Running intensity in triathlon plans - how fast do I go: pace vs. RPE


As you triathletes have noted, Chad’s running prescription is based on RPE. [There’s been some controversy about RPE vs. estimated TSS, but that’s not what the question is about.] Now, I train my running based on pace. There is one VO2max run workout a week in my Half Distance plan. The length of the repeats, which should be run at an “RPE 9”, varies from 30 seconds to 3 minutes.

This table says it’s a VO2max pace, but does this mean I should run the 30-sec repeats and the 3-minute repeats at the same speed? If I am to run the last repeat at the same pace I did the first (so not overdo the early ones), I can do about the 5k race pace minus 5 seconds/km for the 3-minute repeats but I can go much faster (about 30 seconds/km faster) for the 30-second reps, even when there are a lot of them.

Both paces would fall within the VO2max range.

(If you want to compare wieners, my 5k race pace - I sincerely hope - is about 4:00/km [or 6:24/mile].)

I’ve searched the forum but couldn’t find an answer to this one. Links welcome.

Hi Kajet,

I wouldn’t overthink it too much. Stick your race times into the McMillan Calculator and use the paces that correspond to the stated RPE. There will be a range for each effort (e.g 3:35/km - 3:59/km) and you can sit anywhere in there to get the training effect.


I’d say (based on ~20min 5k)

Easy = 8:15mm
tempo = 6:52mm
VO2 = 6:11mm
speed = 5:43mm
long = 8:15 - 9:20mm

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You should be going the fastest repeatable pace that you can do throughout the # of prescribed intervals. I am curious to see what my pace will be for the 1 minute intervals as my last block was all billats (30s/30s) and those were done at a pace(hopefully) close to my mile best. For most of us our best pace in the mile will be very close to our v at VO2max. This will be faster than 5k pace for sure.

For the first 2-3, it’s fast but not too fast, and then during the main part of the set, it’s a nice and good hard effort, and the last 2-3 they are achievable but only with sufficient concentration/effort.


Thanks guys. So we’ve basically got:

  • one vote for “same pace”
  • one vote for “pace will vary depending on interval length”
  • one vote for “whatever” (my understanding of what @danielm said)

Anybody else would like to chime in? All opinions appreciated.


My thoughts are in this thread:

What you need to remember is that you’re not training by pace anymore.

Your RPE 6 pace will be affected by your rest, fatigue, weather, elevation change, and so on. Unless you always feel great, run on flat routes in windless perfect temperatures of course.

That said, and as per my link, I used paces to gauge effort when I am on the flat and feeling good. Then take that effort and keep it as the elevation/weather/illness strikes.

For VO2max efforts, I know how my breathing and effort feels at VO2max, so i don’t need a pace at all.



+1. As @Bioteknik said, “fastest repeatable pace that you can do throughout the # of prescribed intervals”. No need to overcomplicate it by looking at pace calculators.


I have been running for a decade now, and I think the running instructions at TR are quite confusing. I get the idea of RPE and the benefits it has. I train nowadays most of the time by feel/RPE. However, I think especially if you are new to the sport and/or mixing it up with cycling and swimming a pace based instruction can be more vital. Also I think in order to reach PBs, it is absolutely necessary to work with pace based intervals. If I´d aim to run 35 min on a 10k I need to be able to know what a 3:30 min/k pace feels like, to be able to replicate it over the ten Kilometers.

I think for Z1-Z3 trainings RPE is the better way to go, in order to avoid overtraining. But for intervals I would like to have pace based instructions.

I find it a little bit funny that TR is very precise in the cycling workouts, but quite the opposite for the running workouts. It would be easy to have a pace calculator running in the backend (which acts like the FTP calculator) and spits out your pacing zones.

And perhaps even incorporate watt-based training with Stryd, the powermeter for running? This would play into the Hands of TRs software developers.

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Pace will change based on many thing but for control reasons lets assume you are doing these on a track or a treadmill. One thing to really consider is what the goal is because if you are doing 30 on 30 off it will really wear you down to do all of them flat out.

For my 30 second pacing it would feel just a bit under full out sprints.
For 3 minute efforts it may take some working on since the duration is longer. I would do these at around 3:40 pace.

I was a runner for a long time before switching to triathlons and now I use TR for my training plans. I interpret the instructions the same as @Bioteknik. If recommended RPE is 10, you go as fast as possible without compromising your ability to finish all the intervals at roughly the same pace and with a solid form. What constitutes an RPE 10 may change depending on what workout(s) you did the day before, sleep, etc.

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