Cycle fast, run fast?

19 12 2009

At a recent Tri, I was asked what cycling cadence is good for triathletes. My response was that it should match what you are trying to achieve in your running cadence, so that if you pedal fast, you’ll be able to run at a similar cadence. This feels intuitively right to me, but frankly, I really had no idea of my own running cadence.

Endurance coach Joe Friel does some great thinking on endurance training on his blog. In this article , Joe discusses the two ways in which you run faster. Increase your stride length or increase your cadence (both at the same time would seem best). Counting your foot strikes for 20 seconds and multiplying by three will give you your running cadence.

I’ve been trialling this in my last three runs during this week. First up, I had a cadence of 86. What! Too slow. So then I cranked it up a notch for 2-3 minute periods. Not trying to go faster, just turn the legs over quicker. It’s tough. It requires constant thinking about cadence and it elevates heart rate 8-10 bpm. I’ll stick at it for a couple of months and report back the results.

Chrissie Wellington thinks pushing the pedals at any cadence that feels good is the way to go. In this article she’s puts the boot into high cadence.

I love to push a big gear. It’s a misconception that you need to spin a smaller gear at a higher cadence on the bike. You don’t. Doing that actually raises your heart rate and makes you more tired, which doesn’t serve you very well in long distance racing. Cranking it down and pushing a bigger gear lets me lower my heart rate. It’s what feels natural to me and enables me to go the fastest I can go.

Easy for her to say.

Cycling pop culture has insisted that you must ride at least 90RPM. Why? Who knows. Perhaps it comes from the same book of wisdom that gave us eight-glasses-of water-a-day. Here’s a look at the cadence of some of the best triathletes at the World Ironman champs in Kona (courtesy Boston Triathlon Examiner);

Marino Vanhoenacker 100 rpm (24.1 mph)

Chris Lieto 95 rpm (25.3 mph)

Chrissie Wellington 85 rpm (23.0 mph)

Craig Alexander 82 rpm (24.2 mph)

Leanda Cave 81 rpm (21.1 mph)

Rasmus Henning 77 rpm (24.2 mph)

Chris McCormack 75 rpm (24.6 mph)

Faris Al-Sultan 60 rpm (24.6 mph)

Hard to argue with. Riding at 40+km/hr in the heat and wind for 180km, at any cadence, is super human.




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