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Sabrina Skorski, Naroa Etxebarria, and Kevin G. Thompson

Purpose:

To investigate if swimming performance is better in a relay race than in the corresponding individual race.

Methods:

The authors analyzed 166 elite male swimmers from 15 nations in the same competition (downloaded from www.swimrankings.net). Of 778 observed races, 144 were Olympic Games performances (2000, 2004, 2012), with the remaining 634 performed in national or international competitions. The races were 100-m (n = 436) and 200-m (n = 342) freestyle events. Relay performance times for the 2nd–4th swimmers were adjusted (+ 0.73 s) to allow for the “flying start.”

Results:

Without any adjustment, mean individual relay performances were significantly faster for the first 50 m and overall time in the 100-m events. Furthermore, the first 100 m of the 200-m relay was significantly faster (P > .001). During relays, swimmers competing in 1st position did not show any difference compared with their corresponding individual performance (P > .16). However, swimmers competing in 2nd–4th relay-team positions demonstrated significantly faster times in the 100-m (P < .001) and first half of the 200-m relays than in their individual events (P < .001, ES: 0.28–1.77). However, when finishing times for 2nd–4th relay team positions were adjusted for the flying start no differences were detected between relay and individual race performance for any event or split time (P > .17).

Conclusion:

Highly trained swimmers do not swim (or turn) faster in relay events than in their individual races. Relay exchange times account for the difference observed in individual vs relay performance.

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Naroa Etxebarria, Megan L. Ross, Brad Clark, and Louise M. Burke

Purpose: The authors investigated the potential benefit of ingesting 2 mM of quinine (bitter tastant) on a 3000-m cycling time-trial (TT) performance. Methods: Nine well-trained male cyclists (maximal aerobic power: 386 [38] W) performed a maximal incremental cycling ergometer test, three 3000-m familiarization TTs, and four 3000-m intervention TTs (∼4 min) on consecutive days. The 4 interventions were (1) 25 mL of placebo, (2) a 25-mL sweet solution, and (3) and (4) repeat 25 mL of 2-mM quinine solutions (Bitter1 and Bitter2), 30 s before each trial. Participants self-selected their gears and were only aware of distance covered. Results: Overall mean power output for the full 3000 m was similar for all 4 conditions: placebo, 348 (45) W; sweet, 355 (47) W; Bitter1, 354 (47) W; and Bitter2, 355 (48) W. However, quinine administration in Bitter1 and Bitter2 increased power output during the first kilometer by 15 ± 11 W and 21 ± 10 W (mean ± 90% confidence limits), respectively, over placebo, followed by a decay of 34 ± 32 W during Bitter1 and Bitter2 during the second kilometer. Bitter2 also induced a 11 ± 13-W increase during the first kilometer compared with the sweet condition. Conclusions: Ingesting 2 mM of quinine can improve cycling performance during the first one-third of a 3000-m TT and could be used for sporting events lasting ∼80 s to potentially improve overall performance.

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Avish P. Sharma, David J. Bentley, Gaizka Mejuto, and Naroa Etxebarria

Purpose: Traditional physiological testing and monitoring tools have restricted our ability to capture parameters that best relate to cycling performance under variable-intensity race demands. This study examined the validity of a 1-h variable cycling test (VCT) to discriminate between different-performance-level cyclists. Methods: Ten male national- and 13 club-level cyclists (body mass, 67 [9] and 79 [6] kg; peak power output, 359 [43] and 362 [21] W, respectively) completed a VO2max test and two 1-h VCT protocols on 3 separate occasions. The VCT consisted of 10 × 6-min segments containing prescribed (3.5 W·kg−1) and open-ended phases. The open-ended phases consisted of 4 × 30–40 s of “recovery,” 3 × 10 s at “hard” intensity, and 3 × 6-s “sprint” with a final 10-s “all-out” effort. Results: Power output for the 6- and 10-s phases was moderately higher for the national- compared with club-level cyclists (mean [SD] 10.4 [2.0] vs 8.6 [1.6] W·kg−1, effect size; ±90% confidence limits = −0.87; ±0.65 and mean [SD] 7.5 [0.7] vs 6.2 [1.0] W·kg−1, effect size; ±90% confidence limits = −1.24; ±0.66, respectively). Power output for the final 10-s “all-out” sprint was 15.4 (1.5) for the national- versus 13.2 (1.9) W·kg−1 for club-level cyclists. Conclusion: The 1-h VCT can successfully differentiate repeat high-intensity effort performance between higher-caliber cyclists and their lower-performing counterparts.

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Naroa Etxebarria, Shaun D’Auria, Judith M. Anson, David B. Pyne, and Richard A. Ferguson

Purpose:

The patterns of power output in the ~1-h cycle section of Olympic-distance triathlon races are not well documented. Here the authors establish a typical cycling-race profile derived from several International Triathlon Union elite-level draftinglegal triathlon races.

