Today on The Kona Edge, we chat to Sara Fix about her Ironman run injuries and the strategies she put in place to overcome them.
Sara shares her favourite Ironman run workout that helps to build her endurance and strength.
BRAD BROWN: Sara onto the Ironman run now. You mentioned, flipping over to the bike, that you almost need to set up your bike in the swim. Do you feel the same way about your run, that you set your run up in the bike?
SARA FIX: Personally, I think if you have a strong bike you’re going to be ready to run. And I think run training for me, I see people in run coaching they just have one gear. I’m sure you’ve done a lot more of this than me, but watching other pros, they all have blogs, but they have such depth in their running. Meaning they can run an 11 minute mile and they can run a 5 minute mile.
Keeping your run workouts shorter
I coach about building your library so we don’t go out and run. Especially as you age. Going out for 2 and 3 hour runs, holding the same pace just beats your body up. So, how do you get your run fitness in shape with endurance more quickly?
I have a whole program on that which incorporates doing lots of different runs. But not a lot of that roll over and over. That same speed kind of work. So keeping things just a little bit shorter and using a little bit more diversity and pacing. That kind of thing to get their runs on good order.
BRAD BROWN: For you personally, what sort of run workouts do you absolutely love doing?
SARA FIX: I think my favourite day is a Friday which I actually do twice a week. It’s a long warm up, and I can’t say enough about drills. If anybody is listening you all should be doing drills.
Prioritize your Ironman run drills
Look up run drills, look up body awareness drills. Another little thing that I found incredibly helpful is that Northwest is one of the sponsors for our club. There is this amazing guy; he’s a run specialist and getting a run assessment. I know they have people all over the US that do this, they have lots in Illinois. I personally think we got lucky with this guy.
You would be surprised if you get a good run assessment, a total assessment, and a run assessment. If you have imbalancing left from your cycling, an imbalance in your pedal stroke, that’s going to carry over into the run. They can find little nuances that you can work on in the off season.
Strength training, that’s not meaning I’m a big fan of strength training. Not necessarily using big weights. But little techniques and drills to help you balance out your body.
Body position is critical in your Ironman run
Then incorporating drills into your daily run routine. It doesn’t have to be long, but I think it’s very helpful to get your body position right. Especially if you’re fatigued. Get your body back under control.
My favourite run is the one where you warm up, do drills, and then people call it fartlek. It’s kind of like what we do on the Computrainer.
So varying speeds and then there’s always a recovery portion in every little group of the workout. And the recovery for us is we run back to the last man standing. There’s no runner left behind so the group gets to stay together. People can run all different paces but everybody stays as a group. It’s nice if you’re running with a group because the worst feeling is you show up for a run and feel like you’re going out in an hour and you start running. It’s like where are we going? When are we going to turn around?
Structure in your Ironman run workout makes it fun
These workouts are nice because you warm up, you do your drills and then it’s 4 sets, or 5 sets, or 8 sets, or 3 sets. And we’re going to go 2 minutes at this pace, 1 minute at this pace and 1 minute at recovery. And you’re like “Oh, so I’m going to do that and I’m going to do that again and we’re going to turn around and go home”. It’s so much easier to chew on than “well yes, this group is just going to head out for a half hour and then we’ll turn around”.
You inevitably end up running by yourself or at the back or up the front. This way you’re focused, you’re doing the workout, you’re staying together as a group. They’re fun for the respective group and they also get you in great shape.
And I love track workouts too. I’m a big fan of track workouts, I love those.
BRAD BROWN: You mentioned in our first chat that you struggled with quite a few injuries during your triathlon career. Were they run induced or was it across the board. How do you deal with that? Particularly from a run perspective and the disappointment of having an injury and wanting to bounce back?
Managing your Ironman run injuries and your recovery
SARA FIX: They were much more nagging. It was definitely a piriformis issue for me more than anything. And some hamstring stuff. I had a little bit of shoulder stuff. But the piriformis which we thought at one point it may have been a labral tear. It wasn’t. It never stopped.
I just had to do physical therapy, active release and that kind of thing and just stay on it. And finally it pretty much subsided and then we actually did find out. A lot of people get a tightness, particularly women, underneath that sit bone up in their butt. It feels like it’s that hamstring attachment or kind of wraps around their hips. That’s your piriformis. It’s a typical overuse thought for women and it can be misdiagnosed. Only 1 in a million people have it.
So last year they kind of made me the face of Northwestern Medicine because I have this piriformis syndrome. This means my piriformis runs through my actual hip bone so if there’s any inflammation, or there’s just a ton of rubbing it becomes painful. There were all those years that we didn’t know what it was and I just did active release and rolled it and stretched and felt miserable.
Training and racing your Ironman run through pain and misery
Now we actually have a name for it. It’s better though. I had 1 cortisone shot in 2015 I think it was, and it’s been better ever since. I’ve had other injuries. Early on; just the pushback like this hurts, that hurts, that kind of thing. Or maybe a bit of fasciitis, or this or that, Achilles or something.
Then a long time with nothing and then I had a bad fall in training for Ironman Texas and I fell on my hip which cracked my pubic bone. A hairline crack through my pubic bone. So we got through Texas and we tried, I had to wear a Cobb and it was miserable because I had qualified for Hawaii.
It was horrible with every bump on the road. Sometimes I think I don’t know how I got through it because anybody knows that sitting on a bike with any sort of pain down there is horrible. But I managed to get through it and I managed to get through Kona. And it’s all fixed now so I’m happy as a clam.
Brad Brown is a 40 something age grouper that dreams of one day qualifying for and racing on the big island (He may have to outlive everyone in his age group though).
Morbidly obese in 2009, Brad clocked in at 165kgs (363lbs) at his heaviest.
He's subsequently lost a third of his body weight on the way to a half Ironman pb of 5:06 and a full Ironman pb of 12:21.
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