Integrating Bike-Run Bricks When Moving up in Distance

author : mikericci
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Strategies for getting used to running off the bike when starting triathlon or taking on a new distance.

By Mike Ricci, USAT Elite Coach

The old saying that practice makes perfect is bit overstated, when in reality, the quote should be "Perfect practice makes perfect". Preparation is the key to racing your best in triathlon and nowhere is more important than when you move up in distance or even doing your first triathlon.

Sprint distance triathletes

Starting with a sprint triathlon, I recommend that the athletes get off the bike and run at least once or twice before the race and experience the feeling of your legs weighing a thousand pounds. For someone who doesn't have a lot of experience in swimming, biking or running, just going through a simple run off the bike will help their confidence so they know what to expect. An experienced racer (cyclist or runner) who is racing their first sprint can certainly do bike/run (bricks) more often than what's suggested for the beginner, but keep in mind, you don't have to try to race these runs off the bike. Just getting your legs used to the feeling will go a long way to helping you have a successful triathlon debut.

Olympic distance triathletes

Moving up from Sprint to Olympic or Olympic to Half Iron or Half Iron distance can seem like a big jump and of course it is as the distance off the bike is twice as long! Running well off the bike at Olympic distance has a lot to do with bike fitness and holding back (as little as 5 percent) in order to run to your ability off the bike. Your pace for an Olympic 10k shouldn't be much slower than 7 percent from your open 10K time.

For a beginner, my suggestion would be to do a few different things:

  1. Bike to a 10K race and ride hard the last few minutes or even last 20 minutes. Then do your warm up for the 10K, and go out and run the 10K as best you can and see how that feels to you. It should be a good eye-opener to what a triathlon run would feel like.
  2. Another option would be to run 2 to 3 miles easy to warm up, then ride 30 to 40 miles, nonstop, then get off the bike and run 3 to 4 miles. This will let your body know a similar sensation to what a race day run off a hard 40K bike will feel like!

Half Iron distance triathletes

Obviously, for Half Iron (HIM) races, the distance goes up and intensity down. For beginners, I would suggest working on the bike pacing. Far too many people ride much too hard in a HIM just to implode on the run. I hope to help you avoid being a statistic like so many others. Nutrition is just as important, but that's a topic for another article. If you can ride your ‘all day' pace for the first third of a HIM, you'll set yourself up for a good run. The next third should be a notch higher in effort, but you should always be able to push a bit harder for that last third. In the last third, you should be pushing into a tempo effort and a Zone 3 HR range. Getting off the bike, you want to be able to run using your ‘all day pace'. If you can get off the bike feeling good, you've increased your chances of having a solid run tenfold.
Some ideas for HIM bricks for Beginners:

  1. 50 to 70 mile ride followed by a one hour walk/run. You can ride this pretty easy, just get the miles in, and then the run is a walk/run where you simulate walking through an aid station each mile. Maybe you run for 10 minutes and walk for one or maybe you run for eight minutes and walk 30 seconds. This is something that you'll need to find the rhythm to, but once you do, it will work wonders for you.
  2. Another option is to find a half marathon and do a long ride the day before. Go out there and ride 60 to 75 miles at a solid effort and then the next day get up and run the half marathon. Your legs will tell you that you did some work the day before. This is a great way to understand how hard it is to run 13.1 miles off the bike.

Key points

With all that being said, there are a few keys to running off the bike well at any distance.

  1. Ride your long rides in the aero bars as much as you can. Riding long while sitting up doesn't prepare you for the position your legs and back will be in when racing a 40k, never mind a 90k effort!
  2. Execute your bike intervals in the aero position as well (see #1).
  3. Learn to mix up the paces you run off the bike (some days easy, some days tempo).
  4. Learn to take in the proper amount of hydration, sodium and calories so you are properly fueled for the run.
  5. Practice taking your brick runs out easy and coming back fast. If you crush the first half in training, then you'll probably do the same thing on race day. The usual result: Crash and Burn.

The most important aspect of all these workouts and race day expectations is to stay realistic with your goal pace. Pacing the bike, taking in the proper nutrition, and taking the run out easy are key to having a great day!

Mike Ricci is a Level III USA Triathlon Certified Coach and has been coaching endurance athletes since 1989. Mike founded D3 Multisports in 2000, and has slowly added top-notch, USAT certified coaches each year to handle the demand for high quality triathlon coaching. In the past five years, D3 Coaches have coached hundreds of athletes to their first triathlon and hundreds more to become Ironman Finishers. In 2009, D3 was awarded the job of writing the training programs for the USA World Championship Teams for the seventh consecutive year. Mike also coaches the University of CO Triathlon Team, the 2010 and 2011 National Collegiate Champions.

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date: July 20, 2011