Coach Melissa Mantak answers two questions about incorporating running speed work into training.
Q: Do you recommend doing 5K or 10K running races during training?
A: Yes! I definitely encourage short-course triathletes to use 5K and 10K races as part of a year-round training plan. Single-sport races will help you sharpen your race-specific skills and serve as great teaching tools for tracking progress and determining training paces. Running races are also helpful in learning how to pace for the run distance within a triathlon. They are especially beneficial if running is your weaker discipline. Often, athletes are pushed harder in a race situation than when training solo. Why not run with 200–20,000 running partners?
Strategic placement is critical. If you are new to triathlon, use these runs starting six to nine months before your race, hitting a frequency of one every 2–3 months. As a newbie, that final leg can be tough; using the run races will boost your confidence at your chosen race distance.
If you are an experienced athlete, placing these running races at the beginning of a new training phase works well. Running one the week before a non-peak race is fine, but keep them about 2–3 weeks away from a peak race. Also, dropping in a race every 2–4 weeks while ramping up the amount of high-intensity work 2–4 months out from a key race really puts you on track to nail your triathlon run targets. Keep in mind that your standalone target pace will be 1–2 minutes faster than your run time off the bike.
Q: What are some of your favorite track workouts for Olympic-distance athletes?
A: My favorite track workouts are speed work and long intervals. If you’re looking to go faster, you must include quality speed work in your training program. But you also need to train your body to be able to hold that speed for the full 10K.
1. Speed work is best done on a track, but can also be done on the road or a treadmill. If you have trouble keeping up your speed, the treadmill can be very helpful. The belt moving relentlessly under you leaves no room for slacking or slowing down. You can start your speed work with a simple fartlek of 30 seconds hard, 30 seconds easy, then working up as high as 2 minutes on, 2 off. After several weeks of this, you can progress to higher-intensity speed work. This requires adequate and full rest to ensure high quality. The work-to-rest ratio must be 1:2, minimally. (Sprinters will rest as much as 10 minutes after running 100-meter repeats!) For example, if you run 200 meters in 30 seconds, you need 1–3 minutes of jogging or walking for recovery. A sample workout would be 10–20 x 400. Maintain the quality with adequate recovery!
The number of intervals (or the volume of intensity) depends on your experience and fitness level. In general for Olympic-distance athletes, start with 10 minutes of total speed effort and work up to 15 minutes.
2. Long intervals would be kilometer or mile repeats with less rest, but still enough to ensure quality of efforts. For example, 3–6 x 1-mile repeats, or 4–10 x 1K repeats with 3–5 minutes rest between intervals. Your work-to-rest ratio would be 1:0.5. As you get closer to your peak race, decrease the amount of recovery. This will help you be race ready in just a few weeks.
If you’re a seasoned athlete, you can do both of these hard runs in one week or alternate weeks starting 8–12 weeks out from your goal race. Work your speed, then teach your body to carry it and run strong to the end of the 10K.
Melissa Mantak is a USAT Level 3 and USAC Level 1 certified coach with a master’s degree in sports science. She is a former overall ITU World Cup winner and USOC Triathlete of the Year. In 2010, she was voted USAT National Coach of the Year. Empoweredathlete.com