Anecdotal reports have assumed that women would be able to outrun men in long-distance running. The aim of this study was to test this assumption by investigating the changes in performance difference between sexes in the best ultramarathoners in 50-mile, 100-mile, 200-mile, 1,000-mile, and 3,100-mile events held worldwide between 1971 and 2012. The sex differences in running speed for the fastest runners ever were analyzed using one-way analysis of variance with subsequent Tukey–Kramer posthoc analysis. Changes in sex difference in running speed of the annual fastest were analyzed using linear and nonlinear regression analyses, correlation analyses, and mixed-effects regression analyses. The fastest men ever were faster than the fastest women ever in 50-mile (17.5%), 100-mile (17.4%), 200-mile (9.7%), 1,000-mile (20.2%), and 3,100-mile (18.6%) events. For the ten fastest finishers ever, men were faster than women in 50-mile (17.1%±1.9%), 100-mile (19.2%±1.5%), and 1,000-mile (16.7%±1.6%) events. No correlation existed between sex difference and running speed for the fastest ever (r2=0.0039, P=0.91) and the ten fastest ever (r2=0.15, P=0.74) for all distances. For the annual fastest, the sex difference in running speed decreased linearly in 50-mile events from 14.6% to 8.9%, remained unchanged in 100-mile (18.0%±8.4%) and 1,000-mile (13.7%±9.1%) events, and increased in 3,100-mile events from 12.5% to 16.9%. For the annual ten fastest runners, the performance difference between sexes decreased linearly in 50-mile events from 31.6%±3.6% to 8.9%±1.8% and in 100-mile events from 26.0%±4.4% to 24.7%±0.9%. To summarize, the fastest men were ~17%–20% faster than the fastest women for all distances from 50 miles to 3,100 miles. The linear decrease in sex difference for 50-mile and 100-mile events may suggest that women are reducing the sex gap for these distances.
running; sex difference; running speed; ultraendurance
We investigated seventy-four ultra-mountain bikers (MTBers) competing in the solo category in the first descriptive field study to detail nutrition habits and the most common food before during and after the 24 hour race using questionnaires. During the race, bananas (86.5%), energy bars (50.0%), apples (43.2%) and cheese (43.2%) were the most commonly consumed food, followed by bread (44.6%), rice (33.8%) and bananas (33.8%) after the race. Average fluid intake was 0.5 ± 0.2 l/h. The main beverage was isotonic sports drink (82.4%) during and pure water (66.2%) after the race. The most preferred four supplements in the four weeks before, the day before, during and after the race were vitamin C (35.1%), magnesium (44.6%), magnesium (43.2%) and branched-chain amino acids (24.3%), respectively. Total frequency of food intake (30.6 ± 10.5 times/24 hrs) was associated with fluid intake (r = 0.43, P = 0.04) and both were highest at the beginning of the race and lower during the night hours and the last race segment in a subgroup of twenty-three ultra-MTBers. Supplement intake frequency (6.8 ± 8.4 times/24 hrs) was highest during the night hours and lower at the beginning and end of the race. Elevated food and fluid intake among participants tracked across all race segments (P < 0.001). In conclusion, the nutrition strategy employed by ultra-MTBers was similar to those demonstrated in previous studies of ultra-cyclists with some exceptions among selected individuals.
Race nutrition; 24-hour race; Ultra-cycling
We investigated age and performance in distance-limited ultra-marathons held from 50 km to 1,000 km. Age of peak running speed and running speed of the fastest competitors from 1969 to 2012 in 50 km, 100 km, 200 km and 1,000 km ultra-marathons were analyzed using analysis of variance and multi-level regression analyses. The ages of the ten fastest women ever were 40 ± 4 yrs (50 km), 34 ± 7 yrs (100 km), 42 ± 6 yrs (200 km), and 41 ± 5 yrs (1,000 km). The ages were significantly different between 100 km and 200 km and between 100 km and 1,000 km. For men, the ages of the ten fastest ever were 34 ± 6 yrs (50 km), 32 ± 4 yrs (100 km), 44 ± 4 yrs (200 km), and 47 ± 9 yrs (1,000 km). The ages were significantly younger in 50 km compared to 100 km and 200 km and also significantly younger in 100 km compared to 200 km and 1,000 km. The age of the annual ten fastest women decreased in 50 km from 39 ± 8 yrs (1988) to 32 ± 4 yrs (2012) and in men from 35 ± 5 yrs (1977) to 33 ± 5 yrs (2012). In 100 km events, the age of peak running speed of the annual ten fastest women and men remained stable at 34.9 ± 3.2 and 34.5 ± 2.5 yrs, respectively. Peak running speed of top ten runners increased in 50 km and 100 km in women (10.6 ± 1.0 to 15.3 ± 0.7 km/h and 7.3 ± 1.5 to 13.0 ± 0.2 km/h, respectively) and men (14.3 ± 1.2 to 17.5 ± 0.6 km/h and 10.2 ± 1.2 to 15.1 ± 0.2 km/h, respectively). In 200 km and 1,000 km, running speed remained unchanged. In summary, the best male 1,000 km ultra-marathoners were ~15 yrs older than the best male 100 km ultra-marathoners and the best female 1,000 km ultra-marathoners were ~7 yrs older than the best female 100 km ultra-marathoners. The age of the fastest 50 km ultra-marathoners decreased across years whereas it remained unchanged in 100 km ultra-marathoners. These findings may help athletes and coaches to plan an ultra-marathoner’s career. Future studies are needed on the mechanisms by which the fastest runners in the long ultra-marathons tend to be older than those in shorter ultra-marathons.
