First 70.3 guidance

Pending a covid cancellation I’m doing my first 70.3 in Lisbon in a month. Having only done one sprint previously I’m after a little guidance if possible. I had planned and booked to do some other tris…Have done some brick sessions and will get a few more in.

I’m looking for some guidance on basic nutrition and suggested target run pace, my strongest discipline.

My swim time isn’t going to be great, confident and capable just not fast or particularly great technique, going to get a 1-2-1 session to get some improvements. I’ll be happy if I’m out within an hour.

Bike, average. I’m on an old Planet X Stealth, has been properly fitted for me. Mainly curious on just some basic nutrition ideas. I’ve done (and still doing) plenty of long rides and multi day long rides over the last few months so mostly happy.

Run, my best area by a distance. Here I’m curious on what sort of pace I could possibly aim for, plus how many gels I need to take on? Just the one? Running training is going very well. Ran a 37:20 10K a month ago and put in a 1:30 HM training long run in this week with 10k easy pace 4:40 ish and 10k at ~3:52 ish. A year ago did a 1:26 HM

Any help appreciated.

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First off, good luck. I think there’s a couple of others from here out in Cascais, so you might get to put some faces to names.

I’d largely say enjoy it, especially as a first time and given the current global situation. As you say, training and doing some prep races has been hampered, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

Your swim is obviously an area of relative weakness. Nearly an hour is going to be rather draining. Have you done many swim-bike bricks? I know I always feel a little flat on the bike after the swim early season. I’ve not done Portugal, but I know a few who have. The bike is apparently quite a bit more lumpy than they were expecting, so prepare for that.

Nutrition wise, it’s very personal. My historic approach would always be if you are going to try for some solids, get those in early. You don’t want a full stomach heading out on the run. Little and often works. I just have a top tube bento box with chunks of flapjack, chews, cut up energy bars etc.

As for the run, that’s clearly an area of strength. But what you can do there is going to depend on how much the first two segments take out of you. If you’re riding 2.5-3hrs and under control, you should be able to put together a decent run. If you overcook the bike, or are needing to spend more like 4hrs to complete that segment, you’re going to be a lot more drained. Often the run performance is dictated by being relatively restrained on the bike, and this is one of the key values of a power meter on race day.

Based on a 37:20 10k, and an “easy” 90min HM in training, you should certainly be looking for something in the 1:30’s I’d say, but it will very much depend on all of the above (fuelling and how you pace the bike). It took me a long time to start executing the HM at the end of a 70.3. I’d been low 80’s and under 80, for a few years standalone before i finally went under 90mins. For a long time I had a good 10-15mins drop off, so it takes some practice. And that’s why I’d say just use this first one as a learning experience across the board, and enjoy the fact you’re getting to race at all this year!


Power meter or do you know how hard you can bike and still run well off it? It’s very easy to go 10 mins quicker in the bike than you should which translates to 20-30 mins slower on the run.

I would use a metric brick distance at race pace (54km/13km) to gauge fitness. Note, you’re faster than me, so can’t help with actual paces.

I will be doing the IM at Cascais, so hopefully see you out there. I am beginning to think that it may actually happen :grinning:

Your run is your strength, however, over-bike and you will destroy your run. I recently comprehensively beat a club mate on a 70.3… even though he can run a HM in 1h12, he made the mistake of keeping up with me on the bike (bike is my strength), and had nothing left for the run. If you are using a power meter, and know your FTP, stick to a plan. For me on a 70.3 I know I can run so long as my IF (Normalised power / FTP) is less than 80%… or in power tems, my NP is around 260w. However, I have a fair bit of experience, so you may be safer going with a slightly lower number (possibly 75-76%). If you don’t have a power meter and are relying on HR, then I would keep it in Z3 which for me is 150-158bpm against an MHR of 187)

In terms of nutrition on the bike, on a 70.3 I wouldn’t bother with solid foods. What works well is to calculate 3 gels per hour, squeeze them all into a water bottle, and top up with a little water… Set an alarm on your bike computer to go off every 20 mins, and take a good swig from bottle, this is pretty close to one gel. I have now switched to using Maurten, which is a liquid fuel (like tailwind), which also works pretty well.

