Yep, I’m now in full training for the Rat Race Scotland Coast to Coast, which means regular 20-mile bike rides, followed, theoretically anyway, by a slow 10k run.
I say theoretically, because the truth is that after any kind of cycle ride, my running muscles just won’t play ball, leading me to stagger along the sea wall after the fashion of someone who spends his days drinking fortified wine from a brown paper bag. My whippet-like mate who does Ironman Triathlons keeps telling me that it will all come good eventually, but I remain to be convinced.
The bike to run transition – in theory
Naturally, the big problem with switching from cycling to running is that these two disciplines use different leg muscles. Cycling puts huge demands on your Quads, so the body naturally diverts blood flow there, thus starving your Hamstrings and Calves: which is why they don’t really want to get involved when you dump the bike and start trying to run.
In theory, after a mile or so of running like someone switched your Gatorade for Thunderbird, your brain should get the message that it needs to re-divert blood to your hamstrings and calves. In truth though, that just doesn’t seem to be happening for me.
Helping your body to adjust
Talking to a couple of regular triathletes, it seems that you can help your body to get the message before you even drop the bike: firstly by standing up in the saddle to involve your running muscles when you’re about half a mile from the transition, and secondly by dropping down the gears as you enter the last 200m of the bike stage, making your legs spin faster rather than harder.
They also tell me that when you start to run, you need to ‘power through’ the feeling of weakness in order to get your legs back into running mode as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, for all their sage advice and scientific theory, the truth is that if you’re a die-hard runner who is only stepping up to multi-sport events because your old knees won’t take the pounding of marathon training any more, the chances are that you have many months of looking more like an alcoholic than an athlete to contend with…