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The Triathlon Run: Are you bricking it? by Pro Triathlete Alice Hector

Stockholm, Sweden - August 23, 2014: Harris and Petsov in a group of competitors running in the ITU World Triathlon series event August 23, 2014 in Stockholm, Sweden

Legs like jelly? Limbs possessed by alien life form? Lower extremities doubled in weight? That’s the usual feelings associated with trying to haul yourself from your bike and to the finish line of a triathlon. Regardless of how fast a runner you might be, if you’ve not practiced your art straight from a hard cycle ride, you’ll be in for a mighty shock.

The good news? It can get better!

Like anything, practice makes perfect, and if you recreate what you need to do in your event in your training, you’ll find those jelly legs will soon turn into something much more robust. In fact, the most seasoned triathletes can run almost as fast off the bike as they can in a straight run race. How come?

In my experience, the bike sets you a rhythm and once you get to the run, you’re keyed into that, so you don’t go off like a rocket as you see so many do in pure run races: your pacing is more even. Added to this, once the resistance disappears from the strength element of the bike, my legs can feel free and they’re certainly well ‘warmed up*’….

But it’s getting to that stage where you can operate under severe loading and fatigue. And that takes time and tips.

Tip 1.

Brick it.

Known as a ‘brick session’ (because you ‘stack one session on top of another), get into the habit of running off the bike at least once a week. It doesn’t have to be really long and arduous, but 5-10 minutes at ‘race pace’ will start to condition your legs in the right way. As a pro, I sometimes do hard bike sessions straight into hard run sessions, but be aware of accumulative fatigue when starting out.

Tip 2.


As aforementioned, sometimes one can get off the bike and feel as light as a feather. This is the best case scenario, but in the likely event that this doesn’t happen, you can still run well by focussing on high turnover. Your legs are likely to have lost some elasticity from the pre-run pummelling, so we can counteract lack of bounce with fast feet (sometimes known as the ‘ironman shuffle’). Not graceful, but very effective. Again, you’ll need to practice this in training for it to become second nature. Aim for 3 strides per second.

Tip 3.

Fuel fuel fuel.

I was speaking to a former elite runner turned champion triathlete a while back. Let’s call her Mabel. Mabel told me she was shocked when, on one of her first 2 hr bike rides, her new training compatriot brought out an energy bar and proceeded to eat it. “How greedy is she?!” thought Mabel, before going hypoglycaemic 30 minutes later. Lesson learned. Track runners don’t tend to need to fuel sessions in the same way triathletes do, and the concept of eating whilst training can be a strange one. Whilst it’s vital not to overdo it, it’s imperative to get off the bike and have enough energy to run. In events over 1 hr, you’ll burn way more than you can store, so you need to fuel on the bike. I have tried to run several times having under-fuelled in racing and training and it’s nothing short of a death march. So don’t be like me, or Mabel.

These 3 pointers will help you hold your form all the way through to the finish. Unless we’re talking Tokyo 2020, you don’t have to be a fast runner to hold your position off the bike: you just have to be strong and strategic. Good luck!




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