A run/walk strategy is often employed by triathletes when they get off two wheels, but how about trying it when you are still on two wheels? It may be more beneficial than you think…
Written By Scott Fliegelman
Thanks to running coaches Jeff Galloway and Bobby McGee, many of us have improved training and racing by using a run/walk strategy. But what if you could apply that same strategy to the bike leg?
Traditionally, this approach divides the run into six- to nine-minute efforts at, or slightly faster than, goal pace followed by 30–60-second proactive brisk walk breaks. Most athletes would only “lose” 10–15 seconds from their regular race pace doing this, usually making up time during the run sections. The real payoff comes late in the race when the “run only” athletes begin to slow, and the run/ walk converts remain on pace or even speed up.
I’ve observed hundreds of my athletes use this strategy during training sessions and races, and I’ve fully committed to it myself for the past 18 months. Here are some of the many benefits we’ve experienced that apply to both the bike and the run:
• Go faster in training and racing
• Lower overall average heart rate
• Mentally break up your race into smaller, manageable chunks
• Add training mileage more safely
• Race better in the heat
• Manage nutrition/hydration logistics easier
• Recover faster
• Pace yourself better
One of the challenges on foot is getting your ego out of the way as you take the walk break, but on the bike your “watt break” is mostly imperceptible to anyone but you and your grateful legs! Here’s how to implement this strategy as you target a PB in your late-season races— especially an Ironman:
Ride “on the gas” for 10 minutes:
Bike strong and powerfully, stay aero whenever possible and work the uphills up to 10 per cent harder than the flats. Keep looking forward to the upcoming break as you stay on the gas.
“Throttle back” for 30–60 seconds:
Be a bit more flexible and strategic when timing your watt break, based on the terrain. Take advantage of downhill or flat sections in order to maintain momentum as you back off to 50–75 per cent goal race power or perceived effort (lucky for you if you hit flats/downhills, you’ll still be riding at 80–90 per cent of your on- the-gas speed).
If you’re skeptical, try this strategy at your next race. You’ll likely enjoy a faster bike split and arrive in T2 feeling fresher, with a higher average cadence, looser back and legs and a lower heart rate that, all combined, will set you up for a more successful run.