Capitalize on your end-of-season tri fitness to boost your run speed in 2017.
As the triathlon season comes to an end, it’s the perfect time to take all of your hard-earned fitness and use it as a springboard to improve your running. Your annual fitness is at an all-time high as you peak for your last triathlon of the year, and it’s an ideal chance to have a goal marathon or half-marathon late in the season. If you are ending your tri season with an iron-distance race, you’ll want to give your run legs a break before embarking on run training again. However, if you are an athlete who is finishing your triathlon season with a half-iron or shorter distance race, here’s how to maximize your tri fitness to be even stronger off the bike in 2017.
Ramping up volume here makes perfect sense as you already have plenty of run volume in your legs, and backing off on the bike and swim will give you the extra energy you need to safely increase mileage. As you are building toward an end-of-the-season run race, focus more on quality and race-specific pacing. For a marathon, you can focus on tempo efforts during your long run—starting with 2 x 3 miles at marathon pace. You can add 2 miles every other week, so the next session would be 2 x 4 miles, and two weeks later you would bump up to 2 x 5 miles, etc. For a half-marathon you’d be looking at finishing your long runs with 30–45 minutes at half-marathon pace. Eventually you could build up to 3 x 20 minutes at half-marathon pace during your long run. These types of workouts are going to give your running the race specificity it needs. Due to the marathon or half-marathon build-up, this block of training would be one of your higher volume blocks of training for the season.
Bottom line: Build up volume and end season with a key running race.
Once the final race is in the books, give yourself a break to mentally recharge, but let’s not allow that fitness to go to waste. Instead we’ll use it to kick off your winter speed sessions, whether they be on the treadmill or outside. My definition of speedwork is running one minute or less at a 5K or faster pace. Using something like Billat’s 30:30 method would be ideal as you work on economy and speed concurrently. How it works: In short, you run a six-minute, best-effort test. Once you calculate your pace, your workouts would focus on 30-second efforts at the same pace as your six-minute test with 30-second rests. Your goal would be to build to 30 x 30-second reps, and then moving to 15 x 1 minute and eventually 4 x 3 minutes at that same speed. This type of training will do wonders for your run economy and speed. This period should last about six weeks and, due to the intensity, will be one of your lower running volume blocks.
Bottom line: Work on economy and speed, starting with 30-second efforts at VO2max.
When spring comes and you are running outside more often, you can hit the hills for more strength and increase your mileage since you’ll be able to get your long runs done outside more consistently. The addition of more daylight after work helps as well. I suggest beginning with a series of hill repeats, starting with 4–6 x 2 minutes up a decent graded hill or treadmill setting of around 4–7 percent. This period can last up to six weeks as well, as you move into race season. You can build up to 15 x 2 minutes for this set. The volume can increase for this block since you are limiting the high intensity and starting to really focus on strength building.
Bottom line: Start to work on strength work, like hill repeats.
Once you are into the 2017 tri race season, it’s time to ramp up the long runs again to something that relates to your key race of the season. In addition it’s time to do more race-specific running in your training, whether it’s on the track, on the roads or even a combo where the key sessions come off the bike. Your volume here should be consistent with the spring block, and if you can add volume without incurring an injury, go for it. The key sessions are race-specific and, in my opinion, take precedence over more run miles.
Bottom line: Work on race-specific workouts to match your racing for the season.
Mike Ricci is a USAT Level III certified coach and the 2013 USAT Coach of the Year. He founded D3 Multisport in Boulder, Colo.