Triathlon Magazine Canada - - DEPARTMENTS - BY KEVIN MACK­IN­NON

Learn­ing From the Best

Run train­ing for a triathlon is fraught with in­ter­est­ing dilem­mas, a point that re­ally hit home for me last year when I was in­ter­view­ing some of the pros lead­ing into the Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship in Hawaii.

On the one side of my dilemma was a con­ver­sa­tion I had with Aus­tralia’s Cameron Wurf, who we pro­filed in our Jan­uary is­sue as a Kona game-changer, not only be­cause of his prodi­gious cy­cling tal­ent, but be­cause his run­ning had im­proved so much head­ing into Kona that he, in my mind, was much more of a threat than ever.

Wurf, as you might re­mem­ber, is hardly a “nor­mal” triath­lete (not that any of us are). An Olympic rower who mor­phed into a world-class cy­clist who then set his sights on pro­fes­sional triathlon, Wurf is blessed with an aer­o­bic sys­tem like few oth­ers on the planet. This led he and his coach, Tim Ker­ri­son to come up with a unique train­ing plan to im­prove his run­ning.

Be­cause of his cy­cling back­ground, he was used to com­pet­ing in multi-day com­pe­ti­tions with no time to re­cover, Wurf was used to train­ing and rac­ing on tired legs. Af­ter try­ing more typ­i­cal train­ing ap­proaches, putting Wurf on the track and do­ing long runs by them­selves, they de­cided to aban­don that ap­proach.

“We flipped things on their head – the only way I’ll run is if I’ve ab­so­lutely de­stroyed my­self on the bike. Be­cause I am train­ing to run as fast as I can af­ter I’ve rid­den my bike as fast as I can,” Wurf says of the new train­ing ap­proach. Part of the strat­egy in­volved hav­ing Wurf com­pete in nu­mer­ous full-dis­tance races through­out the year, in­clud­ing some back-to-back ef­forts, to achieve that fa­tigued state in true race fash­ion.

The ap­proach seems to be work­ing, too. Wurf blazed through his fastest marathon ever at Chal­lenge Almere, his fi­nal tune up for Kona and man­aged to crack the top-10 in Kona. While his 3:06 marathon split was hardly what he’d hoped for, it was a 13-minute im­prove­ment on the pre­vi­ous year’s ef­fort, af­ter a bike that was four min­utes quicker. The bot­tom line is Wurf con­tin­ues to im­prove his run­ning in dra­matic fash­ion.

Speed Rules: Pa­trick Lange

Con­trast that tired- legs for­mula to the pure speed dis­played by Ger­many’s Pa­trick Lange. While we don’t see a lot of data on the Ger­man’s work­outs, one of his pre-kona prep ses­sions in­cluded a num­ber of one kilo­me­tre re­peats where he av­er­aged well un­der three min­utes per kilo­me­tre. Lange has com­peted in Kona three times and run 2:39, 2:39 and 2:41 – that last split on a day when he an­ni­hi­lated the sub-eight bar­rier on the Big Is­land, con­sid­ered the equiv­a­lent of triathlon’s four-minute mile.

To hit those 2:39 splits, Lange has to av­er­age around 3:46/ km (6: 05/mile), which is fright­en­ingly fast con­sid­er­ing he’d com­pleted a 3.8-kilo­me­tre swim and a 180-kilo­me­tre bike in Kona’s chal­leng­ing con­di­tions. (Granted, in 2018 the winds were con­sid­er­ably more favourable than they have been in years past, but it’s still Hawaii – it was very hot and humid.)

You don’t run that fast un­less you have some de­cent bot­tom-end speed. So, dur­ing that pre-kona prep ses­sion, Lange man­aged to av­er­age splits about a minute or so faster then he’d have to run on race day to win in Kona. When you can run a 2:46- kilo­me­tre ef­fort, a 3:46 doesn’t feel that fast.

Find­ing the Bal­ance

To me, the trick to nail­ing your best run in any triathlon is com­ing up with the bal­ance be­tween what Wurf and Lange did head­ing into Kona. No doubt there were lots of long-run ef­forts and tran­si­tion work­outs on the Ger­man’s train­ing plan, but he also man­aged to hit the speed ef­forts that gave him enough bot­tom-end speed to run as fast as he did on the Big Is­land. Wurf has made huge im­prove­ments in his run­ning over the last few years, no doubt thanks to his abil­ity to train his body to deal with the rigours of triathlon rac­ing.

A com­plete train­ing pro­gram needs to bal­ance each of th­ese run com­po­nents. You need to de­velop some speed, but you also need to get very used to com­plet­ing a run on tired legs. Make sure you keep that bal­ance in mind and in­cor­po­rate as­pects of each in your train­ing plan.

Kevin Mack­in­non, editor of Triathlon Mag­a­zine Canada, has been coach­ing triath­letes, run­ners, cy­clists and swim­mers for over 30 years.

BE­LOW Cameron Wurf

ABOVE Pa­trick Lange

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