Multisport Performance vs Single Discipline Performance

Interested in hearing your thoughts and experiences with your performance on bike and run when training for triathlon vs your performance when focussed solely on running or cycling.

After spending most of 2021 focussed on running I’ve been focussed on triathlon since last October. Finding myself failing more frequently on Sufferfest sessions that I would previously manage and had my worst ever half marathon today.

How much do your numbers fall on the bike if you switch from focussed bike to multisport? Similarly for run?

I’ve got an Ironman 70.3 in June. What sort of times have you achieved in Ironman Half Marathon vs focussed Half Marathon?

Look forward to hearing your thoughts and guidance.

My best (recent) half marathon time, running only, is 1h 41m.

My best half marathon at the end of a middle distance tri is 1h 54m.

I did spend a lot of effort trying to improve my bike during that tri training period and my running was definitely “maintenance only” during that time.

I feel without the bike training, I would not have completed the run in that time, anyway, due to fatigue, sore back, etc.

This is a great question and topic for multisport athletes. While I don’t have any specific numbers or percentages to give in terms of how much your numbers fall when switching from focused training to multisport, I will say that of course training for multiple disciplines is much more taxing than a single one and recovery becomes extremely important. It also doesn’t hurt to temper expectations a bit until you get into a good routine and see how you’re progressing. In addition, keeping up to date 4DP numbers and running tests are important to be sure you’re training at the right intensities and not over-extending yourself with numbers/paces that are too high.
I will also emphasize how important it is to your running performance that your bike fitness is very good. It may seem counter-intuitive to train hard on the bike to have a good run off the bike, but it’s crucial. Of course, you have to have good running fitness as well, but being strong on the bike sets you up for a good run with less fatigue going into it. Call it durability, fatigue resistance, whatever- the more fit you are in both disciplines, the better you’ll run off the bike.
In addition, doing at least 1-2 brick sessions/week is important to train your legs and body to be able to run well off the bike. I find that 2-3 bricks/week (with one of them being a short, easy run off the bike) really has helped me race well. I haven’t done many open running races, but my best open half marathon time is only 3-4 minutes faster than my best half IM run time, when I was training hard, specifically for each of them (and I’ve gotta admit the half IM run course was NOT a fast one. Hilly and partly on trails so not the best footing. Had it been all road I probably would have had even closer times!)
So I believe that if your training is good, you should be able to have strong performances in both disciplines. If you’re failing frequently, you may need to reduce the number of hard sessions you do in a week, or re-test to be sure you’re training at the right intensities/zones. And lastly, be patient as it takes time, consistency and recovery to adapt to the training!


Thanks Suzie - very helpful. I’ll be starting a 12 week plan quite soon so will move from a fairly random mix of rides and runs to something much more focussed and structured. It is hard to accept the lower FTP numbers but I shall test and work to the numbers I get. The pre-plan triathlon test week is quite tough compared to the Full Frontal prep week - presumably by design and I should accept the lower numbers that result as my baseline training targets.

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Yes, the pre-tri plan test week has a lot packed into it. If you have the time and would prefer to break those tests up further into a 10 day or 2 week period, that’s totally fine. Ideally, you want to be rested, motivated and prepared for each one, so if taking more recovery between the tests means you get better results- then do it! Whatever you feel is best for your training is totally ok!

Thank you. Again very helpful - that is me sorted and ready to go !

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