–By Ottawa Sportspage, for Bytown Storm Triathlon Club
They are two sports with similar challenges and appealing attributes, and for many athletes who enjoy endurance sports, the crossover between cross-country running and triathlon is a perfect match.
“Both sports are dynamic and exciting, and you have to do a lot of different things and make different choices,” says Triathlon Ontario head coach Greg Kealey.
In XC, athletes will run across different surfaces, face elevation changes, see varied settings though trails, and battle the elements like rain or mud.
In triathlon, there are of course three different disciplines within it – swimming, cycling and running – each offering their own set of unpredictabilities.
“For a lot of the kids and the families, it’s the variety in triathlon that they like,” Kealey signals, noting many Bytown Storm Triathlon Club members wanted a change from sports like soccer, or swimming and running on their own. “They wanted to try something different and they gravitated towards the challenges of a multi-sport event.”
For aspiring triathletes and runners looking for a little something extra, the Bytown Storm Triathlon Club provides expertise in coaching and athlete development.
“For a lot of high school athletes, they join their XC team and every practice is the exact same,” notes Kealey, explaining that variations in intensity, volume and frequency are key. “If you’re doing the same thing all the time, you plateau very quickly.”
The Storm first work to develop the fundamental skills required for success in running, particularly establishing the proper rhythm – from breathing, to stride cadence, and arm drive.
“A lot of the kids who do really well when they’re young don’t do well when they’re older,” Kealey indicates. “At 19 years old, everyone is going to have the same fitness and the same strength.
“If you haven’t worked on the technical aspects of running – it doesn’t matter how much you’ve been winning before that, you’re going to start to lose.”
Kealey employs advanced techniques to build proper form, including video analysis to determine how long runners are in contact with the ground and how often, using a metronome to set the number of steps per minute and teach them to maintain their cadence whether they are doing a slower long run, intervals or tempo runs, and ensuring they have proper posture and breathing frequency.
“That’s the foundation, then you can start building speed and strength,” underlines Kealey, who also utilizes the high-tech underwater treadmills at LiquidGym in Bells Corners.
A number of past Storm athletes have gone on to represent Canada internationally in triathlon, while also enjoying success in the university XC ranks, such as Guelph Gryphons national champions Tristan Woodfine and Joanna Brown, who won the bronze medal at this summer’s Commonwealth Games.
The sports align well for athletes since the triathlon season wraps up in time for XC in the fall.
“You can learn a lot running cross-country that you can carry into triathlon, and vice versa,” Kealey signals. “At the high school level especially, it’s a great compliment. They really feed off each other.”