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  • Author: Thomas Rosemann x
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From Double Iron to Double Deca Iron Ultra-Triathlon - A Retrospective Data Analysis from 1985 to 2011

Participation in ultra-endurance performance is of increasing popularity. We analyzed the historic development of the ultra-triathlon scene from 1985 to 2011 focusing on a) worldwide distribution of competition, b) participation, c) gender, and d) athlete nationality. We examined the participation trends of 3,579 athletes, involving 3,297 men (92.1%) and 300 women (7.9%), using linear regression analyses. Between 1985 and 2011, a total of 96 Double Iron ultra-triathlons (7.6km swimming, 360km cycling, and 84.4km running), 51 Triple Iron ultra-triathlons (11.6km swimming, 540km cycling, and 126.6km running), five Quadruple Iron ultra-triathlons (15.2km swimming, 720km cycling, and 168.8km running), five Quintuple Iron ultra-triathlons (19km swimming, 900km cycling, and 211km running), 11 Deca Iron ultra-triathlons (38km swimming, 1,800km cycling, and 422km running), and two Double Deca Iron ultra-triathlons (76km swimming, 3,600km cycling, and 844km running) were held. In total, 56.7% of the races were in Europe, 37.4% in North America, 5.3% in South America, and less than 1% in Asia. Europeans comprised 80% of the athletes. The number of male participants in Double (r2 = .56; P < .001) and Triple Iron ultra-triathlon (r2 = .47; P < .001) and the number of female participants in Double Iron ultra-triathlon (r2 = .66; P < .001) increased significantly. Less than 8% of the athletes total participated in an ultra-triathlon longer than a Triple Iron ultra-triathlon. Europeans won by far the most competitions in every distance. In conclusion, ultra-triathlon popularity is mainly limited to a) European and North American men and b) Double and Triple Iron ultra-triathlons. Future studies need to investigate the motivation of these ultra-endurance athletes to compete in these extreme races.

A Comparison of Anthropometry between Ironman Triathletes and Ultra-swimmers

We intended to compare the anthropometry of male and female Ironman triathletes with the anthropometry of male and female ultra-swimmers. Body mass, body mass index and body fat were lower in both male and female triathletes compared to swimmers. Body height and length of limbs were no different between the two groups. In the multi-variate analysis, in male triathletes, body mass (p=0.015) and percent body fat (p=0.0003) were related to race time; percent body fat was also related to the swim split (p=0.0036). In male swimmers, length of the arm was related to race time (p=0.0089). In female triathletes and swimmers, none of the investigated anthropometric variables showed an association with race time. We concluded that Ironman triathletes and ultra-swimmers were different regarding anthropometry and that different anthropometric variables were related to race time. We assume that other factors, such as training and equipment, as opposed to anthropometry, may better predict race time in male and female Ironman triathletes.


Effects of course length (25 m versus 50 m) and advances in performance of individual medley swimming were examined for men and women in Swiss national competitions and FINA World Championships during 2000-2011. Linear regression and analysis of variance (ANOVA) were used to analyse 200 m and 400 m race results for 26,081 swims on the Swiss high score list and 382 FINA finalists. Swiss and FINA swimmers of both sexes were, on average, 4.3±3.2% faster on short courses for both race distances. Sex-related differences in swim speed were significantly greater for FINA swimmers competing in short-course events than in long-course events (10.3±0.2% versus 9.7±0.3%, p<0.01), but did not differ for Swiss swimmers (p>0.05). Sex-related differences in swimming speed decreased with increasing race distance for both short- and long-course events for Swiss athletes, and for FINA athletes in long-course events. Performance improved significantly (p<0.05) during 2000-2011 for FINA men competing in either course length and FINA females competing in short-course events, but not for Swiss swimmers. Overall, the results showed that men and women individual medley swimmers, competing at both national and international levels, have faster average swimming speeds on short courses than on long courses, for both 200 m and 400 m distances. FINA athletes demonstrate an improving performance in the vast majority of individual medley events, while performance at national level seems to have reached a plateau during 2000-2011


