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How To Pace An Ironman Triathlon

Triathlon is an endurance sport, so it requires an element of pacing. But an Ironman, or a Long Distance triathlon, is another level – it’s vital you get you’re pacing right!

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Your swim in an Ironman should be done at a relatively steady and aerobic pace. This is stage one, before a rather long day, so you don’t want to be burning any matches at this point by going too hard and into the red.If we use a Perceived Effort of Exertion scale from 1-10; 1 being easy, and 10 being hard. An Ironman swim should sit somewhere in the middle, around the 5 out of 10.

The best advice Mark has heard is to treat the bike leg like a training day. Try not to get carried away with the idea of it being a ‘race’. And if at any point you feel a burn from lactate, then you should definitely, definitely back off! A power meter is a really useful and instantly reactive measurement of how hard you’re working. If you do have a power meter already, then we recommend completing a 20min Function Threshold Power test, or FTP test for short. Using the result from this you should pace your Ironman bike leg between 65-80% of your FTP depending on how fast you want to go.

You should start your Ironman run at around 65-70% of your maximum heart rate. This is quite low, but this will get you through the first half-marathon comfortably. If you feel ok beyond that point, then you can begin to gradually build the pace over the second half. A good tip I picked up from Jan Frodeno, previous Ironman World Champ, was to take your time through the aid stations. Not only is it a time to fuel up and hydrate, it’s also a time for you to compose yourself and break the race up mentally.

For more information on all this, listen to Mark explain the full details and let us know how you would pace an Ironman race in the comments below!

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📹 How To Improve Your Triathlon Training | What Is FTP? – http://gtn.io/FTP
📹 Triathlon Training Explained | What Is Critical Swim Speed? – http://gtn.io/TTECritcalSwim

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Comments (8)

Can’t believe this hasn’t more likes. Great analysis and great delivery, thank you!

1:25…The swim should be at a steady anaerobic pace 🙂


@2:30 do you mean 30-40% below max? I feel like swimming at 30% of your max heartrate would be pretty tricky.

Thank’s Mark. I’ll try to use these wise words in Nice next month. Sending love !

Question; Bike power, do you mean NP or just bike power?

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They go all out in swimming trust me I have seen this live

Can you post the sources / research that you use for your statements?

As a long-time amateur who made it up to competing in Kona as a pro, the simplest way to pace an Ironman for any amateur can be summed up in one tip: Smile… If you can’t smile at any point in the race then you are going too hard. Back off. That is one of the tips I highlight in my race tips article. http://www.thomasgerlach.com/2016/07/first-time-ironman-tips-from-age.html

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