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Running, Biking and Adventure Races

At first I thought it was a fluke. A few weeks back I did a faux-triathlon (ugh, fine. I biked, ran and showered) and for some reason the 5k I ran AFTER biking an hour was way faster than normal. Lately my runs have been feeling slow, but on Sunday night I decided to test the theory once again.

In the morning, I ran 4.25 miles outside. Later that night I biked 12 miles in 45 minutes. I immediately got off the bike and hopped onto the treadmill and ran an 8:15 mile. The fact that it was faster than normal (way faster, let's be honest) wasn't even the shocking part. It felt better. I had better form, no hip pain and my breathing was under control.

Okay, so twice it happened. Still a theory, right? Today I cycled at medium resistance for 15 minutes (4 miles) and then started running.  Result - 7 miles at a 9:09 pace and no hip pain. Needless to say I will never be running again unless I've biked first.

I really don't get it. At all. I searched the web for a while trying to find someone who found the same thing to be true and found this blog. The author has a theory about cadence - i.e. if your legs are used to moving at a certain speed on the bike they will just continue to do so on a run. That still leaves the lack of hip pain more confusing than ever. The only thing I can think of is perhaps my form is very different off the bike.

So...runners, bikers, those of you who train 18 hours a week for you have any input on this? Am I crazy? Is it a placebo effect? I mentioned this on Daily Mile and got reactions from these ladies about doing triathlons. All I have to say about that day I will learn to ride a bike.

Not today. But one day.

Anyway, whether or not I eventually figure out how to pedal those mysterious two wheeled devices, I do think it would be really fun to try a race not entirely about running. A gym chain nearby offers  indoor triathlons that are organized by time (10 minute swim, 30 minutes spin, 20 minutes on a treadmill) which kind of seem like a great fit for me. I'm also trying to wrangle someone into doing this one with me:  The Riverbend Adventure Challenge.


 Four people in each team have to:

-Make it to the top of a climbing wall underneath Walnut Bridge in Chattanooga
-Get on stand up paddleboards and head to a little island nearby
-Run ~2 miles on trails around the island
-Paddle back to the beach/finish

How fun does that sound? Its $50 per person ($200 for a team of 4) so not a terrible deal either. If I can wrangle Tim on board then we just need to find a super fast couple to round out our team. Or maybe a super slow couple so we can look more buff and intense? To be determined.

Have you ever competed in a non-running race of any kind?
In middle school/high school I paddled outrigger canoes in Hawaii and we had races, but that was many years ago. In recent years...nothing!

Anyone want to throw out any theories on the biking/running phenomenon?
Possibilities include the phase of the moon, my former life as a pro triathlete or an allergic reaction to jelly beans. Go crazy, I will accept all possible theories. 


  1. I think a lot of it probably has to do with the fact that you are warming up your hip in a non-weight-bearing fashion. You get it moving and warmed up before you start experiencing the force of hitting the pavement.

    You are also just plain old warming up... which would make the speed of that first mile faster (you aren't wasting one mile to warm up your body)

    That's my two cents, anyway :)

  2. this is crazy, today my running coach was telling me how speedy I was and asked if I changed anything, gotten more sleep, ect. After reading your post I realized I went on a pretty long (10 plus) miles bike ride (long for me since I NEVER bike) on Sunday and now i'm thinking maybe that helped! Although it was two days ago, it was the last cardio I did because yesterday I did Pilates. Do you think that biking can help us run faster if we just add it to our weekly workouts and not necessarily right before the run like you just did for your 'theory'? I think maybe! I don't know though!

  3. Ha - what a theory. Who cares why...I'm just happy it works.

  4. ME ME ME! I wanna do the adventure race! We should coerce others as well haha

  5. That sounds like a great race. I love non standard races because you can just have fun and not worry about your time or a PR.

    I think that post-cycling, your hips are a little less mobile from sitting in the same position for a while, so you decrease your stride length, which lets you turn over faster. And run faster. I have about the same experience.

    So just do triathlons. Duh.

  6. You know, I used to do spin class on MOnday night. As soon as I was done with spin, I would go upstairs at the gym and run. Those were some of the best runs on a treadmill. I remember thinking "Oh my legs will be tired" but that wasn't the case. I was able to amp it up and do a good run every time.

  7. My theory is that it is just plain easier running on a treadmill than it is runnning outdoors where you have to power yourself forward.

    And I think there might be something to that cadence thing, but only might.

    I hope you do that race. Sounds like fun.

  8. hey, i'm SOO happy to hear that u've been kicking BUTT on those runs and if u want my two cents i'll share it...but always feel free to :) actually u are right on track with ur cadence thing but there's a little more too. it's not uncommon for runners to improve their times when they tackle a tri, especially if that person is a bit injury prone. my friend turned to tri training and her running miles dropped from 40ish to maybe 20 but the biking she was doing (the short intervals too) ended up giving her PR's from the mile to the 5k. the other thing is that LOTS of runners who start and then immediately set their goals on finishing a marathon sort of 'miss out' or skip the phase of building speed that u get for training for the shorter distances. that's kinda why i tell people to always know there are OTHER distances outside of a marathon and it's great to mix it up. so after my long winded thing here, you've been running less overall volume which then allows u to put more quality (ie: speed) into the miles u DO run. so that's making u faster girl...keep it up! :)

  9. I totally FAIL at paddleboarding. Have you ever done it?! I am so jealous of anyone who can do it =( It seems like SO MUCH FUN for the 5 consecutive seconds I can stay upright. God I wish I had a sense of balance.