On the run, I also carry some gels, and take one every 6km, at the aid stations I take a cup of Redbull and a cup of water. It works brilliantly for me. I will start the run at 4:20/km and try to maintain in the region of 4:15-4:20/km. I always seem to fininsh my 70.3 run in sub 1h31m… one day I will break the 1h30

As for the swim, I guess you know where you need to focus winter training :thinking: Going from 1hr swim time to sub 40mins should be relatively easy to achieve, going from 40mins to 30mins is taking me years of frustration, and 3 steps forward then 2 back.

Do not make the mistake of loading up with Gels too early before the swim, otherwise you get a glycogen spike, followed be a low. Have a good breakfast 2 hours before and take a gel 15 mins before swim start

Avoid too much fibre in diet 48 hours before the race (which is hard for me as I have a very high fibre diet). Eat well the day before, but no need for any carb loading. Try to take a crap in the hotel before going to race start and avoid the long queue for the stinking portaloos. Drink well before the swim, there is no shame in peeing in your wetsuit while waiting for the start (now you know what those warm puddles are)


Based on your times and in particular the 37:20 10K then a 1:30 half marathon within the 70.3 is certainly doable. However,and as has already been said you absolutely must control your effort on the bike. To give you a sense of this I would also hope to go 1:30 on the run but my bike is 2:45 to 2:50. This effectively means for the whole of the bike leg I have people overtaking me. You just have to ignore that, trust yourself and realise that on the run you will be the one doing the overtaking!
I don’t have a powermeter so I do my rides on feel (basically if at any point in the ride I am aware of my quads aching I back off.) However if you can get a power meter I think that that would be very helpful rather than using my method! The bottom line here, I don’t think that when you finish the race you are going to wish that you had cycled quicker. However you might wish that you had cycled slower.
With regards to nutrition I work on the basis of trying to get around 90g of carb into my body per hour. I would avoid solids which leaves you will gels and carbohydrate drinks. In terms of the latter I have used both Tailwind and Maurten and have had no problems with either. Whether you put your gels into your drink or not is a personal choice. I tend to use a mix. So based on the 90g rule and the fact that I am now drinking Maurten I know how many gels that I need for the bike and how many for the run. (For me that figure was 5 and 3 and the last gel on the run was taken before mile 10. My gels contain 25-30g of carb)
You must also try this prior to the race to make sure that you don’t get any stomach issues. I have just switched to Maurten so prior to the race I did a long brick to make sure that I had no issues
Anyway good luck and have great race and remember to enjoy it.


Absolutely I’m out to enjoy it. I’ve set myself no targets, bar not be too far at the back and put in a decent run time. The sprint I did, it was comical looking at how I placed by individual discipline.

I might have slightly over stated my poor swimming. I did a fairly easy 2km pool swim at the beginning of the year in 48 mins, no tumble turns. However I’m under no illusions OWS in a bay is very different hence my conservative estimate. Not done any swim-bike bricks, might see if I can squeeze one in. Only just checked course maps. 650m to T1?! I realise cos COVID, but that seems long!

Lumpy bike is fine with me, but your not wrong 844m !! Only just seen that! I’m comfortable with that though, and I’m running a compact chainset. Confident I can get the bike done in that time period. Recent ish TT ride before I put on the compact - 90km, 1100m, elevation (it was very lumpy and tough on a 53-39!) 3:20. I’ve got a top tube bag which I was planning on taking so will do that. No power meter so will take advise on keeping it Z3. MHR 204.

