Why is triathlon a good sport for a rally driver?

Rally driving is a funny old sport. Take almost any other sport; footy, tennis, golf, triathlon and you see competitors training pretty much every day. In rallying, I compete only 6 times a year, with limited in-car testing prior to each event. Over a year, maybe we will get 6-10 ‘practice days’.

So, if you can’t be in the car every week, how do you practice?

I get asked this a lot. Away from the events I put a large amount of time into reviewing my in-car footage and pace notes, but for physical training you have to do something else. In a rallying, we are on the go all day. Whenever we aren’t in the actual competitive stages we are driving between them or re-prepping to go back out to the stages at service.

There’s a huge amount of up and down. You have to get fired up for a stage, then relax on your way to the next one, get fired up again and repeat this over two to three days. It’s mentally and physically demanding. We also don’t have any air conditioning or cool suits inside the car, so you are maintaining a huge amount of concentration in a really hot environment.

For this reason, endurance sports are very useful for re-creating similar demands on the body and the main factor in why I decided to try a few triathlons in the first place.

But, being a little nerdy, I was curious…. How similar is it? Having all this data from my training sessions and beginning to understand my heart rate better, I wondered what my heart is doing inside the car.

During our last rally in South Australia I recorded my heart rate during some of the stages to find this out. Surprisingly, I was generally a lot more relaxed than I thought I would be!

In general, my heart rate sat around 120-140 bpm, with my peak being 148bpm. My heart rate is generally pretty low, so this is similar to the heart rate range I would see on the bike. (when I run it sits a bit higher at 150 – 160bpm). My total competitive time for the rally stages combined was roughly 2 hours. Therefore, my heart basically needs to work at this kind of range for a few hours comfortably.

Good to know all this pain and suffering isn’t a waste of time!

Below is my heart rate trace from a few stages and under that is my heart rate trace from a tempo bike session. Obviously training involves all kinds of sessions including intervals, sprints, easy spins etc. But it’s interesting to see that on a standard bike session, I’m doing the right kind of work to what I’m doing inside the car.

Rally SA heart rate trace:

stage example

(this also included some transport sections between stages, so there are some lower sections)

Cycling heart race trace:

bike example

(generally a bit higher average, but similar peak)

I guess it’s no surprise why so many people in motorsport get involved in endurance sports outside of the car!

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