IRONMAN is all endurance. That means it’s all about pacing and body management. Pace the race correctly and your effort will be steady and sustained throughout the day. Misjudge the pace early and it can lead to critical systems failures later.

The right pace for an IRONMAN will be one that enables you to keep your aerobic fat burning system activated. It’s a pace that is moderated just enough to keep the anaerobic carbohydrate system from getting revved up. Once that system gets activated, you start to burn through carbs quicker than they can be replaced. Then end result of that is a pace on the marathon that is well below your overall fitness.

I took years to get the IRONMAN race pace correct.

It was actually not until my seventh trip to the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona that I found that magic sweet spot that was competitive but also conservative. It was steady and solid, but not too fast too early.

It was in 1989. I held back on the swim. I never went over the line on the bike to a point where I felt like I was holding a pace that I’d need to back down from later. That was the first year that I also had enough gas in the tank for the full marathon. I’d run the full length of it only twice in the previous six races in Hawaii. The other ones I ended up walking.

I stayed in position all day on the swim and bike, but always made sure to stay well below the danger line. From step one of the marathon I knew something incredible was possible. I actually felt fresh rather than like the other years where I never knew how I was going to make the whole run.

This became a hallmark race as you likely know. My marathon split that day of 2:40:04 stood as the fastest split for 27-years!

There are many ways to gauge your effort. There’s heart rate, power and actual pace. But then there’s the feel of the perfect pace. Here is a short video describing exactly what that feel should be to have the best IRONMAN if your life! Enjoy.


Best of luck in your upcoming IRONMAN races. And as always we would love to help you with your preparation at MarkAllenCoaching

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About the author Mark Allen More information on the author

I am the Founder and CEO at Mark Allen Coaching. I am proud to have been voted in an ESPN global poll "The Greatest Endurance Athlete Of All Time." During my multi-sport career I won the Ironman Triathlon World Championship six time, the inaugural Triathlon World Championship at the Olympic Distance in Avignon, France, and at one point in my career I won 21 straight races across every derivation and distance. It was a great career, but that's all it would ever be unless I was able to share all of the experience and methodology we invented long before smart watches, power meters, and flashy uniforms. That's why I started Mark Allen Coaching, as a way to return to others at least the part of the gifts I received.