Knechtle and Kohler have considered the factors relating to overall performance in triple ironman triathlon. There are however several other considerations which must be made when looking at total race time.
The mental preparation needed for ultra-endurance events may have a significant impact on total race time. This can limit training time and total race time, especially if an individual misjudges their pacing early in the event.
Some consideration needs to be taken of pre-race injuries. Endurance athletes commonly have a number of injuries which limit different aspects of their preparation and race. With a sample size of only 17, these two factors are likely to prevent any true association between anthropomorphic factors and total race time.
The study of triple ironman distance events is unusual as there are few events of this type globally. Comparisons to marathon running, ironman triathlon and cycling are perhaps misguided as these are all sports with large numbers of competitors and a circuit of races for professional athletes.
Subjects in this study trained between only 6 hours each week and up to 55 hours. Skin fold thickness was high indicating a high body fat percentage. Average weight was 85Kg, considerably higher than most professional ironman triathletes. Competitors clearly varied considerably in their preparation. They range between casual competitors and professional athletes. This makes study of the factors needed for low total race time difficult.
The use of performance in individual sections of the race may not be a valid measurement to make alone. Whilst there is a trend towards time in the running section being the best predictor of total race time, this is in fact also a function of both cycling time and swimming time. The energy expended in other sections of the event will take a toll on the later part even with the best athletes. As the last section of the race the run is most likely to show a trend.
Despite the thorough analysis made of the results, currently there is insufficient participation in this type of event for this type of study. As the popularity of ultra-endurance sport grows, the factors necessary for optimum performance may more easily be delineated.
Edward J.C. Dawe, Orthopaedic Trainee, BASEM Member