Now that race season is underway, it’s time to shift some of your training focus from swimming, biking and running to triathlon’s fourth discipline –transitions. Transitions are an extremely important yet often overlooked component of triathlon training. By dedicating some time prior to your key races to plan for and practice your transitions, you can improve your finishing time without having to swim, bike or run faster!
Every triathlon has two transitions: a swim-to-bike (called T1) and a bike-to-run (called T2). You can easily practice both by setting out your bike and run gear in a parking lot or driveway. Start by deliberately going through each step of both T1 and T2. For T1, that means everything you must do from the time you exit the water to when you mount your bike. For T2, that means everything you must do from the time you dismount your bike to when you start the run. Once you are comfortable going through the steps slowly, repeat the process several times, trying to complete the transitions slightly faster each time both by eliminating unnecessary steps and by completing the important ones more quickly.
1) Create a transition bag checklist which you can refer to prior to each race. Some items that you may want to include in your transition bag include: goggles, wetsuit, swim cap, bike shoes, helmet, sunglasses, running shoes, socks, race belt with race number, running hat or visor, Vaseline or Body Glide (to prevent chafing), towel, nutritional items (bars, gels, drinks), water bottle, sunscreen, lip balm, post-race clothes.
2) When you arrive at the race site, locate the entrances and exits to the transition area and note where your bike is racked relative to the entrances and exits. Walk from the swim exit to your bike to help you memorize where your bike is located in the transition area.
3) Rack your bike in the proper row according to your race number and set out a towel on the ground next to your bike for placing your bike and run gear on. A brightly colored towel may help you find your bike in the transition area.
4) Rack your bike in a lower gear so that you can start the bike leg with high cadence spinning to loosen up your legs. The same thing applies at the end of the bike leg. Shift into a lower gear and spin at a higher cadence to loosen up your legs for the run.
5) Arrange your bike and run gear neatly in two piles that you can quickly and easily access in the transition area. Keep other items (post-race clothes, etc.) packed away in your transition bag.
6) Upon exiting the water after the swim, immediately begin to unzip your wetsuit and pull it down around your waist as you are running toward the transition area. You can also remove your goggles and swim cap and run with those in your hand. Once you arrive at your bike, remove the wetsuit from your legs and place it on the ground with your cap and goggles alongside your bike and running gear. Spraying anti-stick cooking spray such as Pam onto your legs before putting on your wetsuit will help it to slide off easily and save you valuable time in T1.
7) Keep a water bottle nearby that you can use to rinse dirt and sand from your feet before putting on your socks and/or bike shoes.
8) Any time your hands are touching your bike, your bike helmet must be on with the chin strap fastened. When exiting T1, don’t remove your bike from the rack until your helmet is on and fastened. Likewise, when entering T2, don’t unfasten your chin strap or remove your helmet until you have returned your bike to the rack.
9) Consider using elastic laces or lace locks on your running shoes to save the time of having to tighten and tie shoe laces during T2.
Best of luck on race day and remember to finish with a smile on your face!
Bill Hauser, Founder & Head Coach of Mid-Atlantic Multisport
Bill has been active in endurance sports, both as a coach and competitor, for more than 20 years. He has experience coaching athletes of all ability levels, from beginners to elite-level competitors. Bill is one of a select number of coaches in the United States to have received Level II certification by USA Triathlon (USAT), the national governing body of the sport. He is also a USAT-certified Youth & Junior coach and served as the Head Triathlon Coach for the Southern New Jersey Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training Program. Bill was selected to the 2001, 2002 and 2003 Triathlon All-American Teams by USAT and represented the United States at the 2002 Long Course World Championships in Nice, France. He has competed in the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii three times and has run nearly 20 marathons around the world. His Ironman PR is 9 hours 38 minutes and his marathon PR is 2 hours 42 minutes. Bill has served on the USA Triathlon Board of Directors for the Mid-Atlantic Region since 2002.