Where Is My Speed?


Had Very Good Running Economy at the US Open

I am not writing this post about the fact I am afraid of qualifying for Boston.  I am writing this post because I want to talk about the lack of speed I displayed at 70.3 Austin.  It has been haunting for the past few weeks that my time at the half-marathon was 1:53.  This is not a horrible time by any means but when your goal is in the 1:40 range then there is a problem.

Add in the fact that after that race I ran 18 miles at a 7:51/mi pace, then two half-marathons (one in training and one in a race) at times of 1:39 and 1:38 and I think you can understand my dilemma with trying to cope with a 1:53 or 8:40/mi pace.  Yes it was hot, yes it was hilly but in the end those are excuses and there were others that had to run that race and ran it faster than 1:53.

As I do with all things pertaining to race day and breaking down my race I emailed Coach to tell her of my disappointment in the run.  As is always the case she talked to me in terms that I can understand.  This was her response to my email:

I am sure that is a struggle for you but, let me say that what you run at regular pace and what you do after a hard race pace bike effort are very different, most of the time….
I run a 3:10-3:15 Marathon.. ran a 3:47 at Kona, my goal based on that was 3:40-3:55
I usually run about a 1:28-1:30 half marathon… ran a 1:40 at Vegas… goal was 1:38-1:45
In trying to do the math I noticed that the marathon was a 15% difference between 3:15 and 3:47 and the half-marathon was 10% difference between 1:30 and 1:40.  For me that means that my half-marathon of 1:38 which is 98 minutes would equate to a 1:48.  1:48 is what I ran at 70.3 Oceanside in April.  Is that 10% a standard?  Probably not but it is a good gauge.  Even when I ran the DRC Half-Marathon I thought that the time of 1:38 was incredible considering I had tired legs and started to equate that to running off the bike but I guess it is not exactly the same.
Matt Fitzgerald wrote and article on this very topic for Competitor.com, which you can read here, and it compares Hunter Kemper to Greg Whiteley.  The article points out that Whiteley was a better pure runner than Kemper but when it came to the running portion of a triathlon that Kemper always was better.
Here is an excerpt from the article that helps to explain the disparity with pure running and running in a triathlon:

Why some triathletes run better off the bike than others is not fully understood, but it appears to have something to do with differences in how individual athletes’ neuromuscular systems are wired. In a 2010 study by Australian researchers, about half of the triathlete subjects tested exhibited involuntary changes to their normal running mechanics after riding a bike. These changes reduced their running economy.

Were the triathletes who maintained their running economy off the bike more experienced or better trained? No. The difference was hardwired. This was shown in a previous study by the same researchers involving elite triathletes. All of the triathletes in that subject pool were experienced and extremely well-trained, yet almost half of them also exhibited the same economy-spoiling changes in running form after cycling.

The best triathlon runners typically run 5–6 percent slower over a given distance in a triathlon than they do in a running race of the same distance. It would be helpful if this figure could be held up as a universal standard. In that case you could test the disparity between, for example, your freestanding 10K time and your Olympic-distance triathlon 10K run split and know that, if the disparity was 7 percent or greater, you could adjust your training to close that gap. But, because of differences in hardwiring, there is no universal standard. Some triathletes can’t come within 5 percent of their standalone run times in triathlon even with perfect training.

The goal right now is to get faster, especially with Vegas coming up, but so that my running economy has a much smaller difference when I run off the bike.  This week I rode for two hours and then ran 20 minutes off the bike.  I can say that I was running 7:24s off the bike in those 20 minutes and my legs felt great.  Maybe the marathon training is improving my running economy already but we won’t know for sure until I rack my bike in T2 in Puerto Rico and head out on the run and try to close the gap between 1:36 and that finishing time.

How Close Are Your Stand Alone Run Times Versus Your Triathlon Run Times?

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  1. BDD says:

    First off, I suck at the run and I know I am slow, very slow, but I am one of the few that run better after biking, my times at tris are better then stand alone times, the reason why I think it happens is because of my calf issues and the bike gives me a huge warm up before I have to run.
    BDD recently posted..Weekly RamblingsMy Profile

  2. My first tri run was NO WHERE near my run times. You know I suck! HAHAHA!!!!!!!!
    Mamarunsbarefoot recently posted..Three Things ThursdayMy Profile

  3. Natasha says:

    That’s why I wish they had more reverse triathlons! :-) In NM where there is a lack of open water they do a reverse tri in order to eliminate having so many people in the pool at once. With the run first I always go faster on the run! But I know this concept might not go over as well for the longer triathlons because of the concern of cramping during the swim. I’ve also noticed that the better I get at cycling the slower I seem to be at running.
    Natasha recently posted..Doggie Dash!My Profile

    • CTER says:

      For me, the idea of trying to swim after racing for nearly 5 hours would be a disaster. I couldn’t imagine trying to keep form when I would be that tired, not even in an Olympic distance race.

      I will also say that when I am at the Oly distance and seen my bike speed improve dramatically my run times did as well. Now at the HIM distance I went from 3:06 to 2:49 on the bike and my run got slower by 5 minutes…..it is definitely partially the run course but it also makes me think about whether or not I blew out my legs on the bike. Just gotta get stronger at both I guess.

  4. Jen says:

    Wow – I am not a triathlete (uh, yet – never say never) but this is very interesting and presents a whole different set of training approaches and considerations. Thanks for sharing this perspective.
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  5. misszippy1 says:

    The idea that this is hardwired is really interesting. And it’s also interesting to see the common difference between a flat out 10k and one in a tri. Interestingly, my 10k PR is still in an Olympic distance tri. How that’s possible, I don’t know!