Ultra-marathon; Age of peak running speed; Running speed
The aims of the present study were to investigate the changes in the age and in swimming performance of finalists in World Championships (1994–2013) and Olympic Games (1992–2012) competing in all events/races (stroke and distance). Data of 3,295 performances from 1,615 women and 1,680 men were analysed using correlation analyses and magnitudes of effect sizes. In the World Championships, the age of the finalists increased for all strokes and distances with exception of 200 m backstroke in women, and 400 m freestyle and 200 m breaststroke in men where the age of the finalists decreased. The magnitudes of the effects were small to very large (mean ± SD 2.8 ± 2.7), but extremely large (13.38) for 1,500 m freestyle in women. In the Olympic Games, the age of the finalists increased for all strokes and distances with exception of 800 m freestyle in women and 400 m individual medley in men. The magnitudes of the effects were small to very large (mean ± SD 4.1 ± 7.1), but extremely large for 50 m freestyle in women (10.5) and 200 m butterfly in men (38.0). Swimming performance increased across years in both women and men for all strokes and distances in both the World Championships and the Olympic Games. The magnitudes of the effects were all extremely large in World Championships (mean ± SD 20.1 ± 8.4) and Olympic Games (mean ± SD 52.1 ± 47.6); especially for 100 m and 200 m breaststroke (198) in women in the Olympic Games. To summarize, in the last ~20 years the age of the finalists increased in both the World Championships and the Olympic Games with some minor exceptions (200 m backstroke in women, 400 m freestyle and 200 m breaststroke in men in World Championships and 800 m freestyle in women and 400 m individual medley in men in Olympic Games) and performance of the finalists improved.
Elite swimmers; Age; Performance; Sex difference
Endurance performance decreases during ageing due to alterations in physiological characteristics, energy stores, and psychological factors. To investigate alterations in physiological characteristics and body composition of elderly master athletes in response to an extreme endurance event, we present the case of the first ninety-year-old official male marathon finisher.
Before and directly after the marathon, a treadmill incremental test, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, peripheral quantitative computed tomography, mechanography, and dynamometry measurements were conducted. The athlete finished the marathon in 6 h 48 min 55 s, which corresponds to an average competition speed of 6.19 km h-1.
Discussion and Evaluation
Before the marathon,
was 31.5 ml min-1 kg-1 body mass and peak heart rate was 140 beats min-1. Total fat mass increased in the final preparation phase (+3.4%), while leg fat mass and leg lean mass were slightly reduced after the marathon (-3.7 and -1.6%, respectively). Countermovement jump (CMJ) peak power and peak velocity decreased after the marathon (-16.5 and -14.7%, respectively). Total impulse during CMJ and energy cost of running were not altered by the marathon. In the left leg, maximal voluntary ground reaction force (Fm1LH) and maximal isometric voluntary torque (MIVT) were impaired after the marathon (-12.2 and -14.5%, respectively).
Side differences in Fm1LH and MIVT could be attributed to the distinct non-symmetrical running pattern of the athlete. Similarities in alterations in leg composition and CMJ performance existed between the nonagenarian athlete and young marathon runners. In contrast, alterations in total body composition and m1LH performance were markedly different in the nonagenarian athlete when compared to his younger counterparts.
Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry; Peripheral quantitative computed tomography; Countermovement jump; Multiple one-legged hopping; Impulse
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.
swim speed; pool length; sex-related difference; temporal trends
Recent studies found that the athlete’s age of the best ultra-marathon performance was higher than the athlete’s age of the best marathon performance and it seemed that the athlete’s age of peak ultra-marathon performance increased in distance-limited races with rising distance.
We investigated the athlete’s age of peak ultra-marathon performance in the fastest finishers in time-limited ultra-marathons from 6 hrs to 10 d. Running performance and athlete’s age of the fastest women and men competing in 6 hrs, 12 hrs, 24 hrs, 48 hrs, 72 hrs, 144 hrs (6 d) and 240 hrs (10 d) were analysed for races held between 1975 and 2012 using analysis of variance and multi-level regression analysis.
The athlete’s ages of the ten fastest women ever in 6 hrs, 12 hrs, 24 hrs, 48 hrs, 72 hrs, 6 d and 10 d were 41 ± 9, 41 ± 6, 42 ± 5, 46 ± 5, 44 ± 6, 42 ± 4, and 37 ± 4 yrs, respectively. The athlete’s age of the ten fastest women was different between 48 hrs and 10 d. For men, the athlete’s ages were 35 ± 6, 37 ± 9, 39 ± 8, 44 ± 7, 48 ± 3, 48 ± 8 and 48 ± 6 yrs, respectively. The athlete’s age of the ten fastest men in 6 hrs and 12 hrs was lower than the athlete’s age of the ten fastest men in 72 hrs, 6 d and 10 d, respectively.
