07 December 2022

5 pacing tips for first time triathletes

May 4, 2017

Pacing yourself for one discipline is hard enough but when trying to do it for 3 it becomes even more challenging. The key is to make sure you think about each discipline individually, understand your strengths and plan accordingly.


  • Work out in advance what time you are hoping to finish in, but be realistic.
  • Your goal should not be to go for a personal best for each discipline but rather race the pace that will support your best time overall.
  • To get an idea of your pace, look at your times during training (over the past couple of months) and work out an average across a few sessions. Keep this average pace in mind and try and use as a guide on race day.
  • Don’t get distracted about athletes around you – they may be stronger on a particular leg compared to you and you can be pushed beyond your limits.
  • A general rule is to start slightly slower and finish each leg at the maximum threshold achieved during training, ie. end faster than you started.

Breaking it down:

The excitement of the start and the number of other swimmers around means you can often start faster than you are able to maintain for the full distance. Don’t panic. Once people start spreading out a little more, ease into a comfortable pace.

Don’t be afraid to slow down and re-check your technique. Counting strokes is a great way to focus your mind on the race and help maintain your form. Kick a few extra hard strokes towards the end of the swim to help increase the blood flow to the legs and help with your transition.

For the first few miles try and get your heart rate down from the transition and settle into a steady rhythm. As soon as you are feeling a little more in control you can start to steadily increase your output to about 85-90% effort level.

Aim to maintain an rpm of 90 (revolutions per minute), you’ll need to use your gears to maintain this, but maintaining this pace will help prevent lactate from accumulating. During the last few minutes of your ride, reduce your effort levels, drop a gear or two to help bring heart rate down again and get yourself ready for transition.

Building gradually to race pace can help you finish faster. A good rule of thumb is to divide your run into 2 parts 65/35. Run the first 65% at a pace that you know you will be able to maintain. As you get closer to the finish line, start increasing your speed evenly over the last 400 to 800 meters with a final all out blast for the finish. End strong and with a smile on your face, ready for the waiting cameras!


The Women’s Sports Magazine



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