Duathlon: How to ace the second run

Duathlon second run

Nothing brings more lead-legged discomfort in duathlon than the dreaded second run.

After five years of duathlon racing, that bike-run transition hasn’t felt any easier. I’ve had second runs where I’ve almost threw up my drink, runs reduced to a relative shuffle and runs where—oh happy day—I ran well and passed several competitors.

With proper training, pacing and fueling, you can improve your run off the bike and cruise to a successful finish.

Master the brick

To run well off the bike you have to practice running off the bike. Incorporate at least one bike-run brick a week into your training. When you’re just starting out, don’t worry about pace. Just run.

Froome run off bike
It’s safe to say Froome didn’t practice his off-the-bike run before stage 12 of Tour de France, 2016.

As you progress, add intensity to your brick. Try a one-hour bike with the last 10 minutes at race pace, followed by a short run with the first five minutes at race pace.

Jason Digman, former head of Dig It Triathlon and Multisport Coaching, recommends what I call the “multi-brick.” After a warmup, perform three sets of one-mile run, 10-minute bike, with no recovery in between. Keep your first multi-brick at race pace plus 15 to 20 seconds. Over the course of four weeks, progress up to race pace.

Play with the distance of your run and bike intervals depending on your goal race’s length. Bonus: you get lots of transition practice!

Du second-run strides

Albert Harrison, a USA Track & Field Level 2 Coachand a USA Triathlon national champion in both the standard and long-course duathlon, recommends a set of short intervals right off the bike. Running fast right away helps your body overcome that jelly-leg feeling and—surprise surprise!—run fast off the bike.

Harrison suggests 20-second strides or 400-meter repeats faster than goal race pace. “Be careful though,” he wrote me via Twitter, “you’re more susceptible to injury while running on tired legs.”

Jesse Bauer, an elite duathlete based in Edmonton, Canada, agrees. Why? Because short, fast efforts promote a high leg cadence off the bike.

Bauer’s favorite second-run speed workouts are 200-meter repeats at faster than goal race pace, or 5x 30-seconds, followed by a 30-second walk/jog recovery, straight into a 1-2K race pace effort.

“Paid off big on the steep hill out of T2 on Friday,” he told me via Twitter, referring to the recent ITU World Multisport Championships in Fyn, Denmark, where he competed in the elite men’s standard duathlon.

If it’s early in your season or you haven’t done much stride work, build intensity gradually to avoid injury. Start with a couple sets of 30-second strides, with a full recovery jog in between.

Focus on form.

Top age-group competitor and multisport coach Suzanne Cordes keeps her focus on good form during the second run—that time when you see many runners hunched over, shuffling along or walking.

During your interval or faster running workouts, focus on how you hinge your hips, how you run tall, how you maintain good form. Think about that powerful stride when you bolt out of T2, she says.

magnet

When you settle into your second-run pace, use the magnet trick suggested by sports psychologist and Your Performing Edge author Dr. JoAnn Dahlkoetter:

Imagine your competitor has a magnet on her back. Let it pull you toward her. If there’s no one in eyesight, put the magnet on a tree or the top of a hill.

Don’t start out too fast.

Repeat: don’t start out too fast. When you’re well-rested and well-trained, it’s so easy to fly through the first run as if it’s a standalone race. Don’t. You’ll pay for it in the second run, if not on the bike.

The goal is to hit even splits—or as close to even as possible—on your first and second run. I accomplished my best races when I ran the second run pretty darn close to my first.

Endurance coach Eric Schwartz suggests the following: if your race involves two 5Ks, plan to run them about 30 to 60 seconds slower than your standalone 5K time. The faster your race pace, the less time you should add.

Digman suggests something similar. Add the distance of your run legs together and pace according to a run distance one step longer. For example, if your duathlon involves 10K of running, race according to your 10-mile race pace.

Your competitors may run away from you in the first run, but with smart pacing and training, you’ll pass them back in the end. Remember, Digman writes, “they don’t give away the medals for the first athlete into T1.”

What are your second run training tips? Let us know in the comments below!

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2017 year in review: success in spite of myself

I started mentally reviewing my 2017 racing season well before the holidays, but it took until now to get my thoughts on the page. In between, contributor Dr. Stephen Jonas provided helpful questions to ask when reviewing your racing season. Take a look!

For most of 2017, I criticized myself. My performance on the bike wasn’t up to par. I didn’t practice my transitions, which would have saved me precious seconds in important races. My running performance started off strong, but faded halfway through the year. I considered 2017 a wash.

