Dynamic Pacing Strategies during the Cycle Phase of an Ironman Triathlon


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Abstract

Introduction:A nonlinear dynamic systems model has previously been proposed to explain pacing strategies employed during exercise.Purpose:This study was conducted to examine the pacing strategies used under varying conditions during the cycle phase of an Ironman triathlon.Methods:The bicycles of six well-trained male triathletes were equipped with SRM power meters set to record power output, cadence, speed, and heart rate. The flat, three-lap, out-and-back cycle course, coupled with relatively consistent wind conditions (17-30 km·h−1), enabled comparisons to be made between three consecutive 60-km laps and relative wind direction (headwind vs tailwind).Results:Participants finished the cycle phase (180 km) with consistently fast performance times (5 h, 11 ± 2 min; top 10% of all finishers). Average power output (239 ± 25 to 203 ± 20 W), cadence (89 ± 6 to 82 ± 8 rpm), and speed (36.5 ± 0.8 to 33.1 ± 0.8 km·h−1) all significantly decreased with increasing number of laps (P < 0.05). These variables, however, were not significantly different between headwind and tailwind sections. The deviation (SD) in power output and cadence did not change with increasing number of laps; however, the deviations in torque (6.8 ± 1.6 and 5.8 ± 1.3 N·m) and speed (2.1 ± 0.5 and 1.6 ± 0.3 km·h−1) were significantly greater under headwind compared with tailwind conditions, respectively. The median power frequency tended to be lower in headwind (0.0480 ± 0.0083) compared with tailwind (0.0531 ± 0.0101) sections.Conclusion:These data show evidence that a nonlinear dynamic pacing strategy is used by well-trained triathletes throughout various segments and conditions of the Ironman cycle phase. Moreover, an increased variation in torque and speed was found in the headwind versus the tailwind condition.

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