How to Master Your Race Pacing

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.

"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.


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.

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