By Peter Holmes on 17/11/09 at 9:53 pm
With a plethora of individual sports to compete in, running races may actually be your best way to improve your final discipline during a triathlon. Because of the relative ease of organising single discipline events there are far more road, cross country or track opportunities than triathlons which can be utilised throughout the year to assist with specialising the necessary skills to improve the run split during multisport.
Taking to the road will offer several ways to increase your triathlon performance. Namely it will allow you to get an idea of how fast you can actually run for a distance, providing a useful gauge of fitness against which you can measure your training progression. Secondly, the intensity you race at will generally be higher than that used during training, pushing you harder and giving a really good workout. Thirdly it’s a great way of getting used to the psychological demands of racing, allowing you to recreate the nervous energy before the start of the race, the initial adrenaline shot and the pain threshold.
With opportunities aplenty over a variety of distances look for local events where there is a possibility to cycle to the race. Adding a gentle spin before the start line will provide you with a useful warm up and help replicate the sensation of moving from the bike to run phase of a triathlon. Aim to eat similar foods during the day to those you would take in before a key race, nailing down a nutrition strategy will help make your big race days a success.
Many elite athletes warm up for their seasons by dabbling with running events. Jarrod Shoemaker from the USA started 2009 with some fine performances racing over 5km, clocking close to 14 minutes on two occasions, whilst Alistair Brownlee showed some ominous early season form heading into the Madrid Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series with a top performance in the Manchester 10k.
Make sure you choose a day according to your training plan, maybe when you can have an easier day afterwards to recover fully, and so that the race does not impact on future key workouts or sessions where you need to be relatively fresh to get the maximum benefit. Although it is tempting to go flat out, aim to run hard but not to your maximum. Pushing the body’s limits can cause muscular damage, fatigue and increases the risk of injury. Don’t race hard in the two weeks building up to one of your season’s target triathlons, use this time of make sure you are fresh and prepared for the start line.
Aside from road racing look out for shorter track events, such as 3km or 5km. These disciplines require strong mental focus as there are not many distractions when running around a track, which is always beneficial for longer endurance events. Cross country or trail running can also offer a new dimension with the addition of hills and mud requiring a larger proportion of strength and power output from the leg muscles.
The most important thing is to have fun and enjoy divulging in a single sport without the pressure of making it a key race.