Top 3 Running Mistakes Ironman Triathletes Make Every Year

Coach P

FirstTimeFinish™ Program logoThis is an excerpt of the first chapter of Endurance Nation’s upcoming eBook Crossing the Line: Everything You Need to Know About Racing Your First Ironman® But Were Afraid To Aska new resource for first time Ironman® competitors. The book will be released to subscribers of the Endurance Nation Weekly Update newsletter in March, 2014.  Sign up for the newsletter using the form below to receive your free copy of the eBook. 

If you are going to mess up anything during your Ironman® training cycle, odds are it will involve running. Too much too soon. Too fast. Too hilly. Too extreme with the footwear…the options are endless but the result is the same — you aren’t running. Our goal here is to get your head straight so you can avoid these common pitfalls, remain healthy and be ready for your iron-distance event. But before we can truly begin, you will have to forget everything you already know.

You Are Not Training For A Marathon

While the Ironman® has a marathon at the end, you simply can’t approach your training with the understanding that you are running a marathon — you are no longer “just” a runner, you are a triathlete training to do an Ironman. It’s important to remember that by the time you start the marathon, you will have already swum 2.4 miles and bike 112 miles. The vast majority of athletes at this point are running, not racing.

When you are training for a standalone marathon, you have the luxury of running long runs at your goal race. You have plenty of recovery between training sessions, as you won’t workout more than once a day. You don’t really have to worry about your nutrition as you have time to recover from and fuel up for each session, and the duration of most of your workouts rarely exceeds an hour.

But make any of those common “marathon training” decisions and your Ironman® training could really be in jeopardy. After all, your long runs will be affected by the long bike workouts you are doing. You’ll be doing two-a-day workouts several times a week and the cumulative training stress will start to pile up. Work and other commitments will start to bleed into other areas of your life, typically zapping a few hours of critical sleep. You will be constantly hungry, trying to seek a balance between calories burned and calories consumed.

If you focus on the run as an independent entity, separate from your swim and bike training, you will most likely not make it to the starting line ready to race.

Your Running Health is More Important than Your Run Fitness!

Terry Olivas crosses the Ironman® finish line.

Top Three Run Training Pitfalls

At the risk of coming across as negative, it’s important that we discuss the realities of long-distance run training and the impact that it has on your body and your fitness. Not only are run injuries the most common setbacks that Ironman® triathletes face, they are typically the most debilitating.

So before you head out and train yourself into oblivion, here are a few key mistakes to avoid.

#1 – Chasing a Pace

This would be very common with more experienced runners, although many Type A triathletes are naturally vulnerable to this issue. “Chasing a Pace” means running to beat your time or a set pace across a given course.

The Solution: Running for a set workout time (not a fixed distance); putting focus on your interval performance.

#2 – “Jumping In” to an Unscheduled Run Event with Friends

Of all the sports we do as triathletes, running is by far the most social. If you are a crazy triathlete, then odds are you used to be a crazy runner…or you know quite a few. Running in a group can be a great alternative to all of those solo training hours that can zap your body and soul. But having a group to run with can be a double-edged sword.

The Solution: Limit these surprise events to early in your season before the training really ramps up. Don’t pick an event you don’t have the mileage on your legs to complete.

#3 – Ignoring Early Warning Signs of Overuse Injuries

The human body is an amazing machine, but it’s not perfect. The only thing more amazing than what our body can achieve is our capacity to handle discomfort, pain and general suffering. The rewards of running are so great, in other words, than we’ll put up with almost anything short of our leg falling off to keep doing it.

The Solution: Make a point of keeping race day health as your top priority, making changes to keep yourself healthy at all costs.

If you’re ready to take advantage of the Endurance Nation First Time Finish™ Guarantee, Apply Now for membership to Team Endurance Nation.



Coach P

All stories by: Coach P

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