The Power of Proper Pacing

a triathlete running a race
April 18, 2019

D3 Staff



The three D’s of D3 (Determination, Desire and Discipline) are all integral for success in triathlon.  However, all to often on race day, many athletes seem to forget or ignore discipline.  The discipline required to properly pace their race.

Having a proper pacing strategy is essential to performing your best on race day.  If you go out too slowly, you will leave time on the table, and if you start too quickly, you will experience negative physiological effects during the race.  In longer races, a fast start will cause you to burn through your energy reserves much too quickly.  This phenomenon of over pacing early is quite easy to do.  Early in the race, your heart rate hasn’t reached its peak and blood flow to the legs hasn’t maxed out.  Combining these conditions with being tapered and rested for a race can result in you feeling really good at the start of the event.  It is because you feel so good that you MUST have incredible discipline to start out at your planned pace.  

Often in triathlon over pacing manifests itself when an athlete goes too hard on the bike and their run suffers.  The best overall time generally requires a “compromise” among all three sports.  Going too hard in any one sport will cause potentially large decreases in the other.  

In order to avoid pacing mistakes on race day there are several tips that you can employ both before and on race day.  

  1. Practice your race pace during training (more than once!).  This will give you and opportunity to “feel” the pace so you will recognize if you are “off” pace (faster or slower) on race day.
  2. Work on negative or even splitting your race. This means finishing the second half faster or at the same time as the first half.  These methods have been shown time and time again to produce the most successful results over many different endurance sports and many different distances.
  3. Plan your race and race your plan. This can also be summed up as “trust your coach.”  
  4. Ignore outside influences such as crowd and other athletes.  This is especially true in the early stages of the race.  

If you want to have a successful race season and perform to your true fitness potential, plan a pacing strategy and stick to it.  Focus on the discipline required to be as strong at the end of the event as you are at the start.

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