Today on The Kona Edge we catch up with Owain Matthews and chat about his Ironman run. Owain believes everyone can become a better runner and he shares his views with us on mobility and why he focuses on it to improve his run technique.
BRAD BROWN: Welcome back to yet another edition of The Kona Edge, it’s time to talk some running and I’m super excited to welcome our next guest back on, Owain Matthews. Owain, welcome, thanks for joining us again.
OWAIN MATTHEWS: Thanks for having us Brad.
BRAD BROWN: Owain, the reason I’m really excited to chat about your running particularly is because you do come from such a strong running background and a lot of people will say, if you want to be really good at the sport, you have to be able to run well. Would you agree with that or would you say to somebody, even if running is not your strongest now, you can learn to be a better runner and you can get there?
Improve your technique to strengthen your Ironman run
OWAIN MATTHEWS: Yeah, I think it’s probably the most underrated one for, I guess, anything outside of hard work, people don’t focus a lot on technique whereas there’s a lot of improvement still to be made. Also, the triathlon has such a huge bike culture, people want to bike fast and they forget about the run and it’s just, in my experience, especially the longer you go, even with the bike being a more significant part of the race, you can lose more time on the run easily, than you can on the bike. You can still roll around on the bike and move okay, whereas the run, as soon as you’re gone, that’s it, you’re done.
BRAD BROWN: I love that and I think that’s so important to take note of as well. For you, it must be a massive confidence booster, knowing that at the end of the bike this is where you’re really good at, although in saying that, it’s also easy to get carried away if you know that this is your strong one and that’s exactly what you told us the first time we chatted. Your pacing in that first year of Ironman is something you struggled with. You obviously felt good and this is what I’m good at, but then halfway through the marathon it’s a different story.
OWAIN MATTHEWS: Yeah, definitely and like I’ve mentioned before, the 70.3 distance suits me quite well. I find a bit more towards my threshold sort of running, so I can get away with, I guess, being a bit poorer with my pacing, or going off a bit harder and still be able to hold on quite well whereas when you do an Ironman, especially with the marathon distance, it’s just not the case and I lack that strength, coming from a shorter distance running background, even with my running background, I still lack the strength, a lot of it, the time to do well and I guess a lot of people who assume that I might run even faster, I don’t do that all the time and a lot of that’s pacing, but also the efficiency of how you run and how you train as well.
BRAD BROWN: Let’s talk about those things, efficiency, pacing and particularly guys and girls that you see coming into the sport, coming from a running background, you probably spot it a lot easier than most. What are some of the most common mistakes you see people making when it comes to their Ironman run?
OWAIN MATTHEWS: In terms of pacing, it’s the first thing, I think a lot of people kid themselves on how fast they’re going to run and that’s people that I’ve worked with personally in terms of athletes, but also just the way you see people running, knowing that they’re not going to go that fast.
If you break down an Ironman run, people are going to fade, there’s going to be a fade in the run, very few people are able to speed up, but if you look at the first half marathon and the people in the second half of the marathon, people don’t pace well, they go off way too fast and it’s just not cut out for that, that’s the first thing.
Then the second thing is just how people run. I don’t think people take the time to think about what they’re doing, they just assume that they can obviously run and they’re just going to go at a pace and try and grind out what they can for as long as they can. With everything, there’s ways they can focus on being efficient when things get tough and that makes a big difference in how you can limit how much you slow down.
BRAD BROWN: Let’s talk about the efficiency side of things. What sort of stuff would you advise, I know it’s difficult in this forum, but what would you advise people to do when it comes to running more efficiently?
Focus on your mobility to improve your Ironman run
OWAIN MATTHEWS: I think the first thing I always get people to do and I do this in conjunction with one of our physiotherapists that we have in our community who is also a really good triathlete is that people have to look at their mobility and what they’re able to do. One of the biggest hindrances to people’s run efficiency is their inability to move their joints for a good range of movement and people in triathlon tend to have very poor, what we call lower chain flexibility, so they’re not, they don’t have a lot of flexibility in their hip flexes, their hamstrings, their glutes etc and that’s just going to, once they do more and more biking, more and more running, they’re going to get tighter and tighter if they don’t focus on it and that’s one of the biggest, the first drawbacks to it, is their mobility. It’s something I always focus on with athletes that I work with and something that I have a good level of myself.
The second thing is to make them aware of being compact as a runner. Knowing the things that are inefficient, things like over-striding, their arm carriage, their body posture and the things that are going to make them slow down. Again, I look at it from more of a physics point of view, how much energy you’re losing every time you hit the floor and I try and limit those things as much as I can.
BRAD BROWN: Brilliant. Run, workout-wise, what sort of stuff do you love doing?
OWAIN MATTHEWS: I guess I go back to my track days, I really enjoy the above threshold stuff, when I’m kind of getting towards the point where I might be in the last 6 weeks of a build toward a race and I get to do things like, I like doing things like 400’s or something on short recovery where I get to kind of improve my cruising speed, so above race pace, above threshold and short recovery and get to work more high cadence, high pace, when I get into my race stuff, it feels a lot easier.
BRAD BROWN: As far as gains, it’s probably difficult because you’ve been running for so long, but is there something you feel you’ve done or continue to do that really gives and helps you get good gains on the run?
OWAIN MATTHEWS: I think going back to the first point I mentioned before is the thing that I’ve continued to work more and more on as I’ve become a triathlete and a little bit older and a little bit smarter is the strength and conditioning side of it. I do regular functional movement, mobility sets and strength and conditioning with a personal trainer as well. I find that side of it gives me the capacity to be more efficient as an athlete and hold my form for a lot better, for a lot longer.
BRAD BROWN: Brilliant. Owain Matthews, thank you so much for your time once again here on The Kona Edge. Looking forward to chatting about your nutrition strategy, but we’ll save that for another day, thank you.
OWAIN MATTHEWS: Thank you.