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The majority of current research focuses mainly on the Olympic distance, whilst much less literature is available on other triathlon distances such as the sprint, half-Ironman, and Ironman distances. Furthermore, little is understood regarding the specific physiological, environmental, and interdisciplinary effects on pacing.
Therefore, this article discusses the pacing strategies observed in triathlon across different distances, and elucidates the possible factors influencing pacing within the three specific disciplines of a triathlon. Keywords: cycle, endurance, multisport, pacing strategy, run, swim Introduction Triathlon is a unique sport that consists of consecutive swim, cycle, and run disciplines completed over a variety of distances.
The origin of triathlon is unclear; however, the first officially organized Ironman triathlon was conducted in Hawaii in with only 12 participants. Due to the large variations in distances, and thus exercise duration, the metabolic demands and physiological responses during such races could vary greatly.
Within this context, energy expenditure is constantly regulated in response to complex interactions between peripheral feedback and central drive to ensure physiological systems are maintained within homeostatic or manageable limits, whilst delaying the negative effects of fatigue and, thus, maximizing performance.
For instance, minor corrections in homeostasis require little or no conscious awareness to accomplish; however, strenuous activities involving large metabolic disturbances such as glycogen depletion necessitate a more conscious approach requiring significant behavioral alterations.
To date, studies examining the mechanisms that influence pacing have focused on single sport events such as running, 15 , 16 cycling, 6 , 7 , 17 — 19 swimming, 20 , 21 and rowing. Understanding pacing during such events is complex since athletes are required to not only distribute their effort over the entire event but also over each independent discipline.
Indeed, recent studies have demonstrated that the self-selected pacing patterns differ greatly during the swim, 31 — 34 cycle, 10 , 32 — 35 and run 11 , 12 , 32 — 34 portions of triathlon events. The sport of triathlon provides a unique model for pacing analysis, due to the involvement of sequential swim, cycle, and run disciplines in continuum, and the ability to examine the influence of race distance on pacing. To date, a comprehensive review examining factors that may be responsible for differences in pacing over various triathlon distances and disciplines is currently lacking.
As such, the strategy or strategies that assist in optimizing performance during the various standard triathlon events is presently unclear.
Indeed, the majority of studies that have examined the distribution of pace within the triathlon have focused on the Olympic distance triathlon, 10 , 11 , 32 — 34 and only one study has investigated the cycle discipline of the Ironman.
These factors are reviewed below in the context of understanding the effectiveness of such strategies and providing recommendations for optimal pacing.
Distance Exercise duration appears to be one of the most important factors influencing both optimal and self-selected pacing. For instance, during shorter duration triathlon events ie, the sprint distance , the progressive reduction in pace may be associated with metabolite accumulation and accompanying neuromuscular fatigue. Indeed, the progressive reduction in speed during relatively short duration m, m, m, and m15 running events has been attributed to the accumulation of anaerobic metabolites, which in turn increases muscular acidity, impairing glycolysis 48 and muscular contractions.
Despite the different energy demands and physiological responses between triathlons of various distances, athletes of various caliber typically adopt a fast-start strategy, regardless of race distance. Furthermore, evidence suggests that a fast-start pacing strategy may enhance oxygen kinetics and improve performance during short- to middle-distance 3- to 7-minute exercise tasks.
As such, it is possible that the adoption of a fast-start pacing strategy, especially during the swim discipline of shorter sprint triathlons, may enhance oxygen kinetics 60 and improve overall swim performance. While a fast-start pacing strategy is often observed during the beginning of triathlon ie, swim discipline , there is evidence to indicate that an even pacing strategy, achieved by maintaining a constant velocity despite varying external conditions ie, wind and altitude , may be ideal during endurance events such as the triathlon.
For instance, Le Meur et al 11 observed a more even running pace in the best runners during the 10 km run of an Olympic-distance triathlon, despite changes in gradient, and these runners demonstrated superior ability in limiting decrements in running speed during the later stages. Likewise, Lambert et al 16 investigated the pacing strategies adopted by 67 runners during a km ultra-marathon running race and observed a tendency for the better fastest ten out of 67 performing runners to adopt a relatively even pacing strategy during the first 50 km of a km race.
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Go to the printable pdf , or read on. You should have goals for every race you do, even training races.
Write down the things you would like to accomplish or learn today. He coaches triathletes and cyclists of all levels from beginner to pro to achieve their highest potential.
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