Pacing Strategies for Short Course Triathlon

400 meters to finish

  • Once you've made it through the confusion of the first 400m, settle into an effort that you can maintain for the length of the swim.
  • Our overall swim pacing guidance is to "only swim as fast as you can while maintaining form. If you feel your form becoming compromised, just slow down."

The Bike

Sprint

  • 0 to 10 seconds: Expect to come out of T1 with your heart rate sky high, probably high Zone 4, low Zone 5. Ride the first 10 minutes at an effort that feels like a low Zone 4, but realize your heart rate may or may not actually come down. That's fine. You want to feel like you're in fourth gear out of five, with that fifth gear being the one you shift into at 10 minutes.
  • 10 minutes to finish: It's on! Time to get to work. You should be in very high Zone 4, low Zone 5 heart rate, working about as hard as you can on any hills. It's a race!

Olympic

  • 0 to 20 minutes: Same as the sprint but you're going to give yourself a little longer to settle in and ride at a high Zone 3, low Zone 4 effort for the first 20 minutes of the bike.
  • 20 minutes to finish: Dial up the effort and your heart rate to that high Zone 4 effort. You're "almost" going as hard as you can (see your LTHR testing effort above) but not quite. You should be at about an eight and a half out of 10.

The Run

Your overall goal in both the sprint and Olympic-distance races is to negative split the run, if not by actual time then by effort and focus applied to the course.

Sprint

  • 0 to .5 miles: Get your legs back—keep a high cadence with a neutral to flat footstrike, minimizing the strain on your calves and giving them some time to get in the game.
  • .5 to 2.5 miles: Zone 5. It's a race!
  • 2.5 to 3.1: Give it everything you've got. Finish strong!

Olympic

  • 0 to 1 mile: Again, settle into the race and get your legs back. Run at low Zone 4 effort, though your actual heart rate may be higher. You should feel like you're holding back a little, racing at a seven and half out of 10 effort.
  • 1 to 4 miles: Settle into your LTHR testing effort, a high Zone 4, low Zone 5 heart rate. Awesome if you can get mile splits here and can use your LTHR testing pace as a benchmark, running maybe five to 10 seconds per mile slower to set up a strong finish.
  • 4 to 5.5 miles: Dial the pace up a bit. Definitely Zone 5 heart rate in there, running at a nine out of 10 effort. You're running at your LTHR testing pace.
  • 5.5 to 6.2 miles: Forget your heart rate (it's probably best if you don't look at it). Finish hard and strong.
Active logoPractice your pace at a sprint or Olympic-Distance race.

Rich Strauss is the head coach and co-founder of Endurance Nation. Please visit Endurance Nation to learn more about their triathlon coaching and free training resources.

Interested in learning more about short course triathlon training and racing? Take Endurance Nation's FREE Short Course Training and Racing Virtual Seminar.

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