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How to Set Up Suunto GPS Watch for Ironman Triathlon Race Day

July 30, 2017

Finishing an ironman (so I’ve been told, this will be my first attempt at a full Ironman!) is all about pacing yourself and not pushing too hard, too early. A key tool to making this happen? A solid GPS watch. In preparation for the upcoming Ironman Canada in Whistler, I set up my Suunto Spartan Ultra to help me monitor my pace, heart rate, and even the official route. Suunto makes this pretty easy to do through the movescount platform. Here’s how I did it:


Putting the course map files on your watch:

  1. Download the GPX file from Ironman’s website (race info > Course > Scroll to bottom for download links). GPX
  2. Log in to Hover over the “MAPS” section and click on “MY ROUTES”.routes screenshot
  3. Click the + and upload both the run and bike GPX file.SCREEN2
  4. Select the watch you want the routes to go onScreen3
  5. Sync watch by plugging your watch into your computer (SuuntoLink opens automatically after the watch has been connected).


Set up custom triathlon sport mode


  • Watch Metrics: I am keeping things simple for the swim. Pace, total distance, and duration are the three I care about. 4,224 is the number of yards in an ironman but this is unlikely to be accurate as no swimmer swims in a perfect straight line.


  • Sport Mode Settings: (Changes made to default settings)
    • GPS Accuracy: changed to “good – 26 hour battery life”
    • Autolap: Ironman Canada in Whistler is 2 laps so I’ve created the lap distance to be 1.2 miles.
    • I have turned off touchscreen for just the swim so I don’t accidently pause the activity. To be extra safe, I will also lock my screen before I get into the water in case things get rough with my fellow triathlete pals and a button gets pushed by mistake.
    • Display color: switched to low color. Since I won’t be looking at my watch during the swim, I won’t miss the pretty colors. 

Swim Settings



  • Watch Metrics: I don’t use a bike computer and will take my watch off my wrist in T1 and attach it to my handlebar mount. The default Triathlon sport mode measures things like power and cadence but since I won’t be using my power tap pedals in the race, I am switching things up a bunch.
    1. The first screen will have 5 metrics: Current Activity duration (bike time only), current heart rate, current speed, current activity distance (bike distance only), and total duration (swim + bike).
    2. Second screen will give me metrics for every hour of the bike. I will be able to see my average speed, average heart rate, and distance for each 1hr “lap” (I set my lap to be 1hr in the sport settings, see second screenshot)
    3. Third screen will be the most data heavy. Since my watch will be mounted to my handlebar, I will be able to toggle between screens pretty easily and analyze all 7 datapoints if I get really board! (Current activity duration (bike only), current speed, current heart rate, average heart rate, current activity distance (bike only), ascent, total duration (swim + bike)
    4. Fourth screen will be where I can see the course map and see where I am in relation. This will be helpful since IM Canada has two big climbs so I’ll know when they are coming up.

Bike Watch

  • Settings:
    • PODS to search: only HR belt since I won’t be using a power meter
    • GPS Accuracy: change to good to extend battery life 
    • Autolap: every hour
    • Touchscreen: on – I’ll mount to my handlebar and it’s easy to scroll through screens with touchscreen 
    • Color: back to full color

Bike Settings


  1. Run – In T2, I will take my watch off the handlebar mount and put it back on my wrist. I am using similar metrics on the run (and keeping those metrics in the same locations).
    • Metrics: The major difference here is screen 3 where I will only show one metric: total elapsed time. During the run, I will want to have the option to see pace, heart rate, distance, etc but the main thing I’ll care about is total time.


Running watch


  • Settings:
    • PODS to search: only HR belt since I won’t be using a power meter
    • GPS Accuracy: Best
    • Autolap: every mile

Run Settings

  1. Finally, plug in your watch and sync settings. And practice using your watch during training so you can get to know the buttons for transition and make any changes before the big day!

Hope you enjoyed learning how I set my Suunto Spartan GPS watch up for Ironman Triathlon Race Day! What would you do differently? Leave a comment below and let me know!