Pacing yourself in a triathlon

The goal is clear: to finally complete a triathlon. But as a beginner, how should you pace yourself during your first competition?

The first triathlon is usually a lucky dip, because you don't exactly know how to respond to the different load in the event of an emergency. For this reason, a profile of your individual strengths/weaknesses is helpful. Are you lacking the basics or rather the tempo? Which discipline requires the most effort, where do your strengths lie?

In a triathlon, the priorities of a good swimmer are different to those of a super cyclist who cannot do the crawl. Or those of a runner who just wants to try out a triathlon and not spend much time in the saddle. However, the following basically applies: for your first time, you should stick to the following rule: cycle, run and swim at «only» 75-85% of your maximum heart rate, and thus never at your limit. You can therefore assume that, while you won't overreach yourself, your pace won’t be too relaxed either, meaning you will be well able to get through the competition and have a positive experience.


Although this may sound simple, it is not, however, because the maximum heart rate is different for each type of sport and less experienced athletes will be misled if they purely focus on the heart rate value without knowing where their maximum heart rate lies in each sport. In the flurry of the competition, heart rate values are only to be treated with caution anyway, because they are usually higher than in training when there isn’t any stress. That is why it is important to assign the measured values for each discipline to your respective body feeling during training so you can intuitively feel how intensive your pace is.

Either way, it is important not to give it your all from the outset to ensure that you aren’t already over-acidified when you get on your bike. Especially when it comes to the mass swim start, you need to be calm, keep a cool head, and not start too quickly. Caution is also advisable on a hilly cycling course, because there is a high risk of cycling too hard up the ascents and consuming too much energy. Ascents should therefore be approached at an «easy» pace. You can then step up the pace and tap all your reserves for the final spurt on the running route from the 5-6 kilometre mark onwards, showing that you have paced yourself correctly. With this strategy, you will have a lot of fun during your première and will cross the finishing line laughing.