Podcast, Running

Q&A on run training (part 1) | EP#385

 April 10, 2023

By  Bernardo Gonçalves

LISTEN TO THE EPISODE HERE:

James & Mikael - That Triathlon Show

Mikael and James Teagle answer listener questions on the topic of run training for triathlon. 

In this episode you'll learn about:

  • Long-term strategies for improving running speed
  • Marathon preparation tips and strategies
  • Run training structure for various triathlon race distances and scenarios
  • How long should brick runs be for half and full distance triathlon?
  • Pacing in mountain/trail running
  • Using hills in training
  • Running, walking, or standing recoveries between intervals
  • Techy stuff: run power meters and lactate testing

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Shownotes

Rest between intervals

03:13 -

  • For most people, you want to keep moving to help remove any toxins and keep the blood flowing. There might be specific cases where you're just trying to build up some resistance to that.
  • It will depend on how fast you're running those intervals and your fitness level.
  • For a lot of workouts, it doesn't matter. What makes you feel best in performing intervals is the way to go. 
  • In the critical phase of a marathon, I tend to prescribe jog recoveries so that you have to do the race-based intervals with high fatigue.
  • You also want to keep moving in high-intensity intervals to maintain your VO2. 
  • If you do longer VO2 intervals, I prefer standing because they are long enough, but you could also walk. 

Should you run hills if you're going to race on hills?

05:03 -

  • Ideally, yes. I live in Cambridge, UK. 
  • It's utterly flat around here, so it can be pretty challenging. And so anyone in a similar situation to me can do things like some gym exercises, on a treadmill, putting out a gradient.
  • Gym exercises that can help are squats, step-ups, deadlifts, and lunges. 
  • There are differences in stride length.
  • I would mix up the terrain a bit. 
  • If you're doing your aerobic or even tempo runs, I don't see an issue with going on the hills as long as you can manage the load and intensity.
  • Use heart rate instead of pace.

Run-walk approach

06:46 -

  • It will help give your muscles a little break.
  • It depends on who you are, how much training you've done, and the aims of that particular session. 
  • If you're building your volume, it can be helpful to prevent injury.
  • I don't think all runners need to do it at all. 
  • I have one athlete returning from surgery, and we do many run-walks every run. 
  • I don't tend to prescribe them typically, but they could be underutilised.
  • Doing a 10-minute run one-minute walk might be as effective as constant running. 
  • If you are working on finishing your marathon, it is useful.
  • If your key intervals are later in the week, you might get as much aerobic benefit from the run walk, but you can save your muscles more.
  • If you're running on hills and your heart rate is high, it is an excellent time to walk. 

Long-term pathway for improving running speed

09:40-

  • Long-term consistency and increasing volume over time will help you with the running economy. You must do other things to get fast, but staying injury-free or time in zone two is also very important. 
  • Incorporating a bit of strength work and running drills
  • People do not focus on injury prevention; strength training and mobility are helpful. 
  • There is no shortcut here. 
  • The 10% rule is the biggest myth in training. 
  • If you start with one km, it's a slight increase, but when running 50 km a week, you increase by five km.

Measuring heart rate on the wrist. 

12:27 -

  • Heart rate data measured on the wrist is not good when you're running hard. Your hand and wrist move too much to get an accurate measurement. So I get a chest heart rate monitor and retest your zones. 
  • I'm in a situation where I have lost my heart rate monitor. 
  • So for the last few days, I've been running with the watch, and I permanently delete it in training peaks afterwards because I don't want to be confused by incorrect data. 
  • In this situation, there are some things like low plasma volume, which causes heart rates to go higher. 
  • You can retest your zones, which will probably differ after some time. If an experienced athlete knows how to use RPE, use it for a while.