But when I shifted my mindset and thought of my goals, I realized I had a pretty darn good year in spite of myself. Here are four things I’m proud of.

1. Top 10 in USA Track & Field/Pacific Region Road Grand Prix, short and long series.

USATF has annual team and individual competitions in road, cross country, mountain/ultra and track events. My club, Pamakid Runners, competes in all of these except track.

One of my 2017 goals was to earn “comped” status in both the short- and long-course road series. This requires placing in the top 10 in my division, 40+ women. Result: nailed it! I placed seventh in both. That means I receive free entry into 2018 short and long Grand Prix races. Yay, free! I got comped for the short series (10th) for 2015, but thanks to an injury, didn’t get to take advantage of the benefit.

2. USA Triathlon Duathlon National Champion

One of my all-time duathlon goals was to win my age group in a national championship race. Unexpectedly, I accomplished this at the USAT Duathlon Long-Course National Championships in Cary, North Carolina, in April.

IMG_0300

I had a lackluster race. (Can you tell I’m hard on myself?) My bike split was minutes slower than my expectation. I had acceptable run splits considering the heat and humidity. But I did my best on the day. Result: Age group win! Bonus: a “national champion” bike jersey that I’m a little embarrassed to wear.

3. Came out of half marathon hiatus

In February, I lined up to race the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon for the first time in 10 years. In between, I ran some trail halfs as training races, but didn’t specifically train for a half.

Why? After the 2007 KPSF 1/2 I ran a big PR, and then ended up with a stress fracture a week later. I became gun-shy about racing the half and focused on races from 5K to 10 miles. I soon got over my fear, but training for a half just didn’t fit…for a long time!

In 2017, I not only ran the KPSF 1/2, but also the Clarksburg Country Run in November (part of the road Grand Prix), where I placed third in my age group. Result: barrier broken. Bonus: I stayed healthy and still am!

4. Pamakid Runners Female Runner of the Year

Well this was unexpected! Each year my club hands out awards for male/female runner of the year (road and ultra), most improved and most inspirational. It also gives out an overall “Pamakid of the Year” and “Volunteer of the Year” award for members who go above and beyond to help the club and the running community at large.

I missed the club’s Christmas party, where they present the awards, only to discover a couple days later I won one! And here I thought I had a crappy 2017.

Pamakid Runners
At the Christmas Relays, belatedly receiving my award. Thanks Pamakids!

For most of 2017’s second half, my motivation to race took a nosedive due to caring for and losing my beautiful feline companion, Soleil. From the time I learned she had a tumor, in August, through the worst of the grief, I had no passion for racing or much else. I raced to keep my skills sharp and to spend time with my Pamakids family.

my cat
My pal for 15 and-a-half years and a sock monkey she didn’t like. Isn’t she the most beautiful cat ever?

I criticized myself (can you see a trend here?) for slower race times, but in spite of myself, I ran a lot of races and placed fairly well in them. I also volunteered a fair amount for my club. Taken all together, Pamakids saw something I didn’t. I’m grateful.

As 2018 picks up momentum, I have my enthusiasm back and my health intact. I’m working toward my 2018 goals with a renewed sense of commitment.

What are you most proud of in 2017? What did you learn? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Guest post: The basic 8 of regular exercise

Note: Thank you again to Dr. Steven Jonas for his contribution to this blog. This one is a topic that anyone can learn from. We get so caught up in train-race-repeat it’s easy to forget the underlying reasons we “du” what we do: to be healthy! Train wisely and race with “eyeballs out” (thank you Devon Yanko for the phrase), but remember the long game. 

My apologies again for not writing more often. Busy work, tending to a cat with cancer and a general burnout because of the first two took some wind out of my sails. I’m on the upswing again, so I hope to get back to a more regular schedule soon! Now, on to the expert! — Du it for You

The basic 8 of regular exercise

While some of us live where we can race year-round, in many parts of the country, even with the onslaught of global warming, winter is on its way. And as it comes, those of us who train year-round (which I happened to have done in my 34 years in duathlon), think about what we are going to do, how we are going to train, as the weather limits the amount of time we can safely spend outdoors.

Many years ago, with a strong assist from the legendary track coach Bill Bowerman1, I put together what I call the “Basic Eight of Regular Exercise.” They certainly have helped me to keep on truckin’, and given some thought, they might help you too.

blueberries
Because blueberries are healthy.
  1. The hard part of regular exercise is the regular, not the exercise. Believe me, I know, and live this principle very well. There are surely those mornings (and I workout in the morning) when man, I just don’t feel like getting going. But I do know just how important getting going is. While in my schedule (and I generally workout five days per week) I do take an occasional day off, most of the time I do get going, and then guess what? Ten minutes into the workout I’m very glad I did.

