Here are some top transition tips to ensure you don’t falter on triathlon’s ‘fourth discipline’…
T1: The Swim-Bike Transition
When setting up transition, only take the essentials in with you. Anything you know you won’t need, leave with family & friends or at home. This will help you get in and out of transition quicker with minimal fuss and stress! A laminated checklist with what you need on it will ensure you won’t forget anything on the day.
Setup your bike
Make sure your bike is set up in the right gear to start your race. If you have a hill out of transition you probably want to start in an easier gear, so you’re not struggling in the first few meters of the race when you try to pedal.
Know you’re way around the course
Transition can often be a busy and sometime confusing place on race morning.
You should know the transition area like the back of your hand. Make sure you know your swim exit, bike out & in and run out to help gain those precious seconds!
If you walk it a few times, the route will crystallize in your mind, which will be helpful on race morning when your mind is overstimulated. Familiarise yourself with the path you will take from swim to bike and out, and then from bike to run. Look out for something visual near where you bike and kit is set up so it’s easy to spot when you’re running to your bike, such as a tree that stands out, or an advertising sign nearby.
Run through a successful transition a few times in your mind before the race. Visualization is a very strong and useful tool.
A great way to save easy seconds and even minutes of your time is in transition. Practice jumping on and off your bike, mounting and dismounting with/without your shoes already clipped in. A good tip is to use elastic bands to keep your shoes in a horizontal position to make this easy. Practice running up to your kit and how are you going to put your race number/belt, sunglasses, helmet and shoes on quickly. What’s the best set up for you? For example, you could put your sunglasses inside your helmet, with the arms open so they can be put on straight away and then put your helmet over the top.
Start planning your approach to the exit in the final minutes of the swim. Is the right or the left side the more direct route to the transition area? Always stroke as far as you can, then decide whether you should dolphin dive through the water or run the last bit to shore. Once you are running, put your goggles on your head rather than taking them off to keep your hands free. Get up to speed then begin the “peeling off” process (if it’s a wetsuit swim). The suit should be at your waist by the time you reach T1.
Once you reach the mount line, don’t necessarily jump on your bike right away. This area is usually congested and oftentimes you have an opportunity to pass several people simply by running a bit farther into the free space where you can hop on your bike with ease.
T2: The Bike-Run Transition
Start to mentally prepare and remember where you have to go. Will you have to rack your bike yourself? Or can you hand it to one of the volunteers? Get ready for T2 by sliding out of your shoes, while always looking ahead and never down (don’t be one of the guys who crashes or swerves while trying to get out of his bike shoes). Pedal the final few yards with your bare feet atop the shoes.
Off the bike:
Dismount and run to your transition spot, using visual aids to help guide your way. Once you’re there, put your helmet down and get into your running shoes. Grab your gels, race number and hat, and off you go. Every second should be planned out. You practiced it, right? Run the fastest route to exit T2 and proceed onto the run course. Now you should have time to turn your race number around to the front and put things into the pockets of your race kit.
If you have the opportunity to just watch a triathlon, stand near the transition area and pick out a few people to observe and analyze. You’ll find examples of what to do and what not to do out there.
Set up a personal transition area. Run 10 metres toward your bike, put your helmet and shoes on and go [alternatively, put your shoes on the pedals]. As soon as you can ride normally, relax for a second and start the T2 practice run, meaning do the same thing in reverse: approach the makeshift dismount line, jump off your bike, run to your spot and quickly get your helmet and shoes off and put your running shoes on. Grab your run gear and off you go.
Can you do the whole thing in less than 30 seconds? Do it again and again until you can. The perfect place to practice this is a 400m track. After 200m you must be in your shoes, you have 100m to relax, and 100m to prepare to get off your bike. I usually start this practice two weeks before my first race. If you think this won’t help your overall performance, go back and check your split times in T1/T2—I’m sure the numbers will speak for themselves.
Below is an example list of items you’ll need before a race. It includes all the kit you’ll need, plus a few other pre-race checks and optional items…
- Goggles (maybe a spare pair too just in case!)
- Pre race nutrition/gels
- Water – sometimes it’s useful to have an old water bottle with you to sip on as you’re warming up or waiting for the start. You can then just throw this away at the last minute
- Timing chip
- Garmin set up and mounted on bike – set the screen so the data you want to see on the ride is accessible and easy to see
- Pump tyres to the right pressure
- Check you’re in the right gear on the bike for starting out
- Shoes on bike, with elastic bands
- Talcum powder in shoes
- Nutrition for bike leg
- Fluid for bike with bottles filled
- Race number/belt
- Bike helmet
- Socks (for half or full distance)
- Race belt
- Nutrition for run (gels, with an elastic band around so they’re easy to grab)
Spares (just in case)
- CO2 canisters
- Tyres/Inner tubes
- Electrical tape
- Elastic bands