Methods:

The authors collated 12 different race power profiles from elite male triathletes (N = 5, age 25 ± 5 y, body mass 65.5 ± 5.6 kg; mean ± SD) during 7 international races. Power output was recorded using SRM cranks and analyzed with proprietary software.

Results:

The mean power output was 252 ± 33 W, or 3.9 ± 0.5 W/kg in relative terms, with a coefficient of variation of 71% ± 13%. Normalized power (power output an athlete could sustain if intensity were maintained constant without any variability) for the entire cycle section was 291 ± 29 W, or 40 ± 13 W higher than the actual mean power output. There were 34 ± 14 peaks of power output above 600 W and ~18% time spent at >100% of maximal aerobic power.

Conclusion:

Cycling during Olympic-distance triathlon, characterized by frequent and large power variations including repeat supramaximal efforts, equates to a higher workload than cycling at constant power.

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Naroa Etxebarria, Brad Clark, Megan L. Ross, Timothy Hui, Roland Goecke, Ben Rattray, and Louise M. Burke

The ingestion of quinine, a bitter tastant, improves short-term (30 s) cycling performance, but it is unclear whether this effect can be integrated into the last effort of a longer race. The purpose of this study was to determine whether midtrial quinine ingestion improves 3,000-m cycling time-trial (TT) performance. Following three familiarization TTs, 12 well-trained male cyclists (mean ± SD: mass = 76.6 ± 9.2 kg, maximal aerobic power = 390 ± 50 W, maximal oxygen uptake = 4.7 ± 0.6 L/min) performed four experimental 3,000-m TTs on consecutive days. This double-blind, crossover design study had four randomized and counterbalanced conditions: (a) Quinine 1 (25-ml solution, 2 mM of quinine); (b) Quinine 2, replicate of Quinine 1; (c) a 25-ml sweet-tasting no-carbohydrate solution (Placebo); and (d) 25 ml of water (Control) consumed at the 1,850-m point of the TT. The participants completed a series of perceptual scales at the start and completion of all TTs, and the power output was monitored continuously throughout all trials. The power output for the last 1,000 m for all four conditions was similar: mean ± SD: Quinine 1 = 360 ± 63 W, Quinine 2 = 367 ± 63 W, Placebo = 364 ± 64 W, and Control = 367 ± 58 W. There were also no differences in the 3,000-m TT power output between conditions. The small perceptual differences between trials at specific 150-m splits were not explained by quinine intake. Ingesting 2 mM of quinine during the last stage of a 3,000-m TT did not improve cycling performance.

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Naroa Etxebarria, Judith M. Anson, David B. Pyne, and Richard A. Ferguson

Purpose:

To determine how cycling with a variable (triathlon-specific) power distribution affects subsequent running performance and quantify relationships between an individual cycling power profile and running ability after cycling.

Methods:

Twelve well-trained male triathletes (VO2peak 4.9 ± 0.5 L/min; mass 73.5 ± 7.7 kg; mean ± SD) undertook a cycle VO2peak and maximal aerobic power (MAP) test and a power profile involving 6 maximal efforts (6 s to 10 min). Each subject then performed 2 experimental 1-h cycle trials, both at a mean power of 65% MAP, at either variable power (VAR) ranging from 40% to 140% MAP or constant power (CON) followed by an outdoor 9.3-km time-trial run. Subjects also completed a control 9.3-km run with no preceding exercise.

Results:

The 9.3-km run time was 42 ± 37 s slower (mean ± 90% confidence limits [CL]) after VAR (35:32 ± 3:18 min:s, mean ± SD) compared with CON cycling (34:50 ± 2:49 min:s). This decrement after VAR appeared primarily in the first half of the run (35 ± 20 s; mean ± 90% CL). Higher blood lactate and rating of perceived exertion after 1 h VAR cycling were moderately correlated (r = .51–.55; ± ~.40) with a larger decrement in run performance. There were no clear associations between the power-profile test and decrement in run time after VAR compared with CON.

Conclusions:

A highly variable power distribution in cycling is likely to impair 10-km triathlon run performance. Training to lower physiological and perceptual responses during cycling should limit the negative effects on triathlon running.