The athlete’s age of peak ultra-marathon performance did not increase with rising race duration in the best ultra-marathoners. For the fastest women ever in time-limited races, the athlete’s age was lowest in 10 d (~37 yrs) and highest in 48 hrs (~46 yrs). For men, the athlete’s age of the fastest ever in 6 hrs (~35 yrs) and 12 hrs (~37 yrs) was lower than the athlete’s age of the ten fastest in 72 hrs (~48 yrs), 6 d (~48 yrs) and 10 d (~48 yrs). The differences in the athlete’s age of peak performance between female and male ultra-marathoners for the different race durations need further investigations.
Master athlete; Female; Male; Ultra-endurance
The purpose of this study was (i) to determine the age of peak triathlon performance for world class athletes competing in Olympic, Half-Ironman and Ironman distance races and (ii) to investigate a potential change in the age of the annual fastest athletes across years. Data of ages and race times of all finishers in the international top races over the three distances between 2003 and 2013 were collected and the annual top ten women and men were analysed using linear, non-linear and hierarchical multivariate regression analyses. The age of peak male performance was 27.1 ± 4.9 years in the Olympic, 28.0 ± 3.8 years in the Half-Ironman and 35.1 ± 3.6 years in the Ironman distance and the age of peak male performance was higher in the Ironman compared to the Olympic (p < 0.05) and the Half-Ironman distance (p < 0.05) triathlon. The age of peak female performance was 26.6 ± 4.4 years in the Olympic, 31.6 ± 3.4 years in the Half-Ironman and 34.4 ± 4.4 years in the Ironman distance and the age of peak female performance was lower in the Olympic compared to the Half-Ironman (p < 0.05) and Ironman distance (p < 0.05) triathlon. The age of the annual top ten women and men remained unchanged over the last decade in the Half-Ironman and the Ironman distance. In the Olympic distance, however, the age of the annual top ten men decreased slightly. To summarize, the age of peak triathlon performance was higher in the longer triathlon race distances (i.e. Ironman) and the age of the annual top triathletes remained mainly stable over the last decade. With these findings top athletes competing at world class level can plan their career more precisely as they are able to determine the right time in life to switch from the shorter (i.e. Olympic distance) to the longer triathlon race distances (i.e. Half-Ironman and Ironman) in order to continuously compete in triathlon races at world class level.
Age trends; Endurance; Swimming; Cycling; Running
The aim of the present study was to investigate participation and performance trends regarding the nationality of successful solo swimmers in the ‘English Channel Swim’.
The nationality and swim times for all swimmers who successfully crossed the 33.8-km ‘English Channel’ from 1875 to 2013 were analysed.
Between 1875 and 2013, the number of successful female (571, 31.4%) and male (1,246, 68.6%) solo swimmers increased exponentially; especially for female British and American swimmers and male British, US-American and Australian swimmers. Most of the swimmers were crossing the ‘English Channel’ from England to France and most of the competitors were from Great Britain, the United States of America, Australia and Ireland. For women, athletes from the United States of America, Australia and Great Britain achieved the fastest swim times. For men, the fastest swim times were achieved by athletes from the United States of America, Great Britain and Australia. Swim times of the annual fastest women from Great Britain and the United States of America decreased across years. For men, swim times decreased across years in the annual fastest swimmers from Australia, Great Britain, Ireland, South Africa and the United States of America. Men were swimming faster from England to France than from France to England compared to women. Swim times became faster across years for both women and men for both directions.
Between 1875 and 2013, the most representative nations in the ‘English Channel Swim’ were Great Britain, the United States of America, Australia and Ireland. The fastest swim times were achieved by athletes from the United States of America, Australia and Great Britain.
Swimmer; Ultra endurance; Origin; Country
This study intended to compare the performance of ultra-triathletes competing in a Deca Iron ultra-triathlon (i.e. 10 times 3.8 km swimming, 180 km cycling, and 42.2 km running) with the performance of athletes competing in a Triple Deca Iron ultra-triathlon (i.e. 30 times 3.8 km swimming, 180 km cycling, and 42.2 km running). Split and overall race times of six male finishers in a Deca Iron ultra-triathlon and eight male finishers in a Triple Deca Iron ultra-triathlon were analysed using multiple t-tests, linear and non-linear regression analyses, and analysis of variance. Among the 19 starters (i.e. 17 men and two women) in the Deca Iron ultra-triathlon, six men (i.e. 35.3% of all starters) finished the race. The mean swimming, cycling, running and overall race times of the six finishers across the ten days were 1:19 ± 0:09 h:min, 6:36 ± 0:19 h:min, 6:03 ± 0:47 h:min and 14:44 ± 1:17 h:min, respectively. The times of the split disciplines and overall race time increased linearly across the ten days. Total transition times did not change significantly across the days and were equals to 48 ± 8 min. Among the 22 starters (i.e. 20 men and two women) in the Triple Deca Iron ultra-triathlon, eight men (i.e. 36.4% of all starters) finished. The mean swimming, cycling, running and overall race times of the eight finishers across the 30 days were 1:11 ± 0:07 h:min, 6:19 ± 0:32 h:min, 5:34 ± 1:15 h:min and 13:44 ± 1:50 h:min, respectively. Split and overall race times showed no change across the 30 days. Total transition times showed no change across the days and were equal to 41 ± 11 min. To summarize, the daily performance decreased across the ten days for the Deca Iron ultra-triathletes (i.e. positive pacing) while it remained unchanged across the 30 days for the Triple Deca Iron ultra-triathletes (i.e. even pacing).
