Trying to quantify competitiveness

Which are the world’s most competitive swimrun races? We are currently trying to wrap our heads around this question and it is not as straightforward as you might think. This is going to be very nerdy.

We’ve tried simple measurements such as dividing the 10th finisher’s time by the winner’s time (“1/10” hereon) finisher’s time and run all 50 races in our database through that:

1.ÖTILLÖ World Series 1000 Lakes 201792.62 %
2.ÖTILLÖ World Championship 201892.05 %
3.ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Engadin 201591.97 %
4.ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Engadin 201991.80 %
5.ÖTILLÖ World Series Engadin 201891.77 %
6.ÖTILLÖ World Series Hvar 201891.31 %
7.ÖTILLÖ Swimrun 1000 Lakes 201690.85 %
8.ÖTILLÖ World Series Utö 201890.41 %
9.ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Utö 201690.20 %
10.ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Engadin 201690.11 %

We’ve tried first by 20th, 30th and so on (purple in figure below). We’ve also tried dividing front average by back average with different scopes (blue in figure below).

ÖTILLÖ World Championship competitiveness 2015–2019 measured by dividing finish time (F) of winner by five different positions down the scratch field. The five latter are fuzzed variants where an average of top half of a scope is divided by the bottom half of that scope.

We’ve also tried the The Salamander Ranking (TSR) 2019 race selection algorithm for our purposes, just exluding their ÖTILLÖ World Championship bias and run it over our database. TSR counts the number of finishers that are within +20 % from the winner’s time in relation to number of participants, which renders a similar result as the method of dividing first to x-th. The real difference is the participants component of their algoritm, giving a boost to Ångaloppet:

1.ÖTILLÖ World Championship 2018806
2.ÖTILLÖ World Championship 2019791
3.Ångaloppet 22 km 2017790
4.ÖTILLÖ World Championship 2016764
ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Utö 2016764
6.ÖTILLÖ World Championship 2017752
7.ÖTILLÖ World Championship 2015745
8.ÖTILLÖ World Series Utö 2018725
9.ÖTILLÖ World Series Engadin 2018701
10.ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Utö 2019691

Now, what’s the problem? Well, take ÖTILLÖ Worlds 2017–2019. Just by sense and talk of the town, perception would be that competition is getting tighter every year. However, ranking the top three Worlds events we get this order:

Competitiveness by 1/10:

  1. ÖTILLÖ Worlds 2018 (92.05 %)
  2. ÖTILLÖ Worlds 2019 (89.43 %)
  3. ÖTILLÖ Worlds 2016 (88.86 %)

By TSR-like:

  1. ÖTILLÖ Worlds 2018 (806)
  2. ÖTILLÖ Worlds 2019 (791)
  3. ÖTILLÖ Worlds 2017 (752)

This interestingly enough coincides with ÖTILLÖ Worlds weather:

  • 2018: almost perfect weather
  • 2019: headwinds, mud
  • 2017: big swells, mud

Isolating ÖTILLÖ Utö by TSR-like (1/10 gives similar) with weather:

  1. ÖTILLÖ Utö 2016 (764): ok?
  2. ÖTILLÖ Utö 2018 (726): a little warm
  3. ÖTILLÖ Utö 2019 (691): very cold water

Other examples are that 1/10 suggests that ÖTILLÖ Engadin 2015 was more competitive than 2018 and 2019, which I doubt.

ÖTILLÖ Worlds 2017 weather. Photo: Jakob Edholm / ÖTILLÖ.

To summarize, there might be instances where newer editions actually are less competitive than old ones, but it looks as if elites are less affected by the weather component in swimrun than second tier athletes, resulting in that time-difference-based algorithms do not fully reflect the actual level of competition.

Some of the tables mentioned: https://swimrun.watch/toplists/ (trivia sub section)

Author: Andreas Ribbefjord