General Discussion Triathlon Talk » The effects of a long haul flight on performance Rss Feed  
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2019-07-18 7:58 AM


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Subject: The effects of a long haul flight on performance
Hi

So last week I took part in an Olympic distance event 48hours after getting off a 12hour flight. There was no difference in time zone. In a nutshell the triathlon didn't go well. From the start of the swim my limbs felt like lead. I experienced crazy cramping all down the right side of my leg and subsequently came out of the water around 8mins slower than normal. Nothing improved on the bike. Again legs wouldn't work, lots of tightness in the hammies and quads and I was done by the end of the first climb - again I rolled into transition a good 10mins slower than normal. This was meant to be my A race for this season which I trained like a ninja for so am pretty gutted.

I'm now trying to figure out what went wrong so as not to repeat the same mistake again. A fellow participant pointed towards my 12hours spent airborne as a possible cause. Was wondering if anyone has had a similar experience, could explain how this could be a cause or even tell me this person was talking rubbish and it's down to other factors.

Huge thanks all!








2019-07-18 8:44 AM
in reply to: Alpal

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Subject: RE: The effects of a long haul flight on performance
I would guess that yes, that had a LOT to do with it. I spent much of my career doing what I call the "world's longest commute" to/from Asia several times a year. Sitting that long does a number on your glutes and hamstrings (plus easy to compress sciatic nerve, which typically does lead to the "crazy cramping" all the way down one leg that you describe), your feet and calves swell up, you will probably become dehydrated from the dry air, etc. My first few days of workouts after a long flight always felt like absolute crap. If at all possible, I would not attempt an A race within a week of a long-haul flight, probably two weeks if major jet lag was involved. I have done so on occasion (World Championships) and the races didn't go that well. In one case, I felt physically good, but made a mistake on the bike that resulted in me riding an extra 10 km; in the other, I became deathly ill two days before the race with either a stomach virus or food poisoning that pretty much killed my race, though I did finish. (Complicating the misery of the flight itself is the possible exposure to a lot of tummy and respiratory bugs.)

Five days after arriving in New Zealand earlier this year, I did a half-ironman. Swim went okay, but just miserable for the whole bike leg. I was riding a rental road bike, and the fit didn't seem right, but no doubt tight muscles from the flight contributed to my misery--my pre-race runs and rides had not felt very good either. I've rented plenty of bikes and put up with them for multiple days on tours, and this was just one 56 mile ride. I wasn't really riding at race effort (was just doing the event for fun, really, not in race shape after some time off after my first full IM).

I started the run with painfully tight back, glutes, and hamstrings. The latter two happen often for me in longer events, the first, only rarely. I managed to work those kinks out as the run went on, and was actually feeling pretty good when, with about two miles to go, I tripped while getting out my last gu (run was on trails) and managed to break my elbow. I blame inattention and inexperience with trail running, and maybe at that stage of a long race one is always very fatigued and it's hard to break a fall, but it's probable that fatigue and tight muscles from the long-haul flight also played a role.
2019-07-18 3:20 PM
in reply to: Hot Runner

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Subject: RE: The effects of a long haul flight on performance
I also do the long travels for work (Thailand is the worst!) From my experience, compression, hydration, & more compression.
2019-07-18 4:31 PM
in reply to: #5261006

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Subject: RE: The effects of a long haul flight on performance
I’ll echo what has been said above. Two years ago I traveled to/from Copenhagen the week before my a race HIM. Arrived home five days before the race. It was awful. All the things went wrong and I felt like total crap through the swim and the bike. I actually ended up pulling out at mile 46 on the bike. Dehydrated for sure.

2019-07-19 5:15 AM
in reply to: drfoodlove


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Subject: RE: The effects of a long haul flight on performance
Thanks for the responses guys. Kicking myself for not factoring in the flight after all that prep.
2019-07-19 4:04 PM
in reply to: Alpal

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Subject: RE: The effects of a long haul flight on performance
How active where you in that 12 hours?
Did you do anything active once you landed, swim bike or run?

My tips:
- Get up every 30 to 45 minutes on the flight and walk around if possible. Get blood flowing to the body.
- Make sure to keep up with fluids in flight. Take an empty water bottle to fill up if possible.
- Get a quick bike or run in the day before to wake everything up. Little 3 mile peppy run or 30 minute peppy bike. Nothing killer, but not slow.

I'm betting the flight did not help at all assuming you tapered for the race properly.


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