Race Strategy - Scott Findlay

Published: 14.05.2019

As we draw closer to race day it’s important to figure out how you’re going to race, this article will discuss race strategy.

My last article briefly mentioned a couple of different types of racers, those looking to finish and those looking to step up onto the podium. Some people might call that their race plan but it can be so much more complex than that. Depending on the distance of your race, there are many different physiology, nutrition, position and pacing questions to answer. This article will pose some of these questions and help you to answer them so you can have your best race.

Are you fit enough to do this race?

I heard this discussed recently and the conversation went that it’s not so much ‘Are you fit enough..’ but rather ‘How are you going to adjust your effort to suit the demands of this race and your current fitness?’.

If you watch the finish line of any race, it’s very likely that you will see loads of people walking it in (I know because I’ve done it too!). That’s from people who probably haven’t considered the previous question and have gone out harder than their fitness can maintain. For me, one of the greatest feelings about racing is knowing the finish line is only a few minutes down the road and being able to put in a burst of speed to finish strong.


  • Set a heart rate / power limit that you’re not allowed to go above.
  • Go out slowly and build into the race as you go.
  • Plan some rough times that seem achievable for each leg and back it off, if it feels too hard.

Do you know the course?

One of the best ways to do well on a particular course is to know and understand things like where turns are coming up or where you can really drop the hammer and put some power down. This applies to all 3 sports.

Swim options:

  • Pick a point that you can sight that will guide you out / back in. Picking something like a boat in the above picture is not recommended as it could easily move!
  • Follow another swimmer (IF you know that they know the course).
  • Swim the course before if you can.
  • Know where swim exit / transition 1 entrance is
  • Consider where the sun is going to be and if it’s going to be in your eyes. Think about getting some reflective lens goggles like the MP Michael Phelps Xceed Mirrored Goggles pictured below

Bike options:

  • Drive the course before if you can
  • Cycle the course before if you can
  • Plot the route on something like ‘BestBikeSplit’ to see where are good times to go fast and see pacing help for the hills (I’ve just added the Legend bike route to it so search to find it!).
  • Know where you can get nutrition.
  • Know where swim in / bike out are.

Run options:

  • Know when you are 1km away from the finish. Depending on the distance of the race, the final kilometer is a pretty good place to put in a burst to finish fast!
  • Know where you can get nutrition.
  • Know bike in / run out are.

How many gels can you tolerate?

Depending on the length of the race you may need to consume more than one sports product! If you’re in the Classic or Legend you will need to be taking in something to ensure you’re working to the best of your ability.

  • Train your gut! The amount of gels / sports drink you can tolerate can be trained so now that we’re so close to the race get practicing at every opportunity!
  • Plan how much you’re going to need. Obviously the knowledge of this comes with practice and it can be a very individual thing. Start with the basic idea that the maximum amount of carbohydrates your body can absorb is 90g per hour (60g glucose, 30g fructose) and add or remove to make sure you eat enough, but not too much. Difficult isn’t it!
  • DIY Sports drink. My bike nutrition for middle distance races consists of 1 Clif Bar double espresso gel. 1-2 bottles of water (depending on weather conditions). 1 x 500ml bottle with 140g of Maltodextrin. 3 x Electrolyte tablets (Lemon flavour). 1 x ginger tea bag (soaked overnight and taken out). It’s seriously gloopy and it makes me feel a bit sick sometimes but it forces me to consume enough calories and keeps me fuelled well enough to run well… and it actually tastes quite nice!

Get planning your race and if you’re really feeling brave look at last years results and see where you would finish if you managed your target time! This is the last in the series of training blogs for the SportPursuit Slateman so thank you very much for reading and all the best with your race and the rest of your season. If you see me at the race feel free to come up for a chat or to ask any questions you have!

About me:

My name is Scott Findlay and I am a coach with the Hartree JETS Triathlon Team. I studied a Bachelors in Sport & Exercise Science, a Masters in Sports Performance Enhancement and I hold UKCC Level 2 Triathlon Coaching and Swim Teaching certificates. I have raced around the world including ITU Long Distance World Champs, ETU Sprint Champs, The Challenge Family - The Championship and this year am focusing on some of the finest races in the UK. I am proud to be an Aqua Sphere ambassador for open water and triathlon and an MP Michael Phelps ambassador in the pool. Follow me on Social Media; Twitter / Instagram: @SNFindlay