Something great happens to many triathletes in the fall; they no longer feel the pressure of preparing for summer goal events and they're free to train just for fun.
Some people choose to back off their training dramatically, but I don't think that's the best way to prepare for the next year. Months of consistent training have built a huge base of fitness.
Why let all that work slip away so you have to start over again in the middle of winter? A fall running series is the ticket to maintaining fitness and fun when the triathlon season is done.
The best part of a fall running-race series is you don't have to do a lot of training to perform well. You already have a lot of fitness. Even better, the races themselves can provide adequate high-intensity training, allowing you to reduce the number of training runs you do during the week.
In other words, racing on the weekends allows you to keep more of your overall fitness with fewer training sessions per week.
The first step is to find a local race series and select an appropriate race distance. You don't have to (and shouldn't) give up swimming and cycling. Your total training load will likely decrease after your triathlon season is over, but you should still ride and swim a couple of times a week to maintain your sport-specific fitness and technique.
However, focusing on the run will not only be a great way to use the fitness you already have, but it will also help you develop a stronger run leg, whether it's a 5K, 10K or half-marathon.
Speed is the key to having fun in a fall race series, and, fortunately, it's something you can get relatively quickly. You already have a huge aerobic base, but a lot of triathletes lack speed in the later portions of the season. To add some oomph to your run right now, here are two great workouts you should try twice a week.
Workout 1: 50-Minute Run With 4 x 6-minute 5K Race-Pace Intervals
Start with a general warm-up of easy jogging for eight to 10 minutes. After that, pick up the pace with 3 x 20-second surges to open up the legs and get a good sweat going. Accelerate up to about 90 to 95 percent of maximal effort within 10 seconds, then gradually back down.
These quick bursts will get the legs ready for the intervals to come. Do one minute of easy jogging after each surge and three minutes of easy jogging after the last surge before starting the first 5K race-pace interval.
To begin the main set of 4 x 6 minutes, build up to 5K race pace within the first minute. Hold strong through the full six minutes, and then back it down. An easy four minutes after each race-pace interval will allow for adequate recovery so you can repeat the effort for the remaining intervals.
Cool down with five to 10 minutes of easy jogging.
Workout 2: 50-Minute Negative-Split Run
Start with easy jogging again, but this time five to six minutes will do. Pick up the speed to a sustainable aerobic pace, something you could hold for an hour.
At the halfway point, pick up the intensity again, this time to 10K race pace or slightly slower. From this point to the end of your run, your pace should become progressively faster and more intense. Try to finish at approximately your 5K race pace.
This type of workout makes you a stronger runner—both physically and mentally—by requiring you to pick up the pace as your fatigue level increases.
Do both of these two run workouts near the beginning of the week with an easy day between them, cross-train with the swim and bike on the other days and go into the weekend fresh for race day. Pick a few races and have fun with them.
Adam Pulford is an expert coach for Carmichael Training Systems, Inc. who races multisport and cycling events and coaches athletes of all levels. To find out what CTS can do for you, visit trainright.com.