Ironman Florida Average Finishing Times
Ironman Florida Average Finishing Times

Written by PM Coach Joshua Gordon, PhD


The Ironman triathlon is an ultimate test of physical endurance, encompassing the challenging disciplines of swimming, cycling, and running. Long course triathlons come in two primary distances: the (Half) 70.3 miles and the (Full) 140.6 miles. In recent times, there has been a shift in the triathlon landscape with the emergence of the PTO 100km races. This shift has seen the popularity of full Ironman races wane in the United States as more athletes opt for the 70.3 distance.


The 70.3 distance presents a more attainable option for many, with reduced training demands and a lighter financial burden in terms of entry fees, travel, and accommodation. However, in this article, I'm here to shine a spotlight on one of the enduring full Ironman races in the United States, the Panama City Beach Ironman Florida. Having had the firsthand experience of participating in this race, I was intrigued to examine how the performance of athletes has evolved over the years, if at all.


In this analysis, we'll delve into the average finish times, both overall and by age group, providing valuable recommendations to assist athletes in achieving their best performance at this iconic event.


The Ironman triathlon stands as one of the most formidable endurance challenges an individual can undertake. As someone who has participated in various races, including 5ks, 10ks, and marathons, I can attest to the unique demands of the Ironman. While it might not be as inherently painful as pure running, it presents its own set of grueling challenges. What sets the full Ironman apart is the inclusion of swimming and biking, both of which add complexity and time to the event. Here's a breakdown of the Ironman race distances:


Swimming: The race kicks off with a demanding open-water swim covering 2.4 miles (3.9 kilometers).


Biking: Following the swim, competitors tackle a rigorous 112-mile (180-kilometer) bicycle ride, showcasing their endurance and cycling prowess.


Running: The final leg of the race involves a marathon run spanning 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometers).


Ironman races hold a special place in the triathlon community. They are renowned for the physical and mental challenges they present, drawing participants who are determined to push their limits and test their capabilities. These events epitomize the essence of endurance sports, requiring unwavering dedication, rigorous training, and exceptional mental resilience. Ironman races are celebrated for their capacity to transform ordinary individuals into extraordinary athletes, solidifying their significance in the world of triathlons.


On a personal note, having completed seven full Ironman triathlons, including two at the Ironman World Championship, I can confidently say that these races have been among the most memorable days of my life. They have provided me with invaluable experiences, and I frequently reflect on the personal growth that undertaking such feats has brought. Training for an Ironman has the power to transform not only your physical capabilities but also who you are as a person, invariably for the better.


Ironman Florida

Ironman Florida, a cornerstone in the world of long-distance triathlons, marked its inaugural race on November 6, 1999. This historic event drew over 1,500 athletes to the enchanting shores of Panama City Beach. Known for its emerald waters, pristine sandy beaches, and lively ambiance, this coastal paradise sets the stage for an extraordinary triathlon experience.


Ironman Florida's unique allure lies in its late-season timing, held in November. While the cooler climate offers a welcomed advantage to competitors, it comes with the demand of preparing through the scorching summer months. Training through the heat and humidity is part of the journey to success in this event.


Panama City Beach's accessibility adds to the appeal. It's roughly a 5-hour drive from Atlanta, and as a personal testament, I once drove from Austin, Texas, finding it to be a manageable journey. The Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport is the nearest air travel option. When flying in, remember to secure a vehicle spacious enough to accommodate your essential triathlon gear, including your bike.


Accommodation choices abound in Panama City Beach, owing to its popularity as a spring break destination. While you have a range of options to choose from, be aware that some budget-friendly accommodations may not meet your expectations for cleanliness and quality. Verifying the availability of essential amenities, like WiFi, is essential. During my race experience, I stayed at the Hampton Inn, a roughly 10-minute drive from the transition area, and found it to be a comfortable choice. Personal preferences may vary, but I appreciated the tranquility away from the race-day commotion.


Course Info:


The Swim: The swim at Ironman Florida commences on the beach and features a rolling start. Athletes self-seed based on their expected finishing times, and event officials efficiently usher groups into the water through a designated starting chute. The swim consists of two laps, with a brief exit from the water. For those new to the race, this format can be reassuring, as it breaks the swim into manageable sections. During my participation, I encountered some jellyfish, but overall, the swim was a pleasant experience.


The Bike: The bike course at Ironman Florida offers predominantly flat terrain with smooth road surfaces and minimal rolling resistance. However, wind conditions can prove challenging, underscoring the importance of a disc wheel. The bike leg consists of a single loop, covering a distance of 180km.


The Run: The run course at Ironman Florida unfolds on remarkably level terrain, taking athletes through a picturesque park and neighboring residential streets. Enthusiastic crowds lining the route provide vital support, enhancing the overall race experience. The two-loop course offers a unique opportunity for participants to draw energy and inspiration from the spectators, motivating them to push through to the finish line.


Ironman Florida Finish Times Analysis

Utilizing data spanning from 2015 to 2022, I conducted a comprehensive exploratory data analysis to dissect the finishing times for various sports and age groups in Ironman Florida. Notably, Ironman Florida was among the few Ironman races that proceeded amid the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, albeit with a reduced field size. The event, set against the backdrop of Florida's resilience, provided a unique dataset for our analysis. Here are the key findings for the seven years of available data:


Overall Finish Times (Gender Split):

Female Finish Times Total Time 13:58:19, Male Finish Times Total Time 13:17:44

These times represent the aggregate performance across genders, taking into account the swim, bike, and run segments, ultimately culminating in the overall total time.


