Proper Pacing for Training and Racing

Triathlete running down the finish shoot of an Ironman
September 26, 2016

Mike Ricci



Proper pacing is crucial for both training and racing, dictating how fast you run, bike, or swim for every workout and event. Without practicing proper pacing in training, you risk being unprepared for race day, unsure of how hard you can push yourself. Here's some insight into approaching pacing for key interval workouts.

**Developing Pacing Habits:**
To maximize the benefits of your workouts, it's essential to develop a habit and feel for good pacing. Most running world records have been set with a negative split (second half faster than the first), indicating its effectiveness for both racing and training. Consistently running the second half of your long runs slower than the first could lead to underperformance on race day.

**Implementing Pacing in Training Sessions:**
For instance, consider a set of 100-meter swims in the pool. If your best effort is around 1:30 for a 100-meter swim, and your workout calls for 10 x 100 at a hard effort on a 1:50 interval, you should aim to hold or negative split each set. Starting too fast will lead to fading and diminish the benefits of the session. Instead, begin at a challenging pace, gradually increasing speed so that the last sets are close to or at your best effort. This approach not only maximizes training benefits but also helps develop a feel for the water, crucial for race day performance.

**Track Workouts:**
Similarly, track workouts like sets of 800-meter repeats should be paced strategically. The initial repetitions may feel easier as your heart rate is lower and your legs are fresh. As fatigue sets in, gradually increase effort, aiming to finish faster than you started. Keeping a log of your times will help you learn the best pace for your intervals, and practicing checking your pace during runs can help develop a feel for your target pace without relying solely on heart rate monitoring.

**Long Runs and Rides:**
For long runs or rides, pacing is equally important. Starting too fast and fading in the second half indicates poor pacing and can result in underperformance. Long easy runs should be slow enough to allow for a faster second half, indicating proper pacing. Structured speed work or tempo efforts in the latter part of a long run can help break up the monotony and improve overall performance. Alternating between easy long runs and those with tempo or lactate threshold efforts can also be beneficial.

**Practice Makes Perfect:**
Developing a feel for pacing takes practice and attention to detail during training sessions. By paying close attention to your pace compared to your effort, you can optimize each workout, leading to improved performance on race day. Implementing proper pacing strategies in interval sessions will help you become a faster and more efficient athlete in the long run.

Coach Mike Ricci is the Founder and Head Coach for D3 Multisport.  His coaching style is ‘process-focused’ vs. ‘results-focused.’ When working with an athlete, their understanding of how and why they are improving is always going to take precedence over any race result. Yes, there is an end goal, but in over 2 decades of coaching, experience has shown him that if you do the right work, and for the right reasons, the results will follow.

Coach Mike is a USAT Level III Elite Certified Coach, Ironman University Certified Coach, and Training Peaks Level II Certified Coach. He was honored as the USAT Coach of the Year.

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