Speed and strength. That’s what need when you are racing Olympic distance triathlon. You’ve seen the ITU professionals such as the Brownlee brothers run sub-30 minute 10k splits off the bike, that’s UNDER 5 minute pace per mile, and AFTER a 40k time trial. Now, they have the benefit of working with a pack of other riders, something that age groupers don’t benefit from. However, running a fast 10k, like the Brownlee’s can be helped with some key muscular endurance workouts added to your training.
There are six abilities that triathlon requires, speed skill, force, aerobic endurance, muscular endurance, anaerobic endurance, and power. The first three of skill, force, and endurance are more basic and typically done during the beginning of your training cycle. As you progress into race specific training, a key ability to focus on if you want to run a fast 10k off the bike is muscular endurance. Muscular endurance is the ability of sport-specific muscles to endure moderate to high intensity for a duration that is relative to your event. In the case of a 10k, that would mean intervals up to twelve minutes. However, it should be noted that muscular endurance should begin to be developed when aerobic endurance and force skills are progressing well. Attempting to work on muscular endurance prior to developing more basic abilities MAY not be the most effective training method.
Muscular endurance workouts that would benefit an Olympic distance athlete looking to improve their 10k spilt involve intervals ranging from 6-12 minutes with short recoveries. The intensity of these workouts is at or slightly below lactate or functional threshold. If you use a zone system, this intensity is generally zones 3-5a. The recovery intervals are about 25% of the working interval. So, if you are doing an eight minute run interval, then your recovery should be two minutes. The following three running workouts will help with your muscular endurance development. Good muscular endurance will give you the ability to resist fatigue while maintaining good running form and allow you to repeat the movement over a long period of time. This is an essential component of running a faster 10k off your bike.
Perform a 10-15 minute warm up, then do 3-5 x 6 minutes building your effort to threshold pace. Recover for 2 minutes between intervals.
Progressive run-8 miles
Run miles 1-2 for warm up, then miles 3-5 are in zone 3, miles 6-8 are starting at zone 4 and building to zone 5a.
Back and Forth
Run easily for 20 minutes then for the next 20-40 minutes go back and forth from zone 1-2 to zones 4-5 every 1-2 minutes. For example, you would run 2 minute easily then 2 minutes at threshold pace, repeat this pattern for duration of main set.
You can also add another muscular endurance workout in your training week to your run brick session. As you get closer to your race, your training must begin to look more like the demands that the race will place on you. In the 8-12 weeks leading up to your Olympic triathlon, perform some of these runs off of your bike.
Transition run mile repeats
Take 5 minutes of easy jogging, then do 3-5 x 1600 on the track with 400 easy jog recovery. Run the 1600’s at your goal 10k pace or slightly faster.
Easy out, Fast finish
Run easily for 10 minutes, then run steady for 5 minutes. Finish your run with 20 minutes at lactate/functional threshold pace.
Quick and Fast
Immediately after a fast transition, run 2-4 miles at your goal 10k pace or slightly faster. Finish your run with 1-2 miles easy.
During your build up to your Olympic distance race, you should be doing two muscular endurance sessions each week, a mid-week run that focuses on building the specific fitness and a quality session that follows your weekly long ride. These workouts will help develop appropriate muscular strength so you will be able to hold form and resist fatigue at high levels of intensity. Continue these types of workouts throughout the remainder of your season.