Performance trends in elite butterfly swimmers are well known, but less information is available regarding master butterfly swimmers. We investigated trends in participation, performance and sex differences in 9,606 female and 13,250 male butterfly race times classified into five-year master groups, from 25-29 to 90-94 years, competing in the FINA World Masters Championships between 1986 and 2014. Trends in participation were analyzed using linear regression analysis. Trends in performance changes were investigated using mixed-effects regression analyses with sex, distance and a calendar year as fixed variables. We also considered interaction effects between sex and distance. Participation increased in master swimmers older than ~30-40 years. The men-to-women ratio remained unchanged across calendar years and master groups, but was lower in 200 m compared to 50 m and 100 m. Men were faster than women from 25-29 to 85-89 years (p < 0.05), although not for 90-94 years. Sex and distance showed a significant interaction in all master groups from 25-29 to 90-94 years for 200m (p < 0.05). For 50 m and 100 m, a significant sex × distance interaction was observed from 25-29 to 75-79 years (p < 0.05), but not in the older groups. In 50 m, women reduced the sex difference in master groups 30-34 to 60-64 years (p < 0.05). In 100 m, women decreased the gap to men in master groups 35-39 to 55-59 years (p < 0.05). In 200 m, the sex difference was reduced in master groups 30-34 to 40-44 years (p < 0.05). In summary, women and men improved performance at all distances, women were not slower compared to men in the master group 90-94 years; moreover, women reduced the gap to men between ~30 and ~60 years, although not in younger or older master groups.


Pacing strategies have mainly been investigated for runners, but little is known for cross-country skiers. The aim of the present study was to examine the effects of performance and age on pacing strategies in cross-country skiing. All finishers (women, n = 19,375; men, n = 86,190) in the ‘Engadin Ski Marathon’ (42 km) between 1998 and 2016 were analysed for the percentage change of speed at 10 km (Change A), 20 km (Change B) and 35 km (Change C). They were classified in performance groups according to quartiles of average race speed (Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q4) and in 5-year age groups (<20, 20-24, 25-29… 85-89 years). Men were faster than women by +14.3% (15.2 ± 4.0 vs. 13.3 ± 3.3 km/h; p < 0.001, η2 = 0.215). A small impact of age group × performance group interaction on Change A was shown in women (p < 0.001, η2 = 0.026) and men (p < 0.001, η2 = 0.025), where Q1 augmented and Q4 attenuated the decrease in speed with aging. However, the impact of age group × performance group interaction on Change B and C was trivial (p = 0.002, η2 ≤ 0.010). Based on these findings, it was concluded that the differences in pacing among age groups depended on the performance level. Thus, the coaches and fitness trainers working with cross-country skiers should advise their athletes to consider both age and performance.


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.


The Ironman is one of the most popular triathlon events in the world. Such a race involves a great number of tactical decisions for a healthy finish and best performance. Dehydration is widely postulated to decrease performance and is known as a cause of dropouts in Ironman. Despite the importance of hydration status after an Ironman triathlon, there is a clear lack of review and especially meta-analysis studies on this topic. Therefore, the objective was to systematically review the literature and carry out a meta-analysis investigating the hydration status after an Ironman triathlon. We conducted a systematic review of the literature up to June 2016 that included the following databases: PubMed, SCOPUS, Science Direct and Web of Science. From the initial 995 references, we included 6 studies in the qualitative analysis and in the meta-analysis. All trials had two measures of hydration status after a full Ironman race. Total body water, blood and urine osmolality, urine specific gravity and sodium plasma concentration were considered as hydration markers. Three investigators independently abstracted data on the study design, sample size, participants’ and race characteristics, outcomes, and quantitative data for the meta-analysis. In the pooled analysis, it seems that the Ironman event led to a moderate state of dehydration in comparison to baseline values (SMD 0.494; 95% CI 0.220 to 0.767; p = 0.001). Some evidence of heterogeneity and consistency was also observed: Q = 19.6; I2 = 28.5%; τ2 = 2.39. The results suggest that after the race athletes seem to be hypo-hydrated in comparison to baseline values.