Open access

Naroa Etxebarria, Jackson Wright, Hamish Jeacocke, Cristian Mesquida, and David B. Pyne

Negative or evenly paced racing strategies often lead to more favorable performance outcomes for endurance athletes. However, casual inspection of race split times and observational studies both indicate that elite triathletes competing in Olympic-distance triathlon typically implement a positive pacing strategy during the last of the 3 disciplines, the 10-km run. To address this apparent contradiction, the authors examined data from 14 International Triathlon Union elite races over 3 consecutive years involving a total of 725 male athletes. Analyses of race results confirm that triathletes typically implement a positive running pace strategy, running the first lap of the standard 4-lap circuit substantially faster than laps 2 (∼7%), 3 (∼9%), and 4 (∼12%). Interestingly, mean running pace in lap 1 had a substantially lower correlation with 10-km run time (r = .82) than both laps 2 and 3. Overall triathlon race performance (ranking) was best associated with run performance (r = .82) compared with the swim and cycle sections. Lower variability in race pace during the 10-km run was also reflective of more successful run times. Given that overall race outcome is mainly explained by the 10-km run performance, with top run performances associated with a more evenly paced strategy, triathletes (and their coaches) should reevaluate their pacing strategy during the run section.

Open access

Naroa Etxebarria, Nicole A. Beard, Maree Gleeson, Alice Wallett, Warren A. McDonald, Kate L. Pumpa, and David B. Pyne

Gastrointestinal disturbances are one of the most common issues for endurance athletes during training and competition in the heat. The relationship between typical dietary intake or nutritional interventions and perturbations in or maintenance of gut integrity is unclear. Twelve well-trained male endurance athletes (peak oxygen consumption = 61.4 ± 7.0 ml·kg−1·min−1) completed two trials in a randomized order in 35 °C (heat) and 21 °C (thermoneutral) conditions and kept a detailed nutritional diary for eight consecutive days between the two trials. The treadmill running trials consisted of 15 min at 60% peak oxygen consumption, 15 min at 75% peak oxygen consumption, followed by 8 × 1-min high-intensity efforts. Venous blood samples were taken at the baseline, at the end of each of the three exercise stages, and 1 hr postexercise to measure gut integrity and the permeability biomarker concentration for intestinal fatty-acid-binding protein, lipopolysaccharide, and lipopolysaccharide-binding protein. The runners self-reported gut symptoms 1 hr postexercise and 3 days postexercise. The heat condition induced large (45–370%) increases in intestinal fatty-acid-binding protein, lipopolysaccharide-binding protein, and lipopolysaccharide concentrations compared with the baseline, but induced mild gastrointestinal symptoms. Carbohydrate and polyunsaturated fat intake 24 hr preexercise were associated with less lipopolysaccharide translocation. Protein, carbohydrate, total fat, and polyunsaturated fat intake (8 days) were positively associated with the percentage increase of intestinal fatty-acid-binding protein in both conditions (range of correlations, 95% confidence interval = .62–.93 [.02, .98]). Typical nutrition intake partly explained increases in biomarkers and the attenuation of symptoms induced by moderate- and high-intensity exercise under both heat and thermoneutral conditions.

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Alice M. Wallett, Naroa Etxebarria, Nicole A. Beard, Philo U. Saunders, Marijke Welvaert, Julien D. Périard, Andrew J. McKune, and David B. Pyne

Purpose: The risk of exercise-induced endotoxemia is increased in the heat and is primarily attributable to changes in gut permeability resulting in the translocation of lipopolysaccharides (LPS) into the circulation. The purpose of this study was to quantify the acute changes in gut permeability and LPS translocation during submaximal continuous and high-intensity interval exercise under heat stress. Methods: A total of 12 well-trained male runners (age 37 [7] y, maximal oxygen uptake [VO2max] 61.0 [6.8] mL·min−1·kg−1) undertook 2 treadmill runs of 2 × 15-minutes at 60% and 75% VO2max and up to 8 × 1-minutes at 95% VO2max in HOT (34°C, 68% relative humidity) and COOL (18°C, 57% relative humidity) conditions. Venous blood samples were collected at the baseline, following each running intensity, and 1 hour postexercise. Blood samples were analyzed for markers of intestinal permeability (LPS, LPS binding protein, and intestinal fatty acid–binding protein). Results: The increase in LPS binding protein following each exercise intensity in the HOT condition was 4% (5.3 μg·mL−1, 2.4–8.4; mean, 95% confidence interval, P < .001), 32% (4.6 μg·mL−1, 1.8–7.4; P = .002), and 30% (3.0 μg·mL−1, 0.03–5.9; P = .047) greater than in the COOL condition. LPS was 69% higher than baseline following running at 75% VO2max in the HOT condition (0.2 endotoxin units·mL−1, 0.1–0.4; P = .011). Intestinal fatty acid–binding protein increased 43% (2.1 ng·mL−1, 0.1–4.2; P = .04) 1 hour postexercise in HOT compared with the COOL condition. Conclusions: Small increases in LPS concentration during exercise in the heat and subsequent increases in intestinal fatty acid–binding protein and LPS binding protein indicate a capacity to tolerate acute, transient intestinal disturbance in well-trained endurance runners.