Screen Shot 2014 09 25 At 1.33.26 PM

Nail Your Triathlon Pacing With The Garmin Virtual Partner

My Macbook has a battery meter at the top of the screen telling me exactly how much juice I have left and how long it will last on battery power: 21%, which should last about another 44 minutes.

It seems like the harder I work the computer, the faster the battery runs down. So when I head out to Starbucks to work, I close any unnecessary programs to save my energy and make my battery last longer.

In triathlon racing, you need to make your energy last too. It’s one thing to run out of battery power in the middle of writing a blog post. But it really sucks when you discover that the tanks are empty with half the run to go during a race.Nail Your Triathlon Pacing With The Garmin Virtual Partner  |

By training with the Garmin pacer, you can focus on finding your sweet spot– the pace that will carry you to the finish!

Plan and Test Your Pacing Strategy

“I don’t want to do that on race day,” is what I murmured under my breath and I stumbled in from my run after a long brick. I had felt good off the bike and decided to go with my feelings instead of pacing myself. The problem was, my jovial feelings only lasted so long before I hit the wall at that pace. At the out-and-back turnaround point, I began to struggle to keep my pacing.

The Garmin pacer is a good way to get–and stay–motivated.

Nail Your Triathlon Pacing With The Garmin Virtual Partner  | TwoTri.comPacing is good practice for a number of reasons when it comes to your triathlon training. It’s a process of finding that sweet spot of being able to redline it for as long possible without blowing out or crashing and burning too soon – that is, before the finish line. This only comes with some experience. The thing is, if you don’t have any data to go on, then it becomes a shot in the dark because your not sure what you’re aiming at. And that’s where the Garmin pacer comes in. 

Got to start somewhere…but where?

What numbers do you plug into your Garmin? This will come with some trial and error, and mostly error. But it’s good to error, because it teaches good lessons, such as, “Whoa, don’t go out that fast when you start the run!”

A good place to start is with a previous race – it could be a triathlon or a run-only race. For example, if you’ve done a half marathon in 1:45:00, maybe a two-hour run could be your goal run time for a 70.3. I think that’s about a 9:15/mile give or take a few seconds/mile.

I have a general, sort of loosey-goosey rule for myself, but it’s personal and yours could be slightly different. What I do is take a PR for that distance and add roughly 15% of the time for my new goal. This allows for “putting it all together (all three sports)” on race day.

Like I said, it’s a good place to start, but then you have to test it out to see if it’s at least in the ballpark. Tweak the numbers from there by adjusted your bike pace, run pace, and then bike pace again.

(One caveat here is your race course won’t always be exactly the same as what you train on, i.e, hills, wind, adrenaline, etc. But it’s close enough for all practical purposes.)

Easy as 1, 2, 3, 4…

Step one: Choose a goal time.

Nail Your Triathlon Pacing With The Garmin Virtual Partner  | TwoTri.comStep two: break it down to MPH on the bike and pace per mile for the run.

If I want to do the 56-mile bike in 3 hours it looks like 56 / 3 = 18.7 mph. Good starting point.

If my goal is a sub two-hour half marathon, then my pace should be 9:12/mile on the run. 13.1 / 120 minutes = 9:12.

Step Three: Plug it into your Garmin Virtual Partner, or other GPS device.

On mine, all I have to do is pull up the Virtual Pacer (VP) screen and push up or down.

Step Four: Keep up or die trying, baby!

You can’t ignore the big, black box “jib-in-the-ribs” stating the fact that you are falling behind the VP!

It’s a way to push you harder and longer to keep pace – or reach for a pace threshold that you’ve been aspiring for. 

What you DON’T want to do in triathlon pacing

Nail Your Triathlon Pacing With The Garmin Virtual Partner  | TwoTri.comIf you push too hard on the bike, your run will suffer. If you push too hard early on in the run, the last half will suffer. Pacing is finding the sweet spot between speed and fatigue.

What I found when I dialed in 18.7 mph was that it was tough to keep up on hills (said Capt. Obvious), but I could make up for some of the lost time going back down. Then it was simply a matter of maintaining it on the flats.

For your run part of the brick, remember it’s a pace – that means don’t go out too hard to fast because you have 13.1 miles to go and you got to make it last.

Pacing is great practice for triathlon training and is an invaluable metric to have on race day. I like to push it hard…but still finish strong. And I’m sure you’re the same. So use your tools to practice pacing in training and you’ll not only get a feel for what’s what (meaning, too fast/slow), but you’ll also have a better shot at hammering that PR.

Be sure to stick to your plan during your triathlon, and I guarantee you’ll have a great race.

Posted by Trainer +Davey Anderson 

About Author

Trainer DaveyTrainer Davey is an Orange County personal trainer at heart, but has since moved to Nashville and taken on the new challenge of triathlon training. Of course, he misses his home of Surf City...but Music City ain't so bad either!View all posts by Trainer Davey →