“Dealing with Triathlon events isn’t tricky but requires hard work. Learn how you can master the bike to run transition. Read it now!”
Anyone who has ever competed in a triathlon or duathlon knows the horrendous feeling of heaviness in the quads as you leave the bike rack and enter the run.
Your free-flowing running gait, which was the hallmark of your style when you ran fresh, is reduced to nothing more than a pathetic shuffle as you struggle to maintain contact with those with whom three minutes earlier you were riding shoulder-to-shoulder.
Take heart: there is hope. By undertaking a couple of practices and incorporating them into your normal training regimen, you can improve your running off the bike.
The Heavy-Leg Syndrome
Let’s consider why heavy-leg syndrome occurs in the first place. Basically, there are two physiological reasons why your legs are reduced to sides of beef as you exit the bike-to-run transition:
To begin, when you cycle, a vast majority of your blood is directed to your quads. You experience what physiologists term a vasodilatory effect to the blood vessels and tiny capillaries servicing these muscles. As a result, you get a “pooling” or welling-up of blood in this region that remains when you exit T2 and then attempt to run. Therefore, heavy quads persist until blood is redirected to the muscles more directly involved in running (e.g., the hamstrings and calves).
The second reason has to do with neural innervation patterns. In plain-speak, when you ride hard for any significant period, your brain sends messages down your neural pathways telling your leg muscles to “pedal circles.” Then, in a split second, you tell your legs they need to support your body weight and run. By asking them to perform a task completely unlike what you’ve been doing previously, you are not giving your body a proper chance to respond.
Still, as evidenced by the Simon Lessing’s and Greg Welch’s of this world, it is possible to adapt the body to perform under this duress. The question, of course, is how?
As you progress through a solid triathlon-training program for a few months, your body will naturally adapt to this demand, and running off the bike will become progressively easier. But there are methods you can incorporate into both your training and racing that will have you cruising out of the bike-to-run transition and regaining your land legs a lot sooner.
During the base phase of your training, incorporate at least one “brick” session into your weekly training. By definition, a brick session means a moderately long ride followed immediately with a moderately long run—preferably mid-week. This will force your legs to get used to firing the appropriate neural pathways and shunting blood from previously active to previously inactive muscles a lot quicker, without the pressure of competition.
As you start to get closer to competition, your brick session can be replaced by a “transition” session. Normally this session would combine all three triathlon disciplines in sequence, or in a mixed format, and you would work at the threshold of race-pace in all three disciplines for short periods (i.e., three to five minutes). More at Learn to Master the Bike-to-Run Transition