Coaching, Training, Camps.

The Importance of Race Pace

by Triathlon Coach Sarah Portella

It’s May and already triathlon season is well under way. All of the long aerobic fitness training is done, for the most part, and the focus has turned to higher intensity training leading up to the first (or second!) “A” race of the season. If a shift in training focus has not happened, then now is the time to make the adjustments to more intense sessions sprinkled with long aerobic recovery days. Those long days are used to keep the endurance up without creating additional fatigue. This shift in focus is now more specific race preparation.

Race Pace training is extremely important! Many times it is ignored because all of the emphasis is put on formal track or speed workout sessions, tempo runs, or long runs. While all of those various pace sessions are good, they are training the body to do different things. I.E.: Speed sessions are usually used for running faster than race pace, or, during a tempo run the pace is slightly slower than race pace. If there is not any training done at race pace, then how can it be held during the swim, bike and run come race day?!

1. Race Pace Training is important because it is training the body to respond to race intensity workouts during heavy load (hours) weeks.
2. Race Pace Training is important because it is a confidence booster! If the pacing needed to execute a race successfully has happened during training, then it can happen more readily on race day.
3. Race Pace Training is important because it teaches proper pacing. Many have done it…tried to bike above the targeted power numbers or push the pace on the run…and then bonked. Training at race pace allows for proper understanding of the body and the ramifications of what can happen if the plan is not followed.

So what does a race pace workout look like and how can it be incorporated into the schedule? 

Build Week Workout (run): This workout can easily be done on the long run day. Deceptively hard this workout will keep you honest in your pacing.
The Step Up. Warm up for 45 min. building to pace zone 3 (tempo zone). Hold for 15 minutes. Step up to zone 4 (usually this is race pace for sprint/olympic). Hold for 15 minutes. Cool down with 5-10 minutes easy running.

Peak Week Workout (run):
Warm up for 15 minutes gradually picking up pace/effort. Then run 3×5 min. at Pace Zone 3 or 4 (depending on race distance) with 2 min. walk recovery. Cool down with 5-10 minutes of easy running.