Beat Knechtle, Caio Victor de Sousa, Herbert Gustavo Simões, Thomas Rosemann and Pantelis Theodoros Nikolaidis
The aim of this study was to examine the effects of the performance level and race distance on pacing in ultra-triathlons (Double, Triple, Quintuple and Deca), wherein pacing is defined as the relative time (%) spent in each discipline (swimming, cycling and running). All finishers (n = 3,622) of Double, Triple, Quintuple and Deca Iron ultra-triathlons between 1985 and 2016 were analysed and classified into quartile groups (Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q4) with Q1 being the fastest and Q4 the slowest. Performance of all non-finishers (n = 1,000) during the same period was also examined. Triple and Quintuple triathlons (24.4%) produced the highest rate of non-finishers, and Deca Iron ultra-triathlons produced the lowest rate (18.0%) (χ2 = 12.1, p = 0.007, φC = 0.05). For the relative swimming and cycling times (%), Deca triathletes (6.7 ± 1.5% and 48.8 ± 4.9%, respectively) proved the fastest and Double (9.2 ± 1.6% and 49.6 ± 3.6%) Iron ultra-triathletes were the slowest (p < 0.008) with Q4 being the fastest group (8.3 ± 1.6% and 48.8 ± 4.3%) and Q1 the slowest one (9.5 ± 1.5% and 50.9 ± 3.0%) (p < 0.001). In running, Double triathletes were relatively the fastest (41.2 ± 4.0%) and Deca (44.5 ± 5.4%) Iron ultra-triathletes the slowest (p < 0.001) with Q1 being the fastest (39.6 ± 3.3%) and Q4 the slowest group (42.9 ± 4.7%) (p < 0.001). Based on these findings, it was concluded that the fastest ultra-triathletes spent relatively more time swimming and cycling and less time running, highlighting the importance of the role of the latter discipline for the overall ultra-triathlon performance. Furthermore, coaches and ultra-triathletes should be aware of differences in pacing between Double, Triple, Quintuple and Deca Iron triathlons.