Your first run in a triathlon comes much sooner than the exit at the second transition. There are several times to consider running in a triathlon and each should be simulated regularly in training.
1. The Beach Start
The first point in a triathlon to consider running is often at the very beginning of the race during a beach start. For this kind of start, the idea is to run from a starting line somewhere on shore; you charge into the water and dive in to begin the swim leg of the race. The most effective beach start includes running as far into the water as possible (different from the exit, where swimming as far as possible can be faster). To train for this, find a quiet shoreline somewhere to practice running into the water before race day. For people new to triathlons, be careful of your speed at the start. A common mistake is sprinting too quickly into the water where athletes often find themselves in an anaerobic state too soon in the day.
2. Exiting the Water
The second, often overlooked, running aspect of the race is from the swim exit through the first transition. After a hard effort in a buoyant and horizontal position, our bodies sometimes don’t want to cooperate with the sudden change of circumstances. Typical problem areas are the hamstrings and lower back.
Staying on top of flexibility exercises is a great place to start prevention. In training, it is important to practice this swim-to-run maneuver at race intensity. We often fall prey to practicing this at a comfortable effort when race day intensity can cause cramps for a few unsuspecting athletes.
The first few practice days should be at a moderate effort to gain a feeling for the position change. Once you feel like you’ve got the hang of it, and on a day when you’re feeling fresh, go for a short but very high intensity swim then get out and sprint up the beach. It’s not easy, but it is great practice.
3. Get to Know the Running Surface
A third consideration is that a portion of time running through transitions you will be barefooted. Other times you might still have bare feet, or will be running in your cycling shoes. Either way, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the surface you will be running on. Will it be slippery grass,or a gravel parking lot or sand? Knowing what you’ll be running through helps with anticipating what steps are necessary when passing through the transitions.
Obviously the third leg of a triathlon, the run, is a very significant time in the race. Focusing on these smaller running moments earlier in the day will ensure that your body will be in a place to make the most of the third (arguably most significant) race discipline. A good run gets you to the finish line with a smile on your face…which is why we started in the first place.
About Ben Williams
Ben Williams is a first year pro triathlete with a running background. As a member of his high school and university cross country teams, running is the anchor in his triathlon endeavors.
Currently in Australia to prepare for upcoming races, Ben otherwise lives full time in Honolulu, Hawaii. You can follow Ben at www.benwilliams.me