Let’s look at the typical race pace for the kayak leg of a run/bike/kayak triathlon…

My wife and I are doing our first triathlon of run 4, bike 13, and kayak 4. I’ve never times myself on the kayak leg. Any idea a range of time from slowish to average to fast for kayaking pace?
Thanks in advance, Timing Tim

Hi Timing,

I don’t have a lot of kayak racing experience, but one thing I’ve found (from racing and spectating) is how variable the times are, due to kayak shape, water current, and water level. Not to mention wind resistance, since your entire upper body is still exposed to the wind.

I’ll use a local river and lake as an example.

When I raced the 5 mile stretch of the West Branch Triathlon in a flat-bottomed, short, and very wide kayak, it took me nearly an hour – let’s say 50 minutes. That was possibly the slowest kayak leg of the day at 10 minute miles. Most people in nicer kayaks were doing around 30 minutes total. So a fast to moderate pace was probably 5-7 minute miles. (The water level was nice that day.)

Later in the year, when the water was very low, I watched a kayak race where the leaders came through that same 5 mile stretch in about 50-55 minutes!

I’ve also had some opportunities to take some nicer kayaks (12′ boats with more V-shaped hulls) out on a local lake. I swear I was going twice as fast with less effort (compared to the 8′ long, extra wide kayak with a flat bottom.)

But we can go one step further and look at an example. Let’s say you were doing the Mid-American Canoe & Kayak Race, an annual race outside of Chicago. We can look up the actual race results and get a better feel for the race pace…

A simple Google search will give you a results page as well as the official race website.

From there, I see the race is six miles in length and the winning times were about 49 minutes (men’s long kayak) and 52 minutes (men’s short kayak.)

Simple math (49 minutes divided by 6 miles) shows a good race pace would have been around an eight minute mile.

Just apply the same research to your race and you should get a good idea! Good luck!

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