Go From a Great Runner to a Great Triathlete

Go from great runner to great triathlete with these tips from three pros who did just that.

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Jesse Thomas (USA)

Run Cred
• USA National Championships, 12th place 3km steeplechase (2002)
• Pac-10 champion 3km steeplechase (2001)

Tri Cred
• Six-time Wildflower winner
• Ironman Lanzarote winner (2016) • Ironman Wales winner (2016)

The Struggle: Though Jesse Thomas’ run pedigree gave him strength on land, his swim suffered early in his career (“It sucked. A lot,” he says). Midway through his second year as a pro triathlete, however, he began making the second group of the swim. “All of a sudden I was coming out of the water with other guys and felt more competitive,” Thomas says.

Pro Advice: “Just be patient with the swim. It will probably take a couple of years before you feel like yourself athletically out there in the water. But it will come. You have to remember that the good swimmers have 10 to 15 years of extra practice on you—that’s something you can’t just make up for with athleticism.”

Favorite Main Set: 8x (75, 100, 125) all on the same sendoff (1:30 for Thomas). “The point is lots of rest after the 75, little bit of rest after the 100, then 125 balls out with 1-3 seconds rest, then straight into a moderate 75.”

Renee Tomlin (USA)

Run Cred
• U.S. Olympic Trials, semifinalist 1500m (2012)
• Big East winner 800m (2011)

Tri Cred
• Two-time Tiszaujvaros ITU World
• Cup winner; Chengdu ITU World Cup winner (2015)

The Struggle: Though Tomlin was a competitive high school swimmer, she took eight years off to focus on running full-time. “With those eight years essentially ‘out-of-the-water,’ I had to first get my feel back,” she says. Her big turning point was when she made the front pack at Yokohama WTS in 2016. “This was one of the best feelings in a race I’ve experienced.”

Pro Advice: “I highly suggest working with a triathlon, open-water, or general swim coach as a beginner. This will help build a swim vocabulary and framework for the fundamentals you’ll require in order to find your rhythm in the water.”

Favorite Main Set: 3x (10x 100) best average with a break between sets. “This one mixes endurance and speed—while testing your ability to maintain form, technique, and stroke rate.”

Melissa Hauschildt

Run Cred
• Cross-Country World Championships, 11th place (2006)
• Goodwill Games winner 3km steeplechase (2001)

Tri Cred
• 17-time Ironman 70.3 winner
• Three-time Ironman winner

The Struggle: Hauschildt’s non-swimming background didn’t do her any favors when she first joined a swim squad in her early years in the sport. “I was getting beaten by skinny little 10 year olds that weren’t even trying,” she says. However, Hauschildt was able to improve through hard work and a little humility. “My big moment was when I got promoted to the 12-year-olds’ lane.”

Pro Advice: “Runners as usually terrible at stretching. I’d suggest stretching and getting regular massage if you want to improve your swim. Swimming is also all about technique. It doesn’t matter how fit, strong, and fast you are at running, if you don’t understand swim technique you’ll be banging your head against a wall.”

Favorite Main Set: 8x 100 max effort with at least one-minute recovery (on 2:30 for Hauschildt) “Once you complete it, you feel like you’ve really achieved something. If you do it at 100 percent, that is.”

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