Rachel Joyce tells Andy Blow how she’s improving her run…
Despite training for long-distance events, when it comes to the run Rachel steers clear of the purely high-mileage approach. “I was something of a rabbit for the others to chase off the bike,” she says, hinting at the fearsome swim/bike performance that often gets her into T2 at the front. “This is changing, though, and I feel like I receive a lot of benefit from running frequently and from the quality of my sessions these days.”
This means Rachel pulls on her Newtons for up to six days per week, with four quality sets and a couple of very light efforts in between. The main sessions are typically broken down as follows: a long run of 90mins-2hrs; a brick run after a long ride; a hill session; and a speedwork session.
The long run, despite not being super-long by Ironman standards, usually contains some quality work. “It tends to be progressive in pace or finishes with some faster intervals at the end, which helps to challenge me to run more quickly even when I’m tiring.”
The brick run is relatively short (40-50min) but comes off the back of a 3-5hr bike ride, which itself has periods of Ironman pace built into it. “I tend to run progressively faster through the run off the bike,” she adds. Again, this ensures that, even at the end of what could be a 6hr session, the quality of work remains high.
The hill set can be anything from 20sec steep-gradient power-based reps, to longer efforts at just 3-4% on the treadmill. These build strength, power and top-end aerobic conditioning, which all help provide Rachel with headroom when running at Ironman pace and with specific preparation for hilly courses.
The speedwork can be anything from 1km to 1-mile reps on the treadmill or outdoors, at well above Ironman race pace, to improve running mechanics and boost VO2 max.
Incorporating drills into your run
RacheI incorporates her running drills as part of a longer run rather than doing them as a stand-alone session. Typically, she’ll run to warm up (15mins), then stop and do a series of drills for 10 or 15mins (see below) before finishing off with more steady running.
Keeping light on your feet, every third stride kick your heel back to hit (or get close to hitting) your bum. Focus on keeping your hips open and running tall.
High knee lifts
Every third stride, lift your knee high. As well as focusing on lifting your knee high, also focus on driving your foot back to the ground in two stages: first your forefoot and then down to your mid-foot.
Every third stride, really bound forward off your back foot. This opens up your hip flexors and exaggerates the drive you should achieve at the end of your running action. I use my Newtons to encourage forefoot striking, even when tired.