Triathlon; Swimming; Cycling; Running; Ultra-endurance
The aims of the study were (i) to investigate the relationship between elite marathon race times and age in 1-year intervals by using the world single age records in marathon running from 5 to 93 years and (ii) to evaluate the sex difference in elite marathon running performance with advancing age.
World single age records in marathon running in 1-year intervals for women and men were analysed regarding changes across age for both men and women using linear and non-linear regression analyses for each age for women and men.
The relationship between elite marathon race time and age was non-linear (i.e. polynomial regression 4th degree) for women and men. The curve was U-shaped where performance improved from 5 to ~20 years. From 5 years to ~15 years, boys and girls performed very similar. Between ~20 and ~35 years, performance was quite linear, but started to decrease at the age of ~35 years in a curvilinear manner with increasing age in both women and men. The sex difference increased non-linearly (i.e. polynomial regression 7th degree) from 5 to ~20 years, remained unchanged at ~20 min from ~20 to ~50 years and increased thereafter. The sex difference was lowest (7.5%, 10.5 min) at the age of 49 years.
Elite marathon race times improved from 5 to ~20 years, remained linear between ~20 and ~35 years, and started to increase at the age of ~35 years in a curvilinear manner with increasing age in both women and men. The sex difference in elite marathon race time increased non-linearly and was lowest at the age of ~49 years.
Running; Sex difference; Performance; Boys; Girls; Master runner
Improved performance has been reported for master runners (i.e. athletes older than 40 years) in both single marathons and single ultra-marathons. This study investigated performance trends of age group ultra-marathoners competing in all 100 km and 100 miles races held worldwide between 1971 and 2013. Changes in running speeds across years were investigated for the annual ten fastest 5-year age group finishers using linear, non-linear and multi-level regression analyses. In 100 km, running speed remained unchanged in women in 25–29 years, increased non-linearly in 30–34 to 55–59 years, and linearly in 60–64 years. In men, running speed increased non-linearly in 18–24 to 60–64 years and linearly in 65–69 to 75–79 years. In 100 miles, running speed increased in women linearly in 25–29 and 30–34 years, non-linearly in 35–39 to 45–49 years, and linearly in 50–54 and 55–59 years. For men, running speed increased linearly in 18–24 years, non-linearly in 25–29 to 45–49 years, and linearly in 50–54 to 65–69 years. Overall, the faster race times over the last 30 years are a result of all top ten finishers getting faster. These findings suggest that athletes in younger to middle age groups (i.e. 25–35 to 50–65 years depending upon sex and distance) have reached their limits due to a non-linear increase in running speed whereas runners in very young (i.e. younger than 25–35 years) and older age groups (i.e. older than 50–65 years) depending upon sex and distance might still improve their performance due to a linear increase in running speed.
Running; Ultra-distance; Women; Men
This study investigated changes in performance and sex difference in top performers for ultra-triathlon races held between 1978 and 2013 from Ironman (3.8 km swim, 180 km cycle, and 42 km run) to double deca iron ultra-triathlon distance (76 km swim, 3,600 km cycle, and 844 km run). The fastest men ever were faster than the fastest women ever for split and overall race times, with the exception of the swimming split in the quintuple iron ultra-triathlon (19 km swim, 900 km cycle, and 210.1 km run). Correlation analyses showed an increase in sex difference with increasing length of race distance for swimming (r2=0.67, P=0.023), running (r2=0.77, P=0.009), and overall race time (r2=0.77, P=0.0087), but not for cycling (r2=0.26, P=0.23). For the annual top performers, split and overall race times decreased across years nonlinearly in female and male Ironman triathletes. For longer distances, cycling split times decreased linearly in male triple iron ultra-triathletes, and running split times decreased linearly in male double iron ultra-triathletes but increased linearly in female triple and quintuple iron ultra-triathletes. Overall race times increased nonlinearly in female triple and male quintuple iron ultra-triathletes. The sex difference decreased nonlinearly in swimming, running, and overall race time in Ironman triathletes but increased linearly in cycling and running and nonlinearly in overall race time in triple iron ultra-triathletes. These findings suggest that women reduced the sex difference nonlinearly in shorter ultra-triathlon distances (ie, Ironman), but for longer distances than the Ironman, the sex difference increased or remained unchanged across years. It seems very unlikely that female top performers will ever outrun male top performers in ultratriathlons. The nonlinear change in speed and sex difference in Ironman triathlon suggests that female and male Ironman triathletes have reached their limits in performance.
triathlon; swimming; cycling; running; ultra-endurance
This study investigated swimming speeds and sex differences of finalists competing at the Olympic Games (i.e. 624 female and 672 male athletes) and FINA World Championships (i.e. 990 women and 1008 men) between 1992 and 2013.
Linear, non-linear and multi-level regression models were used to investigate changes in swimming speeds and sex differences for champions and finalists.
