Pacing Strategy is Essential in Ironman Competitions

Have you ever wondered how professional athletes are able to complete an Ironman? Or, more specifically, how they are able to complete an Ironman without completely burning themselves out halfway through the race? The answer lies in pacing strategy.

Pacing strategy is a big part of any endurance event, whether it’s a marathon, an Ultraman, or an Ironman. By pacing oneself properly, athletes are able to conserve their energy and avoid hitting the wall. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at what pacing strategy is and how it can be used in an Ironman competition.

One of the biggest challenges of an Ironman competition is that it’s very easy to go out too fast in the beginning and then completely bonk halfway through the race. This is especially true for novice athletes who aren’t familiar with the demands of an endurance event. By using even pacing, however, athletes can avoid this problem by conserving their energy throughout the race.

3-time Ironman finisher and pacing strategy

Improving a three-time ironman’s endurance sounds complicated, but that is exactly what my job is with Dave Simonson. He performed four maximum power tests last week, and you can see the results below:

Test results – Week 1 (Dave Simonson)

Maximum Power Tests5sec1min5min20minBody Weight
Week 1 (Watt)850W450W290W219W90.6kg/199.8lbs
Week 1 (Watt/kg)9.4W/kg5.0W/kg3.2W/kg2.4W/kg 

Comments from Jesper Therkildsen:
When I look at Dave’s power profile, I can see that his performance at 20min critical power is too low compared to his 5min maximum power (MP). When I look at his 5min MP, I would expect him to do 20Watts better in the 20min MP. Thus, the primary goal for Dave is to improve his power in long intervals. This goal is achieved by learning to control the pacing strategy and increasing his physical performance at these challenges.

Dave will train 6 to 7 hours per week and work with intervals three times a week. There are three kinds of intervals that he will use: Short 3min intervals to build VO2max, repeated 6min bouts of high aerobic intensity, and, finally, lengthy 15min pacing control intervals.

By doing the intervals very frequently, he has an excellent chance to get familiar with the pacing strategy, which is especially important at his competition pace.

Triathlon differs from regular cycling because the pace is almost 100% controlled by the athlete. It is not about tactics at all. It’s a question about self-control and physical performance.

Power meters are beneficial for long endurance competitions like Ironman triathlons since planning a pacing strategy based on your previous rides is possible. I hope that Dave will improve his performance at a long distance through better and more efficient pacing.

I expect these intervals to increase his performance at five and 20min maximum power (and his 112miles ironman avg. power.)

Pacing strategy is essential for any athlete competing in an endurance event like an Ironman competition. By using even pacing, athletes can conserve their energy levels and avoid hitting the wall halfway through the race. If you’re competing in an upcoming Ironman competition, keep these tips in mind.

If you want to read more about Ironman training, read this article.

3 thoughts on “Pacing Strategy is Essential in Ironman Competitions”

  1. At first glance, the numbers seem pretty low for someone of Dave Simonson’s size and ability but when one takes into consideration that Dave was working on a Cycleops Pro machine which is a triathlon set-up exercise bike with a power meter, it makes sense why the numbers here might be lower than expected. I’d put my dollar on higher numbers on a real roadbike with a Powertap/SRM from him. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see his 5s power on that bike closer to around 1050-1200 watts or more, same with every other measurement.

  2. It’d be interesting to see how you set up his training plans during the week. How long between each day of intervals, how many rest days? I feel that my profile is similar to Dave’s. I have a relatively low threshold. I posted on here before, but I’m just finishing a study at the University where I held 200W for 22 min, then 190W for 19min and 180W for the last 19min. It felt hard, but I would guess my threshold is around 190-200W. They were trying to have me ride at 75% VO2 max. I would like to get my threshold much higher than this.

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