Transition Training Tips

by Alan Ley

Triathlons consist of three disciplines, swimming, cycling and running – plus two transitions. Triathletes are the best at practicing running drills, swimming skills and cycling mile after mile to gain a few seconds of speed and efficiency. But the swim to bike (T-1) or bike to run (T-2) transition is usually neglected until race morning. By following a few simple tips and practicing transitions prior to race morning the triathlete can reduce their stress and anxiety and see a reduction in their finishing times without adding a single interval to their training.

Location, Location, Location

In the real estate business they always say, “Location, location, location are the three most important considerations when buying a house. And the same is true in triathlon for the best transition tactics.

Arrive at the transition area early so you can select the best spot. For most triathlons, you will need to rack your bike in a specific area usually based on your wave. It’s better to have extra time to set up, walk around, eat, go to the bathroom, and stretch, than to be stuck in a remote area meters from the swim entrance or bike exit.

You want to select a spot that will allow you the LEAST amount of time running with your bike. It is ALWAYS safer and faster to run without the bike than running with a bike. Take a spot closest to the bike exit or the bike finish. The key point is to find the spot that minimizes the time spent running with your bike through the transition maze of bodies, shoes and gear.

Once you find a spot try and place the bike at the end of the rack. Whenever possible have the front wheel facing away from the rack so you can grab the bike and - GO! When you rack the bike put it in front wheel first, helmet off, running shoes on, and run like the wind!

My last bit of advice is to take the time to physically walk/jog from the swim exit exactly like you would during the race to your bike. Un-rack the bike and walk/jog to the bike exit taking the same path you will during the race. Practice this critical step before the race starts. It could very well make the difference between a good race or bad!

Transitions Tips

  1. Keep your transition area simple and clutter free. Leave all the gimmicks and non race essential swag in the car.
  2. Make sure your helmet is the first item to put on and the last to take off.
  3. Set up your transition area the same way all the time. Everything should be automatic and rehearsed before race morning. Repetition creates efficiency.
  4. Make sure your bike is in the right gear for the course demands.
  5. Rack your bike securely. The last thing you want to happen is for your bike to fall over or get knocked over.
  6. Mentally rehearse or better yet, walk the entrance and exit path you will use.
  7. If it’s a wetsuit swim but your bike/run clothes and race number on under the suit.
  8. Place your glasses in your helmet with the straps on the outside of the helmet.
  9. If you use Bodyglide or a lubricant to help with wetsuit entry be careful not to get it on your fingers and then touch your swim goggles.
  10. Your first transition begins about a minute before you exit the water. Start thinking where your bike is racked and how methodical and relaxed you will be during the transition.
  11. The first thing you need to think about after leaving the T-1 is to get away from the confusion of the crowd, get settled in and relaxed. Then hydration and nutrition.
  12. The first thing you need to think about after leaving T-2 is form, form, form.
  13. Know where the mount and dismount lines/areas are.

The biggest mistakes made in the T-1 and T-2 transitions usually happen before the race: Not practicing our transitions prior to race day, no equipment plan about what’s needed and what’s not, poor bike set up, gears, tire pressure, loose components and not knowing the transition lay out.

The T-1 and T-2 transition should be a critical part of your training. Don’t neglect practicing and planning for this fourth discipline. It can make your race or break it.

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