Regarding finalists in FINA World Championships and Olympic Games, swimming speed increased linearly in both women and men in all disciplines and race distances. Male world champions’ swimming speed remained stable in 200 m butterfly, 400 m, 800 m and 1,500 m freestyle. Considering women, swimming speed remained unchanged in 50 m and 400 m freestyle. In the Olympic Games, swimming speed of male champions remained unchanged in 200 m breaststroke, 50 m, 400 m, 800 m and 1,500 m freestyle. Female Olympic champions’ swimming speed remained stable in 100 m and 200 m backstroke, 100 m butterfly, 200 m individual medley, 50 m and 200 m freestyle. Evaluating sex differences between finalists in FINA World Championships, results showed a linear decrease in 100 m breaststroke and 200 m butterfly and a non-linear increase in 100 m backstroke. In finals at the Olympic Games, the sex difference decreased linearly for 100 m backstroke, 400 m and 800 m freestyle. However, a linear increase for 200 m butterfly can be reported. Considering Olympic and world champions, the sex difference remained stable in all disciplines and race distances.
Swimming speed of the finalists at the Olympic Games and FINA World Championships increased linearly. The top annual female swimmers increased swimming speed rather at longer race distances (i.e. 800 m and 1,500 m freestyle, 200 m butterfly, and 400 m individual medley), whereas the top annual male swimmers increased it rather at shorter race distances (i.e. 100 m and 200 m freestyle, 100 m butterfly, and 100 m breaststroke). Sex difference in swimming was unchanged in Olympic and world champions. Finalists and champions at the Olympic Games and FINA World Championships reduced the sex difference with increasing race distance.
Swimming speed; Sex difference
Despite of the growth of ultra-endurance sports events (of duration >6 h) over the previous few decades, the age-related declines in ultra-endurance performance have drawn little attention. The aim of the study was to analyse the changes in participation and performance trends of older (>40 years of age) triathletes between 1986 and 2010 at the Hawaii Ironman triathlon consisting of 3.8 km swimming, 180 km cycling and 42 km running. Swimming, cycling, running and total times of the best male and female triathletes between 18 and 69 years of age who competed in the Hawaii Ironman triathlon were analysed. The relative participation of master triathletes increased during the 1986–2010 period, while the participation of triathletes younger than 40 years of age decreased. Linear regression showed that males older than 44 years and females older than 40 years significantly improved their performances in the three disciplines and in the total time taken to complete the race. Gender differences in total time performance significantly decreased in the same time period for all age groups between the 40–44 and 55–59 years ones. The reasons for these relative improvements of Ironman athlete performances in older age groups remain, however, unknown. Further studies investigating training regimes, competition experience or sociodemographic factors are needed to gain better insights into the phenomenon of increasing participation and improvement of ultra-endurance performance with advancing age.
Master athletes; Endurance; Gender differences; Triathlon; Swimming; Cycling; Running; Aging
This case report presents the performance of an athlete who completed for the first time in history the total distance of 33 Ironman triathlons within 33 consecutive days. The athlete finished the total distance of 7,458 km (i.e. 125 km swimming, 5,940 km cycling and 1,393 km running) within a total time of 410 h and a mean time of 12 h 27 min per Ironman distance. During the 33 days, the athlete became slower in swimming (r2 = 0.27, p = 0.0019), transition time 1 (r2 = 0.66, p < 0.001), and transition time 2 (r2 = 0.48, p < 0.0001). However, in cycling (r2 = 0.07, p = 0.13), running (r2 = 0.04, p = 0.25) and overall race time (r2 = 0.10, p = 0.069), the athlete was able to maintain his performance during the 33 days. The coefficients of variation (CV) for the split times in swimming, cycling, running and overall race times were very low (i.e. 2.7%, 3.2%, 4.7%, and 2.7%, respectively) whereas the CV for transition times 1 and 2 were considerably higher (i.e. 25.5% and 55.5%, respectively). During the 33 days, body mass decreased from 83.0 kg to 80.5 kg (r2 = 0.55, p < 0.0001). Plasma [Na+] remained within the reference range, creatine kinase, blood glucose and liver enzymes were minimally elevated above the reference range after four of five stages where blood analyses were performed. This case report shows that this athlete finished 33 Ironman triathlons within 33 consecutive days with minor variations over time (i.e. even pacing) in both split times and overall race times. This performance was most probably due to the high experience of the athlete, his pacing strategy and the stable environmental conditions.
Swimming; Cycling; Running; Multi-sport; Ultra-endurance
Existing literature showed improved swimming performances for swimmers wearing wetsuits competing under standardized conditions in races held in pools on short to middle distances. Data about the influence of wetsuits on swimming performances in long and ultra-long open-water swimming races are missing. It is unknown whether the benefit of wearing wetsuits is comparable in men and women. The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of wearing a wetsuit on open-water swimming performances at the 26.4 km ‘Marathon Swim in Lake Zurich’ in Lake Zurich, Switzerland, and the 3.8 km Lake Ontario Swim Team-Race (LOST-Race) in Lake Ontario, Canada.
Race times of the fastest female and male swimmers competing with and without wetsuit were compared using multi-level regression analyses and analysis of variance.
In the ‘Marathon Swim’ in Lake Zurich, wearing a wetsuit had no effect on race time regarding the gender where athletes wearing a wetsuit were not faster than athletes without wetsuit. However, the ten fastest men wearing a wetsuit (410.6 ± 26.7 min) were faster (32.7%, p < 0.01) than the ten fastest women without wetsuit (544.9 ± 81.3 min). In the ‘LOST-Race’, the top ten men wearing a wetsuit (51.7 ± 2.5 min) were faster (13.2%, p < 0.01) than the top ten women wearing a wetsuit (58.5 ± 3.2 min). Additionally, the top ten men without wetsuit (52.1 ± 2.4 min) were faster (19.6%, p < 0.01) than the top ten women without wetsuit (62.3 ± 2.5 min). The top ten women wearing a wetsuit (58.5 ± 3.2 min) were faster (6.5%, p < 0.01) than top ten women without a wetsuit (62.3 ± 25 min).
