On this episode of The Kona Edge we head back to Melbourne, Australia to catch up with Nathan Shearer to discover what he has done over his relatively short Ironman career in order to get fast on the Ironman run.
BRAD BROWN: Welcome back onto another edition of The Kona Edge and we’re chatting running today. We head back to Melbourne, Australia, a returning guest, Nathan Shearer joins us. Nathan, your running performance is incredible and I think particularly your performance at Ironman New Zealand in 2016, 3:01, just missing out on a sub three hour marathon, off a pretty decent performance on the bike as well, you must love running to be able to run that fast.
NATHAN SHEARER: Yeah, I do love running, absolutely, you nailed it, it’s probably my favourite of the three.
BRAD BROWN: That’s pretty important. You’re never going to win an Ironman on a bike, but you can definitely lose it on the run and if you’re getting off the bike thinking, hey, this is my favourite discipline, I love running, it just makes things a little bit easier.
NATHAN SHEARER: Yeah, absolutely. I think yeah, I’ve tried to get myself to the point where I love all three sports, but like you say, not everyone loves running and some people run scared, I’d had to run that way. Luckily I don’t have to, so it’s a nice mental state to be in.
BRAD BROWN: In our first chat you mentioned how the wheels came off in Kona on that run, your first visit to Kona, but you managed to bounce back and work your way up from 10th to 5th, we all go through dark patches at some stage in a race, some of us like hanging out in those dark places more than others. You don’t mind them that much, but what are some of the strategies that you’ve got to get yourself out of those places?
Strategies to get you out of dark places on the Ironman run
NATHAN SHEARER: Yeah, so my nature is, I guess, process oriented, so I don’t get too far ahead of myself, which sets me up well to deal with things going wrong in races and in general, but in races specifically because it became just about questioning myself. What can I do right now that will make me feel better right now? Do I need food, do I need fuel, do I need water, do I need salt, how is my form, can I improve anything there, am I holding onto tightness anywhere, am I relaxed, what can I do to help me feel better. That was all I just kept thinking about in Kona, so it was that coupled with breaking it down and I’ve read about this and heard it from a fair few other athletes. Breaking down the marathon into really small, manageable chunks and that, in Kona, for me, that was every aid station, which was 1600m, one mile apart and it was just get to the next aid station. You can cool down, you can get ice, so it turned from 42km into 20 one mile repeats instead and that was the biggest difference, it’s just mental and being able to break it down and turn it into something else. Something that it wasn’t, but approach it in that way and I think that helped me immensely.
BRAD BROWN: Such great advice and particularly when it starts getting long and really tough, if you do break it down into those little pieces, it does make it so much easier. From a running performance perspective, over the years, can you pin it down to one thing that you’ve done that’s given you the biggest gains over that time?
NATHAN SHEARER: Yeah, I think it’s, for me anyway, I’ve said it to you a couple of times, relating to the other two sports, but not coming from a background in any of the three, no aerobic base, but no strength and conditioning base for any of the sports, so I think the biggest thing for running for me was to be patient with it. I was very talented, very early, with running and it wasn’t, probably, as present with swim and bike, but running-wise I got very good, very quick, in terms of speed, but we had to be really patient with how you then progress that into half Ironman and Ironman performance because classic over training, building up mileage way too quickly, it leads to injury in runners all the time.
Running injuries are always just over-use. Over time it was all right, build your speed, get that first, get efficient form, then build some volume, do Ironman, stop, rebuild your speed, build some more volume and just layer the training over years rather than trying to get maximum gains all at once. I think for me that was topping out 70/80km a week run volume for my first Ironman, about 80/90 maybe max for my second. I think I did 95/96 max for Kona, that was one week only and then my last Ironman I had that huge base behind me to be able to do 110/120km a week for 8 weeks in a row.
BRAD BROWN: Wow, again, you mentioned it when we were chatting cycling, it’s consistency and building off something that you’ve consistently built over time.
Consistency is the key to improving your Ironman Run
NATHAN SHEARER: Yeah, exactly, consistency, but in a smart way. We didn’t try and overload too quickly and you’ve got to be patient and have a long term view, running is just, any endurance activity, it’s consistency over time will trump large chunks of volume inconsistently. That would be my biggest piece of advice, especially for running, it’s such a high instance of injury, you’ve just got to be a bit safe and a bit smart with it.
BRAD BROWN: That is gold. As far as individual workouts, what do you love doing, do you do much speed, any track, what’s the sort of stuff that you love Nathan?
NATHAN SHEARER: Yeah, track, I love track, it was a session I started when I first started with the squad, they ran track every Wednesday night, so still my favourite thing in the world, going and running track, hard. My favorite Ironman run workout is called Yasso 800’s, it’s 10 x 800 at your best 10km pace, 100m float recovery, so you’re still running, just slower. Do that times 10, plus you warm up and warm down. It works out, it’s usually 14-16km total, including the warm up and down, but 10km run flat out with 200m breaks in between, that’s my favourite by far.
BRAD BROWN: Sounds awesome. Nathan Shearer, thank you so much for joining us once again here on The Kona Edge, much appreciated, we look forward to catching up again soon.
NATHAN SHEARER: Thanks Brad.