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By Senior Coach - Lisa Spink
By now most athletes know about run - walk strategies for endurance events. Obviously, it is mixing run intervals with walk intervals – no rocket science in that! But is this strategy confined to the completers or is it a sound strategy for those wanting to reach their absolute potential and why?
Let’s drive into some of science and practical applications of the run - walk strategy.
Initially a run - walk strategy was possibly thought of for those who didn’t think they could cover the distance running the entire way - so to be able to complete the event they used a run - walk strategy and it works.
Then it evolved and we saw elites, such as Jan Frodeno win Kona with a run - walk strategy. “Interestingly for a man with such prodigious speed and strength, Frodeno won more with conservative wisdom than brute power. When recounting his race, he gave much credit to his habit of walking through many aid stations on the run. He explained to Slowtwitch that slowing down to take in the hydration and nutrition and letting his core temperature cool down. Ultra-runners use run-walk strategies in track, road and trail events again with the goal to improve performance not just to be able to complete the distance.
So, I think we can say a run - walk strategy is a legitimate strategy to be explored for improving your performance regardless of the level of competition. For some athletes this will mean losing the ego and doing as Frodeno did, using “wisdom” to reach their potential. Now, I say “explore” because some events and athletes maybe more or less suited to this strategy so as always N=1, but let’s be smart enough to use the best strategy for the event we are racing in.
Why do run - walk strategies work? This is an interesting topic in which an Assoc Professor friend from Universite Rennes II (France) and I have chatted about for several years following research he did involving ultra-running and fatigue (I was privilege to part of discussion group and a guinea pig for his research). So apart from the above important aspects sighted by Frodeno, which included the ability to take in hydration, calories and cooling the core body temp in the notoriously hot run conditions of Kona – there are physiological and biomechanical considerations as well.
The first, is the strategy can assist in controlling the RPE at the start of the run. Many athletes fall into the trap of extending themselves at the start of the run (either in a triathlon or in a straight running event) which can lead to loss of force and soft tissue ailments. In this scenario running speed eventually slows and unless the athlete has spent time running at the slower speeds, running economy can be compromised, running gait can change, which places stress on different mechanics and now both physiology and biomechanics can be affected. The loss of running economy starts the downward spiral of requiring more energy and oxygen to perform movements which are becoming more inefficient that require more energy and oxygen. With the possible change in gait, through loss of force production the risk of injury is increased.
Secondly, changing the gait cycle from running to walking and back again may play a role in conserving force production, muscle contraction and neuromuscular fatigue. Even though from a gross motor perspective running and walking may look similar the muscle involvement and kinetic chains are different and the neuromuscular pathways differ – therefore switching between the 2 modes may assist in prolonging the overall performance at high intensities.
Thirdly and not to be understate is the psychological aspect of the strategy. By the pure nature of the run-walk strategy, the event is broken into small manageable “chunks” for the athlete. The variety of both modes allows the athlete to continually reset and this can greatly assist in maintaining motivation. Again, by the pure nature of the strategy athletes can feel like they are running at a “better” pace while performing a run-walk strategy then the possibly unmotivating “slower” pace and “slowing” pace which can be the result of a continuous run strategy.
These are just some of the “geeky” theories behind the run-walk strategy but what does it mean for you the athlete. Here are a few tips.
Like always “happy athletes are fast athletes – love the journey to living your potential”
“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?” - Epictetus
You’ve heard it before… we speak about it often. Some of the underlying pillars of T:Zero’s ethos is that we train smart, we are uber consistent, we trust the process, we support each other no matter what our experience or current ability and we go about our business with little fuss and zero ego. Sure, a little confidence doesn’t go astray... you have to believe in yourself and a positive, confident outlook goes a long way to dispelling nerves and enhancing performance… but we ain’t brash about it.
Letting go and not being concerned with what everyone else around you thinks is a mighty hard task. Zen Buddhists spend their whole existence trying to attain true enlightenment and still, I imagine, have trouble not being sucked into the realms of our consumer / ego driven society. For me, it’s a work in progress, I’m not sure whether it was a coming of age thing or a becoming a father thing, but all of a sudden in life, and I’m sure this happens to everyone at some point in time, we realise most of what we work for and are driven to want or have, really doesn’t matter all that much. You know the term ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ right!? What matters most is ‘how much you live, how much you give and how much you love’. This doesn’t mean you need to sell everything, buy a combi van and start growing your own veggies (although growing stuff is pretty cool). It simply means, the search for happiness and contentment, doesn’t lie within attaining stuff. It’s in the relationships, the moments, the breakthroughs and the experiences we have and share with each other. It’s also about being the best person you can possibly be. Sure, you’re already awesome, but there’s no harm in trying to be a little better and give a little more each day right!?
I’ll get back on track... today I’m here to lay down a challenge for you, should you choose to jump on board. My challenge is this: let go a little. Get rid of Strava and stop comparing yourself to others so much- you know you do it. As our coaches have said many a time, focus on the session in front of you and that square metre surrounding you. That’s the one you can control and that’s the one you can improve. Little by little, session by session, add the layers on and do what is necessary to improve you. The sooner you stop comparing and start focussing on you and controlling your space, the sooner those breakthrough moments will happen. Whether in a single training session or your next race… bring your focus back to you and stay present in the moment. It works!
“Because most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you will have more time and more tranquility. Ask yourself at every moment, ‘Is this necessary?’” - Marcus Aurelius
My world-beating race nutrition strategy & tips for Mooloolaba Triathlon race nutrition
By Richard Thompson
Triathlon can be an incredibly complex sport with so many different elements affecting an athlete’s race-day performance. Elements such as preparation and managing injury spring to mind, amongst others.
