Another in a 2014 guest column series which builds on the one in 2009 where 50+ had written about how science /tech has evolved their hobby/interest.
This time it is Bertrand Dussert, Vice President, HCM Transformation and Thought Leadership for Oracle. In this capacity, he serves as HR transformation and executive advisor to some of Oracle's largest clients. Prior to Oracle, Bertrand was the global leader for HR Shared Services, Recruitment Operations and Workforce Planning for American Express. When not at work, Bertrand is an avid cyclist and Ironman triathlete.
When I’m not working, flying, reading, tweeting, or spending time with family, I can usually be found riding a bike or thinking about Ironman Triathlon (or riding a bike and thinking about technology). Or swimming/running and thinking about how I would rather be cycling…
Ironman Triathlon is a one-day event that involves swimming 2.4 miles in open water, riding a 112-mile cycling time trial (no drafting), and ‘running’ a full marathon. Given the extraordinary length of the events, leveraging performance data is a critical aspect of racing and training for the distances.
Some of you may have heard of the running ‘wall’ that many hit in a marathon around miles 20-23. In an Ironman, most athletes have already raced for 7 hours before starting the marathon. Even the world’s fastest pros take over 5 hours before starting the marathon. This creates a need to carefully manage pace on race day to avoid ‘bonking’ and ‘blowing up.’
To successfully complete, much less race, an Ironman Triathlon, training is required in swimming, cycling and running. All three sports are balanced, but more time is usually spent on riding in training, as it limits impact damage to joints, builds aerobic capacity well, and is the longest part of any Ironman event. So just what kind of technology do I use in my training?
- Swimming:track swim distance, pace, strokes per lengths, lap times, and distance covered for open water races (it has GPS).
- Cycling: track speed, distance, average lap times, heart rate, average heart rate, ‘Training Effect,’ calories burned, elevation changes (it has a GPS and altimeter) and many more
- Running: measure and record speed, pace, heart rate, elevation….
- Cloud based data tracking and gamification software
- Garmin Connect – this application allows athletes to upload training data, including courses on maps, temps and many many more variables
- Strava – this application allows athletes to do much of the same, but also has a built in competition feature with Strava Segments. Once someone has ridden a course segment, others can complete to try to better the time on the same segment (includes a leaderboard, workout logging and many more features)
- Equipment – in addition to software and sensors, the bikes and wetsuits are worth mentioning
- Bikes: high end triathlon bikes have frames made of carbon fiber, are wind tunnel tested, have airfoil shaped wheels also made of carbon fiber, and are designed and built to very high standards (think of them as highly engineered vertical land gliders with pedals and wheels)
- Indoor Trainer: most of my riding during the week is done in the evenings on an indoor trainer. I use a direct drive bike trainer that provides very realistic feel in the pedaling action.
- Wetsuits: modern triathlon wetsuits are capable of improving swim speed by 5-15%, and allow athletes to swim in much colder water than without them.
Many triathletes also train with power meters (a really great way to go). Perhaps the most frequently used technology in Ironman is simply data. Cumulative training loads, meso-cycle tracking, VO2Max, heart rate recovery, lactate threshold measurement…if something can be measured, I guarantee an Ironman triathlete somewhere is using the data to try to get an edge. How can I tell if I’m ‘race ready?’ I find the best indicator involves two measures, combined with feel. If my resting HR is below 50 bpm, my body mass is in the right range, and I feel unstoppable in my training (minimal soreness after 100 mile solo ride, followed by a 3 mile run), I know I’m as ready as I’ll be.
Unlike some other sports, all the training and fitness in the world won’t get you through an Ironman triathlon if you aren’t smart about your race day. For most people, the use of technology and data are critical to managing a great race day. That combination of training, thinking and technology needed to succeed is what makes Ironman so much fun for me. Oh, and there is NO feeling in the world like running down the finish chute of an Ironman and hearing over the load speakers, “Bertrand Dussert, YOU’RE AN IRONMAN!”