I'm getting in late here. First, I think you need to distinguish between long-term improvement in
your running speed, and your RACING speed in triathlons. They are two different things.
The first thing, simply becoming a faster runner, takes time. If you are now running 9-minute miles
for say a one-hour run, you probably need to continue to do some distance. Running three times a
week is fine if you don't need to improve your running, or you already have good base and talent and
only need that much to maintain speed. Since you are in neither group, you need to do more running
to improve in the LONG-TERM.
Don't up your distance rapidly, no more than 10% per week. In your case, you should run 4-5 times a
week instead of three. At least one of these should be right off the bike for 30 minutes. As your
brick running improves, shout for another 30 minute run after one of your longer bikes. This helps
run well while fatigued. In addition to one or two bricks, you need one long run (usually done
slowly until you get naturally faster), and one fast run. The fast run MAY be a track interval
session, but when you are just starting to improve, fartleks (random speed up and slow downs),
hills, or just a steady run at your highest aerobic pace may be safer and just as beneficial.
Yes, speedwork on a track is the fastest way to become fast, but it is a double-edged sword, since
it requires more recovery, makes you more prone to injury, and doesn't necessarily make your
triathlon times faster UNLESS you are a good cyclist and can "run tired" off the bike. It's also
easy to get caught up in competition with others on the track, and you should remember that
commandment, "Thou shalt not try to win an interval." Save it for the race, when you can truly go
all out at the end. There are countless times I have seen my running-club training partners beat me
soundly on almost every track interval, by over 20 meters, only to pass them a month later in the
marathon, and beat their 5 or 10K running triathlon splits by several minutes every time. They
almost think I'm some kind of sissy on the track because I stick to heart-rate goals regardless of
speed, but I get the last laugh.
So if body weight and running endurance are still a problem, there is only so much that track
intervals will do for you. This is NOT like the pool or the bike, where intervals are less injury
prone and recovery is much faster.
One thing you can do to improve running speed is technique speedwork, which means things like
strides, lunges, stretching, and other drills. See the POSE METHOD of running videotape for more on
this. It's mentioned at the USA triathlon web site I think, and various run and triathlon vendors,
and in Joe Friel's TRAINING BIBLE book. Or just ask a good runner about typical running drills.
These can be done with practically no recovery or injury problems, and they do help. But like
one-leg pedaling drills and swim stroke drills, they take time and you must be patient.
But I started out as a overweight marathon runner, and just put in slow to moderate miles, which
is not such a bad thing until you get down to say 8:00 per mile for aerobic training and longer
run races. Once you get there, then you can start trimming your 5K speed with intervals. Until
then, race speed, especially in triathlons when you are tired, will improve more with overall
endruance and muscular endurance to run off the bike--not the higher-heart-rate anaerobic
endurance you might already have for fast swimming and peleton bike racing. The time to work on
anaerobic endurance is RACING.
Also note that if the bike is indeed your strength, which it seems to be, you will place higher in
LONGER triathlons like half- and full-Ironman than in sprint races. You have plenty of time to put a
big gap on people on the bike, and your bike endurance will be a leveler against naturally fast
runners who tend to fade off the bike. Again, I am large and not that fast a natural runner, but I
consistently beat ligher and more talented people in triathlon run splits because I have better
strength and endurance coming off the bike.
An over-40 large person with little run talent can realistically learn to run under 8:00 per mile in
a half-Ironman run or standalone marathon, and in your case get down to 7:00-7:30/mile on the 5k run
segment of a sprint triathlon. I'm 5'11" and 185, and I can run 6:20s in a 5K ending a sprint
triathlon, 8:00s in an Ironman (cool weather, not Kona), and maybe 7:10-20s in a half-Ironman. And I
started as an overweight marathoner at 3:32, still haven't broken three hours in a standalone. I
still think I have more "natural talent" on the bike, but steady application to run improvement,
doing lots of run-only road races, and limited but focused use of track intervals were all it took.
Also know that slower running during training is better for weight loss. Too much anaerobic work
burns more sugar, makes you hungrier, and you eat more. That's not to say NEVER to have intense
workouts, just realize that weight loss, endurance and basic health are developed at the lower and
moderately aerobic heart rates.
Now here's a test to see how your run endurance and economy is progressing, and in fact overall
fitness as well. Once every couple of weeks, go to t he track with your heart rate monitor, warm up
15 minutes, then run three miles at your MAXIMUM AEROBIC FUNCTION (MAF from Dr. Phil Maffetone).
This is somewhere around 180 minus your age, plus a conversion factor. In your case, this factor is
probably zero or maybe +2 (obese non-exercising people can be MINUS 10). Whatever number you choose,
stick with it for a year. Try to run each lap as close to this number as possible, never going over.
Mine, for example is 144bpm, so I set the HRM to 140-144 and try to stay at this, slowing a little
into the wind, speeding up a little with the wind, etc.
If you run around 9:00 mile right now, this might look like:
Mile 1: 8:55 Mile 2: 9:00 Mile 3: 9:10
You can do this up to five miles if you are in good long-distance run shape, but three is enough.
Also make sure you warm up for 15 minutes (same amount, same terrain every time), and note the
weather. Obviously, hot days and high wind mess up the results, so in Texas do this one first thing
in the morning when you are well-rested on an emtpy or near-empty stomach.
What you want to notice is how much you "fade" with each mile (and you will fade a little a constant
heart rate, even with excellent fitness), and what the average time is for the three miles. As
months of training progress, this number should go down. If for some reason it STOPS going down or
perks back up, check your training to see if you are doing too much speedwork, not enough rest, high
heat, poor hydration, family/works stress, etc. After a few tests of declining times and good
aerobic progress, THEN you can add some anaerobic speedwork, but only so long as it helps these
times go down. When they level off, cut back on the speedwork and get more rest.
You an in fact go your first year in the sport without much if any speedwork, provided you keep this
MAF number going down. You'll also find this pace is the one you naturally return to in longer
triathlons, even though it takes much more effort off the bike than during the test.
You'll be amazed on how much you can make these numbers go down with only a little speedwork,
provided you are smart about the rest of your training. In one training season, it can drop 30
seconds, even with pros like Mark Allen. I've gone from something like 8:00 down to 7:10 in recent
years. You can go maybe from 9:00 down to 8:00 in a year. Now this is not exactly the same thing as
how fast you can run a 5K at the end of a triathlon, but when one goes down, so does the
other--there is much research that proves this.
No matter how fast you run or high your heart rate gets in a race, remember that all triathlon
distances, even just a 5K run, are largely aerobic. Anaerobic gains will always be minimal. Now if
you're a short-course pro, that 1-2% is tremendous in competition, but for master's age groupers,
the high aerobic pace is king.
"topdog" <[email protected]
> wrote in message news:[email protected]
> Here's a question for all you great runners out there - how does one better train to increase
> their running speed? Running is definitely my weakest leg. I need to improve it a good deal if I
> want to be competitive. Presently I am running 3x a week, averaging about 9 min miles. I'm also
> spending most of my effort with the other legs on developing my aerobic base, thinking that this
> will affect my run speed as well. (My masters body can handle low-impact aerobic training better
> than my knees can handle the running - I can spend hours on a bike, but would be crippled with
> tendonitis if I spent as much time running).
> Are there any speed drills that help? I know with swimming, while distance work makes a
> difference, one needs to work on speed as well - partially to simply know HOW to do it, and how
> much you can push. The latter is a factor here - since the run is the last leg, it doesn't matter
> if I pass out once I cross the finish line!
> Anyways, any suggestions?