Yearly Total Finish Times (Gender Split):

These yearly totals provide insights into the evolving performance trends for both female and male participants over time. Graphs for Visualizing Data (please hover to interact with the graph).


Graph 1: This graphic captures the overarching trends in finish times over the years, offering a holistic view of how performance has evolved.




Graph 2: Focusing on male age groups, this graphic breaks down finish times by age, allowing you to explore how different age brackets have fared.



Graph 3: Similarly, for female age groups, this graphic dissects finish times, enabling you to gauge performance across different age categories.



These visuals provide an interactive means to explore the data, allowing you to hover over the colored lines to understand finish times relative to your percentile within the field. Whether you're seeking insights into gender-specific trends, year-to-year changes, or age group comparisons, this data analysis equips you with valuable information to enhance your understanding of Ironman Florida's performance dynamics.


For example, to finish in the top 25% in 2022 as a M35-39 you would need a time of 10.83 hours or approximately 10h50.  You can hover over the graph to find the top 5% times of each age group or look at the table below. A time in this vicinity may allow you to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Kona or Nice. 

Top 5% Finishers:

Gear and Equipment

Here we explore the influence of gear and equipment on race performance, specifically concerning bike and run times for male and female age groups.


Graph 4 and 5: Bike Times for Male and Female Age Groups

These graphs provide insight into the bike times across different age groups for both male and female participants. Notably, bike times do not appear to have decreased over time. In fact, there is a discernible trend of increasing bike times. This trend may, in part, be attributed to the focus on safety enhancements in recent bike technology, including the adoption of disc brakes and tubeless tires. Given that the bike leg is the longest portion of the race, its impact on overall performance is significant. This observation aligns with the overall trend we've seen in typical finishing times, where there has not been a consistent decrease over the analyzed period.




Graph 6 and 7: Run Times for Male and Female Age Groups

The subsequent graphs turn our attention to run times across male and female age groups. These graphs reveal a notable decrease in running times over the period of data analysis. This decline is likely attributable to innovations in footwear, particularly the advent of carbon-plated running shoes like the Nike Alpha Fly and Asics Meta Speed. The impact of these advancements in running technology is reflected in a widespread reduction in running times across all male age groups. A similar trend is evident among female age groups, with a significant decline in run splits, particularly for mid-pack finishers, from 2015 to the present.


These findings highlight the complex interplay between gear, equipment, and race performance in Ironman Florida. While running times have significantly improved due to advancements in running shoe technology, bike times have shown an intriguing trend, possibly influenced by safety-oriented upgrades in bike technology. This analysis underscores the evolving dynamics in long-distance triathlons like Ironman Florida, where gear and equipment continue to play a crucial role in shaping performance outcomes.


Ironman Florida Race Day Strategy

Ironman Florida presents a unique set of challenges but it can be raced similar to any other flat Ironman. Here are some recommendations for racing this event.


The swim at Ironman Florida consists of 2 loops with a beach start. Positioning yourself in the front third of the self-seeded corral is always a solid choice.


You have three primary swim strategies:

  1. Drafting behind the fastest swimmers, which requires a rapid take-out speed and the ability to maintain the draft.
  2. Going at your own pace, finding similarly paced swimmers, passing slower swimmers, and trying to draft behind faster ones.
  3. Swimming independently without focusing on others. Note that this may be the slowest option as it doesn't leverage drafting possibilities.


Transition 1 can be relatively long, and the ground can be cold. Be cautious to avoid slipping as you transition from the swim to the bike.


The bike course is predominantly flat with a few minor rollers. It's advisable to use a power meter and set your target watts to around 68-78% of your FTP, depending on your average speed and expected finishing time. In the first 30 minutes of the bike, focus on maintaining a steady effort and prioritize replenishing fluids and carbohydrates. Consider briefly coming out of the aero position for a minute before and after each aid station. The flat course can lead to prolonged periods in the aero position, potentially causing discomfort or backaches that might not be experienced on hilly terrain. Enjoy the last 10 miles of the bike, which runs along the picturesque coastline.


Transition 2 is straightforward, and you may find bike hand-off volunteers, making the process smoother.


The run commences near the highrise condos and progresses toward the park. Start the run conservatively, gradually working your way into your target pace. A general guideline is not to run faster than 15 seconds per mile than your goal pace in the first 5k. In Ironman races, it's common for athletes to slow down as the marathon progresses. While you might not have experienced an implosion or walking in your past Ironman races, it's a common occurrence among many finishers. As the race takes place in November, be prepared for the sun to set relatively early. If your expected finish time is over 11 hours, be ready for the possibility of running in the dark.


These strategies can help you navigate the unique aspects of Ironman Florida and optimize your performance. For more comprehensive guidance on Ironman nutrition and pacing using heart rate and power, consider referring to the resources below.



The Ironman Florida, a test of endurance through swimming, cycling, and running, is a staple in the world of triathlons. While shorter races gain popularity, this iconic full Ironman in Panama City Beach retains its appeal. With its late-season November date, it offers a unique challenge, requiring training through the sweltering summer months. Accessibility from various locations and ample accommodations make it a convenient choice.


Our data analysis found improvements in run times, possibly due to advanced running shoes, while bike times have trended slightly upwards, possibly due to safety-focused bike upgrades. Gear plays a crucial role in Ironman Florida's dynamics. In conclusion, whether you're an elite athlete or a determined participant, Ironman Florida offers a transformative experience. It's a testament to the enduring spirit of long-distance racing, where personal growth and memorable challenges await.