Test Set #5
For the Running Leg of an Olympic-Distance Triathlon
An Olympic-distance triathlon consists of 1.5K swim, 40K bike, and 10K run. How fast can you run the 10K at the end of an Olympic distance triathlon? If you’re like me, you want to know what you’re capable of doing BEFORE the race so you know how to pace yourself and what to expect. Thanks to Michelle Blessing, my triathlon coach and coach of the 2000 US Olympic Triathlon Team, here’s a challenging test set to help you figure it out.
The test set is a full workout of 20 x 400 on the track. The goal is to hold the fastest pace possible, but you must hold the same time on every 400. Do this on an interval that gives you approximately — AND NO MORE THAN — 30 seconds of recovery. For example, if you can hold 1 minute 55 seconds for each 400 meters, your interval for the set is 2 minutes 25 seconds. If you can hold 93 seconds for each 400 meters, your interval for the set is 2 minutes. Round down to the nearest 5 seconds — you don’t want to take more than 30 seconds of recovery. I recommend having a very positive and encouraging person timing you. This set is extraordinarily difficult to complete alone.
Get with the lingo! Any time that is 1 minute and 39 seconds or less is spoken in seconds, as in “99 seconds”. Any time that is 1 minute 40 seconds or greater is spoken the same way as you would in the pool, as in “1:40.” You need to be well hydrated and warmed up for the session. I recommend a 20-minute warmup jog, along with stretching and a few drills and 50-meter strides. Make sure you have an energy drink and a few gels handy. Oh yeah, did I mention this is an extremely difficult running set that is definitely not for the faint-hearted? It should be done only after a minimum of 3 months of base running training. Michelle lovingly handed this set to me on a silver platter two years ago. It immediately became, by far, my favorite track workout because I feel an amazing sense of achievement that boosts my confidence by quantifying my improvement over the years.
To figure out your 10K time in an Olympic-distance triathlon, take your average 400 meter time in seconds, multiply it by 25, then add 120 and the result will be your 10K time in seconds. Divide this number by 60 and you will have your time in minutes. For example, if you average 93 seconds per 400, your 10K time is (93 x 25) + 120, which is 2445 seconds. 2445 seconds / 60 seconds is 40.75, or 40 minutes 45 seconds for your 10K. Give or take 15 seconds, and you’re range is 40 minutes 30 seconds to 41 minutes. It’s not perfect, but it’s very close to what you’re capable of.
The 2 minutes added into the equation account for tired legs and overall fatigue at the back end of a triathlon. This is an anaerobic set, where you’ll be running slightly faster than your lactate threshold pace, which is the pace you could maintain for a longer period of time. It also teaches your body that you can run faster than race pace on very little rest, just like sprint sets in the pool teach you how to go faster than you would in a mile swim. The first 3 to 8 reps may feel easy for you, so don’t start off at a pace you will not be able to hold on the 20th rep. It is absolutely critical to maintain your goal pace throughout the entire 20 x 400; otherwise, you will not get an accurate result, nor will you feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and confidence.
I hope you find the same victory in this test set and workout and remember to share your experience after you give it a whirl! And remember to cool down…in fact, the best cool
down advice is to stretch, then Go Swim!