Training Zones1 of 7
Know how fast—and how hard—to go on race day by testing yourself in training and then applying this knowledge to your racing. If you have a coach, they can help with testing protocols and determining training zones, based on those testing results. Ultimately, it's up to you to stick to your training zones, improve fitness while training and realize your potential on race day.
Proper Fueling2 of 7
Your pacing strategy needs to incorporate a nutrition strategy. If you're not properly fueled, especially for races lasting longer than 90 minutes, you'll drain your glycogen stores and bonk before reaching the finish line. If this happens, there's no coming back, and pacing won't matter. Experiment with fueling strategies during training to help you execute your best pacing.
Swim Pacing3 of 7
The best advice you can take for swim pacing is don't go out too hard. Swim at your own pace, which should feel strong and sustainable. It's OK to go hard for the first minute, but then settle into your goal swim pace by feel. If you think you're going too slow at the start of a race, you're probably swimming at a sustainable pace. Unlike cycling and running, it's hard to see your GPS watch when swimming, so you need to be familiar with the feel of race effort when swim training.
Pro Tip: When pool swimming, pushing off the wall—or flip turning—will approximate wearing a wetsuit when open water swimming.
Bike Pacing4 of 7
Photo/Daniel Diaz, Flickr
While training on the bike, test yourself and use the info to inform your bike pacing. Tools like a heart rate monitor and/or a powermeter are handy for determining training and racing zones. If using a heart rate monitor, keep your heart rate under your anaerobic threshold. If you're racing by feel, go as hard as you can up to the point where you can still manage to get three to four words out at a time.
Pro Tip: Be cautious of pacing by speed on the bike. External conditions, such as temperature, humidity, wind and elevation changes, can greatly affect how fast you go, even on a familiar course.
Run Pacing5 of 7
Photo/Ian Robertson, Flickr
The longer the event, the more crucial smart pacing is. Doing speedwork while run training will give you a feel for what going really hard is and will be a reference point for pacing your off-the-bike run. Doing brick workouts will help you practice the feel of running on less-than-fresh legs.
Pro Tip: Pay attention to both minutes per mile and also your heart rate while running when competing in 70.3- and 140.6-distance races. If you're racing in hot conditions, dial your pacing back appropriately, and keep your heart rate under control.
Bike-Run Workouts for Pacing Practice6 of 7
Practicing bike and run pacing will help you achieve greater fitness and also teach effective pacing strategies. Familiarization with the feel of running out of T2 will give you a huge advantage over others who are trying to fake it until they make it. One of our favorite short-course brick workouts for finding and practicing pacing is detailed below.
Sprint Distance repeat one to two times; Olympic Distance repeat two to three times: Bike 45 minutes at target effort, then run 1K three times at target pace, with one minute active recovery between running intervals; 10 to 12 minutes recovery between sets.
The average time for the 1000m efforts is a good estimation of what to expect for 5K triathlon runs.