 

  1. The best exercise routine for you is the exercise routine that is best for you. There are numerous choices. One size does not fit all. This applies to duathlon as well as to training for it. There are so many articles that say “do it this way, and you are sure to…” Well, maybe, but, as I have said so many times, just because a particular writer says that it works for him/her, it does not mean that it will necessarily work for you.

 

  1. There are many reasons to exercise regularly, other than for race training. Most folks who do will tell you that regular exercise makes you feel better and feel better about yourself, as well as making you look better and look better to yourself. Those are certainly my principal reasons, even though as a preventive medicine doc I know there are plenty of health-promoting reasons to do it, too.

 

  1. Regular exercise can help you prevent and manage certain diseases and conditions. Regular exercise can reduce your risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, certain kinds of cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis (bone softening associated with aging), being overweight and even depression and chronic anxiety. There are no guarantees here, but the risk goes down for getting all of these major illnesses. It’s also very helpful in managing many of the same conditions.

 

  1. Gradual change leads to permanent changes. Over the course of my own racing life, I have found this one to be true over and over again.

 

  1. 6. Explore your limits; recognize your limitations. This applies to distances, to speed, to the frequency of racing, and to training as well. Can you go faster, go longer? Of course you can (just as I did in my early days in the sport…well, longer, anyway!). Do you want to stay in duathlon? Then you absolutely have to do what works for you, not for someone else.

 

  1. Effective mobilization of your motivation is the key to long-term success, both as a regular exerciser and then as a multisport racer. (We’ll be getting back to this key to exercising regularly in one or more future columns.)

 

  1. We can never be perfect; we can always get better. If you can embed this one in your mind, you can have a long and successful (for you) career in tri/duathlon, regardless of your speed or athletic ability.

1. Walsh, C., The Bowerman System, Los Altos, CA: Tafnews Press, 1983, chap. 3.

This column is based in part on an article that appeared earlier in my series for USA Triathlon, and is used with permission.

Image courtesy of Flickr

Will morning runs make you smarter?

Happy Christmas Eve Duathletes!! In the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle, don’t slack off too much on training. One great way to make sure you get it done is to get it done first thing. Morning runs, rides, or some combination leave you energized for the day ahead. And according to a recent study, running may make you more productive at work.

A University of Arizona study shows running stimulates part of the brain related to decision-making and planning. Much like playing a musical instrument, running helps improve memory and attention span. Read more here.

As I write this, I’m about an hour away from a long early morning bike ride. Unfortunately, the study didn’t analyze cycling, but if it did, and it posed similar benefits as running, I will return home able to recite the encyclopedia!

From your favorite Duathlon blog, have a very merry Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or just a very happy week between now and January 1. You may hear from me in the interim. If not, and in the meantime, follow me on Twitter @gorunbikerun.

 

Racing weekend: NOLA and NYC

Two big races take place on the first day sans Daylight Savings Time: the New York City Marathon and the USA Triathlon Draft-Legal Duathlon World Qualifier in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Draft-Legal Duathlon

Who’s racing in New Orleans? Do tell! The sprint-distance races kick off bright and shiny at 7:30 a.m. (Men 16-49), followed by the 50-plus men at 7:45 and the women at 10 a.m.

With lows in the mid ’60s, the men will have comfortable temps on race morning. Things will heat up for the women’s race, when the thermometer climbs to 72-75 degrees.

It could be worse. Have you ever visited New Orleans in the summer? Don’t! The hottest, sloppiest weather I have ever experienced was in New Orleans in August. It was well in the 90s, I think, with steam room humidity. The swimming pools felt like bath water and had big bugs floating in them.

There will be none of that this weekend, thank goodness. The course looks pretty straightforward and runs along the water, so I assume it’s pretty flat. I don’t remember hills in New Orleans. Of course, there’s lots I don’t remember about those trips, many years ago, for reasons you might expect.

For the curious, here is the start list. What’s draft legal racing all about? More about that in one of my previous blog posts.

Before I start my long run on Sunday, I plan to watch the TCS New York City Marathon. Will Dathan Ritzenhein do something special? Will Molly Huddle hit the podium in her marathon debut? Will super-triathlete Gwen Jorgensen break 2:30? (Let’s Run predicts 2:27.) We’ll find out in a few days!

Here’s what the men’s marathoners have to say leading up to race day. And here’s the scoop on the women’s race.

Whether you’re running, riding, or both this weekend, enjoy the fresh air and the gift of good health.