Studies examining pacing strategies during 4000-m cycling time trials (TTs) typically ensure that participants are not prefatigued; however, competitive cyclists often undertake TTs when already fatigued. This study aimed to determine how TT pacing strategies and sprint characteristics of cyclists change during an intensified training period (mesocycle). Thirteen cyclists regularly competing in A- and B-grade cycling races and consistently training (>10 h/wk for 4  y) completed a 6-wk training mesocycle. Participants undertook individually prescribed training, using training stress scores (TrainingPeaks, Boulder, CO), partitioned into a baseline week, a build week, 2 loading weeks (designed to elicit an overreached state), and 2 recovery weeks. Laboratory-based tests (15-s sprint and TT) and Recovery-Stress Questionnaire (RESTQ-52) responses were repeatedly undertaken over the mesocycle. TT power output increased during recovery compared with baseline and loading weeks (P = .001) with >6-W increases in mean power output (MPO) detected for 400-m sections (10% bins) from 1200 to 4000 m in recovery weeks. Decreases in peak heart rate (P < .001) during loading weeks and postexercise blood lactate (P = .005) during loading week 2 and recovery week 1 were detected. Compared with baseline, 15-s sprint MPO declined during loading and recovery weeks (P < .001). An interaction was observed between RESTQ-52 total stress score with a 15-s sprint (P = .003) and with a TT MPO (P = .04), indicating that participants who experienced greater stress during loading weeks exhibited reduced performance. To conclude, intensified endurance training diminished sprint performance but improved 4000-m TT performance, with a subtle change in MPO evident over the last 70% of TTs.
Alice M. Wallett, Amy L. Woods, Nathan Versey, Laura A. Garvican-Lewis, Marijke Welvaert and Kevin G. Thompson
Graham J. Mytton, David T. Archer, Louise Turner, Sabrina Skorski, Andrew Renfree, Kevin G. Thompson and Alan St Clair Gibson
Previous literature has presented pacing data of groups of competition finalists. The aim of this study was to analyze the pacing patterns displayed by medalists and nonmedalists in international competitive 400-m swimming and 1500-m running finals.
Split times were collected from 48 swimming finalists (four 100-m laps) and 60 running finalists (4 laps) in international competitions from 2004 to 2012. Using a cross-sectional design, lap speeds were normalized to whole-race speed and compared to identify variations of pace between groups of medalists and nonmedalists. Lap-speed variations relative to the gold medalist were compared for the whole field.
In 400-m swimming the medalist group demonstrated greater variation in speed than the nonmedalist group, being relatively faster in the final lap (P < .001; moderate effect) and slower in laps 1 (P = .03; moderate effect) and 2 (P > .001; moderate effect). There were also greater variations of pace in the 1500-m running medalist group than in the nonmedalist group, with a relatively faster final lap (P = .03; moderate effect) and slower second lap (P = .01; small effect). Swimming gold medalists were relatively faster than all other finalists in lap 4 (P = .04), and running gold medalists were relatively faster than the 5th- to 12th-placed athletes in the final lap (P = .02).
Athletes who win medals in 1500-m running and 400-m swimming competitions show different pacing patterns than nonmedalists. End-spurtspeed increases are greater with medalists, who demonstrate a slower relative speed in the early part of races but a faster speed during the final part of races than nonmedalists.
Deryn Bath, Louise A. Turner, Andrew N. Bosch, Ross Tucker, Estelle V. Lambert, Kevin G. Thompson and Alan St. Clair Gibson
The aim of this study was to examine performance, pacing strategy and perception of effort during a 5 km time trial while running with or without the presence of another athlete.
Eleven nonelite male athletes participated in five 5 km time trials: two self-paced, maximal effort trials performed at the start and end of the study, and three trials performed in the presence of a second runner. In the three trials, the second runner ran either in front of the subject, behind the subject, or next to the subject. Performance times, heart rate, RPE, and a subjective assessment of the effect of the second runner on the athlete’s performance were recorded during each of the trials.
There was no significant difference in performance times, heart rate or RPE between any of the five trials. Running speed declined from the 1st to the 4th kilometer and then increased for the last kilometer in all five trials. Following the completion of all trials, 9 of the 11 subjects perceived it to be easier to complete the 5 km time trial with another runner in comparison with running alone.
While the athletes perceived their performance to be improved by the presence of another runner, their pacing strategy, running speed, heart rate and RPE were not significantly altered. These findings indicate that an athlete’s subconscious pacing strategy is robust and is not altered by the presence of another runner.
Avish P. Sharma, Philo U. Saunders, Laura A. Garvican-Lewis, Brad Clark, Jamie Stanley, Eileen Y. Robertson and Kevin G. Thompson
To determine the effect of training at 2100-m natural altitude on running speed (RS) during training sessions over a range of intensities relevant to middle-distance running performance.