Calculating caloric expenditure from run power

14:46 -

  • I don't use run power that much.
  • I don't think there's a validated method. 
  • The power that your Garmin calculates is different from Stryd, for example. 
  • They might be helpful in pacing, but it's not clear what exactly they are measuring. 
  • Stryd released some white papers claiming a good correlation with metabolic power.
  • A good rule of thumb is your body weight in kilograms times the number of kilometres you run, validated on a track. 
  • If you run on a hilly course, then it will be very different. 
  • Even with bike power meters, it's still an estimate.
  • Even if you could track that, you can't track your swimming calories or basal metabolic rate. 
  •  I don't find run power that reliable to use.

Lactate monitoring. What lactate levels to target during a threshold workout?

18:09 -

  • The best way to do this is to do a step test and get individual values. 
  • Do not rely on generic numbers because they probably won't be accurate. Generally, your second threshold will be around four mmol/L.
  • If you pick 4mmol/L, it is the same as picking 220 minus age for your max heart rate. 
  • Doing a step test is excellent if you have the opportunity. It's not something that you have to do. 
  • Testing within workouts is not that useful. 
  • It is good if you're doing a tempo session or ensuring that your lactate stays low enough. But I've been in these performance environments, and we weren't using it anywhere near the same extent as people think.
  • You probably don't need to use it as much as the media presents it. Yeah. I saw a new paper released recently, and they wanted to see the day-to-day variability in things like VO2max and lactate at specific power outputs. 
  • Lactate was an order of magnitude more variable than all the other things tested. If you do a ramp test and see where my curve tilts, you associate a heart rate with that.
  • If you try to use that exact lactate number, on one day, it might be four, but then on the next day, it might be 3.2, and your heart rate might be within two beats per minute every single day.
  • You're not a machine, and you will change daily. 

Long run in the different marathon training phases

22:11 -

  • The longest run will be around 20 miles. 
  • You probably build those long runs around 16 weeks before the event, starting at the 5-8 mile mark. However, it depends on who you are. Your long runs probably consist of around 30% of your weekly volume. 
  • You want to do about 8-12 weeks of the base, 4-8 weeks of build, and then a peak phase of 1-2 weeks and a taper phase of about 1-2 weeks. 
  • The base phase focuses on building endurance and developing the aerobic base.
  • In the build phase, you start introducing high-intensity workouts, a peak phase with more race intensities and then in the taper phase, you bring down the total training volume and allow the body to recover before your race.
  • For a beginner, I would say trying to do at least 30 km as their longest run.
  • For an intermediate, I agree with the 32 to 34km.
  • For somebody running 2h50 or faster, 34-38km.
  • If you're going for sub 2h30, you should do 38-42km.

Should I include intervals, hill repeats, and long base work runs in the same four-week cycle?

24:32 -

  • First, know what you want to work on and focus on that. 
  • For most people, you wouldn't want to work on everything at once. 
  • It also depends on your training history, strengths and weaknesses, and ability to handle the load. 
  • For a marathon, the long run is essential.
  • You also have marathon-specific sessions with a bit of pace intensity. However, try to manage the load properly and ensure you're getting the basics right before trying to make it too hard. 
  • If you do all the workouts, you quickly run into issues with too much intense work. 
  • You can identify your strengths and obtain the critical speed based on your history.
  • When you get closer to the race, the critical thing to do is the race specificity.

Moving from general fitness to specificity training

26:27 -

  •  You want to start with that general consistency and frequency. 
  • You want to establish the aerobic base because you want to have the miles in your legs to be able to then add on intensity.
  • So if you're an absolute beginner runner, you will take a while to do this. You want to build up a lot of frequency and volume. 
  • Add more intensity and make the sessions more specific as you get close to the race. 
  • The biggest kicker with a marathon is that you'll get injured if you get it wrong. 
  • When moving from the general preparation to specific preparation would be that the long runs would become marathon specific. 
  • You could do your long runs as easy aerobic runs.
  • When you move into the specific phase, I would include the marathon race pace in the long runs. (3x7-10km, for example)
  • I'm not advocating only doing zone two all the time. 
  • If you are a more advanced athlete with some history in the sport, you would probably do some faster sessions weekly, depending on your strengths and weaknesses. 