  10. That's interesting about your running. I wonder if you are just warmed up? If you run 2 miles first and THEN run your 4 miles, is your pace faster? Or only if you bike?

    That paddle board race sounds SO fun! I found an adventure race in Oregon that is biking, running, kayaking, swimming and... I forget what else, but it sounds like a lot of fun too! I have never done one before.

  11. It's so funny you blogged about this tonight because I was thinking about the same thing... almost...
    I've been biking instead of running the past 2 weeks because of knee problems (1st time i've ever really biked for exercise lol) and then today I decided enough was enough and went for a run... 4 miles... faster easy pace, the whole time I kept thinking that my form felt a lot better for some reason... I just couldn't tell what was different about it... interesting :) I'm definitely gonna keep biking for my cross training days that's for sure :)

  12. Those races sound like so much fun! SUP is awesome. Tried it in Hawaii and nearly died, but still fun! I would do the race and most definitely try to find a slower couple so I could feel more buff ;)

  13. Oh man Tappan and I will totally do the adventure race with you!! I wish it were closer...

  14. I do so love an adventure race def do!! My and the hubster could most def be your super slow extra couple ... pity!

  15. That adventure race sounds awesome, although I've never used a paddle board before and probably would be super slow with all my falling off.

    I never bike, so I can't help you with your theory about speed and hip pain. It sounds like you just need a longer warm up and if you jogged slowly or walked for 15 minutes that you might get the same benefit?

  16. I don't bike, but if I walk the dog before running, I run faster. I think it's because my legs are getting a really good and safe warmup before running. Maybe it's something similar with the bike.

    I've only ever done running races, unless you count relays from elementary school.

  17. Very interesting - I think it may have to do that biking is warming up your hip and so when you go to run, then there is no pain. Or something along those lines. Not exactly sure, but thats very interesting.

  18. That race sounds way fun! I have never really done any other kind of races besides running. I should get out more ;)

    I believe what you are talking about with the biking then running. Nice work with the speedy mile!!

  19. I have no idea about your theory but hey, whatever works, right? The paddleboard race thing sounds fun. I keep wanting to try that. I thought it would be difficult but people have told me it's actually pretty easy so I might be coordinated enough to do it.

  20. 2 things:
    1st - Biking is warming up your muscles, stretching out your hips before your run.
    2nd - Your cadence is higher after riding, your foot strike improves.

    Bad news - eventually this effect wears off, as in at some point you will ride your bike much harder or longer and though your initial run off the bike will be faster it will likely slow back down toward stand alone miles (sometimes slower).

    Good news - It's super fun to run off the bike and triathlons are AWESOME!!!

    Time to get in the water V!

  21. Maybe it's because your hip is sufficiently warmed up? I totally agree with the cadance thing though! I've been trying to correct my form for a year, and while I still have a lot of work, I think it's because of biking that I finally figured out how to take short, quick steps while running downhill.

  22. What a cool race idea!!!! Love it - you go girl!!!!!

  23. That sounds so fun! If I had any idea how I would do on a paddle board, I would be interested…..but I have NO idea! The whole running after biking thing is really odd! Is there a difference in an indoor bike and biking outdoors? All I know is after I did the duathlon, my legs felt like bricks for a good half mile in the last run and I definitely didn't crank out any super fast paces :)

  24. man. i know nothing about the physics of what works for running and what doesnt...every time i think i have something figured changes or just doesnt make sense so i stop trying to figure it out. haha. but im totally like you...if i find something that works...i stick with it no matter what...even when i cant figure out if it makes sense!

    i have started MUCH slower in my running lately...and i found that i feel so much stronger and faster at the end of my runs and that has helped me. maybe the biking kinda is a good warm-up?

    also. that adventure race sounds totally awesome!!!

  25. When I was having some back issues, I noticed that if I rode first it helped to loosen up all of my muscles and then I could run without any pain.

  26. The adventure race sounds so fun!!!
    I've never done a non running race but totally would.
    The biking/running thing is odd but if it's working for you keep doing it :)

  27. I'm doing this ....I'll get back to you. I think it very well could be a candence thing...or that your legs are all lose ?? who knows.

    I wish I could do that race with you - sounds fun!!!!

    I've only run to races...I want to bike one

  28. After my first long bike ride, I ran 2.5 miles at like an 8:18 pace, which is super fast for me, and that even included some hills! I'm with everyone else that it somehow warms up your legs. Now get cracking on learning to bike ride so we can do some triathlons.

  29. That sounds like a really fun race! I tried to get Allan to do a duathlon this summer but no luck. Maybe I'll show him this and see what he thinks.

  30. that race sounds INCREDIBLE. i estimate that i would be able to not make an ass out of myself on a paddleboard for approximately 43 seconds straight, so, sounds like a challenge! i would be DOWN if i were anywhere close to tennessee.

    your biking thing is amazing. i'm going to try this to see if it's science and you're onto something (like a major medical breakthrough that will make you superrich and superfamous), or whether it's just "a vanessa thing." will report back.


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