In an observational study, 19 elite middle-distance runners (mean ± SD age 25 ± 5 y, VO2max, 71 ± 5 mL · kg–1 · min–1) completed either 4–6 wk of sea-level training (CON, n = 7) or a 4- to 5-wk natural altitude-training camp living at 2100 m and training at 1400–2700 m (ALT, n = 12) after a period of sea-level training. Each training session was recorded on a GPS watch, and athletes also provided a score for session rating of perceived exertion (sRPE). Training sessions were grouped according to duration and intensity. RS (km/h) and sRPE from matched training sessions completed at sea level and 2100 m were compared within ALT, with sessions completed at sea level in CON describing normal variation.
In ALT, RS was reduced at altitude compared with sea level, with the greatest decrements observed during threshold- and VO2max-intensity sessions (5.8% and 3.6%, respectively). Velocity of low-intensity and race-pace sessions completed at a lower altitude (1400 m) and/or with additional recovery was maintained in ALT, though at a significantly greater sRPE (P = .04 and .05, respectively). There was no change in velocity or sRPE at any intensity in CON.
RS in elite middle-distance athletes is adversely affected at 2100-m natural altitude, with levels of impairment dependent on the intensity of training. Maintenance of RS at certain intensities while training at altitude can result in a higher perceived exertion.
Avish P. Sharma, Philo U. Saunders, Laura A. Garvican-Lewis, Brad Clark, Marijke Welvaert, Christopher J. Gore and Kevin G. Thompson
Purpose: To determine the effect of altitude training at 1600 and 1800 m on sea-level (SL) performance in national-level runners. Methods: After 3 wk of SL training, 24 runners completed a 3-wk sojourn at 1600 m (ALT1600, n = 8), 1800 m (ALT1800, n = 9), or SL (CON, n = 7), followed by up to 11 wk of SL racing. Race performance was measured at SL during the lead-in period and repeatedly postintervention. Training volume (in kilometers) and load (session rating of perceived exertion) were calculated for all sessions. Hemoglobin mass was measured via CO rebreathing. Between-groups differences were evaluated using effect sizes (Hedges g). Results: Performance improved in both ALT1600 (mean [SD] 1.5% [0.9%]) and ALT1800 (1.6% [1.3%]) compared with CON (0.4% [1.7%]); g = 0.83 (90% confidence limits −0.10, 1.66) and 0.81 (−0.09, 1.62), respectively. Season-best performances occurred 5 to 71 d postaltitude in ALT1600/1800. There were large increases in training load from lead-in to intervention in ALT1600 (48% [32%]) and ALT1800 (60% [31%]) compared with CON (18% [20%]); g = 1.24 (0.24, 2.08) and 1.69 (0.65, 2.55), respectively. Hemoglobin mass increased in ALT1600 and ALT1800 (∼4%) but not CON. Conclusions: Larger improvements in performance after altitude training may be due to the greater overall load of training in hypoxia compared with normoxia, combined with a hypoxia-mediated increase in hemoglobin mass. A wide time frame for peak performances suggests that the optimal window to race postaltitude is individual, and factors other than altitude exposure per se may be important.
Michael J. Davies, Bradley Clark, Laura A. Garvican-Lewis, Marijke Welvaert, Christopher J. Gore and Kevin G. Thompson
Purpose: To determine if a series of trials with fraction of inspired oxygen (FiO2) content deception could improve 4000-m cycling time-trial (TT) performance. Methods: A total of 15 trained male cyclists (mean [SD] body mass 74.2 [8.0] kg, peak oxygen uptake 62  mL·kg−1·min−1) completed six 4000-m cycling TTs in a semirandomized order. After a familiarization TT, cyclists were informed in 2 initial trials they were inspiring normoxic air (NORM, FiO2 0.21); however, in 1 trial (deception condition), they inspired hyperoxic air (NORM-DEC, FiO2 0.36). During 2 subsequent TTs, cyclists were informed they were inspiring hyperoxic air (HYPER, FiO2 0.36), but in 1 trial, normoxic air was inspired (HYPER-DEC). In the final TT (NORM-INFORM), the deception was revealed and cyclists were asked to reproduce their best TT performance while inspiring normoxic air. Results: Greater power output and faster performances occurred when cyclists inspired hyperoxic air in both truthful (HYPER) and deceptive (NORM-DEC) trials than NORM (P < .001). However, performance only improved in NORM-INFORM (377 W; 95% confidence interval [CI] 325–429) vs NORM (352 W; 95% CI 299–404; P < .001) when participants (n = 4) completed the trials in the following order: NORM-DEC, NORM, HYPER-DEC, HYPER. Conclusions: Cycling performance improved with acute exposure to hyperoxia. Mechanisms for the improvement were likely physiological; however, improvement in a deception trial suggests an additional placebo effect. Finally, a particular sequence of oxygen deception trials may have built psychophysiological belief in cyclists such that performance improved in a subsequent normoxic trial.