These results suggest that wearing a wetsuit had a positive influence on swimming speed for both women and men but the benefit of the use of wetsuits seemed to depend on additional factors (i.e. race distance). Women seemed to benefit more from wearing wetsuits than men in longer open-water ultra-distance swimming races.
Ultra-endurance; Swimming; Ironman; Neoprene suit; Swim performance
Half-marathon running is of high popularity. Recent studies tried to find predictor variables for half-marathon race time for recreational female and male runners and to present equations to predict race time. The actual equations included running speed during training for both women and men as training variable but midaxillary skinfold for women and body mass index for men as anthropometric variable. An actual study found that percent body fat and running speed during training sessions were the best predictor variables for half-marathon race times in both women and men. The aim of the present study was to improve the existing equations to predict half-marathon race time in a larger sample of male and female half-marathoners by using percent body fat and running speed during training sessions as predictor variables. In a sample of 147 men and 83 women, multiple linear regression analysis including percent body fat and running speed during training units as independent variables and race time as dependent variable were performed and an equation was evolved to predict half-marathon race time. For men, half-marathon race time might be predicted by the equation (r2 = 0.42, adjusted r2 = 0.41, SE = 13.3) half-marathon race time (min) = 142.7 + 1.158 × percent body fat (%) – 5.223 × running speed during training (km/h). The predicted race time correlated highly significantly (r = 0.71, p < 0.0001) to the achieved race time. For women, half-marathon race time might be predicted by the equation (r2 = 0.68, adjusted r2 = 0.68, SE = 9.8) race time (min) = 168.7 + 1.077 × percent body fat (%) – 7.556 × running speed during training (km/h). The predicted race time correlated highly significantly (r = 0.89, p < 0.0001) to the achieved race time. The coefficients of determination of the models were slightly higher than for the existing equations. Future studies might include physiological variables to increase the coefficients of determination of the models.
Running; Performance; Body fat; Training
The purpose of this study was to examine the sex and age-related differences in performance in a draft-legal ultra-cycling event.
Age-related changes in performance across years were investigated in the 24-hour draft-legal cycling event held in Schötz, Switzerland, between 2000 and 2011 using multi-level regression analyses including age, repeated participation and environmental temperatures as co-variables.
For all finishers, the age of peak cycling performance decreased significantly (β = −0.273, p = 0.036) from 38 ± 10 to 35 ± 6 years in females but remained unchanged (β = −0.035, p = 0.906) at 41.0 ± 10.3 years in males. For the annual fastest females and males, the age of peak cycling performance remained unchanged at 37.3 ± 8.5 and 38.3 ± 5.4 years, respectively. For all female and male finishers, males improved significantly (β = 7.010, p = 0.006) the cycling distance from 497.8 ± 219.6 km to 546.7 ± 205.0 km whereas females (β = −0.085, p = 0.987) showed an unchanged performance of 593.7 ± 132.3 km. The mean cycling distance achieved by the male winners of 960.5 ± 51.9 km was significantly (p < 0.001) greater than the distance covered by the female winners with 769.7 ± 65.7 km but was not different between the sexes (p > 0.05). The sex difference in performance for the annual winners of 19.7 ± 7.8% remained unchanged across years (p > 0.05). The achieved cycling distance decreased in a curvilinear manner with advancing age. There was a significant age effect (F = 28.4, p < 0.0001) for cycling performance where the fastest cyclists were in age group 35–39 years.
In this 24-h cycling draft-legal event, performance in females remained unchanged while their age of peak cycling performance decreased and performance in males improved while their age of peak cycling performance remained unchanged. The annual fastest females and males were 37.3 ± 8.5 and 38.3 ± 5.4 years old, respectively. The sex difference for the fastest finishers was ~20%. It seems that women were not able to profit from drafting to improve their ultra-cycling performance.
Cycling; Master athletes; Sex difference; Ultra-endurance
The purpose of the present study was to analyse potential changes in performance of elite breaststroke swimmers competing at national and international level and to compare to elite freestyle swimming performance.
Temporal trends in performance of elite breaststroke swimmers were analysed from records of the Swiss Swimming Federation and the FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation) World Swimming Championships during the 1994–2011 period. Swimming speeds of elite female and male breaststroke swimmers competing in 50 m, 100 m, and 200 m were examined using linear regression, non-linear regression and analysis of variance. Results of breaststroke swimmers were compared to results of freestyle swimmers.
Swimming speed in both strokes improved significantly (p < 0.0001-0.025) over time for both sexes, with the exception of 50 m breaststroke for FINA men. Sex differences in swimming speed increased significantly over time for Swiss freestyle swimmers (p < 0.0001), but not for FINA swimmers for freestyle, while the sex difference remained stable for Swiss and FINA breaststroke swimmers. The sex differences in swimming speed decreased significantly (p < 0.0001) with increasing race distance.
