Dear Coach: How do I set time goals for my next half-Ironman?
How many times have you heard coaches tell athletes that they should avoid setting time-based goals? I’m going to echo those words of advice but appreciate that it is human nature to want to do it. Here are some general guidelines to ensure you are setting your day up for success.
It is very, very difficult to set a swim goal time as conditions change, buoys move, navigation accuracy can vary and you may or may not get a draft. Bottom line: Setting a swim time goal can give you a false sense of satisfaction (or disappointment) when you exit the swim. You are better off learning the feel for a pace that is appropriate for the distance. A simple test is to go to the pool, get warmed up and perform a max effort 400 time trial (with fairly even pacing). As a rough guide, your half-Ironman pace would likely be around 5–8 seconds per 100 slower than your 400 time for beginner to intermediate level athletes. Go back to the pool and try swimming 1000 at 5–8 seconds slower than your 400 pace and assess how this feels. Repeat this over several sessions and remember if you plan on starting fast in the race, you must practice this regularly in training. Note: An all-out sprint start is not advised for beginner to intermediate-level athletes.