Middle-Distance Pacing

Pacing for Middle Distance races can be very tricky, but Andy Bullock gives you some tips on how to get it right


Pacing for Middle distance is tricky, but you need to get it right if you want to race fast. Think about your race pace now and come race day you’ll be fully prepared to battle the urge to start off quickly. Remember: get your race pacing wrong and it’s all over. Here’s how you should manage your intensity from start to finish…


Free Ironman 70.3 training plans

8 Essential Ironman 70.3 Training Sessions

Swim starts can be chaotic, but you can avoid some of the drama by starting where you expect to finish. For example, if you think you’ll finish halfway down the field, look to start about halfway back.

If you’re uncertain, stick to the sides. The first few hundred metres of the swim will be faster than race pace, but after this you should tuck in behind some swimmers of your own speed and settle into the race pace you’ve practised in training. This means your arms should be working without ache or burn, and your breathing should be comfortable with no gasping.

On the bike you should be able to maintain effort at 76-82% of your maximum heart rate, or 75-90% of your functional threshold power. The more experienced you are, the higher a level you should be maintaining. For those athletes who don’t employ these 21st-century training tools, don’t worry: there are other parameters to gauge your effort. For instance, if you eat on the bike (as opposed to using gels or drinks), you should be working at an effort where you’re able to chew but need to pause occasionally to breathe through your mouth.

For those that like to chat (to themselves or others), you should be able to hold a five-word conversation. One final measurement is maintaining gentle leg effort without a deep burn. A burning sensation indicates that lactic acid is being produced and feeling this too often or for too long will affect your run.

Finally, you’re onto the run. Just 13.1 miles to go. It’s advisable to break the run into thirds. In the
first, settle your legs in and get that strong running feeling. Top up with nutrition and keep your breathing elevated but comfortable.In the middle part, you should aim to maintain your pace and ensure you have the nutrition you need for the final push.

The final part of the race is decision time. Here you can either maintain the pace you’re currently running at, or pick up the pace and push through to the finish, adopting a rhythmic and deep breathing pattern. Work at these intensities during training and you’ll know exactly what intensity to maintain during the race. Add in brick sessions and your next middle-distance venture should be a roaring success. And for those of you who haven’t ‘done a middle’, why not make this your goal for 2012? We’re confident that if you’re already training for standard distance, you can seamlessly make the move to middle by lengthening the duration of your long bike and run.



Use this one to get your legs used to running after cycling:
Bike: 3hrs as 30mins easy, 30mins steady. Repeat.
Run: 15mins as 10mins steady, 5mins easy cool down.


Work harder on the run when tired
Bike: 2 x 30mins as 10mins steady, 10mins big gear, 10 mins hard
Run: 2 x 15mins – one steady, one hard
Cool Down: 15mins


Build run ace through a short run

Bike: 2 x 15mins easy, 15mins race pace
Run: 25mins as 5mins quick feet, 15mins race pace, 5 mins just above race pace


Run long and build pace after a hard bike


Warm-up: 20mins
Bike: 3 x 40mins as 20mins race pace, 10mins steady, 10mins race pace.
Run: 60mins as 20mins moderate effort, 20mins increased effort, 15mins hard push, 5mins cool down