On today’s edition of The Kona Edge we chat to Steve Mantell about the Ironman run.  He tells why the run is more about strength rather than speed and the strategies he has in place with training which will help him dig deep on race day.  We also find out how variety in his run training helps him improve his pace.


BRAD BROWN:  You’re listening to The Kona Edge, time to chat some running today, returning guest from Colorado joining us now, Steve Mantell. Steve, welcome back onto The Kona Edge, it’s good to have you on.

The run, it’s the last of the three disciplines and if you can get off the bike feeling good, it’s time to make up a lot of time and you can make up extra places and it’s something you do pretty well.

Your Ironman run is all about strength

STEVE MANTELL:  I think the run for an Ironman is actually more about just strength. I think it’s not necessarily about if you’re fast, it’s just who is going to break down less. You’re going to be running for three plus hours, you’ve got to keep good form and just keep getting fuel in and it’s different than a normal run for sure, but there’s definitely ways I think you can prepare for it.

BRAD BROWN:  It’s also one of those things, it’s who can dig the deepest and hang tough for the longest. What are some of the strategies and some of the things you do when you are really struggling and hurting on the run, to keep yourself going at the pace that you know you need to, if you want to get the results you want to get?

STEVE MANTELL:  I like to break it up, I think it makes it much easier, a marathon is daunting. Any run over a couple of miles can seem really daunting, so I like to set little intermediate goals, just the next aid station or just get to that person cheering on the side of the road, is really helpful for me personally.

In Kona for example, I would just focus on one aid station to the next, not even thinking about, oh my God, I have 26 miles to run, that’s crazy, you just focus on getting to the next aid station and yeah, you can just think about what I’m going to do at that aid station. Even okay, I need to get some ice down, get some water in, some salt, take a gel. You’ve got to think about that and personally it kind of takes my mind off of things a little bit instead of worrying so much about my pace that I can just go at my all day pace, I guess, and yeah, but everybody is going to be digging deep and when I dig deep, what I think about, I think about other people. People who have helped me get there. It was an incredible, just getting ready for Kona was ridiculous and there’s so many people that helped me on the way, so I thought of them. I thought of my coach, thought of people who aren’t able to do it, who aren’t able to race, there are so many people who are not as privileged as we are to be able to go there, let alone even do some sort of athletic thing and I’m so grateful that I could do it and I think about that a lot.

Ironman Run - Challenge your body with variety in your runs

When you want something you have to dig deep

Just being grateful for the opportunity and ultimately, I think, you’re absolutely right, you’ve got to dig deep and you’ve got to want something and I think a lot of people who do Ironman, they have that motivation and a lot of times I think if you lose it, partway through the run and if you’re really just, I don’t want it anymore, I’m tired, I’ve been through so much, I think a lot of that, if you ask them a couple of hours after the race, they’ll be down on themselves for thinking that and a lot of that goes back to not having enough calories. I think your body is already hurting, you need to keep giving your mind the fuel to motivate you and push your body.

I think a lot of people will get down on themselves if they’ve been pounding Coke and then they stop doing it, but you need to keep giving your body those really simple sugars to keep yourself going in the marathon. What our bodies are doing at that point, it’s crazy to think about. Your mind can still be in it, but you’ve got to keep giving it some fuel to keep going.

BRAD BROWN:  Absolutely. Steve, as far as some of the gains that you’ve made on the run, can you attribute it to one or two things over your career that you felt have really improved your run performance?

STEVE MANTELL:  I think, as we talked about earlier, I think having people around you to push you is good. When I train with the Colorado State University triathlon team, there are some really fast people who are on the track and I think being on the track, there’s a lot of benefit to that and there’s some good workouts that if you do with other people can really push you, make you go faster than you thought you could.

Be in good form to run off the bike

I’m a big believer of running off the bike. I think in triathlon, it’s really important to be able to have good form off that, so even after a really long ride, I still like to go for 10-15 minutes of just easy jogging, just so that your body is used to that. The more frequently you can do those kind of bricks, I think it helps, but with that being said, I also think there’s a time and a place for being fresh for a run. If you really want to focus on a long run, then it’s good to, either do a short bike warm-up but that’s about it, the focus is on the run, I think that’s good. But I think over my career and I definitely don’t think I’ve reached my running potential. I think there’s always little setbacks, little injuries, I think it’s just consistency and always being willing to learn and to move on with your technique and including variety.