The present study showed that elite male and female swimmers competing during the 1994–2011 period at national and international level improved their swimming speed in both breaststroke and freestyle. The sex difference in freestyle swimming speed consistently increased in athletes competing at national level, whereas it remained unchanged in athletes competing at international level. Future studies should investigate temporal trends for recent time in other strokes, to determine whether this improvement is a generalized phenomenon.
Swimming speed; Sex-related difference; Gender difference; Men; Women
Recent studies reported different ages for peak freestyle swimming performances for 50 m and 1,500 m. The aims of the present study were (i) to determine the age of peak freestyle swimming speed for distances including 50 m, 100 m, 200 m, 400 m, 800 m, and 1,500 m and to (ii) analyze the sex difference in peak freestyle swimming speed for all distances between 50 m and 1,500 m for elite female and male swimmers competing at national level. Data from the ‘Swiss Swimming Federation’ between 2006 and 2010 from 10,405 men and 9,552 women were analyzed using regression analyses and analyses of variance (ANOVA). Women achieved peak freestyle swimming speed at ~20–21 years from 50 m to 400 m, at ~24–25 years in 1,500 m and at ~25–27 years in 800 m. In men, the age of peak freestyle swimming speed varied between ~22–23 years and ~25–27 years for 50 m to 1,500 m. Between the age of 10 and 29 years, the sex difference in freestyle swimming speed increased from 2.2 ± 0.4% to 19.0 ± 6.7% in 50 m (r2 = 0.87, P < 0.001), from 2.4 ± 0.7% to 10.8 ± 2.8% in 100 m (r2 = 0.67, P = 0.004) and from 3.6 ± 1.9% to 10.2 ± 3.4% in 200 m (r2 = 0.60, P = 0.008). In 400 m (r2 = 0.24), 800 m (r2 = 0.39) and 1,500 m (r2 = 0.34), the sex difference showed no changes (P > 0.05) with 6.9 ± 3.0%, 5.8 ± 3.5%, and 9.7 ± 8.6%, respectively. The sex difference in freestyle swimming speed showed no change with increasing race distance (r2 = 0.12, P > 0.05). To summarize, the age of peak freestyle swimming speed increased for women with the length of the race distance from 50 m to 200 m, but not from 400 m to 1,500 m. For men, the age of peak freestyle swimming speed varied between ~22–23 years and ~25–27 years from 50 m to 1,500 m. The sex difference in freestyle swimming speed of 9.1 ± 2.5% showed no change with increasing race distance. Future studies need to confirm these findings in elite swimmers competing at international level such as the World Championships and the Olympic Games.
Swimming; Aging; Endurance; Human
It was assumed that women would be able to outperform men in ultra-marathon running. The present study investigated the sex difference in performance for all ultra-triathlon distances from the Ironman distance (i.e. 3.8 km swimming, 180 km cycling and 42 km running) in the ‘Ironman Hawaii’ to the Double Deca Iron ultra-triathlon distance (i.e. 76 km swimming, 3,600 km cycling and 840 km running) between 1978 and 2013. The changes in performance and in the sex difference in performance for the annual three fastest finishers were analysed using linear, non-linear and multi-variate regression analyses from 46,123 athletes (i.e. 9,802 women and 46,123 men). Women accounted for 11.9 ± 5.8% of the total field and their percentage was highest in ‘Ironman Hawaii’ (22.1%) and lowest in Deca Iron ultra-triathlon (6.5%). In ‘Ironman Hawaii’, the sex difference decreased non-linearly in swimming, cycling, running and overall race time. In Double Iron ultra-triathlon, the sex difference increased non-linearly in overall race time. In Triple Iron ultra-triathlon, the sex difference increased non-linearly in cycling and overall race time but linearly in running. For the three fastest finishers ever, the sex difference in performance showed no change with increasing race distance with the exception for the swimming split where the sex difference increased with increasing race distance (r2 = 0.93, P = 0.001). The sex differences for the three fastest finishers ever for swimming, cycling, running and overall race times for all distances from Ironman to Deca Iron ultra-triathlon were 27.0 ± 17.8%, 24.3 ± 9.9%, 24.5 ± 11.0%, and 24.0 ± 6.7%, respectively. To summarize, these findings showed that women reduced the sex difference in the shorter ultra-triathlon distances (i.e. Ironman distance) but extended the sex difference in longer distances (i.e. Double and Triple Iron ultra-triathlon). It seems very unlikely that women will ever outperform men in ultra-triathlons from Ironman to Double Iron ultra-triathlon.
Woman; Man; Swimming; Cycling; Running
This study examined participation and performance trends in ‘Ironman Hawaii’ regarding the nationality of the finishers.
Associations between nationalities and race times of 39,706 finishers originating from 124 countries in the ‘Ironman Hawaii’ from 1985 to 2012 were analyzed using single and multi-level regression analysis.
