Granted, we may not have finished 1st in the last few major competitions, but the 2nd and 3rd sports are usually occupied by a blue, white and red leotard or runners jacket. What has caused this recent surge in success on the ultra endurance circuit, and why is it that the Brits seem to have the knack of being there or thereabouts when it comes to the sprint for the finish line!
Ironman is an extreme form of triathlon, so both the triathlon and Ironman fan base were engrossed in the Ironman World Championships that featured Britons Rachel Joyce and Liz Blatchford. The race was closely fought but saw Aussie Mirinda Carfrae take the title in Hawaii! Mirinda completed the race in 8 hours 52 mins breaking a previous course record held by Chrissie Wellington, an infamous athlete who represents…you guessed it, the UK!
OK, so the Brits didn’t manage to take the top step of the podium, but Rachel Joyce and Liz Blatchford managed to outnumber any other nation by finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively, an incredible achievement for a nation that many see as little more than a ‘small island’. Not forgetting that British athletes had won 5 of the last 6 Ironman races, with previous course record holder Wellington winning 4 of those!
Triathlon is the fastest growing sport in the UK today, and continues to grow at a rapid pace with the number of competitors taking part each year reaching 3000! That’s 420,000 miles of resilient human endeavour. The rising popularity has prompted the introduction of triathlon training escapes into adventure holiday brochures. These types of holiday have seen a 35% increase in the last 3 years, with Triathlon holiday goers increasing by 30-35%.
Some of the best nutritionists in the world reside in the UK, meaning athletes have the most cutting edge science and information at their disposal. Many triathletes are self taught nutrition experts, and some hypothesise that this stems from triathlons drawing a relatively ‘intelligent’ crowd, this may seem (and probably is) a sweeping statement, but allow me to explain. Recent research has suggested that triathlon is a comparatively affluent sport with the majority of competitors earning above the national average, between £35-40,000 a year, and aged between 30-40 years of age. Granted this is not a representation of the elite athletes, but maximal performance and nutrition is evidently high on the list for both amateur and competitive athletes, you’ve only got to check the waste bins at a triathlon or Ironman event!
Isotonic sachets, energy and isotonic gels, electrolyte tablet tubes and protein and carb bar wrappers fill the bins at these events…why, because they work! Supplements are key to maximising glycogen stores and rapidly replenishing carbs during the race. An event that lasts around 9 hours needs structured and balanced nutrition, otherwise homeostasis is disrupted and performance significantly hindered!