Running Off The Bike
Losing the heaviness that the quads feel off the bike is the key to a great run. How can one do this?
Know what causes it.
There are two main reasons why the legs go south after the bike. The first reason is that most of your blood has been shunted to your quads while you ride (vasodilatation) — i.e. masses of blood pools in these muscles and is still there as you exit out on the run. This awkward heavy feeling stays until the blood drains from this area and is moved to the running muscles (hamstrings & calves).
The second reason is a neural one. Your legs have been informed continually to pedal and they have settled and grooved themselves in that pattern of sequential firing. Suddenly in T2 they are required to bear your full weight many times over in a completely different pattern—untrained, they may take too long to adapt and premature fatigue can set in. That might not have occurred if they were phased in more gradually. Your running ability has been switched off (de-facilitated) and needs to be switched on—facilitated.
Now you know why. So how do you beat it?
Ideally the best possible 10km run occurs when an athlete is fit, tapered, facilitated, in the right frame of mind and warmed up. Triathletes do not have this privilege. T2 needs to be set up so that as many of these “ideal” factors are made available as possible.
The ideal transition from bike to run ensures that: blood flushes and redistributes, race run tempo is phased in, steady state is held, surges can be taken or dealt out, and finally a kick is available.
Blood pooling, de-facilitation, disrupted sequential firing, sudden weight bearing, loss of coordination all contribute to a loss of confidence. By training according to the law of specificity and doing as much simulation work as possible the triathlete can overcome both the physical and mental demands of the bike to run transition. The reward—the smallest possible differential between flat running speeds and triathlon running speed.
Gradual progression into transition workouts will lead to callusing and adaptation, until no “weird” feeling but that of exertion is felt off the bike.
Introduce your legs to transition training by having medium length rides (90:00mins) followed by medium intensity runs (35 to 45mins).
Begin real transition work at sub maximal intensities, but not at easy pace either. Heart rate on the run is a great indicator of how your legs are able to carry blood backs to the heart and lungs for re-oxygenation—the closer your heart rate to your non-triathlon 10km racing heart rate the better.
First build up to race intensity with short sessions, and then add volume at the same intensity. The neural pathway changes in sequential firing should be trained first, once you’ve achieved this, the necessary strength and muscle endurance can be added.
SUGGESTED TRANSITION “Progressive” WORKOUTS: Sprint & Olympic Distance
Try to add these to your weekly workouts through out your season!
• (Pre-Season) 15 mile Bike Z2-3 followed by a 2-3 mile Run Z2
• (Building Season) 20 mile Bike Z2-3 followed by a 4-5 mile Run Z2-3
• (Racing season) 12 min Bike on Trainer at variable speeds Z2-4 followed by a 1200 Track Run at variable speeds Z3-5 (Repeat 3-4 times)
Note: Zones 1-5 represents: Z1 = easy intensity to Z5 = Max. intensity!
As the racing season approaches, you can cut back slightly on your transition/brick training by maintaining your ability off the bike during bike training. Make sure you have your running shoes handy after your two most demanding bike sessions in the week. As soon as you get off the bike, pop on your shoes and go out for a firm run till you settle into race rhythm and then just warm down shortly there after.
• Hill training. Formal hill training has a great carry over value onto the bike, helps your running immensely and is the next best way to help your bike to run transition after brick training.
• Facilitate on the bike. Prior to transition get out of the saddle and “honk” in a heavier gear—this simulates the running motion, begins to alter firing patterns and redirects blood to running muscles.
• Finally, as the last minutes of the bike ride pass, subtly stretch your quads, hamstrings and calves by shifting emphasis in your pedal stroke. Drop the heels on the pedals to stretch the calves—both with bent and straight knee and drop the chest towards the bars with 1st one leg straight, then the other.
At the elite/amateur levels, transitions should present no problems to the physically and mentally prepared racer. With clever simulation training and good bike discipline, you should be able to hit your stride immediately off the bike!