Unfortunately on race day, most athletes just "wing it" with their pacing. In fact, they leave twenty to forty-five minutes or more out on the course simply due to poor pacing.

So you’ve spent several months training for your big race. You’ve trained hard and want that to show in your finish time. Most athletes are diligent with their training and spend considerable hours (and dollars) improving their fitness to finish just 10 or 15 minutes faster on race day.

Whether your race goal is to set a PR, achieve your potential, or just finish ahead of your training buddy, turning in your fastest possible time is likely your primary performance objective.

Unfortunately on race day, most athletes just "wing it" with their pacing. In fact, they leave twenty to forty-five minutes or more out on the course simply due to poor pacing.

Pacing yourself too conservatively will obviously not lead to your best finish time, but even more devastating is pacing yourself too aggressively and blowing up on the run.

Common Questions that Typically Go Unanswered

Have you asked yourself questions like these headed into race day?

  • How do I determine what my target power should be?
  • How much longer will my bike split be given the hills and how will this affect my pacing?
  • How much slower should I go given the heat or humidity expected on race day?
  • How hard can I go on the bike without toasting my legs for the run?

Without RaceX, you’re left to guess the answers to these and other important questions and making it highly unlikely that you’ll achieve your full fitness potential on race day.

Your race execution should not be a race experiment.

Optimized Race Execution

With RaceX’s optimized race execution, you’re able to turn your race-day potential into race-day reality.

Optimized triathlon training maximizes your fitness from your available time. Optimized race execution minimizes your race time from your available fitness.

Optimizing your race execution involves more than just your pacing. It also includes your nutrition, mindset, equipment, and race rehearsals. In this article, we’ll focus only on your pacing and overview how your optimal pacing plan is established.

Note: Everything overviewed in this article is done for you by RaceX. There’s no need to perform complex calculations. However, it’s important to understand what goes into optimized race pacing and the incredible benefit it offers—faster times!

Optimized Pacing Levels

When your pacing is optimized for a race’s given environment and terrain, there are two levels of pacing: discipline and segment.

Discipline-level pacing is the optimal Target Pace or Power that you’d use on all flat portions of the course for each discipline. If a particular race course had minimal environmental or elevation change for a discipline, you’d hold this Target Pace or Power for the duration of the split.

Segment-level pacing is used to optimize your pacing within each discipline. For example, your bike pacing plan will have different power values for various segments of the route based on the degree and duration of climbs and descents. Your optimal split will come from pushing harder on the climbs and a less on the descents. And for the flat segments, you’ll be pushing your Target Power.

Proper Bike Pacing is Paramount

Properly pacing your swim and run is important, but neither of these are as impactful as your bike pacing. It’s all (well, almost all) about the bike. It’s not about turning in the “best” bike split. It is about turning in the “right” bike split. Your bike split is unique and critical for several reasons:

  • Your bike is the longest discipline, generally more than half of your overall race time.
  • Getting the bike wrong can impact your entire run. But getting your run wrong won’t impact your bike. And if you do pace your run wrong, it’ll likely only impact the later portion of your run and not the whole thing.
  • The bike typically has the most variability of effort throughout the course due to the terrain.
  • Pacing the bike is very difficult to perceive. Unlike the run, you don’t finish the bike on “empty.” It can be very difficult to judge how you should “feel” out there on the bike to ensure you’re saving enough to have a great run.

How to Determine Your Target Power

Your Target Power is determined as a percent of your Functional Threshold Power or Pace (FTP) for each discipline. Your FTP is the baseline intensity metric use for most types of endurance training. It’s been most commonly used in cycling and is defined as the maximum power (in watts) that you can sustain for an all-out, one-hour effort. It can be established from your training data or threshold assessments. If you don’t train or race with power, you can use your race rehearsals to determine the corresponding heart rate value to use for pacing. For running, you can use either pace or run power. For swimming, either pace or perceived exertion.

Once we have your FTP from your training environment, we normalize it and convert it to your race-day FTP using RaceX’s EnviroNorm® technology to account for any differences in temperature, humidity, or elevation as well as the time you’ve had to acclimatize from your training environment to the race environment.

Next, we need to determine your Target Pace as a % of your race-day FTP based on your Stamina Curve™ and predicted split.

Your Stamina Curve is a power-duration curve used to determine the maximum power output you could (or should for a sub-maximal triathlon bike split) sustain for race efforts with durations longer than one hour. Durations longer than one hour are expressed as values as a percent of your FTP. For example, an athlete racing a 3:30 bike split might be able to sustain 84% of their race-day FTP and still have a great run. Factors impacting your Stamina Curve are your Normalized Training Load™, Normalized Training Stress™ from your long sessions, and genetics.

RaceX uses advanced simulation technology based on your fitness, drag profiles, and the unique environment and terrain of each race venue to predict your race splits. Determining your % FTP based on a 3:00 effort can be much different than for a 3:30 effort. An accurate predicted race split is essential to get your pacing right.