At T:Zero Multisport, we do everything possible to get you to the race in your best possible shape. But once you arrive at the start line, you can’t possibly get any fitter. Only three things can impact the outcome of the day for any athlete:
Nutrition is something we certainly hold dear to us at T:Zero Multisport. Head Coach and Co-Founder Scotty Farrell is a qualified nutritionist and I was so grateful to have him in my corner for the Ultraman World Championships, particularly when it came to developing a plan of attack for my race-day nutrition. Further, having such a wonderfully long-standing relationship with CLIF Bar Australia, it wasn’t difficult to find the right nutrition within their extensive range to suit the plan that Scotty had developed for me. Indeed, their help enabled me to live my potential in Hawaii last November.
Fuelling during an Ultraman is different to a standard Olympic distance triathlon in that you have the opportunity to fuel during the swim with the assistance of an escort in a kayak paddling next to you and further, there is no run off either portion of the bike leg; the result being that you can afford to eat heavily in the backend of the ride knowing that you won’t be running until the Day 3 double marathon. For Ultraman, our fuelling plan was based on grams of carbohydrate per hour.
SWIM – DAY 1 (10km)
In the swim, our plan of attack was to hit roughly 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour. Following the adage that one should consume small amounts often as opposed to a large amount at once, I was aiming to fuel myself with 15 grams of carbohydrate every 15 minutes (versus having one big hit of 60 grams at the one-hour mark). There are obvious benefits to this, most notably not overloading the stomach when you want your blood to be directed to other parts of the body as opposed to your digestive system only.
Obviously, it’s pretty difficult to chew under water and I didn’t want to stop swimming completely so the Citrus CLIF Shot Energy Gel (with 25mg caffeine) was my go-to here. To prepare, I squeezed the required amount into a drink bottle and added water, shaking it up until it became one consistent liquid. I then marked the bottle, indicating where I’d need to drink to for each 15-minute increment. This had worked perfectly for Ultraman Australia where we broke the world record and again worked well in Hawaii at the World Championships.
BIKE – DAY 1 (145km)
Both Day 1 and Day 2 were very similar in that we were trying to hit 80 grams of carbohydrates per hour. Again, I was aiming to digest something every 5 to 10 minutes, following the principle that consuming carbohydrates when your body is working hard is a lot easier when they’re ingested in small increments as opposed to one large hit.
I managed to execute my bike nutrition plan with precision on Day 1, consuming only the CLIF Bloks in Mountain Berry, Strawberry and Margarita (extra sodium boost) flavours, aiming to take-in 1.5 packets per hour (roughly).
Once I crossed the finish line on Day 1, I went straight into recovery on the wind trainer to ensure I cooled down effectively, not dissimilar to how professional cyclists warm down during the big cycling tours. I also immediately consumed both carbohydrates and protein in the form of CLIF Bar’s greatest flavour of all time – Chocolate Almond Fudge.
BIKE – DAY 2 (275km)
We always knew Day 2 on the bike was going to be a long day, and during the first half of the ride my heart rate and effort was going to be much more controlled than in the back half. Therefore, whilst we were trying to maintain 75 to 80 grams of carbohydrate per hour, we were happy to consume some more solid food in the first hour of the day. This constituted a combination of CLIF Bars and the ever-trusty vegemite sandwich. Once I began climbing up the volcano (a 40km climb), I diverted to my Day 1 method of 1.5 packets of CLIF Bloks per hour. This continued until the latter stages of the day, whereby – for a complete variation - I changed to a bottle of diluted CLIF Shot Energy Gels.
This strategy and well-paced nutrition plan not only allowed me to feel full of energy but also maximised my ability on the bike without having sluggish side-effects at any point in time.
In the final 40 kilometres of the bike leg, I managed to average 303 watts; and this was after 7.5 hours of hard riding. I attribute a lot of this to both a well-developed nutrition plan and high quality nutrition products that complemented it perfectly.
RUN – DAY 3 (84.4km)
A much more difficult prospect came in the form of the double marathon run from Hawi to Kona (point to point) on Day 3. Again, the plan of attack was to hit 70 to 75 grams of carbohydrates per hour. Throughout the day I relied solely upon CLIF Bloks, moving to Coke only in the latter stages of the run.
Often, it’s not until the run leg that we as athletes get “found-out” on a nutrition level. On the bike, it’s generally always too early to know whether or not you’ve paced your nutrition well. Too much nutrition and you’re going to feel bloated as you head off out of T2, but too little and you’re going to feel lightheaded and despondent. Whenever I feel that my mind is turning negative on the run, my first thought is to my nutrition. In my experience, the mind turning against you is the first trigger that you may need more fuel and it’s a good reminder to ask yourself how well you’re fuelling at that current moment in time.
My race at the Ultraman World Championships was executed with precision by my entire team and we were thrilled to cross that finish line in first place, in such a great state. While I couldn’t walk properly for a few days following, at no point in the race did I feel like I had a carbohydrate deficit or surplus. We planned and implemented our nutrition strategy to perfection and I am so thankful to CLIF Bar Australia for helping me perform at my peak.
Nutrition Tips for Mooloolaba Triathlon
As always, when it comes to nutrition the overall principle is: do not try anything new on race day. Practice makes perfect so keep testing your nutrition and honing your plan until you’re 100% confident it’s right for you; then you won’t go wrong.
T:Zero Multisport wishes everyone all the best for their training. Stay safe, and have a wonderful race at Mooloolaba.
An amazing collection of training and racing advice from the T:Zero Multisport coaches- with the occasional guest blogger! Read this blog to help you live your potential!