Build speed at the end of a marathon

29:53 -

  • The best thing to do would be to pace it right.
  • So don't go out too hard. Now just put it and have realistic expectations. If you can train with race-day nutrition, you don't have any surprises. And see what you can handle. Many people can't handle as much in the run as they would on the bike.
  • Take into account things like conditions. If it's scorching, you will run slower anyway. 
  • You could train specifically wise and do build runs, increasing the pace towards the end.
  •  It's about having good endurance to maintain speed. Pacing it right is the most important thing, as is nutrition and hydration.
  • If you've done your critical marathon-specific sessions, you know the pace that you can do.

Trail running this fall: what to do to minimise weaknesses or maximise strengths

32:34 -

  • You're taking more non-functional weight than you should be up there whether or not you want to address that because it might not be an issue. 
  • You can incorporate more hill running, thinking about your stride length, and building more strength in the gym (squats, lunges, and working your calves). 
  • If you lose weight, you probably run faster uphill. But I don't want to say you should because I don't know.
  • Trail running is sometimes challenging to pace because you don't know how long the hill is. 
  • Knowing the course is essential in trail running. 
  • You should also do specific training on trails to know how hard you can push it on different hills.
  • A negative split is vital in terms of feeling strong at the end. If you go out too hard in the first half, you cannot use your strength to go downhill quickly. 
  • If you've got plenty more hills to go, maybe slow down on the descends and save energy for the climbs. 
  • Gym work can be critical because of that factor.

Field assessment protocol to use for pinpointing MLSS

36:06 -

  • You could use a step test and take power from that. (zone 3 - below the threshold, but above Zone 2)
  • The other way to do it would be to determine your critical power. So I think I will try the three and nine minutes. You can use the formula to work out critical power. 
  • A 70.3 will be between 75 to 90% of critical power. 
  • I use heart rate, RPE and pace if I'm honest.
  • I prefer to use three minutes and 20 minutes for critical power tests. However, a 20-minute test quite frequently is a lot of loads on the muscle. 
  • With advanced athletes, I rarely do run testing. 
  • With more beginner runners, the impact of doing a 20-minute test isn't so hard. But it depends on the psychology. If it's easier to do a race, you could just use a 5km as the test. 
  • Take the speed and the heart rate data.

Speed/interval running while training for an Ironman

39:58 -

  • It depends on your running history. 
  • Triathletes probably haven't built the same load as pure runners.
  • You might not need it if you are only trying to finish Ironman.
  •  If you're targeting a time goal, then it is essential. What happens on a bike impacts what happens on the running. So you can't just think of those two things in isolation. 
  • Many athletes do interval work, but it's all there for a purpose, depending on the time of year.
  • You might lack strength, so doing hill repeats makes sense. 
  • When you get closer to Ironman, you might still do it. But for many athletes, you might only focus on getting into specific training.
  • It makes sense, but much faster running would come farther away from the race.

Running faster than race pace in training

42:49 -

  • If you're injury prone, I suggest addressing the injury concern and what's causing that before committing to an Ironman because you're doing a 26-mile run at the end of a bike, and you'll be very fatigued. 
  • An Ironman is not something everyone does off the couch.
  • If you are an injury-prone athlete, you would want to limit the intensity, and you could get quite fit for doing it on the bike. 
  • It depends a lot on what your speed is.
  • Let's say you're a speedy runner off the bike. 
  • You can get a lot of quality training without running faster than the race pace because a 1h20 half marathon is about 3min45-50s/km.
  • If your race pace is a four-hour Ironman or 3h30, it might be slower than the speed you run your aerobic runs. 
  • If you're not an injury-prone athlete, you want to run faster than race pace. 
  • If you are fast already, you don't need much training faster than that pace. It's very relative to your race pace.