Running, I’m fairly clued up on what not to eat here :joy: I also wouldn’t dream of taking gels pre race at the moment. As long as I eat correctly, usually rice flour and protein powder porridge and toast, I can get away eating a little closer to race time than that plus coffee for the obvious… I’ve used a few different gels while on my long runs now with no issues.

I’ve learned to become relatively restrained on the ‘race’ aspect so will be ok with people going past, knowing I am ensuring a good run. Parkrun (I know, i know) when I’ve either been recovering from an injury or had a football game later, I enforced a slower run pace, difficult though it was :rofl: Also during the recent the 10k it also had a 5km race. Loads shot off, I managed to hold myself to my target pace and increase as I felt good and soon enough reeled all but 1st in.

Thanks for the insights so far :smile:


I’ve not got a lot of experience to share, however, have done a sprint followed by a 70.3, so the same scenario.

The other guys have nailed the advice on pace and nutrition. I would certainly go with gels the next time rather than a mix of solids and gels.

The biggest issue I had was/is being a very slow swimmer. I took just under an hour. The bike course had some pretty impressive climbs and I got really bad cramps in my quads about an hour into the bike. Managed to shake get rid of them but they came back to haunt on the run and I had to walk a few times.

I believe I took in enough nutrition and electrolytes and think the reason was using my legs too much in the swim.

Above all, enjoy it! It’s an amazing experience

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losing 15 mins on the swim is pretty insignificant unless you are going for a top place finish.

A PM is pretty useful in traininging, however my PM has failed in a couple of races, its no big deal on race day so long as you have a good idea what the effort should feel like and keep an eye on your HR

You will be surprised how many people are shovelling in gels before the start. Stick to you plan: when I first started I saw people doing stuff and thought that they looked much more experienced than me, therefore it must be right.

I really used to struggle with restraint on the bike. I am a bit of a slow swimmer, but fast cyclist, so spend most of my time overtaking people. I suspect that you will be similar, just be careful as some of the riders who will be setting of on the bike at the same time as you may not be expecting a strong rider to pass them at speed

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That’s my race report from last year.

The swim is well sheltered in the harbour. V enjoyable place to swim

First 40km or so of the bike is very flat and fast. The climbing comes when you head north out of Estoril. The gp circuit is also very lumpy. The final big climb in the Sintra hills was very exposed and quite windy last year. There are a few rollers Just before this though. After the turn it’s an incredibly fast descent all the way back to Cascais.

The run is also not flat. I think there were a few hitters who ran ~1:15s on the day but I’d say anywhere around 1:30 and you’ve had yourself a day.

Enjoy, I’d love to be there this year. A great race and town for it :v:t2:


@Adam, is the IM course 2 laps of the HIM course? gives me a bike prediction of 4h50m which would make it a fast course. The profile is similar to Roth, which is also a very fast course, I think that rollers actually make it faster if you are a decent cyclist and can carry speed on the up hill sections. I would be pleased with a slighty hilly run as I do hills well

Just looked on their website.

Yeah, the full does two laps of the 70.3 course. It’s just reversed from last year. So you’ll head west out of transition then head north into the hills, fortunately they’ve removed the exposed climb I mentioned.

I’d say the biggest climb of the course comes at ~10 and 100kms. After that it’s pretty rolling, then once you’re done with the gp circuit it’ll be rapid headed to Estoril then Lisbon. I think you’ll go very well here Matt. The swim for the full is a different course and more of an out and back. Potential for some rolling waves here. Saw plenty surfing the beaches east of Cascais towards Estoril last year.

They’ve also changed the run course from last year too. You’ll follow the bike course west out of transition on an out and back. It’s very flat, hopefully it won’t be too breezy. Also can’t imagine any crowd support here but not sure they’ll be any anyway now in the COVID era. There will be a hill to get up in Cascais near the finish line area too. It’s a shame Portugal is on the quarantine list. Going to have some serious fomo When you’re racing this guys!

Some great advice on this thread.