Maybe you are a runner by background or maybe you are a cyclist but you’ve signed up for a triathlon or maybe done one in the past and are giving it another shot. Whatever your single sport background, it’s likely you will not be totally prepared for T2 and the run leg. Or, as it’s commonly called “running off the bike” in triathlon.
I’ve gotten on the podiums with a good T2 and run my way all the way to top of the (AG) podium with a good run leg. It wasn’t be accident. Just like you train hard in the individual elements, you can train, practice and prepare to crush the back half of your next triathlon.
Here are my 6 essential tips for running better and faster off the bike in your next triathlon.
Use the treadmill!
I’ve written before about how you don’t need to dread the tread. It can be a great training tool when it has a specific purpose. One thing the treadmill is great for in triathlon (or just running in general) is using the strictly controlled pace to work on increasing your cadence.
Running on the treadmill can you practice running at a high turnover or rhythm, even as fatigue sets in.
When you run with a high cadence it will help get your legs feeling “normal” again more quickly. Psychological, it also makes you feel like you are going faster, creating a positive feedback loop that can help you mentally and further, feed into other aspects of your running form.
Don’t neglect the roller
You’ve just spent 25, 50, or maybe 112 miles hammering the bike. You are going to be tight, tired and maybe sore getting out of the saddle. This is where the time spent stretching and rolling pays off. Pliability is important. Regular rolling, stretching and mobility drills are very effective at helping your body adapt and adjust between intense, yet different activities.
Run a lot (on tired legs)
Embrace the brick! Practicing getting off the bike and running, even for just 10 minutes will really help. This will both help train your body to activate and adjust your muscles off the bike, but it’s also a good opportunity to develop patience and pacing on the run. You will want to build up to your running pace to net your fastest run leg.
Along with specific brick workouts, look at your overall plan and try to set up challenging run workouts after challenging bike workouts to better simulate race pace and effort. The pacing and perceived effort developed solely from run workouts or run workouts while totally fresh can throw off your race day performance with an unrealistic and unmaintainable pace plan.
Develop your overall fitness
If you think you’re doing everything right but still find a big drop between your training runs and your race day performance, it might pay to look at your overall aerobic fitness. If your fitness isn’t totally up to par, the drop in run performance may be down to the energy (and fitness) you expended on the first two legs.
Fuel up on the bike
For longer triathlons, staying on top of calories and spacing them out evenly is another important piece of running well off the bike. Its easier to eat on the bike, so take advantage of it.
Also, don’t neglect the hydration if you are taking in calories through gels. Its sometimes hard to feel how much you are sweating on the bike. Keep drinking, early and often.
Cut back on fueling about 20-30 minutes before the end of the bike to give your stomach time to digest and settle before the jostling of the run starts. Ensuring that the calories you consume digest well while racing hard can make the difference between a great run split and a shuffle run to the finish.
Bike pacing & cadence
I’ve heard many guys post-race touting their bike time yet failing to mention they blew up or walked across the line during the run. You need to race the bike to perform well, but you need to race smart and even and aim for a split where there are not excessive spikes or drops in watts during the course of the race.
It’s the same for cadence. Avoid spikes or drops in the average cadence to help set up a good run. In general even pace and power should lead to an even split between the first and second half of the bike which should set everything up for a great finish.
One quick exception? Toward the end of the bike, when you’re paring back your eating and drinking, increase your cadence by 5-10 rpm to prime your legs for the run.
Bottom line, you don’t need to dread T2. Everyone gets off the bike and faces the run on tired, heavy, wobbly legs, but if you’ve practiced and trained for that moment, you’ll be ready to shake off that feeling and power through the finish with a great run.