Run Stronger Off Your Bike
I love the feeling of running. Light on my feet and gaining a sense of freedom with every step I take. Going for a run has always been easy and a great way of staying healthy. Even doing a local 10 kilometer fun run is not much effort. That feeling took a bit of a knock during my first triathlon race – an Olympic distance event down in Ulsan – about a year ago. Having had a good swim followed by quite a tough bike course, I was glad to start off my favorite part – the run. “Only 10km”, I thought, “that’ll be easy.” And oh boy how wrong I was. I remember starting off with the first kilometer, my legs felt a bit like jelly after the bike leg, but I thought of course that would soon pass. Well, 1 kilometer of suffering turned into 2 and went on to 3. And so it continued– every step my legs were getting heavier; feeling like I had a rock tied to my feet. I never thought running could be so brutal. I finished that race, but running that distance was surely not as fun as I remembered. Since that first triathlon, I have learned some valuable lessons which led me to run much better off the bike.
Being a good runner is a great advantage when starting off in triathlons. However, this does not mean that you can run fast right after swimming 1.5km and cycling for 40km. You learn how to do it through practice, and many times through making mistakes– learning by doing.
As I mentioned earlier, your legs feel weird, like jelly, when doing a run off the bike for the first time. Most runners out there know that getting into a good rhythm leads to a more effective run. Sustaining a steady cadence and a smooth arm swing is key. Getting into that tempo as soon as possible is vital to pace yourself early in the run. A great way to practice that is in the form of brick sessions – going for a long ride and then for a 20-40 minute run directly after your ride. Doing these sessions will help you get used to running on tired legs and getting into your rhythm quickly. The more brick sessions you do, the easier it will be in a race. As the saying goes,“Practice makes perfect.”
Stand-alone run sessions
Each of my run specific sessions a week has a particular goal focusing on strength, speed or endurance. These would include a form of intervals or going for a long run. Doing intervals has formed a vital part of my running performance – it’s helped me push hard and keeping my form even when I’m really tired. When I’m in a race and my body wants to stop (which is in every race), I think on these hard sessions to keep me going. If I did it in training, I know I can do it in a race.
Just as Lance Armstrong wrote, “It’s not about the bike” (and he proved it…), so it’s the same with the gear you have for running. However, having things that make a run more comfortable and effective will add to your performance. Investing in a pair of good, comfortable running shoes does just that. We all have different types of feet and run in different ways, so it is important to get running shoes that fit your profile best. What works for me won’t necessarily work for you. Perhaps most importantly, try different types of shoes instead of just shelling out on a popular name.
Race day tips
Preparation– Setting up your transition area well and knowing what you have to do when you get there alleviates a lot of pressure during the race. Remember, less is better. When you finish your bike leg, and get into transition 2, the only thing you need is a pair of running shoes and socks. Caps, sunglasses, and nutrition are all up to you. The more you have the more there is to remember. However, don’t leave out things if that will make your run uncomfortable. It’s better to spend an extra 10 seconds in transition than not enjoy the final leg in the race.
Fueling –Make sure you take in enough fuel (calories) in the form of carbohydrates. Electrolytes are also vital especially when doing longer events. Doing such strenuous activity for more than 2 hours consumes a tremendous amount of energy. It’s usually on the run that you will pay if you haven’t fueled on the bike. The energy that’s been lost needs to be replaced to keep your body fueled and going forward. During a race there will be aid stations which usually serve things like water, electrolyte drinks, and bananas. The type of drinks and food might differ in every race. It’s always good to also have your own fueling, that you trained with, since your body is used to it. This might be in the form of gels or natural foods. Make sure to eat something that can be digested quickly into your system.
Pacing–You should also realize that you can’t spend all your energy on the bike. This is one of the many mistakes I made in that first race. Let people pass you on the bike leg rather than trying to ride right at the front. You will pass most of those people that pushed too hard on the bike when you’re running. When you get into your run after pacing yourself well on the bike, don’t sprint out the first kilometer. Your legs will still be tired, but with enough energy to still run strong the rest of the race. Try and get into a good rhythm soon and pace yourself. It will be tough, but as World Champion Sebastian Kienle said, “If it’s hurting me, it’s killing them.” It’s not only you that’s suffering, everybody does, so just keep going. With only 3km left, then give everything and leave nothing behind. You should run over that finish line and without having anything left. There’s no greater feeling after a race than knowing you did your best.
Now it’s time to get out there and run wherever and whenever you can. Winter season is lying ahead and yes, it’s freezing cold. But there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. So put on some extra layers and get outside. You won’t regret it when the new season starts. To add to the fun of the run, get a buddy to train with you or join a club – in that way you won’t be the only one enduring the cold weather. Signing up for a 10km or 21km race during the off season is a good motivation to keep on training.
For any comments, questions or advice on triathlon training or racing, please post in the comments section below. Alternatively you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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