By Coach Tony: It’s been said, a good swim will not guarantee you a win, but a poor swim will help you loose it. In much the same way, a good transition will contribute to a positive race experience. The objective of the transition is to help you comfortably, quickly, and safely “transition” from one discipline to another. Too often, triathletes overlook the preparation and importance of a good transition. Whether your goal is to just finish or make the podium, a good transition starts with a plan. Here are a few tips to help organize and practice for good transitions.
Let’s begin with a checklist. These are items you may want to include in your transition bag.
• Swim Cap
• Body Glide or other chafing guard
• Ear wax or plugs
• Sun Block / Lip Balm
• Bike Shoes
• Water Bottles
• Race Belt
• Gels / Bars / Food
• Sun Glasses
• Race Number
• Running Hat
• Running Shoes
• Water Bottle Belt
• Post Race Clothes
Practice laying out your transition area no later than the night before the race. This helps to ensure you have all you need on race day. Bike equipment should be staged closest to you as it will used first. Ensure your helmet is ok by putting it on and securing the strap closed. There will be no basking in the sun so don’t bring a beach towel or beach chair. Be considerate of your fellow triathletes by using a reasonable size towel. Remember, you plan to spend very little time here. Pack your transition bag the day before and there’ll be one less worry the morning of the race.
If possible, observe the transition area the day before the race and take note of where the following entry and exit points are located:
• the transition area entrance from the swim
• the bike-exit
• the bike-return
• the run-exit
For safety and traffic control, these transition entry and exit points are usually located at opposite ends of the transition area. For example, the bike exit/return is located opposite the run exit. When you rack your bike race morning, it’s easy to find. But when you come out of the water and look across a sea of bikes, it can get lost. Two thoughts. Look for a marker (tree, light post, sign) close to your bike that will help you quickly find its location. Second, after setting up your transition, walk each transition (T1 & T2) so that it’s not the first time you go through them during the race. Most races do not allow you to ride the bike inside the transition area. Selecting to rack your bike near the “bike-exit” will limit the amount running in bike-shoes with bike in hand as you start the bike. Remember to set your bike up in an easy gear for the start of the bike.
Have you decided what to wear during the race? There are outfits available that allow you to complete all three events without changing clothes (examples see www.desotosports.com). While this cuts down on transition time, it may difficult for longer races. Consider comfort across all three disciplines. If you plan to change, make sure there is a changing tent available in advance. You can get penalized for going European.
Upon reaching the swim finish, take shorter steps to allow blood to flow through your legs. Take your time, let your heart rate come down, and put your goggles on your forehead so you can see where you are going. Once you have gathered yourself, jog over to the transition area and begin peeling off your wetsuit. Know how your equipment works. The last thing you want to do after exiting the water is to get into it with your wetsuit. Brute force and yelling at this point will only result in aggravation and lost time. Practice removing your wetsuit as part of your training.
You can quickly remove sand from your feet by squirting water on them (remember to pack an extra water bottle). This is much faster than trying to towel off the sand. I do not recommend a bucket of water because too often its mud by the time you get there or it’s a safety hazard to other racers.
As John Wooden would say, “Be quick but don’t hurry.” Allow your heart rate to come down, relax, and gather your thoughts. Begin the bike section of the race relaxed and comfortable. Otherwise, you will spend valuable energy too soon.
Bike-to-Run (T2) As you reach the end of the bike, begin to think “run”. Check your heart rate again. If it’s through the roof, relax, calm down. Sacrifice some time here so that you can have a strong run. Shift out of the big chain ring and spin your legs. This will assist the blood flow from cycling muscles to running muscles. Before reaching the transition area (last 500 feet), slip your feet out of your bike-shoes. Running barefoot is safer and more comfortable than running in bike-shoes. It’s also less wear on your cleats. Remember to take your helmet off before the start of the run.
Practice makes perfect. The sequence you go through to set up and execute your transitions should always be the same. You should be able to visualize yourself through the sequence over and over. Eventually, it becomes second nature.
Train hard, train smart, and train safe because it better to train than to recover from injury.
– Coach Tony
Tony Troccoli has been a certified USA Triathlon and USA cycling since 2001. Tony has competed in nearly 20 Ironman events including Kona and coaches locally in the Southern California area and on-line nationwide. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Tony’s pre-built, easy-to-follow training programs. Tony is also a F.I.S.T certified bike fitter and soon to be Certified Total Immersion instructor. Contact Tony at email@example.com.