Yesterday was my first real “brick” workout of the triathlon training program. For those who spend their Saturdays doing something other than skirting the edge of physical injury, a brick is a combination workout consisting of two or more sports, conducted back to back. For example, a swim and a bike or a bike and a run would be considered a brick workout. Bricks serve a couple of purposes. When you’re trying to cram in two workouts a day, doing them back to back saves a lot of the overhead time. You only need to dress once before and shower once after both workouts. Seems minor, but all that time adds up. The main purpose behind bricks, though, is to train your body for sustained mutli-sport workouts, and to practice the transition from one to the other. If you haven’t run six miles after spending 2 hours on the bike, it’s a whole new experience.
I did a lot of bricks last year preparing for the duathlon in the summer. Saturday’s brick was the first real effort of this season, I and relearned a few lessons quickly. There’s a country song called, “Don’t Forget to Remember Me”. When I first heard that title, I thought it was redundant. The more I thought about it, the more the truth behind it sunk in. Just remembering something when you’re prompted to is fairly passive. Making sure you don’t forget to remember something is much more proactive… ingraining it in your psyche so it becomes second nature. There were a few things about bricks that I forgot to remember.
Be strategic. Even when you feel great on the bike, and feel like you could ride a lot harder, don’t forget to remember you’ve still got a run coming. Burn all that energy on the bike, and you won’t have anything left for the run. Both exercises use the same big leg muscles (although in different ways), and you need to conserve enough energy to go strong into the run leg. This is especially true when it comes to hills. I don’t usually stand in the pedals for climbs, but that’s a skill I need to work on this year. Start doing that too early in the ride (especially a brick), and you’ll bonk before the end.
Plan for the transition. Most of my winter training was “artificial”, on a treadmill and a stationary bike. There are a lot of logistics to plan for when you’re working out of the back of a suburban in a parking lot. Off with the bike shoes, on with the running shoes. Heart rate monitor or not? For both workouts, or only one? Where do you stash the car keys (hint, there aren’t a lot of places to put them in bike shorts… ’nuff said). Do you wear the bike jersey during the run, or change shirts? By the way, short sidetrack here. I tried on a “triathlon kit” earlier this week. This is a shirt and shorts made specifically for triathlons. Note to the people who design these things… most real people do not have 5% body fat. If I wear a medium in real clothes, I should not have to get anything in a 3XL to avoid looking like a sausage in your triathlon kit. Okay, rant is over. Figure out what you’re going to need for each leg of the brick, and lay it out in advance.
Last remembering… the first half mile of the run is just weird. If you’ve ever seen “Forrest Gump” (and who hasn’t), you’ll remember the scene where Forrest is being chased down the dirt road by the mean kids on bikes. He’s got braces on his legs, and he’s got this stiff, awkward hobble kind of thing going. Then, suddenly, the braces break free, and he’s running like crazy. That’s the bike to run transition. Your legs feel like wood, and you can’t seem to get a stride, but you keep on going. Then, all of a sudden, things break loose, and you’re flying. I actually averaged about 8:15 per mile on yesterday’s 3 .5 mile run, after a 27 mile ride. But that first half mile felt weird. It always does. From everything I’ve read, and from my own experience last year, nothing changes that. But with enough practice, you get used to it.
My first brick of the year capped off a good first week of triathlon training for my August target race. Other than juggling some specific workouts to accommodate the realities of life, the volume wasn’t too hard to handle. It stays pretty steady for a few weeks during the base period, then starts to ramp up. My travel requirements are about to pick up again, so let the juggling begin!