What Triathlon has Taught me about Running

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 🙂

  1. 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.

    BMW Sprint Tri

  2. 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

    There is Nuun in that handheld!

  3. 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.
  4. 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.

    Augusta 70.3

  5. Two-a-days aren’t crazy impossible – 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.
  6. 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!

About Corey

I am a 30-something swim, bike, run addict married to my best friend and in love with my two schnoodle doggies.
This entry was posted in Goals, Races, running, triathlon. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to What Triathlon has Taught me about Running

  1. Lindsey says:

    I’m looking for a late Jan/early Feb marathon too. I’ve been thinking about Miami. Want to go to South Beach??

    • Corey says:

      haha. It would be a fun celebration wouldn’t it 🙂 The only problem with Miami (despite being nice and flat) is that the last couple of years it has been SUPER hot and humid. After training in the cold all winter, would be nice to find something without that risk…

  2. trustbelievefaithhopelove says:

    Its awesome to run enough that it’s your strong leg to! Go you!

  3. I completely agree- triathlon has made me a much better and stronger runner. The cross-training is the key for me. I’m hoping to get a few races on my calendar this summer (tris), but know I will have to just enjoy the experience and not expect to podium after so many months on the bench.
    As for fall/early winter marathons…what about 26.2 with Donna in Jacksonville, FL in Feb? I’m seriously considering it and would love to run with you!! (it’s also the national breast cancer marathon so i’m trying to get a group of friends to run it with me for a friend’s mom)

    • Corey says:

      You have already been busting out some serious training splits for someone who has taken so much time off…you should give yourself more credit! You know what…Jacksonville might be a really good one to consider. Flat for sure right? I will definitely keep that one in mind and let’s stay in touch about it. Would be fun to train virtually for the same race 🙂 There’s not a big chance for hot weather there at that time of year is there?

  4. I’m glad to hear someone else’s 5K PR came in a triathlon! I doubted the accuracy of time until I considered that, coming off my bike, my legs are used to turning over 90 times per minute, so my running cadence is higher, too!

  5. Terzah says:

    I will never be a triathlete (hate swimming and can’t afford all the bike gear), but I agree that cross-training, warming up, learning how to fuel….really everything you said is so key to running well. I’m hoping to keep the cross-training going when my injury has been dealt with….though I’m really happy about adding a little running back into the mix too….I must admit….

    As for a winter marathon, I’m doing the California International Marathon on Dec. 2. What about that one? :^)

    • Corey says:

      I have actually thought about that one since I read your post! Does you know if it sells out usually? I will have to look at the timing after my 70.3 and I am considering getting a coach, so I would probably consult him/her. I would like to ramp up my mileage higher than before and want to do it safely. So excited for you to get to run on the Alter G next week!! Woohoo! Good luck…sending pain-free thoughts your way!

      • Terzah says:

        I actually don’t know if it sells out, but it might–it’s now got the reputation for being a fast course and you know how that is! I do know that historically it’s been pretty small, which I like. Thanks for the pain-free thoughts–I felt like I was 80 when I got out bed this morning. But I guess that’s a step up from 90. :^)

  6. Laura says:

    Yes! I’ve been learning so many of the same things… I used to wonder why people would waste energy warming up before a race, but soon figured out how much better I can run if I’m already “warm.” And we’re on the same page with cross training making us stronger! Sad to hear you won’t be at the Houston marathon this year. 😦 You’ll have to let me know when you do pass through… Thanksgiving Turkey trot? 🙂

    • Corey says:

      Yes! I will be in Houston over Thanksgiving and I would love to do a Turkey Trot. You are in charge of picking the race and I am definitely up for it! 🙂

  7. man i don’t want to do a tri, but if you keep posting like this i’m going to be convinced it’s too much fun not to

    • Corey says:

      🙂 I think you would surprise yourself and really like it! I actually did my first as a relay…Gives you an idea of what it is like without having to commit to all 3. I couldn’t help but want to try it out after seeing everyone else do it that day.

      I am rooting you on in your quest for the big 1/2 PR!! I know you can do it!

  8. Pingback: Sue DeYoung & Judy Edger Memorial 5k | Schnoodles of Fun!

  9. I love reading about all of your tri experiences – you make it sound so fun 🙂 I might run Memphis in Dec or I would love to run CIM, but I think that’s unlikely this year. Keep us posted on which one you pick!

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