How Can I Improve My 1/2 Ironman Run?

by Dani



I have been building up my endurance for triathlon slowly over the last few years.

I am pretty happy with my swim and bike splits but when it comes to the run I lose all my time that I made up in the bike ride. I get off the bike and my legs feel too weak to run so I end up running slower during a triathlon than I do during my training.

In my last triathlon race I had a fast swim followed by a 2:30hr bike ride but my run was 1:54 which cost me the race.

I just don't know what to do to get fast in the run. I have never been a runner. I am short and have short legs. When I make three steps others make one.

I just don't know how to get speed going? I do a lot of uphill and interval training but maybe I should work more on long distance?

Can you help me?

Intelligent Triathlon Training Replies:

It is likely that the problem is not actually your speed, but your fitness. The fitter you are the better you will be able to follow up the bike with a good triathlon run. As you get fitter you will get faster, but your training needs to be orientated around triathlon.

Things to consider including in your triathlon training:

Brick sessions:
Short fast runs off a decent hard bike (2 x 5-min running at just over anticipated race pace) - get used to the feeling of changing disciplines and running out harder than expected.

Tempo runs off long steady bikes:
So you are not too fatigued from the bike, but you have been in the saddle long enough to create some fatigue and activated all your cycling muscles. Then as you run tempo (10-15% slower than race pace) you are having to overcome this postural change and activate the muscles under load in a suitable way.

If you run with a high cadence try to ensure you are doing this off the bike. It needs to be a longish run judging by the durations you are competing over.

Other things to consider:

Are you taking on enough energy to provide the fuel for this duration? Have a look at our answer to another question about race nutrition for some advice on when and how to fuel during a triathlon race.

Pacing on the bike:
Front load your effort during a race, and then back off more over the last 10-12K of the race. This will require discipline as people you have passed may come back by. But you will then be in a better position to run off the bike. Practice this in training.

Fartlek training for speed:
This is continuous running but including variations in pace. This will help to develop cardiovascular fitness as well as conditioning you to run over the longer durations. Use hills on your long steady runs but steer clear of them in short interval reps. The distance you are racing over (half-Ironman) are not orientated around speed and power, but endurance and cardiovascular fitness (the engine).

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Jun 07, 2012
Intelligent Triathlon Training replies:
by: Intelligent Triathlon (Mark)

As a standard I would say mix up running regularly with quality sessions – they key is balance and using the different types of training at appropriate times.

Start with regular (not necessarily every day) runs that are of a duration that you will be able to build upon over the weeks ahead. Try not to push the limits in any one run, just keep them under control so you can repeat over the following days.

Then after 6 - 8 weeks introduce some quality. Again not much, just one session a week, where you begin to build the intensity. As it is an Ironman you are training for, anything over your second threshold (LT2 – for more information read our lactate thresholds page) is not really that relevant. Something like 10 x 1minute at 10K pace with an easy jog as recovery for 1 minute. Build the number of reps rather than the speed. These can then be lengthened out to 10 x 2 minutes then 10 x 3 minutes and so on, as you get fitter.

I don’t really subscribe to a 'volume' or 'quality' perspective, rather use each, when it is appropriate. The key thing to remember is that you want to run a marathon AFTER the swim and bike. Many people go into the Ironman and are disappointed with their run, as they feel they had been training better. This is normally a result of over emphasis on 'quality' in training. Under the fatigue of a triathlon they cannot replicate that form, because they have trained to improve their performance in the run only.

Jun 07, 2012
Thank you
by: Dani

Hi, this was really great feedback and info. It will help me a lot to adjust my training. I do have one more question. Does it make sense to try to run every day even if it is short runs or is it better to do more quality runs?

In magazines I read both and not sure which one will be more useful. Some people write run as much as possible, others say only do quality runs.

What do you think?


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