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Good Runner But Not In A Triathlon

by Jo Nathan
(Auckland, New Zealand )

Hi, I am a 35 year old mother of two who has completed two sprint triathlons. My swim is good, cycling good but my run sucks. My legs feel like tree trunks.

Do you have any advice as I’m entering the Barfoot amateur sprint (300m swim, 5km bike, 3km run).

I do feel great after the swim and I tend to go hard out on the bike.

When I get to my run it’s over rover – I’m not tired, it’s just that my legs don’t want to move and my lead from the swim and bike turns to custard. I’m a great runner but not after a run.

I would appreciate some advice as I don’t want to embarrass myself and I know I can overcome the challenge. I have 3 months to train for this sprint triathlon.

Cheers, Jo : )

Intelligent Triathlon Training replies:

Hi Jo,

This is a really common issue with novices coming to triathlon, especially those who can run before hand. The problem you have is that your cardiovascular capacity is greater than your specific triathlon conditioning.

This means that in the components you are not so familiar with you are burning your energy stores and taxing your muscles too much, and therefore not able to perform your run to the best of your ability by the time you get to it.

One of the first things to do is have your bike position checked, to ensure you are recruiting the correct muscles and not overloading others.

From a training perspective you will need to try and fit more cycling into your training programme. Part of this is to condition your muscles to the actions of cycling, part to become more efficient and part to actually have a training effect.

Regular rides of a slightly shorter duration are preferable to long rides every now and then.

Don’t try and do so much in one session that you are heavily fatigued, but just enough that in one session you feel mildly tired, but after a couple of weeks of this format you are starting to feel more tired in sessions. This is a better approach to developing cycling endurance.

During these rides ensure the intensity is not too high, (<70% Heart rate max) for most of the session. Obviously you can go above this on hills etc, but don’t spend the whole ride above this level.

After 4-6 weeks you could start to add in a session that is more around race pace, such as 3-4 x 10 minutes at estimated race pace with 3 minutes between them. Don’t go too hard, the idea is to condition yourself to the correct pace, you will find that quite quickly the pace will get better as you get fitter. So use heart rate as a guide to intensity (~85-90% heart rate max), and see how far you go in this time.

Continue to do the rest of your rides steady but build up the durations.

If you are a good runner, you probably won’t need to spend too much time worrying about your running, but do try to include 1 run a week where you do 15 - 20 minutes steady immediately after you have done a steady ride. In the latter part of your training period you could move this run onto the back of the 3 – 4 x 10 minute bike session. This will also help to train your muscles and your mind to the effect that cycling has upon your running.

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