Eliud Kipchoge’s Training Effect: Sub-7 and Sub-8 Hour Triathlons

A few months after Eliud Kipchoge, a Kenyan, became the first man to run a marathon in less than two hours, Chris McCormack and a few other elite athletes sat around a table in Bahrain, talking about up to where they could push the limits of humanity. effort.

They all knew the subject well. World triathlon champion McCormack was joined in the conversation by four-time Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah, cyclist Mark Cavendish and triathletes Alistair Brownlee and Daniela Ryf.

They wondered what it would take to rewrite the triathlon record books.

If they controlled race conditions, as Kipchoge did in his barrier-breaking marathon in 2019, could a man complete a full Ironman triathlon in a previously unimaginable time of less than seven hours? Can a woman finish in less than eight?

The consensus: Indeed, they could. Their trust led to the creation of the Sub7Sub8 event, a carefully planned challenge to what was once thought possible in triathlon.

They started by looking at what made Kipchoge’s 1:59:40 marathon possible. For example, he had employed a team of 41 professional riders to set the pace and block the wind. The drivers were guided by laser beams projected onto the track by an electric timing car clocking in at exactly 4 minutes 34 seconds per mile. Cyclists delivered carbohydrate gels and fluids, and runners wore carbon fiber plated shoes.

Duplicating that kind of success would be more complicated with three disciplines instead of one and 140.6 miles of competition: a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run.

McCormack, the Managing Director of MANA Sports and Entertainment Group, established Sub7Sub8 with the Pho3nix Foundation in December 2019. Sub7Sub8 began interviewing interested athletes and researching potential venues. We had to create a course near a body of water with a perfectly flat and looped cycling and running route. He considered venues like a racetrack in Italy and venues in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Daytona, Florida.

He settled on the Lausitzring motor racing track in Germany after the pandemic put the event on hold. Four triathletes have been selected to compete: Nicola Spirig, Katrina Matthews, Joe Skipper and Kristian Blummenfelt.

Each participant was given a team of 10 and the freedom to nominate whomever they wanted to help pace in all three disciplines, which is not allowed in typical triathlons. Matthews used an ultrarunner for the opening laps of the marathon, while Skipper’s team used eight runners in cycling.

“It’s almost like a game of chess,” McCormack said.

Although they had different strategies, all participants used the technology offered to help them.

Monitoring systems attached to the triathletes’ arms allowed them to analyze their blood sugar levels, and the athletes received alerts to eat and drink based on their core body temperature, measured at regular intervals.

“They’re actually feeding athletes real-time data, something we just never had,” said McCormack, who won the Ironman World Championship in 2007 and 2010. “It’s crazy. “

Some of the wetsuits used have been made with the highest quality neoprene, offering 43% more buoyancy than standard neoprene. Spirig, an Olympic gold medalist in 2012, wore a wetsuit that was supposed to “imitate the skin of fish scales”.

The bikes also reach new heights of efficiency. They had no top tube on the frame, allowing the rider to adopt a more aero position. They also had aero bottle cages front and rear, which McCormack says disrupted the airflow to allow the bike to go even faster. Runners were also allowed to draft, which is not allowed in regulation triathlons.

“We were able to bring in the best people in the world and say, ‘You’ve got a blank canvas here,'” McCormack said. “Just make these men and women go as fast as they can.”

Dan Bigham, a bicycle expert, was brought in to work on bicycles and optimize pacemaker strategies. He used computer software during the race to find the ideal position for the leaders and indicated when they should change position within the group.

The results were drastic. The one-hour cycling world record – that is, the total distance covered in 60 minutes – was broken continuously during the men’s race.

“The men were going an average of 55.5 kilometers per hour,” McCormack said with some disbelief. That’s over 34 miles per hour.

The marathon was a race to stay cool. Skipper had someone next to him with a water tank and a spray gun, and all the athletes had drinks mixed with ice in an attempt to keep their body temperature down.

The event was particularly emotional for Spirig, 40, who punctured his lung and broke his collarbone and ribs while training in February. Her hopes of becoming the first woman to break the eight-hour triathlon barrier looked dim.

“I saw her in the hospital and she had machines dragging her around so I told her to forget about it,” McCormack said.

Spirig was undeterred. It’s her last season, she said, and she was determined to cap her storied career with a record.

Which she did. The four athletes finished the race with unthinkable times.

Spirig finished in 7 hours 34 minutes 19 seconds, three minutes behind Matthews, who won the women’s race in 7:31:54.

Blummenfelt of Norway, who won the Olympic triathlon last year at the Tokyo Games, won the men’s race in 6:44:25. Skipper was second in 6:47:36.

Success in Germany has further fueled athletes and organizers looking to capitalize on record-breaking opportunities. McCormack said organizers aim to hold an even faster race in 2024 and plan to repeat the Sub7Sub8 every two years.

They also target young athletes and different sports. McCormack said he was inspired by watching a documentary about extreme skier and BASE jumper Shane McConkey, who died in a jump in 2009, and wanted to identify and break down barriers in other extreme sports. He talks to winter sports athletes – snowboarders, ice skaters and cross-country skiers – as part of an exploratory investigation into the sequel.

“We want to see what an impossible target is,” McCormack said.

About Joseph Minton

Check Also

Sports News Highlights: Soccer-Klopp praises Nunez as Liverpool win Community Shield; Motor racing – Timing is right for Vettel, says Red Bull boss and more

Here is a summary of current sports news briefs. Soccer-Klopp praises Nunez as Liverpool …