Off the Bike into the Run

Sunday, February 26, 2012 by Coach Kevin

You had a good swim and you’re three quarters of the way through the bike. Now it’s time to start thinking about the run. Here are some steps you can take when coming off the bike and leaving transition to ensure a good run during an Olympic and Sprint distance race.

Start Your Run While You’re Still on the Bike
The last three miles of any bike leg in a race should be about getting your legs, as well as your mind, ready for the run. You do this by increasing your cadence on the bike and getting into an easier gear. This will help your legs to start recovering from the bike before you even dismount.

Avoid arriving at transition in a high gear and using a hard effort. All this does is build up lactic acid in your legs, which will increase the feeling of “anchors” tied to your feet when you start your run.

Enter Transition Going Over Your Plan
When coming into transition, you should be going over in your head what you will be doing when you get to your rack. Believe it or not the simplest of tasks becomes difficult when you are fatigued. What I do as I’m crossing the transition line and entering the transition area is repeat a monologue in my head: RACK BIKE, HELMET OFF, RUNNING SHOES ON (I dismount with my bike shoes clipped in my pedals so I’m only in bare feet when I get to the rack–I don’t wear socks), RACE BELT, GU PACK.

Since I’m talking about a short-course race, your goal should be that you spend six seconds at the rack. That’s right! Six seconds from the time you get to your rack to do what you need to do and GO! And yes you should practice in non race situations your rack routine! Now you see how chanting my steps helps me accomplish this goal.

Find Your Running Targets
As I’m leaving transition, I look for bikes of people I know and I want to beat. If their bikes are there, I know I’ll be chasing them down on the run. If their bikes are missing, I know they’ll be chasing me!

Control Your Pace and Heart Rate
Out of transition I’m concentrating on controlling my heart rate and getting into my pace. It’s not until I get to the halfway point of the run that I start looking to pick up my pace and start making a real effort to chase people down.

I like waiting for two reasons: One, it takes some time to get your running legs after a solid effort on the bike; and two, it’s much easier to manage your energy knowing you’re halfway done and every step takes you closer to the finish.

Why the halfway mark? The last three miles of an Olympic-distance run is where the “real” race begins. By then, you should have a good idea of whether your running targets are in front of you or behind you. If I’m chasing people down, I have a mental image of them in my head until I can see them. When I can see them, I concentrate on making incremental progress towards closing the gap on them. If I’m being chased, I don’t like to look back. I just focus on the person in front of me and countdown each mile by telling myself, “I can run hard for a mile, no problem.”

Repeat three times and before I know it, I’ve crossed the finish line.

How do you transition off the bike and into the run? Share your stories and tips. And let me know if you’ve spent less than six seconds at the bike rack. I’d love to know your secret!


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