"Studying the truth speculatively is useful as a way of collecting
preaching material. But remember that unless you meditate constantly
our light of truth may go out." Ancient Zen yarn
It has always seemed to me that out of the three activities we attempt
to master as triathletes, running holds the most dubious position. It's
the safest of the three disciplines; if you stop swimming you may sink,
if you stop pedaling you'll fall over but if you stop running - it just
becomes a walk. It's also the discipline we have been practicing the
longest; most of us have been running since we were three years old and
have developed deeply ingrained habits and a certain style of running.
There is a chance that you may have never been in the water or on a
bike but, no matter what, we have all run at some point in time.
Because of all of this, running may be the simplest of our three
sports, but it is by no means the easiest. The impact of running brings
more frequent injuries, heart rates are generally highest on the run,
and often times - because of familiarity of running - it is the most
challenging to change technically. I bring this up because I believe
that the run is the most important part of a triathlon.
Almost every triathlon in the world concludes with a run. The run can
also be the most time critical event of a race. If a swim specialist
who is also very strong on the bike enters an Ironman he may gain 15
minutes on the swim, and maybe even 45 minutes on the bike over a
strong runner. But that hour lead can quickly melt away if that swim
specialist is running 8:30 miles. To compound the importance, the end
of the race usually brings the hottest temperatures of the day, when
the body is at its greatest risk of fatigue, when it is usually
suffering from dehydration and malnourishment. This is the time when a
comfortable, efficient run is critical. To make your run the best
consider including the following in your training program:
Frequency over duration: Run often without letting your body have too
many days away from the motion. You are better off conditioning your
body with four 3 mile runs per week than one 12 miler.
180 steps per minute: Small stride length can result in faster
times and fewer injuries. The easiest way to measure this is to note
your watch and count every foot strike for 30 seconds. Try to get the
result around 90 steps for that 30 second period. Check back
periodically throughout the run and especially on descents. Try to
remember what if "feels" like to run at that pace and hold it for the
entire run. Foot strike under the hip: This goes hand in hand with 180
steps per minute. If your stride is long that generally means that the
foot is connecting with the ground in front of the hip. This will
result in braking that will slow your run times and create more strain
than necessary on all of the lower joints, muscles and connective
Run at different speeds: Too many triathletes and runners have one run
speed. Play with speed while you run - you may surprise yourself by
running faster than you thought you could, or by finding a "go all day"
comfort zone that is only a hair slower than your normal pace. These
gears can come in handy during a race. Slower speeds can be used at aid
stations and feed zones or to get you through a tough time. Faster
speeds can allow you to gain some ground in the last miles of a race.
Get on the track once a week: The track is a controlled environment
where focus can be taken off traffic, lights, and surfaces and be put
straight into pace and technique. Start with a 6-10 minute warm up
either off the track or in the opposite direction. For a simple track
workout, start longer with "mile repeats" (4 laps) and note your time.
Then reduce the distance to a 1/2 mile (2 laps) and take the mile
average and cut it in half and subtract 5 or 10 seconds to get your
goal for the 1/4 mile segments. Conclude with some "quarters" (1 lap)
where again the time goal is half of the half-mile time, less 5
seconds. Between every effort include a one lap jog for recovery. If
you have never run on the track before, START SLOWLY and create a
workout that, in the early stages, is a total of 3 to 4 miles long.
Include a "long run" in your weekly program: Once a week you should
have an aerobic run that is long. If your racing Sprint, Olympic or
even Half Ironman distance races, let the long run build slowly over
several weeks until they are "over distance" - longer than the race run
by a few miles. If you are racing an Ironman distance race then the
long runs can peak out at around 18 -20- 22 miles.
Odds and ends: Replace your running shoes often. Practice eating and
drinking while you run. Brick workouts are essential to get you
familiar with the feeling of running right off the bike. If you're
injury prone, invest in a flotation belt (around $40) and run in the
pool once a week to keep up the motion without the impact. Lay out some
run courses that emulate the terrain of your next race. Read John
Douillards Body, Mind and Sport and learn, among other things, how
to get "the runners high".
The run leg of a triathlon is where most races are won or lost, so
place some extra focus on your run training to really make the most of
your racing. ?