Today we dig into Ben Hammer‘s background on The Kona Edge.  Ben shares with us the importance of continuing  to work on your Ironman run strength even when you come from a strong running background.  He  also reveals the secret on how to simulate a strong run off your bike to make your race day a good one.


BRAD BROWN:  You’re listening to The Kona Edge, the home of Ironman triathletes who dream of qualifying and racing on the Big Island and we’re joined once again by someone who has raced on that Big Island. Ben Hammer, Ben, welcome back.

The run, and I’ll say out of the four disciplines cause we’ll include nutrition in there, but the run for you has been something that’s been part of your life for so long, it’s the thing that comes most naturally to you and it really helps when you do feel that way about the run because that’s where Ironman are won and lost.

BEN HAMMER:  Absolutely. I’m grateful to have the running background that I do. Every time I do a race, it’s always nice to have that to fall back on.

BRAD BROWN:  Ben it’s easy when you come into a sport like triathlon with a strong running background, to almost neglect it because you need to work hard on your swim and bike. Have you found that or have you worked equally hard on the run to not just keep it the way it was, but to improve on it?

Work on your run or race day will not go well

BEN HAMMER:  I definitely had to focus on working hard but actually the thing for me that I’ve had to do is dial back my running a little bit. For me that’s the thing I enjoy the most and so when I first started training, I would find myself spending maybe a little bit too much time working on my running. And like you say, you’ve got to work on the swim and the bike. But the thing that I think a lot of people miss with their run training, it’s really important to simulate running off of the bike. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been running for three months or for 20 years, that’s an unpleasant experience and it’s a challenging thing to do. And you’ve got to work on it or race day is not going to go well.

BRAD BROWN:  You almost get the feeling someone stole your legs in T2 and left you theirs.

BEN HAMMER:  Exactly! I’ve experienced that many times.

BRAD BROWN:  Ben, over the years, can you pin it down to maybe one or two things that you think you’ve done that’s given you the biggest gains on the run?

Hard efforts off the bike to improve your Ironman run

BEN HAMMER:  I think forcing yourself to do some good, hard tempo efforts off of a long, hard bike, I think is really important. And I would also say realizing that you are really going to, your success on the run is going to be so closely dependent to how you do nutritionally during the race. I think that’s a really important thing to practice as well. I would say practicing good, hard efforts off of the bike and then also making sure that you’ve practiced nutritionally what you are going to do on race day. Because ultimately you can have the best run fitness and be set up to run really fast, but if you don’t have any fuel in the tank, you’re not going to have a good run.

BRAD BROWN:  It also helps that you don’t overcook things. Particularly in a race scenario on the bike and you mentioned the benefits of using a Power meter. That’s one of the big things too, is that you’re pushing hard enough, but not too hard that when you get off the bike you’ve absolutely blown it for the run.

BEN HAMMER:  Absolutely and I would also add, what we talked about on a previous session, the importance of, even with a Power meter, of having a race plan and being able to adapt that race plan based on the day. I’ve done that wrong. I’ve had days where I’ve just stuck with the race plan and I didn’t adapt and I paid for it. And then other times I’ve seen what was happening around me and forced myself to adapt a little bit and been able to make it on the run as a result. That’s an important thing to remember when you talk about overcooking yourself on the bike.

BRAD BROWN:  Talk to me about some of your favourite run workouts. What do you absolutely love doing?

Build your strength for your Ironman run

BEN HAMMER:  If you want one that’s going to be a great simulator, I think for the strength that you need in a triathlon and I’ll share one with you guys. For those of you who like me are in cold weather climates and can’t always be outside to do a good workout easily, it’s a great thing to be able to do on a treadmill. Give yourself a good 15-20 minutes warm up and then set yourself a goal, I think 4 minutes is usually a pretty good amount of time.

What you’ll do is go 4 minutes at a pace that’s pretty fast. So maybe right around your half Ironman goal run pace or something like that. Start out 4 minutes at a 2% incline and after 4 minutes transition straight. Don’t give yourself any rest or any time off, just transition straight into 4 minutes at a 4% incline. Again, keep that pace exactly the same, keep it dialed right on, right around that say goal half Ironman run pace. Do another 4 minutes at the 4% and then follow that up with 4 minutes at a zero percent incline. You’ve now gone for 12 minutes and you’ve gone from 2% to 4% and then to zero percent. That’ll be one set and then try and get yourself through 3-4 sets of that.

You will probably not be a very happy camper, but that is a great workout to simulate the strength that you need in a triathlon.

BRAD BROWN:  As they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!

BEN HAMMER:  Absolutely, just be careful not to fly off the back of the treadmill!

BRAD BROWN:  I was going to say, I think that’s where the saying came from, was from that workout! Ben, thanks for your time once again here on The Kona Edge, much appreciated. We look forward to chatting about your nutrition next time out.

BEN HAMMER:  Absolutely, thanks for having me.