Training for the 10k Olympic Distance Triathlon

Runners running on a dirt track
September 10, 2008

Mike Ricci


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Average Age Grouper: Fire Up the Grill!
Training for the 10k Olympic Distance Triathlon
By Coach Mike Ricci

Run training for an Olympic distance triathlon can be a little bit like being a chef: you need a little bit of this and a little bit of that, but how much of this and that depends on how much you like it, and how much your body can handle. In this article we’ll talk about run training for the 10k in the Olympic distance triathlon for the average age group triathlete. I define average as anyone over 7:00 a mile and even the folks closer to ten to twelve minutes a mile.

An important factor for having a strong run is developing all your aerobic energy systems. It’s important to change speeds often in all three sports. In running it’s common to get into the ‘plodding mode’, running the same pace over all distances, and never seeming to get faster. If this sounds familiar, you aren’t alone.

Ingredients needed to prepare for your Olympic distance 10k: the long run, speed, hill strength and what I term ‘race pace’.

We’ll start with the first and most important ingredient – the long run. Above all else, you need to have sufficient aerobic fitness going into the specific race season. My measuring stick is being able to run the distance in the race (6.2 mile) up to 1.5 times (9 miles) in training. It doesn’t have to be fast, you just have to be able to do it. For some folks who will take closer to 90 minutes for the run, I would use 90 minutes as the maximum long run in training. In order to avoid the dreaded ’plodding’, change your pace up so you don’t run the same pace twice in a week. In the early aerobic base building period of your training, this would mean one day of a longer run, one day of pure speed (another key ingredient) (short reps of 20-30” at 5k pace), and another day with a touch of tempo (Zone 3) running. Each week you can extend the long run, and then add more reps to the speed sets and more time to the tempo runs. These efforts should not waste you and you should be able to finish knowing you could have done more.

Another ingredient would be incorporating hill repeats and hillier longer runs into your training. This period would last four to six weeks. In this stage, you are preparing yourself to handle the ‘Race Pace’ training in the next period. Hill repeats that last from 90 seconds to two minutes and just touch the bottom of your lactate threshold by the end are best. An easy walk/jog to the base of the hill is your recovery. Each week add a repetition or two and always walk away knowing you could have done 1-2 more reps.
As we get within ten weeks of the race its time to start implementing our last ingredient: Race Pace. This involves running 800 meters to two 2 mile repeats at your goal race pace (recovery should be about 25% of the work time). These workouts can be run on their own or even as a brick as you get closer to the race. An example of a brick is a hard bike followed by 4 x 1 mile at race pace on short rest (30”) would be a great race simulation for an Olympic distance race.

Annual Progression for a 10k
Olympic Distance Athlete
Speed Tempo Long runBase Weeks 1-6 4-10 x 30″10-20′ Z3 45-60′Week 7-10 8-12 x 30″
10-20′ Z4 60-90′Period: Speed Hills/Strength Long hilly run OR w/ Tempo Finish
Strength  Weeks11-14
8-12 x 30″ 4-15 x 2′75-90′RacePaceWeeks15-24 12 x 30″ 4-8×800 to 4-5 x 1m
60-75′Key: ‘= minutes, “= seconds

Race Day Strategy: Run easy out of T2 – grab some water, slow down and get your HR down. Your goal should be to run the 2nd 5k faster so pick up the pace ever so slightly but not until after the 5k mark, check your splits/effort the first three miles, and if you feel comfortable then pick up the pace. At the halfway mark, it’s time to GO! Let it fly just like you were running a 5k. If you paced the race right, here is where you can make up a lot of ground and just go by people like they are standing still. It’s only a short period of time so push for all you are worth.

Combing the above ingredients will give you a very strong run this season. If you execute the training and race day plan per above, you’ll be able to stick a fork in your competition when you blow by them as they will be done! Good luck and train smart this season!

Coach Mike Ricci is the Founder and Head Coach for D3 Multisport.  His coaching style is ‘process-focused’ vs. ‘results-focused.’ When working with an athlete, their understanding of how and why they are improving is always going to take precedence over any race result. Yes, there is an end goal, but in over 2 decades of coaching, experience has shown him that if you do the right work, and for the right reasons, the results will follow.

Coach Mike is a USAT Level III Elite Certified Coach, Ironman University Certified Coach, and Training Peaks Level II Certified Coach. He was honored as the USAT Coach of the Year.

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