First time really racing with power... help me understand what is going on (Triathlon run)

I picked up a power meter this winter and dove head first into a new season of TrainerRoad to much success. Saw my FTP bump to 257 while seeing my running times fall as well. Needless to say I had a great build heading into the season and now it is time to cash in all that work.

Raced the Leon’s olympic this last weekend. Third race of the year with power but first time I payed attention and tried to hit a number.

Knowing that I train on my road bike and also knowing we sometimes lose some FTP when transitioning to a TT position I decided to shoot for 220-230 watts for the race. I felt my effort was much more balanced and steady than I have usually raced. I had fewer needless surges but also fewer dips necessitating those needless surges.

Post race metrics show 219 AP 227 NP 0.87 IF and 1.04 VI. Cool. I felt great, hit my nutrition, hydration and was ready to run.

I had just come off a HM PR last month and decided to run this 10k basically exactly like the final 6.5 miles of the half. Everything went to plan, but I felt like my legs wanted to cramp in the final mile or 2. Just enough discomfort to prevent me from pushing the pace even through my lungs and heart had more in them.

How do I get these legs to corporate? I’m a dedicated treadmill interval runner and I put in about 30 miles a week on top of being highly compliant in my TrainerRoad mid volume plan with an extra weekly weekend spin. In addition to half of my running miles being easy recovery mileage, there’s a tempo run as well as a long run thrown in for good measure.

I’m dying for a TR like app for getting faster through treadmill intervals, but I’m wondering if I’m still lacking some run specific muscular endurance? Should I do a hill session instead of the interval session once in a while?

My run times have fallen dramatically this year and my effort level was not out of line. What should I do to augment my run training to help further sharpen the blade?

tl;dr - I’m crampy on the run despite a ton of run specific training, high level bike training, good nutrition and not over swimming/over biking. What gives?

Here are some suggestions:

To be fair this sounds like a pretty normal race! If you are racing to your limits then feeling like you are going to cramp is to be expected and if they only happened in the last few km and didn’t slow you down too much then is probably a fairly well paced race as your splits suggest.

In which case just keep doing what you are doing, you’ll gradually race better… and still feel the same towards the end of your races, just as a faster pace :grinning:


I’d tend to agree with @JulianM but as I’m more risk averse Id back off the intensity a few percentage points for a more reliable run. Ideally just by taking a little off the peaks, rather than across the board.

I’m a firm believer that the vast majority of cramps are a symptom of overuse. That coupled with the fact that Olympic is widely regarded as the hardest one to pace correctly, I’d say dial the run back slightly too and you’ll cruise through the finish line.

With PRs at half and 10k distance you can’t be too unhappy!

At a minimum, test with the TT bike, and take some of the guesswork out of this element at least. Even better if you can do some of your training on the TT bike, which will lessen the drop-off.

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So cramping comes down to 3 factors

  1. electrolytes/dehydration. So long as you have a balanced diet, shouldn’t have any electrolyte/hydration issue in an effort less than 90 minutes. its just hard to sweat it out. unless its really bloody hot.
  2. lack of conditioning
  3. a mechanism to prevent physiological damage. normally a result of longer events, although that might just be my bias as someone that does longer events.

But my thoughts on this. It sounds like you do plenty of conditioning, but, if you came into it with fatigue, that point at which you cramp is likely easier to reach. idk how much of a taper you took.
Also, you say you love the treadmill intervals. Do you have access to a track? when i was trying to qualify for boston, i did all my intervals on a high school track and it was just as good a way to stay on track of your quarter, half, 1 mile splits. all you need is a stop watch (you actually cant use a regular GPS watch because they’ll consistently time your miles 50 yards early since your running a tight enough circle the gps constantly thinks you’re running a slightly wider circle)
I mention the track, because running on a treadmill isn’t as close to running outside as biking indoors is to biking outdoors. Its a close approximation to running, but not quite exactly the same. So if you’re conditioning your legs one way, but then exposing them to race efforts on the road, it might be enough of a difference in stimulus to cause cramps. Basically, things that are different than what you have trained for will be more likely to cause cramps.

I would agree with the other comment on training more in the position of the TT bike. The muscles you are utilising are different than from the road bike position. If you are not used to it then this might lead to the crappy feeling during the run.

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Every time I see a professional triathlete on the run, they look like they are miserable but somehow going fast. At least for the short course guys, I don’t watch much long course.

How long have you been doing triathlon?

General reply to some of the discussion here.

Testing on my TT bike is an excellent idea! I may very well have been overbiking when looked at from that perspective. I’m also an avid MTBer so having a road bike on the trainer is an acceptable compromise for my needs. I’ve spent a winter with the TT bike on the trainer and have no interest in repeating that experience. Train as you race, yes. I’m also not winning these things outright. I’ve always felt that is icing the cake and I’m still in the process of baking. I ride it once a week to stay in touch with the position.

I’ve been doing triathlon for 6 years. I’m a short course guy for sure. No IM aspirations at all. I’m ok with suffering on the run. In fact, I was ready to suffer even more in the closing stage, my muscles just couldn’t handle any more speed.

I think I’ve landed on 2 immediate courses:

  1. Test on my TT bike so I know what ~90% really is.
  2. Swap a few speed interval sessions for hill repeats.

I haven’t seen a plateau in my power or running speed but I know one is imminent. Once I find that next plateau I’ll contemplate training on my TT bike full time.

They did. Your last two miles were the fastest pace you ran that day.

You might have been mentally ready to suffer through a couple of 4 minute miles to finish but given that is unlikely you still went slightly faster in the closing stages than the early part of the run. That’s good racing and something to be pleased with.

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