I continue to be amazed at the level of performance that a number of you are reaching this year. We had club members competing in no less than three different triathlons over the weekend!
I have spoken to some of those who competed at Fritton Lake on Sunday and got the lowdown on how people fared. In short, pretty damn good! Amanda 'Minky' Wilmer (club captain) won her age group. Ellen Greaves won her age group. Dave Price took a massive chunk off his PB and all the other lads competing finished under 2hr 30mins with five of them doing 2hr 20mins or better. Paul smoked the swim, Stuart and Felipe smoked the bike and 'G.I' Joe smoked the run with Seb, Tim S and Tim P hot on their heels. You can check out the results online here.
With a number of those competing at Fritton Lake stepping up to Olympic distance for the first time a common complaint was how difficult the first lap of the two lap run felt. It is a technical run course, off-road with plenty of twists and turns in it, this does makes it difficult to find a rhythm initially. Running 10km after biking 40km is also a very different sensation to running 5km after biking 20km. So what can you do to make the transition easier?
It is true that I spend my spare time trawling electronic databases for research articles that link exercise to either injury or performance. Some call it geeky. I prefer to think of it as having a keen interest in the subject. "Cycling has a negative effect on some highly-trained triathletes ability to execute optimal neuromotor strategies specific to running" (Chapman et al 2008 and 2009). What the? To summarise, cycling prior to running means that you do not activate your muscles in the same way that you do when running on fresh legs. Surprised? Neither am I.
Practising the transition from bike to run is one way of improving your ability to cope with running off the bike in a race. The bike to run brick is a key training session in any triathlete's training program. Different coaches and athletes will place more or less of an emphasis on such sessions. One thing I would say is that your key run session should be run on fresh legs and your key bike session should finish on the bike. Why? Running on fatigued legs may increase your injury risk and/or reduce the quality of your key run session. You are also likely to finish your key bike session more fatigued that you would be following the bike leg of a triathlon. So I suggest running off a moderate intensity ride. You do not need to run 10km off the bike either when training for an Olympic distance race. You only need to run for as long as it takes for your body to adapt from bike to run. All things being equal you should notice this time coming down with training.
Some recent research by Bonacci et al (2011) suggests plyometric training may help the transition from bike to run too. Plyometric training is a specific form of strength training that utilises the stretching-shortening cycle of muscles with activities such as jumping, bounding and hopping (See why I make you do those silly drills on Tuesday!). The muscles shorten rapidly after they have been lengthened rapidly just like many muscles do when running. In this study, with plyometric training, the triathletes' muscle activation patterns when running off the bike were more like the activation patterns seen when they ran fresh. The small sample size in the study means we should be cautious when interpreting the results but at least there is some preliminary research to support the theory that plyometric training may help the bike to run transition.
There are of course numerous other factors that contribute to how well you run off the bike. Your strength on the bike, your pacing strategy, your energy status pre-race, your nutrition and hydration strategies, your position on the bike just to name a few. So it is not as simple as adding some bike run bricks and plyometrics into your training. With more training and racing experience I am quite sure running off the bike will get easier.
This weekemd is our long aerobic swim session. Given where we are in the season though we will be practising some race skills too and yes you will need your fins! This weekend's run session is a combination of 200s and 800s. So you get to swim slow(ish) but you have to run fast!
Just for a bit of a laugh check out this video it's pretty funny. The joys of big city cycling huh?
All the best to those guys off to Wimbleball this weekend; Coach Karl, Andrew Finn, 'G.I.' Joe Dale; Gabriel Sayer and Coach Scott; do us proud lads!
See you later in the week. Tim (LFTC Coach)