Short Course Triathlon - What it Takes to Podium

Hello Forum,

It is a goal of mine to podium in my age group in short course triathlon (sprint or oly). I haven’t raced since 2019 (covid) and have improved my bike considerably since that time. Unfortunately, I have not been able to swim at all.

I’m curious, for those that have been able to podium in their age group or win races, what were your splits/paces? What was your power/mph?

If useful, my current numbers:

Age: 30
Male
Height: 5’8" // 172.7cm
Weight: 158lbs // 71.7kg
TR FTP: 284
Run: I can hold ~8:30 on hilly roads pretty comfortably at 160bpm 6+ miles (~10k)
Swim: Pre-pandemic I could swim ~2mi steady state around 1:28 per 100m.
Bike: I have a 2011 Kestrel Talon aero road bike w/clip-on aero bars

If relevant I live in Oregon, USA - not sure if that means races are more or less competitive.

Unfortunately this is a really hard one to answer- aside from general course/weather differences, I’d also say that SC at the pointy end is more a question of racing the field that turns up on the day, where in long course you’re a bit more beholden to a plan and somewhat more conservative effort management. (Also as 23YO 50kg woman I’m not sure my stats would be super relatable haha!)

Also: do not underestimate the impact of things like transition times, bike handling, surges in pace, and prodigious swim violence. You can absolutely lose places there.

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Need to know your AG to be able to provide better feedback. If you are 50+, you’ll have a much better chance at a podium with those numbers than if you are 30+.

And who shows up / size of the race will also be big factors.

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Sorry! Thought I had that I there. Just edited it. I’ll be 30 when the season starts. Thanks!

Fair enough! Thanks for the reply!

Also, “prodigious swim violence,” thanks for the wonderful term :smiley:

Ok, that helps….I think you are going to need to up your run a fair amount if you want to podium. All 3 disciplines will need to improve, but the run really stands out.

For reference, in 50+ races near Chicago, I was getting OLY podiums riding ~1 hour bike splits and running ~7:15 splits.

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Oh, forgot to mention- if you have a specific race in mind, looking at the results from previous years can give you a rough idea of where you need to be, especially if it’s a local event where you’re familiar with the terrain, water conditions etc.
Doing some lower-priority races can also help you figure out your relative strengths/weaknesses, and if your events are draft-legal, where you typically are relative to the groups that form- the latter can be a good way to measure progress and set intermediate goals. :slight_smile:

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Back in my early 30s, I won AG and had a couple of overall podiums in short course races. Generally at FTP of 255 or so (70kg), but would run 17:30-18:30 5K and sub-39 10k splits. Swim used to be about the same as yours (but I’ve improved that over the years).

One thing often neglected in short course is transitions. I qualified for sprint worlds based on beating quite a few people in transition by almost two minutes. I think four people had better splits than me but I clobbered them in transition. No more than 10 seconds at your spot. Dial that in, and you’ll place better.

Looking at your numbers, your run is pretty weak for your goals right now. Swim is probably next, but not as markedly down as the run. Bike at 4W/kg is plenty fine as long as that is translating to speed on the road (I.e. you’re aero, riding at appropriate intensity for the distance, etc.)

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I’d say your swim and bike are in the right ball park. Your run needs to be significantly quicker and closer to <18min 5k and <37-8min 10k .

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It would also depend on how you are going at the moment. I wouldnt set youself an arbitrary goal of podiuming unless you are already reasonably close to it in your current races. Triathlon is more fickle than other sports because of the always changing fields. I did an end of season Super Sprint (it was the day before I went on holiday and I was just there for a bit of fun) and the organiser asked whether I was “there for the easy win”. However, because it was a super sprint there was a lad who was trying out his first triathlon. Couldnt swim for toffee but was a very, very strong runner and the bike course wasnt overly technical so his run fitness carried him through on that. He passed me on the bike and beat me by about 2 minutes all up.

I’m from Belgium so possibly the scene here is of a completely different level.

Male
29 y/o
1.7m (5’7"), 66-67kg (147lbs)
Swim: 1’32-40"/100m for 500m-1500m swims with wetsuit
Bike: 304W FTP, ride at FTP for a sprint and ±280W for an Olympic which gives me sub 30’ and sub 1h bike splits. Bike is a 2nd gen Speed Concept with 60mm front, disc cover in the rear, narrow position with high hands,… Very decent position if I say so myself using a Giro Aerohead.
Run: Best open 10k is a 4’04"/k avg, best sprint run split is the same avg pace, best Olympic run split is a 4’12"/k avg pace.

I can ride with the quickest guys but I lose anywhere from 2-6’ in the swim depending on the distance and they also run 3’20-30"/k pace depending on the distance so that’s another couple of minutes.

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Bike and swim are good enough but you should be running a 10k at 6:30ish pace to podium around your area.

Racing is as much a matter of who shows up that day as it is your fitness, so if your goal is “simply” to AG podium you can stack the deck in your favor.

Peak early and target a small, early season race.

If you do it right, the cold water will scare off a lot of people, the small field won’t entice many heavy hitters, and most folks won’t design their training program to peak in April/May.

Enjoy your podium.

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