How to Determine Your Segment-Level Pacing

Segment power optimization is most important on the bike.

RaceX systematically divides your bike route into a series of contiguous Power Segments based on grade, distance, and other factors. RaceX optimizes the power values for each bike Power Segment based on your Target Power, weight, terrain, temperature, humidity, elevation, wind speed & direction, your aerodynamic drag profile, and so forth. Your power-based bike plan prescribes the optimal power for each Power Segment to give you the fastest possible time without over exertion.

You can export your optimized bike power plan localized to your race environment and load them to your cycling computer for easy real-time, spot-on race pacing. If you don’t have race-day power, you’ll use the heart rate values determined during your race rehearsals.

Swim pacing is relatively constant, and run pacing can be effectively done using either grade-adjusted pace or run power. With either grade-adjusted pace or run power, your objective is to hold your Target Power or Pace constant during the entire split. These values auto-adjust to account for elevation and cadence changes.

Summary

Mastering your race pacing is simple when using RaceX.

Using RaceX is super simple. Connect your data, select your race, and then receive your optimized pacing plan!

You’ve worked too hard to achieve your fitness. Don’t let poor race execution rob you of your performance potential.

Featured Podcasts

Normalized Training Stress™ (NTS™) is the consummate method of quantifying the physiological stress from a training session. It considers the session’s discipline type, environment, intensity distribution, intensity levels, intensity durations, and your Training Stress Profile™ or your ability to absorb training stress.

Normalized Training Stress (NTS) Overview

Quantifying training stress is essential to effectively managing structured training to produce the best results in the least amount of time while minimizing injury risk. In the mid 1970s, Calvert and Banister introduced the training impulse system (TRIMPS) which was a systematic approach to quantify training load that integrated both volume and intensity. However, it used heart rate (rather than pace or power) as the criterion measure which caused serious limitations. In the mid 2000s, Coggan addressed some of the limitations of TRIMPS when he developed the Training Stress Score® or TSS® for cycling that uses power, rather than heart rate, as the criterion measure of intensity. Yet many limitations with these traditional approaches still remain. The Normalized Training Stress (NTS) method of quantifying training stress substantially resolves these limitations and provides a more accurate and actionable metric for training stress management in Optimized Training. With traditional approaches, training load (or stress) is calculated as the duration of a session multiplied by an intensity measure for the session multiplied by an intensity-based weighting factor. Basically, as a session’s duration or intensity goes up, so does the training stress. There are many other things that also have significant impact on training stress that are not considered when using these traditional approaches. Below are brief descriptions of some of the critical ones that NTS considers as it quantifies training stress.

Discipline Type

Training stress for a given period of time varies by discipline (swim, bike, run) due to the different muscle groups used, energy required, and the physicality of the movements. The stress from one hour of cycling is not as much as one hour of running due to factors such as the load bearing nature and repeated ground impact of running. Based on this fact, NTS uses baseline stress values at Functional Threshold Power or Pace (FTP) intensity that are discipline dependent. Baseline stress values for cycling, running, and swimming are defined as follows:
  • Cycling: 60 minutes @ FTP = NTS 100
  • Running: 40 minutes @ FTP = NTS 100
  • Swimming: 40 minutes* @ FTP = NTS 100
  • (*The 40 minutes of swimming at FTP would need to be distributed over a longer training session such as one hour.)
NTS uses stress factors for intensities above and below FTP for each discipline which are calculated relative to these baseline values. (This is further described under “Intensity Levels” below.)

Environment

Environmental factors have a significant impact on athletic performance. For example, oxygen is required for aerobic activities, and there’s less oxygen available in the air at higher elevations. Therefore, your aerobic performance ability is diminished at higher elevations. Also, temperature and humidity affect your ability to dissipate heat to regulate body temperature. The more blood that flows to the skin for cooling means less blood is available to carry oxygen and energy to the muscles. The decrease in blood available to transport oxygen and energy will diminish your physical performance ability. Traditional approaches use a static value for your FTP. Intensity metrics measured during the training session are evaluated against this static FTP value irrespective of the environment in which the training was conducted. For example, if your running FTP was 7:30 per mile, conducting a 30-minute run session at a 7:35 per mile pace on a cool morning at 55° F and 40% humidity would produce significantly less training stress than performing that same session in the afternoon or on a warmer day at 90° F and 80% humidity. Using traditional approaches, the training stress from these sessions would be quantified as being equal. This would significantly under represent the training stress from the session in the warmer environment which could result in increased injury risk and incorrect conclusions when analyzing performance and training effectiveness. NTS uses TriDot’s EnviroNorm® technology to account for environmental conditions impacting both your FTP at the time of each training session and the raw training metrics measured by your training device during your training session.

