T1 4 With Melanie McQuaid
Transition workouts (often referred to as “brick” workouts) are combined training sessions of swim/bike or bike/ run. These workouts are used to target race-specific endurance, strength, pacing and skills work. Part of a brick workout includes practicing
Brick workouts build endurance, pacing and strength. Training race specific brick workouts also address the neurological recruitment required to effectively “switch gears” between the sports. Executing brick workouts at the correct intensity wires the nervous system to fire at the pace desired on race day.
For longer distance athletes, the pace is significantly slower than in short courses, so a fast pace after the transition is less of a limiter to overall race success. For long course racing, bricks are more useful for race-specific loading of the legs. Brick workouts are designed to mimic riding after a long swim and running on tired legs. Since the amount of time in transition is small relative to the length of the race, transition routines and shifting gears between sports isn’t as important in long course racing.
In contrast, for standard- or sprint-distance athletes, brick workouts train the body to quickly shift between sports into race-specific speed. Short course athletes train to immediately switch at each transition to race pace as there is less time to get up to speed. In draft-legal racing, a slow start on the bike can mean missing the pack altogether. Similarly, in sprint-distance racing, starting slowly on the run can be 30 seconds per kilometre off race pace, and that 30 seconds can make a huge difference when you’re competing at the front of the pack. Using brick workouts with the correct intensity patterns helps transitions.
Creating a routine for transitions is the key to executing them faster. Practicing a routine makes the movements automatic and builds confidence that nothing has been forgotten in transition (or at home) on race day. A simple and quick transition can save time that costs zero energy, which is important when seeking a podium spot.
The volume and intensity of the intervals in the workout are designed to reflect the race distance and athlete experience. Sprint races require shorter and harder intervals than standard-distance races for elite and experienced athletes. First-time athletes racing a sprint should focus on skills execution rather than speed or intensity.
Swim/Bike Brick (T1)
With a bike set up on a trainer near the pool deck, create your “transition” area. Begin with a race-specific swim warmup (something you can repeat on race day). The following suggested workout is a short race pace swim set followed by a transition to five minutes at race pace on the bike.
• 10 minutes choice of race specific warmup
• 2 to 5 times through:
• 50 all out/100 race pace with 30 seconds rest
• (ITU athletes should practice diving in the water to rehearse a pontoon start)
• Run to the bike
• 5 minutes race pace
• 5 to 10 minutes easy spin recovery
• Repeat the brick 3 to 5 times, starting with the 50 m all out
Bike/Run Brick (T2)
To practice T2 you can set the bike up on a trainer at the track and designate an area where you set up your run transition gear. The workout will be race pace intervals on the bike straight into the bike to run transition area into run race pace intervals. The focus of the workout would be the execution of the transition and appropriate pacing going into the run on the track (rather than blasting out at personal best 400 m pace when you mean to be running 5 km pace off the bike).
• 10 minutes warmup on the bike
• 5 minutes as 20 seconds hard/40 seconds easy effort
• 3–5 minutes easy pedaling before starting
• 5 minutes of hard race pace
• Transition to run (putting on shoes/hat/glasses)
• 400 m to 800 m of 5 or 10 km race pace (depending on length of next race)
• Set up the run transition again and ride 10 minutes of easy pedaling
• 3 to 5 repeats
The transition between sports is what makes triathlon racing different from racing the individual disciplines of swimming, cycling and running. Brick workouts address triathlon-specific endurance, technique, strength and pacing for athletes of all levels and are key to training effectively for triathlon.
Melanie McQuaid is a regular contributor to Triathlon Magazine
Canada. Last year’s ITU Cross Triathlon world champion, she coaches MelRad Multisport and lives in Victoria, B.C.