How to Break 1 Hour 30 Mins in a Sprint Distance Race

Many of us look to try and improve our performance by breaking 1:30 at a sprint distance triathlon. This is something that a lot of people want to try and do and is by no means an easy feat. This is a wonderful milestone to achieve and there are many different ways you could approach this depending on your strengths and weaknesses. Here, we outline a way of breaking the race that you could use.

Firstly, we need to start off with a good swim. Realistically, for an open water 750m swim, we want to be under the 20 minute mark. We know that 15 minute swim times can be done by those swimming at 2:00/100m, 20 mins is broken for those swimming 2:40s or faster. This is quite a big difference, so it is worth targeting a CSS pace of 2:30/100m. In training, this would mean a 400m time of under 10 minutes (200m time of less than 5 mins). These would be great targets to aim for through the season or in a super sprint/400m sprint distance event before ‘the big one’. Given that many people usually swim faster in a wetsuit, this gives you an additional buffer to add to your list. Practicing open water swimming to get used to the environment is really important – can you sight effectively? What about swimming around others? Do you swim in a straight line? However, you must remember that to get faster, most of the work will come from the pool and interval sessions, but you can use the open water to get used to the environment.

 Pool time = speed  Open water time = confidence in the environment

Pool time = speed

Open water time = confidence in the environment

Next, the bike needs to be done as effectively as you can manage. If we target less than 40 minutes, then we are looking at holding an average speed of more than 30km/hour. As a rough example, if you do any 10 mile time trials, you would be wanting to get close to the 30 minute mark. This can be done in many different ways, but there are a few easy ways of generating that extra speed without having to sweat! Firstly, let’s look at your bike position. If you have not had a proper bike fit on your bike you should certainly head down to your local bike fitter. Fits change with time and as you develop and adapt as an athlete. Your bike fit may allow you to generate more power on the bike, or mean you can run more efficiently off the bike (an important consideration for us triathletes!) However, it is likely to also make you slightly more aerodynamic. Secondly, let’s consider how aerodynamic we are. This is not an excuse for buying the latest super bike and wheels. However, it certainly means we look at what you are wearing. Perhaps it is time to squeeze into the lycra properly and buy a tri suit. Or maybe you need to think about whether you need the size of saddle-bag you have on your bike or maybe you ride with a big billowing cape of a jacket (tip – don’t!) or baggy shorts! All these could be looked at and improved meaning you can go faster with the same effort. Then let’s look at the bike itself. Have you pumped the tyres up to the right pressure? Have you cleaned it properly and lubed the moving parts. Again, these are all things which make you go faster without training any harder than you are already! Finally, it is time to do some work yourself! 30km/h is not easy to hold on the bike but with training, intervals and hill repeats, you can get stronger. even simple sessions where you aim to go at 32km/h for five minutes, then less than 30km/h for five minutes and slowly reduce the recovery can mean you quickly get faster. (Clearly you need to be aware if you are going downhill or uphill – no cheating!!!)


 Focussed, interval work and using park runs can help improve your run speed.

Focussed, interval work and using park runs can help improve your run speed.

The run needs to be faster than 30 minutes, which off the back of a fast bike is no easy task! Ideally you would see your normal 5km park runs runs targeting 28 minutes or faster, to allow the fact you are likely to need to work a little bit harder for the same speed off the bike as your legs will already be tired. That means sustaining 6mins/km or faster off the bike and 5:40mins/km in a 5km running race. Using local events (like Park Runs) are a wonderful way of staying on top of your running performance and seeing measurable results. Perhaps you could even ride to the start of the run and then do the run and ride home – what a perfect brick session! Brick Sessions will be an important step to develop a strong run off the bike and negate the feeling of jelly legs, so even just running for 5 mins after most of your bike sessions will help you run faster in a triathlon.

 How much time can you save by practicing your transitions?

How much time can you save by practicing your transitions?

As you will see from the above, these all provide you with targets which result in a time of less than 1:30. As it is a sprint distance, every minute saved in a transition is a 1.2% gain (if you are trying to be faster than 1hr30min). This can be done by just practicing them, which isn’t physically hard work! Equally, when you think about some of the larger races with long transitions, a good 5-10% of your race could be just getting changed between the disciplines. An afternoon working on your mounting, and dismounting, running with a bike, taking your wetsuit off and other transition skills could save you many more percentage points than squeezing in one more training session into an already busy weekly schedule!

Of course, following a designated plan will help ensure your training is balanced and specific allowing you to focus on turning up and getting the job done. Our Sprint Distance plan can be found here on the Training Peaks website. For more information about our training plans, or to ask us questions or even speak to a coach, follow this link.