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Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2013 Aug;45(8):1593-9. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31828ba558.

Right ventricle best predicts the race performance in amateur ironman athletes.

Author information

  • 1Department of Cardiology, Stadtspital Triemli, Zurich, Switzerland. Alain.Bernheim@triemli.stzh.ch



The ironman (IM) triathlon is a popular ultraendurance competition, consisting of 3.8 km of swimming, 180.2 km of cycling, and 42.2 km of running. The aim of this study was to investigate the predictors of IM race time, comparing echocardiographic findings, anthropometric measures, and training characteristics.


Amateur IM athletes (ATHL) participating in the Zurich IM race in 2010 were included. Participants were examined the day before the race by a comprehensive echocardiographic examination. Moreover, anthropometric measurements were obtained the same day. During the 3 months before the race, each IM-ATHL maintained a detailed training diary. Recorded data were related to total IM race time.


Thirty-eight IM finishers (mean ± SD age = 38 ± 9 yr, 32 men [84%]) were evaluated. Total race time was 684 ± 89 min (mean ± SD). For right ventricular fractional area change (45% ± 7%, Spearman ρ = -0.33, P = 0.05), a weak correlation with race time was observed. Race performance exhibited stronger associations with percent body fat (15.2 ± 5.6%, ρ = 0.56, P = 0.001), speed in running training (11.7 ± 1.2 km · h(-1), ρ = -0.52, P = 0.002), and left ventricular myocardial mass index (98 ± 24 g · m(-2), ρ = -0.42, P = 0.009). The strongest association was found between race time and right ventricular end-diastolic area (22 ± 4 cm2, ρ = -0.64, P < 0.0001). In multivariate analysis, right ventricular end-diastolic area (β = -16.7, 95% confidence interval = -27.3 to -6.1, P = 0.003) and percent body fat (β = 6.8, 95% confidence interval = 1.1-12.6, P = 0.02) were independently predictive of IM race time.


In amateur IM-ATHL, RV end-diastolic area and percent body fat were independently related to race performance. RV end-diastolic area was the strongest predictor of race time. The role of the RV in endurance exercise may thus be more important than previously thought and needs to be further studied.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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