I have been running what I would call “seriously” for about 4 years now. I have learned a ton about running during that time, both through friends, experience, Runner’s World and of course on the all-knowing World Wide Web.
After competing in triathlons for a couple of seasons, I started doing some thinking about the similarities between running and triathlons. Of course, triathlon includes running, so there’s that, but there are also things that competing in triathlons taught me about pure running (and training for) races.
Keep in mind, this is only what triathlon has taught ME. All of these things may not apply to YOU. Plus, many of you who are more experienced runners may have already known these things…I am kinda of slow-to-learn, after all 🙂
- Warm-up – I don’t know about most of you, but when it comes to shorter races (5k’s, 10k’s, etc), I have never given a solid effort to warming-up. I might jog a half mile or so, but never did strides or even really worked up a solid sweat before the race. Then, enter triathlon, where every single one of my 5k’s has been faster than my previous stand-alone 5k times. My PR stands at 21:09 from a flat, fast run course after swimming 400m and biking 14 miles. This tells me that if I want to run my best in short distances, I need to get my heart seriously pumping and my legs going before the race.
- Nutrition/hydration – In my first marathon, my calves cramped at mile 19, forcing me to walk a majority of the last 6 miles. In my 2nd marathon, I hit a brick wall at mile 22 and lost over a minute per mile for the last 4 miles. I assumed that I didn’t train at high enough mileage or fast enough paces. It never occurred to me that I was not fueling or hydrating properly during the race. When I started training for Augusta 70.3 last summer, I quickly learned that if I was going to be on my bike for 3-4 hours at a time or was going to be running for an hour after biking for 2, that I absolutely had to fuel and hydrate my body properly before and during races and training. I tried a number of different combinations of water, Gatorade, Gu, Stingers, and Bonk Breakers. Finally, after months of training, I had a fueling strategy. Based on my results from Augusta, I believe I nailed the fueling part. I was definitely taking in the right amount of calories (way more than in my marathons), but I was still missing the hydration piece. I quickly turned to Nuun and SaltStick Tabs to complete the puzzle. At the Houston Marathon, the fact that I never hit that proverbial “wall” and didn’t cramp confirms that I finally dialed it in
- I love racing! – When I was only running, I didn’t race that often. I ran a few local races and even traveled to a few, totaling (maybe) 5 races a year. When I started to swim, bike, run, the availability of races and my desire to see improvements, resulted in me racing as often as possible. I quickly discovered that I LOVE to race. It keeps me motivated when training and gives me something to look forward to all of the time. This has definitely transferred to running and I find myself seeking out and registering for more races.
- Serious cross-training helps prevent injuries (but still improves fitness level) – After swimming and biking (in addition to running) all last summer, I came out of my 70.3 training in the best endurance shape I have ever been in. I was training up to 12 hours a week, but remained healthy, with no nagging injuries. I ran one 13-miler prior to the Augusta and most of my weekly mileage topped out at 25. Yet when I immediately went into my marathon training cycle, I was strong. I was able to ramp my mileage up quickly and was in better running shape early in the training cycle than I was after 14 weeks in previous cycles.
- Two-a-days aren’t
crazyimpossible – When I am marathon training, I cannot convince myself to do multiple workouts a day. If I have run in the morning, there is very little chance I am going to work up a sweat again later that day. Yet, when I am tri training, to fit in the 9 to 10 workouts a week that my schedule requires, I have no problem doing multiple workouts in a day. It just becomes part of the routine. This shows me that it is possible (from a time and fitness perspective) to work up a sweat twice a day. This doesn’t mean I want to push my body too hard or over-do it when I should be resting, but there is no reason I shouldn’t be able to do yoga or abs or strength training in the afternoon just because I ran in the morning.
- I can run “fast” without my Garmin – In a sprint or Olympic distance tri, there is just no time to put on my Garmin (and find satellites) before running. Since I don’t wear it to swim, that means that I am usually Garmin-less for the running legs of those races. And like I mentioned above, my 5k times in sprint tri’s are currently my PR’s! I don’t NEED my Garmin to tell me to run fast, I can do it by feel!
As I ramp up into tri training right now, all I am daydreaming about is running. I want to run fast, I want to run long and I want to run a marathon. I am putting this on hold for a few months, knowing that I would miss swimming and biking (and competing in tri’s) if I weren’t doing it all summer. But I am thinking about a December, January or early February marathon (other than Houston) and look forward to taking everything I learn into that cycle!