How to plan your race season

Want to start planning your triathlon race season but don't know how to begin? Six times Ironman World Champion Dave Scott has this advice


For this article we are imagining your A-race is scheduled for August. You can enhance your calendar by adding other events in February, March, April and May. Doing so will allow you to acclimatise to building up for races. Does that sound intense? It shouldn’t. Here are a few pointers to help make these races as productive and enjoyable as possible.


Mix it up. These ‘races’ don’t have to be triathlons. Feel free to select a 5k or a 10k run, or an early-season duathlon.

Practise your race-pace plan. I like my athletes to have a pacing plan for these minor races. Usually I want them
to negative split, and I want you to do so, too. In other words, you’re going to try and race the event’s second half faster than the first half. Executing a negative-split race pace is a great way to build confidence and to learn how it feels to run at a prescribed pace.

Establish interim goals. As you progress through these early-season events, you’re pursuing intermediate benchmarks before your priority A-race. These intermediate races establish low-pressure benchmarks and incentives from which you can gain experience, comfort and skill. Then, as that big race approaches later in the year, you’ll be physically and mentally prepared.

Supercharge the experience. Finally, when you’re ready, you’ll stack a second element onto your smaller races. For example, after a 5k race you’ll immediately jump on your bike. This 15- or 20-mile ride will also include an execution. For example, what pace do you intend to ride? What are you going to accomplish on that day? This type of supercharged test day delivers what I call a ‘marker set’, which is a snapshot of your current fitness and an indication of your progress.

In addition to the specific benefits outlined above, these B-races also add vitally important, high- intensity efforts to your overall training. Don’t make the mistake of keeping everything aerobic during the off-season; that will only teach you how to go slowly.

Hit the high intensity

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is an absolute must to make you stronger and faster. Don’t allow your fast-twitch muscle fibres to lay dormant in the off-season! Here are some simple examples of HIIT workouts that you can incorporate into the end of your aerobic training sessions:

Swim Alternate 25m of dolphin kicking while on your back, with breast stroke pull and a flutter kick. Try to do 16 lengths very hard, with ample rest between efforts. This will really rev up your heart rate!

Bike Begin with a lower (i.e., easier) gear at 105rpm and – every 8 to 12secs – switch to a harder gear for a total of 45seconds of hard effort. Then rest for 90secs and repeat eight times. Be careful not to overload your legs with too big a gear that prevents you from maintaining the target RPM.

Run Use hill repeats to help build strength and increase your turnover. Run 8 x 20secs up the hill while maintaining good form. Rest anywhere from 40 to 60secs, and then repeat eight times.

You now have a better understanding of how to create your event calendar to ramp up to your A-race in August, and you’ve hopefully also learned a bit about how to structure your workouts with purpose by adding small does of HIIT.

Now… how do you schedule this into your weekly training schedule? As a beginner, I suggest aiming
for about nine hours of training per week. During that time I suggest three swims, three bikes and three runs, plus two strength and mobility workouts.

You can learn how I design a nine-hour training week by watching the video on my website ( There you’ll also find buckets of additional free content that will help you wring the most value from your training.


How to peak for your ‘A’ race

Dave Scott is the first 6x IRONMAN World Champion and a Master Coach of IRONMAN U.  As the founder of the Dave Scott Multisport Institute, he dedicates himself to making triathletes of all levels faster and more efficient.  Learn more at

More by Dave Scott

Dave Scott’s five tips for improving your swim technique for triathlon

How to swim in open water for the first time and prepare for race day

How to get out of a run speed rut

Dave Scott’s strength and conditioning training plan for triathletes