Improve your triathlon running and give duathlons a go with Eric Schwartz | EP#19
Many promising triathlon races have fallen flat on the run.
Somebody who has made running off the bike his biggest strength is Eric Schwartz, former elite triathlete and duathlete. Among other accomplishments, Eric won the US national championships in duathlon in 2004. Today Eric and I discuss run training for triathletes, as well as why triathletes should give duathlons a go, and how to do that from both a training and racing perspective.
In this Episode you'll learn about:
- Run training for triathletes - what type of run workouts should you do, how much running should your plan contain and at what intensity levels.
- How to adapt your run training to your ability level and your goal race distance.
- The most common mistakes triathletes do in their running.
- Why triathletes should consider giving duathlons a go.
- How to train for a duathlon goal race.
- Duathlon race strategies.
- Raced triathlons and duathlons at an elite level for 16 years
- Coach since 2000
- 2004 US Duathlon National Champion
What is your take on run training for triathletes?
- The biggest thing is to be consistent year round with your running. This applies to duathletes, triathletes, good and bad runners.
How often would you run as a serious triathlete with and as a beginner triathlete with fewer workouts a week?
- For those who do 11-12 workouts, I would say 4 running. For those that do 5-6, I would say a minimum of 2 running.
If you do four runs per week, how do you structure those runs?
- One should be your long run. One is an easy run and two should have intensity.
- The intensity that you have should depend on the time of the year. If it’s closer to your race, it should be near your race pace intensity or faster. If it is more off season, it can be Zone 3 or Zone 4 (Joe Friel's intensity zones) which is moderate intensity or faster.
What is the difference in training between the different distances in triathlon?
- If you have good run fitness, it can translate into any of the distances. This goes back to being more consistent year round in your run fitness.
- Training for Ironman, you are going to need longer bricks, longer runs where it could be two hours on the long runs, some people go more. I tend to be not so heavy on the long runs as far as going really long.
- If you are going for a sprint or Olympic distance triathlon, you need more race intensity which can also be helpful for the longer race. For a lot of people, the run is very challenging for them and it will have big impact on their time so you have to be ready to run 5k or 10k off the bike. So you can do bricks and end it with a 5k or 10k run and mix in intensity. For people who are not good runners, put a 10k at the end of the brick where the first mile might be fast, second mile is a little easier, maybe zone 2, and then repeat that. So you got mile one, three and five are faster and mile two, four and six in zone 2.
What is your take on run technique and how do you factor that into your training?
- I don’t have a good answer because I hear so many people with conflicting advice and it is not something I focus on maybe as much I should with other people. A lot of athletes that I coach I’m doing it online or over a distance, so it is harder for me to work on. I can’t claim to be an expert on that and I don’t have a magical answer for good running technique. I think overall, if you become a better runner, your running technique will improve but I don’t have a magical answer for that.
Should triathletes do more duathlons and is it beneficial to combine the two?
- I don’t think it is a necessity for triathletes to do duathlons to be good but they can force you to get in shape a little bit easier if you do some early in the season where there aren’t any triathlons. Something that benefits all athletes is pacing. I feel most runners in general are not very good with pacing. If you mess up your pacing in a duathlon, you will have to pay bigger price because most duathlons go run, bike, run. 90% of athletes could not pace themselves correctly.
Would you say you pay the most for incorrect pacing in the first or second segment of a duathlon?
- The first run is more important for the pacing. The second would probably be the bike because it is such a big chunk of the race. If I were to choose between the bike and the second run I would say the bike. This is where having a power meter can have a huge difference for knowing how to pace yourself. You can have it and know you should pace yourself correctly but for whatever reason people just don’t do it. Once you get that, you will just become faster and racing will become easier.
When you coach an athlete, do you have them set a goal pace based on key workouts?
- In the actual workout, I don’t necessarily give that specific pace.
- I like to give have athletes run 5k:s or 10k:s to work on pacing. I find it hard in athletes where running is not their favorite sport and they are still reluctant to do those races but I feel that it is good for them because one, it gives them a benchmark of where they are and two, it gives them a chance to work on their pacing.
Do you have other specific race tips for duathlons other than pacing?
- Good transitions is important for any race but the shorter the race the more important they become. Fuel correctly for longer races. One other tip which works for duathlon and triathlon, if running is a big weakness for you then this will probably not make much of a difference, but you can still try it, and this is somewhat counter intuitive to my thing about good pacing, is you start out of your second transition really fast. This gets your legs moving and this more likely results in a better second run.
Did you target duathlon races specifically?
- I was doing triathlons and one thing I did not do well in my career was just focus on one sport. So I was best at duathlons and the Ironman distance because swimming was a weakness for me. So in 2004, when I won Nationals, I think maybe the two years prior I finished second or third in Nationals. In 2004, I was training for Ironman Wisconsin. In that year I had a slow start but I was training with Gordo Byrn and Klas Bjorling, and I was doing a lot of training for Ironman focusing on Ironman Wisconsin. I was not going to go to duathlon Nationals, they were in Atlanta, and I honestly don’t remember because that was 12 years ago. But in an email conversation with somebody like four days before the race I decided I might as well go do it. So I did it, booked my trip last minute and ended up winning. I was glad I was able to get that before the end of my career.
Let us say that you are targeting duathlon specifically, how would you then structure your training?
- Dropping swim training for a lot of people will just immediately get them a little bit faster because they have more energy.
- To target a duathlon, the run is usually more important, not always, it depends on the race, but your running has to really be in good shape and your pacing has to be good. I would say you've got to add more running and more race intensity running. If it is the duathlon World Championships, they do have draft legal now, then that makes the run even more important. Add more run workouts, that could be two intense run workouts a week depending on your level and the week. Then it could be a brick that also has a run intensity.
- Then your cycling, just like triathlon, could be more time trial focused. If you drop one, the thing that you could add more if is running as opposed to more cycling and you will get more benefit from that.
When you do your brick workouts for duathlon, do you do run, bike, run, or do you do mostly do bike, run workouts?
- Mostly bike, run but sometimes run, bike, run especially as you are getting close to your key race I like doing run, bike, run workouts. Sometimes it will be a bike, run with high intensity, then a brake, and then a bike, run. It could be something like you do your warmup, then the first bike might be 15 minutes at zone 4 to 5, then 1 mile fast, then a 5 minute break, then repeat that with the second bike a little shorter but this is a workout that is not in the bike, run format.
Rapid fire segment
- What is your favorite book, blog or resource related to triathlon or duathlon? Joe Friel’s blog and Triathletes Training Bible.
- What is your favorite piece of gear or equipment? GPS device and Power meter.
- What personal habit has helped you achieve triathlon and duathlon success? As a runner in college, running twice per day. As a multi-sport athlete, eating a better diet.
- What is your favorite race? Buffalo Springs Lake Half Ironman and Ironman Hawaii.
- What do you wish you had known or had done differently at some earlier point in your triathlon journey? The biggest thing was I trained mostly year round but until late in my career my training intensity was too low in the off season where I could have been doing more zone 3 and 4 work. I felt like I could have gotten more benefit out of that as opposed to a couple of months of super easy training.