Long-Course Running Is About Race Execution First, Fitness Second
There is no doubt that long-course triathletes are very fit people. They swim, bike, and run a LOT, and they are doing a LOT of brick runs. But the vast majority of long-course triathletes are under-performing—running slower than their potential—on race day.
Failure to run to your potential on race day is a race execution issue. This happens when you either ride or run too hard, especially in the early stages of each leg.
- The Bike: The first 45 to 90 minutes of the Half-Ironman or the first two hours of the Ironman bike should be at an easy pace, especially when hills and headwinds are present.
- The Run: Same goes for the first three to four miles of the Half Ironman or the first six to eight miles of the Ironman.
Just stand on a random hill on any Ironman bike course and you’ll see the majority of the field crushing it, working much too hard. Next, stand at mile one of the run course—you’ll think that the majority of the field is going to run a sub 3:30 marathon because there sure are a lot of folks running sub 8:00 miles. But then go out to mile 18 and you’ll see these same very, very fit people running dramatically slower.
Yet after the race, the discussion around sub-par performance often turns away from strategy and toward fitness. This is because triathlon culture presents training and fitness as the answer to questions about speed and performance, as opposed to racing smarter.
Running off the Bike is an Issue of Skill
As a triathlete fit enough to ride and run, you have no issue getting off of your bike and actually running. The challenge lies in being able to synchronize how hard you are working (input) with how fast you are actually running (output). One brick run where you realize that your actual pace is significantly faster than your perceived pace is enough to drive home the lesson.
For most, the initial adjustment from bike to run is about finding your running stride. Learning how to get from the funny post-bike leg feeling to a smooth running stride is an individual process that, once learned, is effectively ingrained in your brain.
While running with your proper form is more efficient, it’s not necessarily any faster than the early time you spent running off the bike (as that’s usually faster than desired). If anything, finding your “run legs” means settling down into a pace that’s appropriate for the race itself.
The Wrap Up
As triathlon coaches, we realize that telling our athletes and readers to skip the brick workouts is very unusual. What we’ve learned can be summarized as follows:
- Most of the time, under-performing on the run is the result of overdoing it on the bike or within the first quarter to one third of the run.
- If you want to run fast you need to create opportunities to run fast, on fresher legs versus running slowly on tired legs.
For more information, listen to this podcast
from Rich and Patrick or download their brick adjustment guidelines
What are you training for? Find your next race.