be the toughest on record.
In 2003 at the inaugural Ironman Coeur d’Alene, 31% of the athletes didn’t finish the race according to CoachCox, a website that tracks Ironman statistics.
That gives Sunday’s race the second highest did-not-finish percentage in Coeur d’Alene history at 28%.
Even in ideal conditions, lots of athletes drop out of Ironmans midrace.
For instance, Christen said the weather was fairly typical at the 2017 Ironman Coeur d’Alene – that was the last year the city held the race.
That year 15% of participants didn’t finish according to CoachCox.
Hundred-degree heat isn’t unprecedented for Ironman Coeur d’Alene either. The hottest race was in 2015 when temperatures climbed to 105 degrees.
CoachCox statistics show that 19% of athletes failed to complete the Ironman in 2015.
Ironman finishing percentages can vary dramatically. For instance, in 2013 only 6% of athletes failed to finish Ironman Coeur d’Alene. There have been a handful of years with single-digit did-not-finish percentages.
It’s typical for about 20% of contestants to fail to finish Ironman Coeur d’Alene.
Christen said that even with many athletes failing to finish, he was impressed with how people competed in the heat.
“It was truly inspirational,” Christen said.
The low finishing percentage wasn’t just due to the heat, Christen said. He said athletes also were probably rusty after the pandemic shut down lots of triathlons and Ironmans in 2020.
Ironman veterans said Sunday that slower competitors suffered more in the heat than the faster athletes.
People who finished the race in 10 or so hours didn’t have to spend as much time in the sun and their days ended before temperatures peaked around 5 p.m.
Plus, the faster competitors already were in better shape.
Most people still were running their marathons between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. though, Christen said. People who took 12 or more hours to finish had a grueling experience.
“That was a tough day,” Christen said. “I’ve never seen a day like that before.”