I did a brick session today! “A what” you ask?
When training for multisport, it’s important to combine those sports during training. That may sound obvious, but it’s more difficult than you might think. For example, it’s frowned upon to dash out of the YMCA pool and jump on a spin bicycle. Likewise, if you’re going from bike to run, there are logistics involved in making sure your bike doesn’t get stolen, etc. This type of training, moving from one sport to the next with minimal rest between simulating race conditions, is called brick training, or just bricks.
Brick training1 is critical for acclimating muscles to the sudden switch as you transition from the swim to the bike, or from the bike to the run. Of the two, the bike-run transition is the more difficult. The change from biking to running can be a difficult and painful switch for your legs. Training for this makes it easier to manage, if not actually less difficult. As an example from the olympic triathlon I did last year, I managed a 56:43 10k, which boils down to 9:09 minutes per mile pace. However, the first mile of those 6.2 (10 k) I split in about 12 minutes. If you subtract out that crappy first mile, my last 5.2 were at an 8:36 pace. That is a huge difference in time and it’s all because of how painful that first mile was. Thus, bricks.
Of course, I don’t think anyone, even elite level triathletes, come out of the bike-run transition and pile along at the speed that will be their run race pace. Warming up those muscles is important, so an ascent up to the target pace is called for. I’ll have to ask around my triathlete friends and see what they think.
The swim-bike transition isn’t as difficult on the body as the bike-run. When you get out of the water, you may be a big logy-headed from the effort you were just exerting with your upper body, so it’s good to train the actual transition period; jogging to your bike and putting on your gear without falling over or passing out. I haven’t heard of anyone having any serious issues with their legs once they were on the bike.
Brick training can also give you an opportunity to practice your transition strategy. Making the most of the seconds in transition can save you, well, seconds. Or minutes, depending on what you do in T1 and T2. Personally, I feel that I’ve done a good job making my transitions efficient in the sprints and olympics that I’ve participated in. The only thing I can do right now to make them faster is to not wear socks. I’m not up to that point yet.2
Ironman training is proceeding apace. I need to concentrate on the pool this week.
1: Why do we call them “bricks”? No idea.
2: Once you stop wearing socks, you can also attach your bike shoes to the pedals and get into them while actually on your bike. That shaves a few seconds. First, no socks, though.