Wednesday, February 28, 2007


You remember that scene in Highlander when Ramirez is rowing the boat, and McCloud is standing, and Sean Connery is singing...of course you do - Highlander (the first one...) is one of the best movies ever made - anyway. Ramirez is singing about balance.

There's been some talk recently about which part of triathlon is more important - swim, bike or run. There's argument about putting time into swimming so that you are fresher for the other events, and then there's counter argument that fitness in swimming does not cross over to the other events. Some folks use the mantra, "its all about the bike", and there are many who aspire to save their legs on the bike so they don't crack on the run.

Personally, and I'm no coach or fitness expert, I think it's all about balance. We should balance our workouts to the effort required on race day (with an exception I'll bring up later). I think it relates to the concepts of specificity - train like you race. I've read about guys and gals who spend time in the gym doing squats and leg presses arguing with the guys who say it's best to press big gears in steep hills to build leg strength...just for one example.

For an average age grouper, I guess, in an Olympic, a swim time might be 35 minutes, a bike would be around 1:10 and a run in the neighborhood of 55 minutes, for a 2:45 time. Of course the times would vary, but in this set of "ifs", the swim accounts for 21% of the overall time of the race. The bike is 42% and the run is the 33%. (interestingly, pro-triathlete Normann Stadler's percentages at the Ironman World Championships were 9% swim, 52% bike and 36% run) This means that if you have time for 10 hrs of training each week, you should be spending about 2 hrs swimming, 4.5 hrs biking and 3.5 hrs running. This assumes that you are not relatively "weak" in any one area, and does not account for your natural abilities. If you are weak, or feel that you are, then concentrated blocks of time - weeks - spent with more focus on the weakness makes sense. For planning purposes, however, the balanced approach makes sense to me.

As a Clydesdale, in the first year or so of training, I spent as much time off my feet as I thought I could get away with. As the exception I alluded to above, I figured that I would lose as much weight as possible spending more time on the bike and in the pool so that I would lesson my chances of injury while running. this approach worked pretty well for me - aside from the the obligatory plantar fasciitis on the right foot, I've stayed injury free. After losing the weight, and becoming more "competitive", I've switched to a more balanced approach with running as well. If you compare my running volume to my recent history, it would look like (and it feels like) I'm focusing more on running now. I'll bet that for anyone (like me) who's weak in a certain area, they probably have spent less time training in that area and the challenge would be to be more balanced. I don't know where that point would be for your training - for me it was at about the year mark, after a couple of Olympic races and a couple of disheartening "death-walk" finishes.

Most of us like one event over the other two. We probably came from a particular sport where we were good at what we did - unless you were a Linebacker or Shot-putter - but even big guys, since we can swim pretty well compared to our run, and we can bike, on the flats, pretty well compared to our run, have parts of the triathlon we like better than others. Once the inequity between ability in one sport compared to another becomes too great, that period of "off-sport" focus becomes essential to achieving that necessary balance. You can bet that the weeks leading up to Escape from Alcatraz, I'll be having a swim focus period...big time!


Iron Pol said...

Good post. Of course, you will now shield me from the wrath of the P-Dawg Leader, as you have now called him out more recently than me. Woohoo!

Of course, I might point out to any who say swimming fitness doesn't translate that I have maintained my running capacity (and even picked up a bit of speed) with all my time in the pool. There's a lot of base to be gained in the pool.

And I wasn't really positive about the benefits touted by others before starting the heavy swim focus.

Bolder said...

The Return of the Prairie Dawg Leader!

great post. you are talking about all the right things. when i say 'it's all about the bike', it's because it's really about the run.

running is the only non-supported activity in triathlon. you have water/wetsuit, and a bike as help in the other disciplines.

and, of course, running comes last. if you don't set yourself up for a good run. and, end up walking. you will never be happy with your time, unless you are Tyler Stewart.

so heed my words.

it's all about the bike.

because getting wet is just a warmup for the most important leg, that will determine whether you walk or run.

i'm into running.

Di aka "Mrs Bigun" said...

Love the post!You ARE as smart as you look!!! ;)

Duane said...

Great post!!!!!!!!!!!!

TriShannon said...

Good post!

Balance for me is what seems to help me avoid injury. When I am training for all 3 disciplines, no injuries. As soon as I switch and focus on one (running) I end up injured. Must have something to do with the muscle imbalance from non-balanced training. :)

LoneStarCrank said...

Great outlook and information Bigun. I am eager to balance out the running now that the marathon is complete. I am always eager to get on the bike because, for me, that is the 'great equalizer'. It's my chance to hang.... until the 17 percent grade. But watch out on the downhill...Diesel comes back with vengance.

Myles said...

Here is some data for you to play with. These are my training hours for 2006 and results from one race at each distance for the same season. I try to hold down my run training time because of the bone thing but I would like to increase it a bit this year. You can see that the longer I go the more my bike and run equalize and the relatively smaller a percentage my swim becomes.

These data reflect the fact that I swim at about the same pace for 500 meters as I would for 72.3 kagillion meters. It als reflects the fact that as the distance becomes longer I am in more trouble on the run...hence my desire to pump up my run training a bit.

2006 season training = 602 hours
Bike: 64%
Run: 23%
Swim: 13%

Sprint: Mountain Man
78 min
Swim = 16.5 min = 21%
T1 = 2.3 min = .03%
Bike = 30.7 min = 40%
T2 = 1.5 min = .02%
Run = 27 min = 35%

Olympic: Las Vegas
178 min
Swim = 34 min = 19%
T1 = 1.5 min = .008
Bike = 76.5 min = 43%
T2 = 1 min = .005%
Run = 65 min = 37%

Half-Iron: Soma
355 min
Swim = 43 min = 12%
T1 = 4 min = .01%
Bike = 159.5 min = 45%
T2 = 4 min = .01%
Run = 145 min = 41%

Iron: Redman
867 min
Swim = 94 min = 11%
T1 = 9 min = .01%
Bike = 397 min = 46%
T2 = 14 min = .01%
Run = 353 min = 41%

So far my plan to increase the running this year has only been met with disaster.

2007 season training = 128.7 hours
Bike: 73%
Run: 13%
Swim: 14%

TriSoloist said...

Nice to see another Clyde out there... Good luck! See you in KY!