Once you’ve reached the run, your triathlon is, in theory, at least two-thirds in the bag. However, the run is probably the most likely place where you can suffer a ‘blow-up’ – even three miles in a sprint-distance event is a long way when you’re dying! By far and away the main reasons for blowing up on the run are related to pacing, but by following the tips here, you can minimise the chances of it happening to you.
Keep plenty in the tank
Pace the swim and bike appropriately. It almost goes without saying, but you have to get to the run with enough energy left to do the remaining distance. It’s no good completely flogging yourself to a bike PB, only to stumble out of T2 and walk half of the run.
Don’t hare off
Ignore the temptation to set off too fast out of T2. With the adrenalin of a crowd and the need to impress your watching family, it’s easy to burn rubber in the first 1km of the run, only to find yourself gasping soon after. Be aware that you will probably feel inspired early on, but hold a little back so that you can aim for the holy grail of an even – or possibly a negative – split. If you manage this, you’ll find yourself reeling people in over the second half of the run, which is incredibly motivating.
Move through the gears
Practise acceleration runs during training. These are sessions where you start at an easy pace and ramp up the pace after each km until the final km is at your intended race effort. If you do this regularly (and over distances similar to those you will race at), your body and mind will be conditioned to working harder later on in the run and you are more likely to achieve this on race day.
Gadgets are your pals
It’s always advisable to use a GPS watch or heart-rate monitor to help to guide your pacing. From your training sessions or fitness tests, you should have a strong idea of what kind of pace or heart rate you’ll be able to sustain for race distance. Make sure that, early on in the run, you’re not going too fast or too hard. Later on, use the feedback from the watch to ensure you’re still putting in the required effort when it’s tempting to subtly ease back.
Stitch on the run
The root cause of getting a stitch – that is, the sharp pain that occurs in your lower abdomen when running – remains a real mystery to sports scientists. Yet it often causes incredible suffering to athletes, especially when running off the bike in triathlon. Some put it down to eating too much or too close to the event; others cite weak core muscles. But the reality is that no-one really knows. It’s most likely there are multiple different causes applicable to different people.
Generally speaking, better-trained athletes get a stitch less frequently, so plenty of brick (bike-run) training in the build-up is perhaps your best bet to help you avoid it. However, if a stitch does occur during the run, try these things to shake it off:
- Slow down your pace and relax your breathing, aiming to take deeper breaths.
- Raise your arms up above your head to stretch your stomach muscles.
- Stop taking in food or drink for a short while.
- If it’s really painful, walk for a minute or so before start jogging again slowly until it goes away.