Mark Allen and I have been coaching triathletes via this web site MarkAllenOnline.com now since 2001. Beginner, middle of the pack and elite triathletes may differ in their speed but their mistakes are very similar. Since the run is the last leg in triathlon many mistakes made seem to show as a bad run. Let’s look at what the triathlon run is all about and how it differs from a regular stand alone run.
There in nothing more exhilarating than feeling strong during a triathlon run leg. You are passing people and there is nothing they can do about it. Passing competitors on the run is usually final. There is not another leg where they can pass you. On the other hand there is no worse feeling in this sport than having a bad run. It hurts more than any of the other legs and we begin to question why we do triathlons. In this article I am going to give you some tips that you can use in training and in racing to become a better triathlon runner.
Incorporate some running races.
I often advise our athletes to participate in running races during the off-season and sometimes during the training season to gain experience in running. Races of up to a half marathon are a great way to test your fitness. These performances can then be used as a measuring stick to which we can compare triathlon run performances later in the racing season.
Now that you have a strong run and you recently set a personal best at the local 10-kilomeer fun run, how can you turn that into the great triathlon run that I described above? I have four recommendations.
1. Work on your general endurance in training. Running a running race is generally a short effort. Most running races take less than one hour. You start fresh and your tank is topped. Running in a triathlon is totally different. Your endurance will determine how much you have in the tank before the run starts. It is critical that you have endurance to race for multiple hours. Your long swims, your long bikes, your long runs and finally your bike-run(bricks) workouts will give you multiple hour training that will develop the endurance needed. I often tell athletes that the long bike training is not to make you fast on the bike. It is to make sure the bike does not fatigue you so you can still run fast.
2. Incorporate bike-run workouts (bricks) into your training. As I mentioned above bike-run workouts can help you gain endurance but as you can imagine they also help you familiarize with this very unique aspect of our sport. Running off the bike is a very unique feeling. Your body was just pumping blood and oxygen to your bike muscles and now it needs to adjust and start pumping it to your running muscles. Apparently the reason these workouts are called bricks is because that is exactly how your legs feel. They feel like bricks. Remember that the brick feeling is just that. I find that if your endurance is good and you took care of yourself during the bike and run you will soon find your running legs and feel the same way as in any other run. The brick workout is a very demanding and taxing workout. At markallenonline.com we recommend you do a brick every other week. The best time to incorporate the brick into training is after the long bike. Do your long bike and transition into your running shoes for a short run of at least 20 minutes but not more that 50 minutes for Ironman training. The faster the transition the better. Definitely not more than 20 minutes in transition for good training value. What about longer bricks coach? Workouts have to have a purpose. If the purpose is to practice your running off the bike then a 30-minute run after a long bike will do just that. Lengthening the run will turn the workout into a very long endurance workout that will trash your legs. If the purpose is to gain more endurance make the bike longer and keep the run shorter. You will recover faster and still be able to get in your long run that same week. I would prefer to have fresher legs during the week for other workouts and better training overall.
3. Stay within your limits during the swim and bike ride on race day. A typical email I receive is from an athlete with a good running background that just has a horrible time running during a race. He wants our training program to include many bricks as he/she thinks this will be the way to run better in a triathlon. Some bricks will definitely help this athlete. However, there is no training that will make you run better if you leave it all on the swim and bike. We recommend you wear a heart rate monitor and pace the first two legs. Finally towards the end of the race you can push the pace as hard as you can. Experiment with your pace. Generally the longer the race the more you need to hold back to insure your best performance. The swim and bike of sprint races can generally be anaerobic efforts. For half and Ironman races I often recommend aerobic to very slightly anaerobic efforts.
4. Maintain fluids and calories during the race. I briefly touched on this subject earlier. It is very important. Fluids and calorie intake are needed to maintain any athletic effort. Usually it is not until the run that we find ourselves totally dehydrated. The wind during the bike ride can give cool you off and give you a good feeling. However, once you stop and start running you will feel the dehydration as you overheat and pay the price. All your run fitness is out the window. You are dehydrated and there is nothing you can do but slow down and walk. The same thing goes with calories except you will just bonk and have no energy to race. This is very important in races over two hours. I recommend you take 300 to500 calories per hour in long races to maintain glycogen stores. Caloric requirements are directly related to your effort and your weight. The more anaerobic the effort the more glycogen you use and thus the more you need to worry about replenishing stores.
Be a confident runner
Having confidence on your run is a great motivator during a race. If you get passed on the bike your first thought should be, “I’ll see you on the run.” However, this thought will not be there unless you are confident. Confidence will not come unless you have success. So practice your run and take care of yourself on the swim and bike to run fast. The initial success will start the ball rolling and soon enough you will start looking forward to getting off the bike at every race. Finishing strong is what endurance races are all about.
Visit our web site MarkAllenOnline.com and join us to get a training plan we would love to help you make that run your triathlon weapon.