Intensity Levels

As your training intensity increases, the stress associated with that intensity increases exponentially. With traditional measures of training stress, intensity-weighting factors are expressed for the session’s training intensity as a percent of FTP. (Example: If your FTP was 200 and you trained at 160, then the factor would be .80.) One major problem with this approach is that higher intensities are not weighted appropriately to account for the exponentially higher stress they induce relative to lower intensities. For example, if you were to complete a 60-minute session at your FTP, this would traditionally score a 100. If you were to attempt to complete only 20-minutes of training at 125% of your FTP, you would likely not be able to physically complete it despite it being only 25% more intensity than your FTP. Using a traditional model, this 20-minute session would only score a 52. A significantly stressful but more realistic session with intensity at 125% of FTP (zone 5) might include closer to 8 minutes at 125% and another 30 minutes at 68% of FTP (zone 2). Using a traditional approach, this session would only score a 41. As a comparison, if these three sessions were three cycling sessions, NTS would score the 60-minute FTP session as 100, the “undoable” 20-minute session at 125% of FTP as 220, and the significantly stressful but realistic session including eight minutes at 125% of FTP as 91. NTS uses dynamic intensity-weighting factors that match the exponential increases in training stress associated with increasing training intensity.

Intensity Distribution

When accurately quantifying the physiological stress from a training session, the distribution of the stress within the session plays a major factor. Using averages or normalized intensity values for the entire session as with traditional measures of training stress, leads to highly inaccurate results. For example, consider these two sessions:
  • Session 1
  • 60 minutes steady @ 68% of FTP (Zone 2)
  • Session 2
  • 10 minutes @ 68% of FTP (Zone 2)
  • 4 minutes @ 115% of FTP (Zone 5)
  • 2 minutes @ 68% of FTP (Zone 2)
  • 4 minutes @ 115% of FTP (Zone 5)
  • 2 minutes @ 68% of FTP (Zone 2)
  • 4 minutes @ 115% of FTP (Zone 5)
  • 16 minutes @ 68% of FTP (Zone 2)
The 42-minute session with twelve minutes at 115% of FTP (Zone 5) would clearly produce more training stress than the 60-minute steady state session at 68% of FTP (Zone 2). However, scored traditionally based on average normalized intensity across the entire session multiplied by the duration, both sessions score the same value of 46. Using NTS, these sessions score 29 and 70, respectively, which is a much more accurate representation of the actual training stress produced.

Intensity Duration

Similar to the way training stress increases as intensity increases, it also increases the longer you are performing at a specific intensity. For example, if you complete a training session including forty minutes at your FTP, the stress associated with the first ten minutes of the forty minutes is not the same as the stress associated with the final ten minutes. The longer you are training at an intensity level during a session, the more stressful it becomes. The final minutes are significantly more stressful and impactful on your training results than the initial minutes. The NTS algorithm considers the progressive increase in training stress as you continue to train at specific intensities for longer durations.

Your Training Stress Profile™

The training stresses produced from various types of training sessions is relative to your ability to absorb them as is reflected in your Training Stress Profile. One type of training session may be more stressful to you than someone else while another type of training session may be less stressful to you than that same other person. Your ability to absorb training stress is unique to you and is influenced by many factors beyond your current performance ability and training load. For example, an older athlete may not be able to handle significant durations of intensities above their FTP but is still able to handle moderate durations at FTP and high durations of below-FTP intensities. These differences are reflected in your Training Stress Profile. Other major factors impacting your Training Stress Profile include age, body composition, sport age, performance ability, training load, and your genetics (TriDot's PhysiogenomiX™ technology). NTS uses these factors, if available, to further refine your NTS values relative to your ability to absorb each specific training session.

Summary

By accounting for the impact of a session’s discipline type, environment, intensity distribution, intensity levels, intensity durations, and your Training Stress Profile, Normalized Training Stress is able to more effectively quantify the physiological stress from your training sessions. This results in the increased ability to deliver your best training results in less time with fewer injuries.

Viewing Your NTS

TriDot displays your planned and actual NTS values for each session so you can see the training stress for each of your workouts. When preparing for a planned session, you’ll also see an intensity icon to the right of the planned NTS indicating the preferred primary intensity metric (power, pace, or heart rate) to use for the session to achieve optimal results.

USATri

Objective feedback and insights from both your NTS and TrainX™ Score help to ensure you’re doing the RIGHT training RIGHT.

Featured Podcasts

See our full list of podcasts episodes here.

* Training Stress Score and TSS are trademarks of Peaksware, LLC. ** Normalized Training Stress, NTS, EnviroNorm, Training Stress Profile, and PhysiogenomiX are trademarks of Predictive Fitness, Inc., the developer of TriDot.

Listen to more of The TriDot Podcast.

* Normalized Training Stress, NTS, EnviroNorm, Training Stress Profile, and PhysiogenomiX are trademarks of Predictive Fitness, Inc., the developer of RaceX.