    I know you don’t want to cut back too much on your cycling/swimming right now, but maybe just a bit more to focus on running economy? Just a thought. I have no doubt you have the BQ in you, it’s just a matter of training and executing it.

    On your shoe question–I’d do some long runs in the flats you like and if they work, they put them on in Vegas. A little lighter shoe over many miles makes a difference, in my opinion.

    And if I told you my new shoes, I’d have to kill you. We don’t want that!
    misszippy1 recently posted..The shoe questionMy Profile

    • CTER says:

      I think my 10k PR is from an Oly as well (need to investigate further) but I think there is a reason behind that. You are going all balls out in an Oly because it is now just like a sprint when you are properly trained for long course. Spending just a bit over an hour on the bike is like getting a very solid warm-up. I might be very wrong but the Oly distance is a mental barrier that is not that hard to break through as opposed to HIM and IM.

      The cycling and the swimming has been cut back quite a bit and the running has definitely taken center stage. I do know that having this marathon training will help me kill my HIM time in Puerto Rico on March……at least that is the theory!

      I have run in my flats for up to 20 miles and at the end my ankles were tender. I am going to try them again this weekend to see how they perform and if they work for 20 then I am not going to worry and definitely wear them in Vegas as those last 6 miles in a pair of 6 oz shoes versus 10 oz shoes will make quite a bit of difference.

      Tell me about the shoes after Vegas as I’ll have two weeks of resting and I can take the time off to investigate the shoes……off to your blog to look for old pics.

  6. adena says:

    Speed? My feet know nothing of this thing called speed. ;-) I run better as a second sport overall, I’ve had time to get the kinks out I guess.
    And all due respect to the Mrs (cause you know I love her) but jeeeeezus that pic of you is amazing. :-)
    adena recently posted..so I was… AND a giveaway!!!My Profile

  7. The Rockstar says:

    There are 2 tangents on this:

    1) if you properly pace the bike you should be able to run within 30 seconds per mile in a longer triathlon compared to a stand alone run (same day, same time, same fitness, etc). If you are slower it normally indicates poor pacing.

    2) Training for a tri will not gain the same run efficiency as compared to dedicating yourself to running (you will be slower). Does this matter? That’s up to you.
    The Rockstar recently posted..IMFL: The preludeMy Profile

  8. great pic. plant fueled guns!!

    very interesting read-I always feel I run better of the bike for short distance races. Now to bring that to the long course.
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  9. Matt Oravec says:

    My 10k PR is from a triathlon.

    However, 13.1 and 26.2 very rarely are faster off the bike. Simply put too much energy being used up.

    I would not give two thoughts about comparing tri running times and stand alone running times. Two separate beasts.

    Stick to the plan and see your results. Adjust for future races :) Running is THAT simple!
    Matt Oravec recently posted..In need of gift ideas???My Profile

  10. My half IM I was 14 mins off my PR, I think that is 12% slower if I did math right. In my sprints I am 3 mins slower on the run, which is also exactly 12% slower. At least I am consistent.
    Shut Up and Run recently posted..Can You Find 12?My Profile

  11. marlene says:

    I don’t have much to offer on this topic … yet. :) In fact, I am kind of excited to see how my run times translate in longer distance triathlon.

    Keep doing what you’re doing and I’m sure you will only get stronger in EVERY way!
    marlene recently posted..Ode to a Great Coach and Stepping Up to the PlateMy Profile

  12. Karen says:

    In my Half IM and IM, I was just about 15% slower overall compared to my Half Marathon and Marathon PRs which over the course of 26.2 miles is a whole lot of extra time. I guess as long as you know that going in and prepare for it, you won’t freak out and beat yourself down mentally halfway through the run thinking you are having a “bad” run. No one needs a mental breakdown 134 miles into the race, right? :)
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  13. Jeff Irvin says:

    The problem with trying to figure this out is that each and every race is so different in terms of terrain, temperature, winds, rain, ….etc. My HM PR is around a 1:32 and in a HIM it is around a 1:46, very similar to your results. BUT to me they are two completely different races and I really try not to compare because they are apples and oranges.

    As a matter of fact, anymore I really do not even think of my races as swim, bike, run. They are not just a triathlon that I swim, bike and run in. The race all three and individually do not matter.
    Jeff Irvin recently posted..Rocky Raccoon 50K Race ReportMy Profile

  14. Kristin says:

    I really think is has to do with how hard you push on the bike. My coach always told me I push too hard ont he bike then suffer in my runs. So one time I held back a little and ran my fastest 10K in an Olympic triathlon! I think you have to take into concideration nutrition, speed on the bike ans transitioning from bike to run. If you are just purely running you can push that envelope a little bit more. I am almost always waaay off my stand-alone times. But, then again Im not as fast as you either! ;)

  15. Jill says:

    This is why I don’t do triathlons, I fear the mind games with a slower marathon time in a tri would probably have me jumping off a cliff. :) Actually, if I ever did an IM, I think I’d just be thrilled to finish breathing, no matter what the time!

    I personally think when we train for multisports at once, it’s hard to excel at just one sport. MissZippy told me that it’d be very difficult for me to BQ again while training for an IM. She’s a smart cookie!
    Jill recently posted..Pilates for DummiesMy Profile

  16. This is so interesting! I don’t know the percentage, but my run times in my 70.3s are all longer than my stand alone half marathons. BUT, I always run faster 5ks in my sprint tris then I do in regular 5k races..how crazy is that??

    As a side note, I was watching the NYC marathon and ALL I could think about was how cool it would be if Rinny was running it too. Knowing how awesome she does in the marathon of an IM, I can only imagine how awesome she would do in a stand alone marathon! She is my running hero…seriously!
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  17. Great post. Very interesting take on those concepts. Thanks for sharing!
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