Training distribution for running

46:57 -

  • I wouldn't complicate it.
  • You must recognise the importance of easy running. Don't only add intensity and quality to get rid of those runs.
  • You do not need a two-hour run to train for the Olympic distance. 
  • I'd probably do that on the bike if we do something longer.
  • I'd look at the running frequency. 
  • You might want to split the long run to have more running.
  • I'd also look at how fast you'll run off the bike. So if you're running in zone three, I'd be including a tempo run. 
  • Two-hour runs are excessive for an Olympic distance, and athletes can spend their energy better by breaking up that run into two shorter runs. 
  • If you have three runs, one long run, one interval run and another easy run is a good base. It's a good template, but you will reach a plateau because of running. 
  • You have to realise that with three runs, there's only so much that you can do.
  • The longer you're running, the worse your form will get. So I'd rather be doing four runs.
  • I would do the long run for a maximum of 90 minutes and then increase the two other weekly runs to 1h15.

Avoid high intensity to prevent injuries

51:07 -

  • Athletes don't all come in the same way. I've got older athletes who do a bit more volume than probably the majority. 
  • You can get fit by doing swimming and bike training. What's going to suffer is the running economy. 
  • Most athletes spend under half the time they spend on the bike running. A time-cringed athlete probably does close to swim run time. 
  • The injury threshold is higher in the running than in cycling. 
  • You probably don't develop a good running economy, your specific muscles do not develop so much, and there's an increased injury risk. If it's your weakness, you want to be running more. But you don't want to get injured as well. 
  • If you are injured, you could get more bike training, and your general fitness would improve.
  • It's a balancing act between the individual athlete's characteristics and goals to become faster.
  • I disagree with the consensus that one should avoid high volumes of running and intensity. But I think it certainly makes sense for some athletes.
  • A high running volume would not be the same as a high volume of swimming or cycling.
  • For an age group, if you run five hours a week, it's a lot.
  • The limitations are the specific adaptations. You can probably get many central adaptations from cycling and swimming. But getting your threshold to a high percentage of the VO2max is more difficult without running more. 
  • You also have to understand the limitations: someone living in Florida doesn't seem to have that many trails, whereas UK-based athletes have many more.

Best way to train for a half-distance triathlon

56:21 -

  • There are situations when you get close to the race when I would also say that you should go out and run at that race pace, but it could also be some longer runs with longer intervals at that pace.
  • When doing a half-distance triathlon, you have been out for 3-4 hours before you start to run. Heart rate is always higher when you do the run in a triathlon, especially in a long triathlon, compared to what it would be at the same pace in a workout. You can't compare it in that sense. 
  • You want to keep it a few beats below the threshold in a 70.3 because there has been a heart rate drift.
  • For less experienced athletes, I'd recommend somewhere in the zone three heart rate due to the lack of comparison. 

Proportion of run training to bike training

59:41 -

  • It depends on their background, injury history, and the time they got available to train.
  • A general rule of thumb would be 2:1 or less (two times the amount of cycling or running).
  •  If you have eight hours a week, the proportion might be higher because you don't have much time on the bike. 
  • It requires a minimal volume because the bike proportion is lower at 7-8 weekly training hours. 
  • It's more about the volume of running, the frequency of it, and the intensity you're doing.

Safely doing higher intensity running

1:01:23 -

  • I have an athlete in his 60s currently doing high-intensity stuff with no issues. 
  • Generally, you want to check the form and look for imbalances when starting with an athlete. (For example, muscle strength)
  • If there's an imbalance, there will probably be an issue.
  • When introducing intensity, you should control it and not introduce it before introducing the volume and frequency of your sessions.
  • The intensity jumps shouldn't be too big.
  • I'd also be looking at surfaces. Try and make it a softer surface. 
  • If you're introducing track sessions, do it cautiously and don't increase the volume too quickly.
  • I would add hill reps because the slower speed is a reasonable risk mitigation strategy.
  • However, hills can probably be worse if you struggle with calves.