Most of the finishers originated from the United States of America (47.5%) followed by athletes from Germany (11.7%), Japan (7.9%), Australia (6.7%), Canada (5.2%), Switzerland (2.9%), France (2.3%), Great Britain (2.0%), New Zealand (1.9%), and Austria (1.5%). German women showed the fastest increase in finishers (r2 = 0.83, p < 0.0001), followed by Australia (r2 = 0.78, p < 0.0001), Canada (r2 = 0.78, p < 0.0001) and the USA (r2 = 0.69, p < 0.0001). Japanese women showed no change in the number of finishers (r2 = 0.01, p > 0.05). For men, athletes from France showed the steepest increase (r2 = 0.85, p < 0.0001), followed by Austria (r2 = 0.68, p < 0.0001), Australia (r2 = 0.67, p < 0.0001), Brazil (r2 = 0.60, p < 0.0001), Great Britain (r2 = 0.46, p < 0.0001), Germany (r2 = 0.26, p < 0.0001), the United States of America (r2 = 0.21, p = 0.013) and Switzerland (r2 = 0.14, p = 0.0044). The number of Japanese men decreased (r2 = 0.35, p = 0.0009). The number of men from Canada (r2 = 0.02, p > 0.05) and New Zealand (r2 = 0.02, p > 0.05) remained unchanged. Regarding female performance, the largest improvements were achieved by Japanese women (17.3%). The fastest race times in 2012 were achieved by US-American women. Women from Japan, Canada, Germany, Australia, and the United States of America improved race times. For men, the largest improvements were achieved by athletes originating from Brazil (20.9%) whereas the fastest race times in 2012 were achieved by athletes from Germany. Race times for athletes originating from Brazil, Austria, Great Britain, Switzerland, Germany, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and France decreased. Race times in athletes originating from Australia and the United States of America showed no significant changes. Regarding the fastest race times ever, the fastest women originated from the United States (546 ± 7 min) followed by Great Britain (555 ± 15 min) and Switzerland (558 ± 8 min). In men, the fastest finishers originated from the United States (494 ± 7 min), Germany (496 ± 6 min) and Australia (497 ± 5 min).
The ‘Ironman Hawaii’ has been dominated by women and men from the United States of America in participation and performance.
Triathlon; Nationality; Finisher; Swimming; Cycling; Running
The effects of running and cycling on changes in hydration status and body composition during a 24-hour race have been described previously, but data for 24-hour ultra-mountain bikers are missing. The present study investigated changes in foot volume, body composition, and hydration status in male and female 24-hour ultra-mountain bikers.
We compared in 49 (37 men and 12 women) 24-hour ultra-mountain bikers (ultra-MTBers) changes (Δ) in body mass (BM). Fat mass (FM), percent body fat (%BF) and skeletal muscle mass (SM) were estimated using anthropometric methods. Changes in total body water (TBW), extracellular fluid (ECF) and intracellular fluid (ICF) were determined using bioelectrical impedance and changes in foot volume using plethysmography. Haematocrit, plasma [Na+], plasma urea, plasma osmolality, urine urea, urine specific gravity and urine osmolality were measured in a subgroup of 25 ultra-MTBers (16 men and 9 women).
In male 24-hour ultra-MTBers, BM (P < 0.001), FM (P < 0.001), %BF (P < 0.001) and ECF (P < 0.05) decreased whereas SM and TBW did not change (P > 0.05). A significant correlation was found between post-race BM and post-race FM (r = 0.63, P < 0.001). In female ultra-MTBers, BM (P < 0.05), %BF (P < 0.05) and FM (P < 0.001) decreased, whereas SM, ECF and TBW remained stable (P > 0.05). Absolute ranking in the race was related to Δ%BM (P < 0.001) and Δ%FM in men (P < 0.001) and to Δ%BM (P < 0.05) in women. In male ultra-MTBers, increased post-race plasma urea (P < 0.001) was negatively related to absolute ranking in the race, Δ%BM, post-race FM and Δ%ECF (P < 0.05). Foot volume remained stable in both sexes (P > 0.05).
Male and female 24-hour ultra-MTBers experienced a significant loss in BM and FM, whereas SM remained stable. Body weight changes and increases in plasma urea do not reflect a change in body hydration status. No oedema of the lower limbs occurred.
Body mass; Fat mass; Hydration; Foot volume
This study investigated performance trends and the age of peak running speed in ultra-marathons from 50 to 3,100 miles.
The running speed and age of the fastest competitors in 50-, 100-, 200-, 1,000- and 3,100-mile events held worldwide from 1971 to 2012 were analyzed using single- and multi-level regression analyses.
The number of events and competitors increased exponentially in 50- and 100-mile events. For the annual fastest runners, women improved in 50-mile events, but not men. In 100-mile events, both women and men improved their performance. In 1,000-mile events, men became slower. For the annual top ten runners, women improved in 50- and 100-mile events, whereas the performance of men remained unchanged in 50- and 3,100-mile events but improved in 100-mile events. The age of the annual fastest runners was approximately 35 years for both women and men in 50-mile events and approximately 35 years for women in 100-mile events. For men, the age of the annual fastest runners in 100-mile events was higher at 38 years. For the annual fastest runners of 1,000-mile events, the women were approximately 43 years of age, whereas for men, the age increased to 48 years of age. For the annual fastest runners of 3,100-mile events, the age in women decreased to 35 years and was approximately 39 years in men.
The running speed of the fastest competitors increased for both women and men in 100-mile events but only for women in 50-mile events. The age of peak running speed increased in men with increasing race distance to approximately 45 years in 1,000-mile events, whereas it decreased to approximately 39 years in 3,100-mile events. In women, the upper age of peak running speed increased to approximately 51 years in 3,100-mile events.
Ultra-Marathon; Age of Peak Performance; Running Speed