Ironman Study Confirms Cycling’s Value

author : infosteward
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By Ovetta Sampson
B.T.com Managing Editor

After more than a year of collecting online data from athletes training for an Ironman, sifting through mounds of paperwork and charts, crunching hours and hours of training times Mathew Luebbers finally proved what many instinctively knew – you need to ride lots to kick butt at an Ironman.

Since the 2.4 mile swim, 112 bike and 26.2 mile run ultimate endurance test appeared on the scene people have been trying to figure out how to best the Ironman race. First they asked what it would take to finish. Now they’re asking what it takes to finish well.

Lore has long had it that blistering run times would zoom any Ironman challenger past his competitors. But in 2004 Kona winner Normann Stadler shattered that Old Wives Tale turning in a blistering 4:37 bike time crushing his opponents and cruising to an Ironman victory.

“I knew cycling was important but not the degree of importance the study suggests,” said Lubbers, a USAT-certified Triathlon Coach and who is currently the Head Coach and Program Director for the Marine Corps Dolphin Swim team in Japan. “Looking at the data by race time it seemed to show that the fast and medium athletes performed a lot more bicycle training than the slow(er) athlete.”

Luebbers conducted the study for his master’s degree thesis in sports science. From September to November he conducted an online survey that questioned athletes who were training for an upcoming Ironman. Luebbers asked for excruciating detail about the athletes training regiment including total training hours, distances and longest distances covered for each sport. More than 487 people started the survey but only 68 completed it. In the end Lubbers used the survey of 39 males to finish his study. He looked at the athletes Ironman finishes and times and made comparisons.

What Luebbers found was that high-performance Ironman finishers cycled significantly more than the lowest performing ones in Lubbers study. The top finishers logged almost doubled the number of cycling miles (8,000 vs. 4,000). More than any other factor – including distances in other sports, weight, height – time on bike proved important for faster performance.

“I was surprised that bike training distance impacted or related to overall success and related to better performances in all three disciplines,” Lubbers said. “This is not necessarily a cause and effect relationship but high race finish and fast race-time athletes tended to have a greater amount of bike training volume.”


Here’s what else Luebbers discovered:

  • You don’t just jump into an Ironman. The better performers had completed a lot more shorter-distance races compared with the number of Ironman races completed.
     

  • Training volume was important. All the top finishers had significantly more training volume in each sport than the lowest finishers.
     

  • The timing of training volume was important to performance. For the bike, the highest volume of bike training occured during the last five months of the training year leading up to the race. In contrast, the lowest-performing athletes hit their highest training volume on the bike about six months before the race – they peaked early. There was no significance difference between the run and the swim training hours by month.
     

  • The top-performing athletes had their highest number of overall training hours in the last two months leading up to the race.
     

  • The top-performing athletes were not overachievers. The single-longest distance performed in any sport didn’t go that much beyond their race distance. For the swim it was 5,000 M, for the bike it was no longer than 209.8 KM and for the run it was no longer than 39.8KM.
     

All this may seem like gibberish but this study hints at the premise that peaking in your training volume too early can ruin your performance. It suggests steady gradual build up of training volume will help you succeed with your most intensity happening in the last few months before the race.

“This annual pattern of training interest me,” said Luebbers. “The study suggests that athletes should, build training volume gradually, modulate training volume and get on the bike a lot!”

Well said!

Oh and I know you engineers and right-brained types want to check out the study for yourself so here ya go:
http://swimming.about.com/od/triathlon/a/im_dist_trainin.htm



About Mat Luebbers:
Coach Mat Luebbers is currently the Head Coach and Program Director for the Marine Corp Community Services Semper Fit/Aquatics Okinawa Dolphins Swim Team in Japan. He is also an on-line triathlon coach with EnduranceCoach.com. Luebbers past coaching duties include stints with the highly ranked Appleton YMCA Marlins, Lake Forest Swim Club, and Lake Forest College. Besides swimming, Mat also enjoys cycling, triathlons, and the occasional marathon.

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date: June 14, 2005

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infosteward

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avatarinfosteward

New biz venture for me check it out: writewaywriting.com
Literature - the big heavies - Wright, Shakespeare, Zora, etc.
Love movies, singing (Karaoke), traveling, swimming, dancing and playing all kinds of card games. Love good food, better wine and even better entertainment.
Help children in poverty. Sponsor a child today.
www.compassion.com

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