Nail Your Run: How to make the last part of your triathlon your best Part 1
Author: Jeff Horowitz
It’s a common mistake among triathletes, especially those new to the sport: after dealing with anxiety over swimming, and sorting their way through the proper gear and technique for cycling, they don’t give much thought to what they should do to improve their running. After all, many triathletes were runners first, and feel that they don’t need to give that element any thought. That’s a mistake, especially in the Nations Tri, where a mostly flat course gives participants who do their homework the chance to really finish strong.
What to do. In this article, we’re going to begin to show you how to fine-tune your running. We’ll start by building a strength base through hill running and stair climbing. The leg strength you build now will help provide the power you’ll need later for speed work. Do this by running hill repeats or stairs once a week. Pick a moderate length hill – 100 yards or so at a 5-10 percent grade – or a set of stairs equal to at least 4 flights. Run up as fast as you can, making sure that you keep an upright posture and swing your arms smoothly from your shoulders. Don’t let your arms swing across your body. On the stairs, you can alternate running single steps to increase your leg turnover, with running two at a time, which builds explosive strength.
How to do it. Begin with a 10-minute warm-up, and then run 4 hard repeats of either hills or stairs. Run the return trip very easily – this is your recovery time. Once you get to the start, don’t hesitate; launch right into the next repeat. When you’ve finished your repeats, do an easy 10-minute cool down and stretch. Add two repeats every week until you get to 12.
Where to do it. In DC, we have several great locations to do these workouts. One great hill is the spur off the Rock Creek Park bike trail at Calvert Street and Connecticut Avenue, leading out of the park and up to street level. Immediately adjacent in the park is a parcourse stretching and workout area, which is perfect for a post-run strength and stretching session.
Another great hill is the long, steep climb up Tilden Street NW, heading west form Rock Creek Parkway to Connecticut Avenue. Similarly, Porter Street NW provides a very challenging hill heading west from Rock Creek Park to Connecticut Avenue.
DC also offers great stair running opportunities. Most famous among these are the “Exorcist Steps,” so named for their cameo in the classic horror film. Located in Georgetown across from Key Bridge, between M and Prospect Streets, they are three flights of steep, stone stairs that will leave you feeling rubber legged and gasping for air.
Feel free to alternate between hills and stairs; you’ll probably find either of them to be among the hardest workouts you’ve ever done. But remember that the hard work you do now will pay dividends later on.
Jeff first fell in love with endurance sport almost a quarter century ago, when he chose the Marine Corps Marathon as his first race. Since then, he's run over 150 marathons, including at least one in every state and on 6 continents, including Antarctica. He's also taken up ultramarathoning and long distance cycling. His swimming is a work in progress; it took him a while to realize that when people said he swims like a runner, it wasn't a compliment. Jeff is the author of "My First 100 Marathons: 2,620 Miles With An Obsessive Runner (Skyhorse Press, 2008) and is the Mid-Atlantic editor of Competitor Magazine, He is a coach and personal trainer, certified by USAT, USATF, RRCA, USA Cycling, and AFAA. He also is a member of the Clif Bar Pace Team, and loves being a brand ambassador for The Nations Tri and the Washington DC Triathlon.
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