In every facet of the endurance athletic world, pace is an athlete’s bread and butter. In triathlon, it is the sword the triathlete will live and die by.
Triathlon pace is tricky because unlike other endurance sports in which you’re maintaining pace for a single repetitive action, in triathlon you’re switching from one discipline to another for a total of three unique sports!
Between the disciplines of swimming, biking, and running, your average heart rate and power exertion are not created equal. In other words, your physiological state at race pace will vary throughout the event.
This is the nature of triathlon – having to deal with pacing yourself appropriately through each leg of the race. For instance, your average heart rate will vary between swim, bike, and run. You’ll need to know what effort levels are your best triathlon pace not just for each discipline by themselves, but for each one as they’re put together into an overall successful race.
The best way to find your triathlon pace is through proper stamina training and using predictive racing tools such as TriDot and our RaceX tool.
Stamina is the percentage of your Functional Threshold (FT) that you’re able to hold for a given amount of time. FT, on the other hand, is the maximum pace (or power) sustainable for a given amount of time or distance. Therefore, if your FT swim pace for an 800 meter is 1:45/100m, then your pace for 1500 meters is going to be a smaller percentage of that FT pace.
For the sake of understanding, assume your 1500 meter race pace is 1:40/100m. That would be about 95% of your FT pace. This percentage is your stamina ability for that distance. Naturally, of course, your stamina ability will be a different, smaller percentage of your FT pace for a longer race distance.
For a triathlon, you’ll also need to factor in the reality that your stamina for a single discipline will probably differ when putting all three disciplines together. This means your percentage of FT might be quite different than if, for example, you were to run a half marathon by itself.
Let’s say your Threshold Heart Rate for a 5k is 165 bpm. For a half marathon it might be safe to start out at a heart rate of over 90% of your threshold (~150bpm). For the run in a half iron race, however, it’s probably smarter to begin the run leg at around 85-88% (~140-145bpm) in order to effectively finish the run portion without falling off your desired and best-case-scenario pace. You’ve already swum and biked for hours, so holding the same stamina you would for a half marathon by itself is not realistic.
As you can see, finding the right stamina for your triathlon pace takes training and experience in racing. However, it can also be found by using the right predictive tools.
The RaceX Tool
TriDot’s propriety RaceX tool is a one-of-a-kind system that leverages your TriDot Scores, potential race conditions, and your physical data to predict proper pacing through each stage of your race, whether that be sprint, Olympic, half iron, or full iron.
Because TriDot has such a quantifiable knowledge of your FT through the TriDot Scores, the tool can intelligently predict your proper stamina-based pace by evaluating the course, the potential conditions, and your ability.
And this isn’t just one assigned pace, HR, or power number for the bike and the run. RaceX accounts for the beginning of each leg, what cycling numbers to aim for on flat conditions or hills, and your pace for various portions of the run. It also gives you your expected split time for all three disciplines so you’ll know what your overall pace in each discipline should be.
Finding your best triathlon pace is very dependent on your stamina training and experience in racing. You can also intelligently predict your best pace by using TriDot’s RaceX tool.
TALK WITH TRIDOT:
Do you have another way to find your best triathlon pace? Do you have other tools for predicting pace other than training, racing, and RaceX?
JARED MILAM is a professional triathlete, TriDot coach, and member of the Tri4Him Pro Team. He has 16 years of competitive running experience and 11 years of competitive triathlon experience with a half Iron PR of 3:59 and a full Iron PR of 8:30. Coaching under the TriDot system since 2011, Jared loves working with aspiring triathletes of all ages and performance levels.