Race Strategy

After a week of test sessions followed by a sprint distance triathlon, I should now be in a position to plan my race strategy for the Shepparton HIM next Sunday. For a review of the week's test sessions check out A Testing Week.

What was the main thing I learnt during this? Unfortunately I am slower than I want to be in the swim and on the bike. As for the run I'm exactly where I'd like to be. Guess that's what happens when you take a year off swimming and cycling, then spend a few months playing catch up. I have the data, now it's time to get down to the nuts and bolts of the plan.


One and a half laps in Kialla Lake will give 1.9km. From my training I know I can hammer out a hard 2000m in the pool. I can also swim significantly faster over shorter distances with the pace feeling fairly easy until I suddenly tire. So I need to make sure I keep the first half manageable and not spend myself early resulting in survival swimming to the end. However, I have trained for, and know I can lift the pace for short periods before falling back into a so-called proper speed without too much issue.

The line up. I plan on starting in the second or third row of swimmers. This will ensure two things:
  1. I don't go out too hard trying to stay on the feet of those too fast for me
  2. I don't start in front of faster swimmers who will swim over the top making for a rough start

I'll expect a messy start as everyone goes from a vertical to horizontal position, filling up more space in the water than is really there. The first 100-200m will be a matter of asserting my own place in the lake and finding my rhythm, allowing the rest of the field to sort themselves out before I settle into the rest of my swim strategy.

For the rest of the swim I have two plans of attack depending on how things pan out. First and foremost is to find a draft that keeps me at the correct work rate, but can pull me through the course faster. The plan will be to try an stay on this draft, hopefully in a pack to take me through to the end.

The second plan of attack is what usually happens. Is that I don't find a draft for the full swim. In this case I will leap frog between drafts resulting in an interval style swim that consists of hard swimming to catch a draft in front, followed by a rest period sitting on someones feet. To be honest I quite enjoy this style, as it keeps my mind busy enough and helps prevent negative talk from creeping in.


I've done the race pace work. I've covered distances above and below at paces faster and slower than expected on race day. I've compared heart rate profiles until every chart looked like the previous one. So here is what I have learnt about my current bike fitness:
  1. I can time trial 90km at a HR of 150-154. This is hard, but just doable if I am fresh, however my legs are completely toasted and going this hard will kill my run leg.
  2. To keep the pace reasonable on the bike while keeping fresh enough for the run seems to pull an average HR of 143.

The course at Shepparton is 3 x 30km laps of very flat terrain. The roads are mainly coarse granular country roads and strong winds are usually expected. There are no hills at all, so it is possible to spend the entire time in a time trial position. I have practised this, but have learnt I will need to get out of the saddle for 30-60 seconds about every 15-20 minutes to keep myself from tightening up too much. Here's the lap by lap plan:

  1. Ease into the first couple of kilometres, get comfortable and find a good cadence letting the heart rate come under control. It is usually all over the place for 10 or so minutes after the swim. Once the heart rate settles hold 140-143bpm for the first lap.
  2. Keep it even. Aim for an average HR of 143, which should mean a range of 142-145bpm.
  3. Hold 142-148bpm and over the last 10km drop a gear and pick up the cadence to help the legs for the run.


This is where the work on the bike leg shows up. Too hard or too easy will soon be felt in the legs. The temperature should be peaking (33 degrees Celsius is the projected outlook). Again it's three laps. These are around 7km each, and are predominantly flat, with only a few slight undulations. This is a run course I have always enjoyed which always helps. Here's the plan, again lap by lap.
  1. Focus on a quick leg turn over out of transition. Ignore heart rate, just go on feel and breathing for the first 4km. Then settle in to something that feel comfortable which will probably be at a HR in the range of 147-154bpm. Hold this for the rest of the lap.
  2. Take stock of how I am feeling and make only small adjustments to pace, whether up or down.
  3. See what I have left, if feeling good then open it up straight away, otherwise just settle into a gradual build up in pace to the end.

In summary:

Swim strong, ride smart and run tough!


  1. Your blog is being no end of help to me preparing for my first HIM - so thanks for the detail.

    You are worrying me a little with the target heart rate for the bike being so low. Interesting.

    Bearing in mind weather conditions etc, do you want to take a punt at your splits?

    Anyway all the best and good luck!

  2. "around 7km each"? Another tri-type short run leg would be handy - a 20k half marathon maybe ;) I wonder how many triathletes are claiming to be sub-15 5k runners after Mordialloc?

    I'm sure that's a good plan. Now you just have to execute it. Good luck Jason. Enjoy the taper.

  3. Hey Jason-
    Good luck next week at the HIM.
    One day I want to do an IM.
    But that would requir me to learn how to swim right and to swim in open water. Not a big water person. I plan on getting a bike soon since I work at REI i get prodeal.
    I just love running trails and being in the mountains.
    HMMMM...Maybe someone should come up with a trail Iron man. Swim in a lake ride on mountain bike trails and the run on trails. Now I would be way more into that.


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