Friday, October 24, 2014

"No Pacing" Pacing

by Gordo Byrn

A few years back, I listened to Lisa Bentley explain how she paced a half ironman. Basically, her approach was, “Go as fast as I can until the finish line.” I always thought that was a bit nuts until I started racing age-group and working with a wider range of speedy triathletes, especially female athletes.

After Cali, a very quick pal of mine mentioned that he rides 70.3 as fast as he can. He really means as fast as he can go! After that best-effort bike, he hops off the bike and, usually, puts up the fastest run in his AG.

Perhaps I need to re-evaluate!

AC’s done some excellent work with energy pacing for ironman. His advice has proven extremely valuable for our team. That said, I have noticed some optimal results (AG podiums) from theoretically sub-optimal pacing.

Maybe we’d be even quicker if we raced according to “the textbook.” With this in mind, I’ve been thinking about conditions where opening up the bike throttle can make sense.

I’ve come up with this list:

  • Athlete is not fuel constrained for event duration: This doesn’t mean you’re not going to eat! It means if you fuel appropriately then you will have plenty of energy for your race.
  • Athlete is not explosive: This is similar to the fueling point. In half IM racing, athletes with limited explosive bike power can ride much closer to functional threshold without blowing themselves up. What’s likely happening is the power spikes are not as high.
  • Event duration is shorter than the athlete’s longest training day: ...on a weekly basis. So specific stamina is well established.
  • Athlete consistently runs at the very top of his or her division: There is room to make a strategic gamble with bike pacing.

In my next article, I’ll share a couple case studies to give you insight into specific race strategies for your own racing as well as share tactics that I use to improve my placing in the Men’s 40-44 division.

PS – Maybe I should have called this “Chrissie Wellington” pacing! Lady Wellington is speaking at our June Boulder Camp and I’ll have to ask her about the optimal pacing strategy for breaking her own world records.


Gordo is the founder of Endurance Corner. You can find his personal blog here.

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