Year-round brick runs

1:04:23 -

  • Brick runs are helpful, but there's an increased injury risk from doing them. So for most athletes, I'd probably say not to do it. 
  • If an athlete got good form off a bike, it would enable him to run more. You want to be doing it before races. But I don't look at brick runs with physiological benefits (more psychological ones)
  • Don't do too much because, and don't progress it too quickly.
  • I would give brick runs far away from races because of time availability.

Standard brick run

1:06:20 -

  • It is probably 30 minutes for my athletes because it gives them more time to settle down. 
  • Everyone always feels a bit weird for the first 10 minutes. 
  • It depends on the form, the athlete's background, and how well they can run off the bike. 
  • It depends on what else they do in the week and how they progress. So I wouldn't go straight into a 40-minute run off the bike.
  •  And I'd have to have a purpose behind doing it.
  • There's a big difference here between half and full-distance training in speed.
  • If you're talking half distance, but it's an athlete doing a half distance in six to seven hours, I would want to have some longer brick runs towards an hour because they'll be on the run for quite a long time. 
  • For total distance, I would like to build it up to have one brick run that is an hour long.
  • Running well is all about consistency and not getting injured.
  • I'd look at why you are doing that. 
  • You could be doing a long run the next day when your form isn't so bad. The goal should be to look at pacing, nutrition, and hydration. 
  • You'll have the best idea of determining your nutrition and whether you pace yourself well on the bike.
  • I probably wouldn't be doing that every week. 

Swim brick training

1:09:54 -

  • When I was at Loughborough training school there, we used to do plenty of swim-to-bike work, but will your pool let you take your turbo and put it on poolside? For most athletes, the answer is probably not. 
  • Running off a bike is more intimidating.
  • If you're not so good at swimming, that first part of the bike can be pretty tricky because your heart rate is high.
  • If you can practice that, you probably would.
  • I've done open water swimming, having the bike in the car locked away, and doing a quick transition.
  • I only did that a couple of times, but it was a nice change of pace from my standard training. And I found it quite helpful.
  • In general, I would say that the swim-to-bike transition is essential for short-course racing.
  • If you're talking half and full distance, the swim is more of a warmup.
  • Practising the run after the bike is a lot about pacing and nutrition.
  • The same principle applies to half-distance. 
  • They're probably doing that kind of thing off the back of a threshold set for those short course distance sessions.
  • You do 100s at the threshold and get out and do five minutes hard on the bike because that simulates the race as how it would be.
  • If you're racing pro in 70.3, you want to do that as well because the first couple of minutes in a competitive 70.3, you will be spending at LT2 because you'll have to get around people because of drafting rules.

Socks or no socks on the run?

1:13:36 -

  • It depends on what the difference will be.
  • If you're racing pro-level, you're trying to win the race. A couple of seconds might count.
  • From personal experience, I won a 70.3 basically by quick transitions. But if it's a longer race, those seconds don't necessarily count. 
  • If I got no socks, I put blister bandages on the shoes. 
  • One thing to consider is what you have coming up after the race.
  • In some cases, you have another race in two weeks, so you probably shouldn't take the risk if you know you'll probably get blisters.
  • Many people can get away with not having socks for a 10km in Olympic distance or 5K for sure in a sprint distance, but not in a 70.3. 
  • If I did a sprint or an Olympic distance, I would not hesitate to go sockless.
  • If you're running without socks, try not to pour water on your feet because it doesn't help. I find that that tends to increase the risk of getting blisters. 
  • I also put a lot of Vaseline in the shoes.

How to would you pace yourself in hilly trail run event?

1:18:00

  • I'd use heart rate and give yourself more wiggle room.
  • If you're running at Snowdon, your legs will suffer.
  • Even if you control the heart rate, the legs will suffer because your calves and quads will burn.
  • So use heart rate, but also RPE. If you cramp up, you'll pay for that later on the bike. 

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Bernardo Gonçalves

Bernardo is a Portuguese elite cyclist and co-founder of SpeedEdge Performance, a company focused on optimising cycling and triathlon performance. He writes the shownotes for That Triathlon Show, and also produces social media content for each new episode.

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