ATC 289: Sinking Legs During The Swim, Training For An Ironman On A Mountain Bike, Training For A 50K When You Don’t Have Trail Access Or Time and More!

June 21, 2019


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“Danny” asks:

1. So I wanna do a full Ironman in 2020.I’ve done 47 marathons so running endurance isn’t an issue. It’s the other two disciplines

I can swim all day with a swim bouy, but the second I get rid of it in attempt to kick, my legs fall in the water as if I am bent at a 90 degree angle. So I need to work on kicking. I can only get in the pool twice a week. Should I spend  most 2019 doing kicking drills on both days or drills one day and swim with the bouy the other?

2. Next I HATE road riding. Bores the Eff out of me. I do like mountain biking. Can I get away with doing most of my miles on a MTB and ride long every 3-4 weeks in 2019 to get ready for 2020?  Once again I can only ride twice a week and maybe a 3rd day every couple of weeks if lucky. How would you schedule MTB rides twice a week to help get to the needed miles to adequately train for an Ironman?

Thanks guys. Keep up the great work!

The coaches say:

  • Do both kicking and drills, both days. It’s never either/or with these.
  • Normal protocol: warm up/swim full set/kick set/swim full set/cool down.
  • Aim for 100-200m kicking in warmup, 300m kicking drills during main swim, and at least another 100-200m kicking in cool down.
  • Two main drills:
    • Kick on side progression (body balance drill)
      • Kick face down (hands at side or in front of you)
        • Feet should be splashing
      • Kick on one side
      • Incorporate switches
    • Vertical kicking (flutter kick; knees locked; small and fast)
      • Using some type of light buoyancy thing can help
      • Kick to deep end (50m); vertical kick for 1 minute; kick back to wall (50m)
  • Many runners struggle with kicking on the swim; it’s a prevalent problem, but super important to correct, because kicking balances your energy on the swim. You can’t burn out in the first leg of the race because of a deficient kick!
  • Worst case scenario: a wet suite is like a a full body pool buoy… You want to fix your kick, but you can always rely on the wet suite assistance.
  • 2K of drills is harder than 4K of regular swimming. Drills will kick your butt and get you feet!
  • Lucho does the majority of his riding on a road bike on dirt (set up your bike accordingly).
  • If you hate road riding, then just mountain bike! It’s worth it to sacrifice training log numbers for your happiness.
  • Are there ways you can amp yourself up to road ride? Focus on what you like about it.
  • One benefit of the road: you can be very precise on your intervals because there aren’t a lot of variables (whereas on the mountain bike you let the terrain dictate your intensity).
  • It’s not necessarily bad for you to do a 4-hour mountain bike, but you’re going to have to get used to aero position on TT bike
  • Your run fitness will definitely benefit you on the bike (biking doesn’t help you for running)

Scott Beatty asks:

I really enjoy the podcast.  You guys are doing a great job.

I have a question about training specificity for a trail race.  I recently completed my first 50k trail race and it was an epic disaster, but I was bitten by the bug and can’t wait to do my next.  I did the first 20 miles in 3:35, and the last 10 in 2:42. I did alot of training before the race for going up hills, but neglected to train enough on the downhills… which destroyed my legs.  You covered exactly how I need to train for the down hills in ATC 271, so I feel like I know what I have to do to improve in that area. My question is related to the amount of time I need to spend on actual trails.

Here is my situation.  I am a 40 year old foster parent of a 3 and 2 year old, and recently we added their sibling to our family, a 6 week old.Before we had the baby, it was hard enough to get out for longs runs, now it’s even harder.  I’m a road runner, always have been because of where I have lived. The closest decent trail to me for training is a 20 min drive away and doesn’t open until 8am, so training on it before work isn’t an option. I manage to squeeze in a run before work, climbing out of bed at 3:55, and when I need to build the mileage will squeeze in another after the kids go down in the evening.  Most Saturdays, I’ll “sleep in” until 4:30 to get my long runs in before the house gets too crazy. Needless to say, finding times on the weekend to do a long trail run isn’t easy, and I noticed in the 50k that my ability to technically navigate the trails was lacking. There is a lot of lateral movement on the trails navigating obstacles that isn’t there on my street running.

So, knowing that I don’t have the option to step out my back door and hit trails anytime I wish, how often should I attempt to train on actual trails leading up to the race?  Can I get away with once a month, bumping it up to twice a month leading up to the race?  Do I need to get out there every weekend? Is there any cross training I can do to help strengthen the muscles needed for all the lateral movement?  I cross train, mainly body weight training and plyometric work 3 times a week, which has helped me remain injury free through my running career.

The coaches say:

  • Is the timing right? If it’s not, don’t worry! There will be other races.
  • Use what you got and make the best of it, the timing might not be right and that’s okay.
    • Every weekend, trail time is important for more than just building strength in your feet.
    • Being a parent is a strength, it has trained you to adapt quickly when shit hits the fan.
  • If you don’t get as much time on the trail as you would have liked, focus on what you can control.
    • Nutrition and hydration
    • Pacing
    • Keeping a positive outlook under rough conditions
      • If you’re happy, you’re not suffering.
    • Desire, bring it back to why you signed up for this.
  • Lucho regrets how much energy he sacrificed to attain his racing goals over spending quality time with his boys when they were young. Parenting requires a lot more than just being physically present. After a 15-mile run, you’re not always mentally there.
  • Lucho says forget the trails! 90% of his running was just on dirt roads.
  • Julie recommends single leg stance for 3 minutes to strengthen lateral stability. You can throw in variables like closing your eyes and adding a dumbbell in one hand to make it more challenging. Also try walking lunges with eyes closed.
  • Jump rope will also help mimic impact from running. If the rope throws you off then just hop, holding your ankle in static position and heel never touching the ground. Make sure you minimize ground contact time.
  • Put on your socks and shoes while standing on one leg (Sally McRae recommends this. It’s a silly, daily thing that you can optimize to help strengthen those ankles for trailing running).
  • Any type of eccentric loading on quad will be useful. Is there a 3-mile downhill you could do repeats on?
    • TRX Bulgarian split squat is also great for lower leg stability
    • Box jumps off box (or depth jumps) will also help.


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