Mastering the transition from bike to run is a key to your triathlon success. Getting off the bike and starting to run in a triathlon can be a mixed experience. The relief of being off the back is offset by the greater pain that you expect from the run. Jay Zacharias offers advice on how to make this a great experience.
Ninety miles into a training ride at a triathlon camp last year, thoughts about whether or not to go out for a transition run afterward began their inevitable assault on my psyche.
The Tucson heat had been beating us up for 5 hours. Adding insult to injury, I had the brilliant idea to close a gap that formed in the group which took its toll on my physical AND mental energy – I had forgotten how tough it was to ride in a group for such a long period of time.
By the time I finished the ride, the very thought of tacking on a 30-minute run was sheer torture. I made the decision to bail on the run and ice a sore foot instead. As embarrassed as I am to admit it, I sat on a chair nursing my foot among the group as they were getting ready to make the transition from bike to run just so they could SEE I was in no shape to hit the trail with them.
Suddenly, I overheard one athlete ask who else was going on the run. A second camper piped in with
“Count me in! I’m going to reward myself with a run after finishing that hard bike.”
Here’s where the big a-HA occurred. My problem wasn’t my foot… it was my head. I was focused of the wrong body part.
Instead of thinking about the run as an important, positive training practice – an IMPERATIVE – I had made it an OPTION, a negative. Yes, I really did have an issue with my foot, but that usually went away once I got off of the bike… and clearly that part of the training day was over. I talked myself into believing that it was too much effort without even trying.
I Was Losing The Race Before I Even Started It!
Here I was, allowing my negative mental attitude to program poor training behavior and, ultimately, lackluster race results. After all, if I was going to let this take me down while training, how would I be able to handle even tougher demands at my next Ironman event?
Psychologists have long taught us that what a person believes to be true IS. I learned this lesson quickly, and started to TRAIN myself to be excited about transition runs because, after all, every race comes down to a run. Having the right mindset can get take you over the physical hurdles when they show up and we all know they WILL show up.
How to Get off the Bike and Run Well
Talk happily about what you’re getting ready to do. When negative thoughts around going out for the run creep in simply push them out of your mind and tell yourself, “I’m not going to think about that right now.” It might seem silly, it may sound simple. Psychologically, however, this is about building new thought patterns – new neural pathways. Start by practicing it on shorter rides and transition runs and build up to the bigger efforts later. It’s all about momentum.
This isn’t just a bunch of woo woo voodoo, it’s an effective mental rehearsal technique used with GREAT success by many professional athletes. Here’s how it’s done. Find a quiet space, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to get present. Now imagine unclipping and racking your bike, pulling on your running shoes, grabbing some calories, and heading out on your run.
Visualization techniques are an amazing way to excel at hard tasks because, believe it or not, your mind cannot tell the difference between what’s really happening and what it imagines. Since none of us has the luxury of rehearsing transitions every day, if you can get GREAT at the mental rehearsal then doing them on race day will be a piece of cake.
It’s impossible to be negative while grinning from ear to ear! While it may feel a little strange at first, develop a new habit of smiling while cycling into transition. I keep a joke or story tucked away that guarantees a laugh, like the first time I watched my wife try out her new bike and forget to unclip from her pedals before braking.
Even more amusing was the look of irritation she gave me as she lay sprawled out in the driveway. When you stay positive, it’s easier to get excited about springing off your bike and heading out for a run. And the better you’ll perform on race day.
Grab Jay’s free cheat sheet, 27 Ways to Wreck Your Race…and how to avoid them.