 I think a lot of people will shy away from variety instead of just, I want to run 28 miles this week, so they run 4 miles a day, but I think having variety really is underrated. It’s good to have your easier runs, it’s good to have hard runs, it’s good to have some tempo, some intervals, stuff like that, to just challenge your body.

A lot of coaches basically talk about, as long as you’re stressing your body, your body is going to adapt, so you need to make things that are going to continue to stress your body in terms of running so that your body is going to recover and then adapt to, improve at whatever workout you just did. I think consistently stressing and recovering is important and including speed work and strength work, for running, is really good for your run.

BRAD BROWN:  Favourite run workout, what do you love doing?

Breaking up your run distance makes it easier

STEVE MANTELL:  There’s probably two. On the track, one of my favourite workouts is from Michael Lovato, he’s in Boulder, he’s a coach there, it’s his favorite long workout. It’s basically broken miles. On the track your goal is basically to keep it the same pace the entire, all the intervals. For example, what you do is you do 4 x 400’s, 2 x 800’s, one mile, if you’re really ambitious you can do another mile and then you go back down the ladder, so then you go 2 x 800, 4 x 400 and you rest, you jog for every 400 you get 100m jog. Between the 400’s you get a 100m, between the 800’s you get 200, after the mile, get a whole lap. Like I said, your goal is to keep it the same pace. You might feel really good and want to cross off the 400’s, but you’re not allowed to do that. You have to keep it the same pace as you’re going to run the 800 and you’re going to run the mile. For example, if I’m targeting a shorter distance race and I want to go pretty hard, then I’ll aim for 5:20 pace.

Yeah, I could run a 400 in like 1:10, or 1:12 if I wanted to, but I have to run those four at 1:20 per lap, which is 5:20 pace and I have to run the 800’s at 2:40 for 800. It just teaches your body to get used to that pace and then if you’re feeling good, then you can go a little faster on the way down, but it’s a huge confidence booster workout for somebody if they keep that same pace on the way up and the way down. It’s easy to do it on the way up when you’re feeling good, it’s a little bit more challenging when you’re coming on the way down. If you can pick it up, that’s awesome. I like that workout, it’s a good way to get some fast miles in.

As far as Ironman goes, we have a workout that we really like to do, it’s 30 reps of 1km. We go to a park and there’s an almost perfect 1km loop and you end up basically running a marathon. You pace it out the way you would want to ideally run a marathon for an Ironman.

What you do is, the first 10 x 1km, you run a little bit slower than your goal marathon pace, then the next 10 you run at your goal marathon pace and then the last ten you can go as fast as you want or as fast as you can, but the goal is to go a little bit faster than marathon pace. After each 1km you get a minute and a half to two minutes, you just walk. It’s just an easy jog or a slow walk to where you’re going to start the next 1km and then after 10, then you get a 5 minute break.

Ironman Run - Challenge your body with variety in your runs

You can practice taking in your nutrition, it’s really good and that’s also a huge confidence booster workout, it seems really daunting, 30km seems pretty long, but breaking it up into those 1km, a 1km is totally manageable. 3-4 minutes, five minutes of running and you can break it up into that, you can think about them 10 at a time and just doing it, you get the distance in and you get some good speed work, you just get a lot of time spent at that pace that you want to be running.

I think that’s really an awesome workout if you’re training for an Ironman, to what we would usually do would be do 21km where you do 4 a little bit slower, maybe 12 out and then another 4 a little bit faster and maybe 8 ten weeks out and then you do 30 like three or four weeks out, so it’s kind of like a last big run in and I’ve thought about that, definitely, on all of my marathons and just breaking it up is good and then you can hopefully, at least, in terms of effort, negative split the run a little bit.

BRAD BROWN:  Steve, that sounds amazing, those two workouts sound incredible and I’m definitely going to give them a bash.

Thanks for your time once again here on The Kona Edge, much appreciated.

STEVE MANTELL:  Of course, thanks for having me.

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