Of 1,000 tips I could share, here is a short list of quick and easy transition tips which may not be super obvious for you to consider on race day. Remember, opinions are like assholes – everyone has one. Decide how YOU are going to approach race day – what is right for YOU?
What are the tips you would suggest? Post them below for everyone to read.
- In transition, strap your helmet to your bike rather than placing it on handlebars. You don’t want it knocked off as it will be hard to find in the crowd.
- Drape that pink towel I know you own over your bike to make it easier to spot.
- Take note of your transition location so you don’t spend valuable time searching for your bike after the swim. Write it on your hand if it helps!
- Where are you going to put your nutrition on the bike? Do you have two bottle cages – quick and cheap to add extra hydration. Do you have pockets? Tuck gels/snacks into the elastic of your shorts (have you ever tucked a banana into your shorts?). You could tape them to your bike, but don’t do what I did in my first race: tape your brake cables, so they don’t work right when you need them…at the bottom of a hill, when you’re going 40mph and there’s a sharp turn ahead – not fun!
- Are you pale & pasty like me? Apply sunblock before the swim to save time in transition, or just a quick application after the swim on your most exposed parts (eg tops of thighs).
The transitions in triathlon are short and in theory a relatively simple concept. However to master them takes practice, and because of the relatively small part they play, I find people do not devote the time to improving their triathlon transitions. Don’t make this mistake!
This weekend I had some of my slower transitions and from analyzing my own performance and seeing my competitors zip in and out in no time here are three easy-to-implement tips I will be applying in my next race.
1) Gear set-up
Before the race, take the time to lay out your kit in an easy-to-find manner. Put your cycling gear together beside your running stuff in a separate pile. Have the cycling gear easy to reach when you come in to T1. I put my cycling gear in my helmet so it is unlikely to get scattered.
The above athlete’s set up looks nice and orderly and I would predict they know where everything is. One difference I don’t like is that they have their helmets on their aerobars. Easy to reach, but what if your neighbor gets to transition before you and knocks your helmet off? In a sea of bikes and triathlon equipment it might be difficult to find, costing you valuable minutes while you search for it.
Experiment with how you set up, and what order you put your equipment on as you will find different combos work better. I like to put my helmet on first and work down my body until my shoes are the last thing I put on before jumping on the bike.
2) Sunblock or not to sunblock?
This is my eternal dilemma. Do I take the time to put it on or risk the wrath of the sun on my pale, Irish skin? I risked it in my last race and am suffering now from some minor sunburn. Worse still, I was wondering if I should really have done that throughout the cycle as the sun beat down on me. Applying it does throw off my routine a bit as I have to dry myself and then apply the cream, but I know now it is worth it for my mental well-being during the race and my physical well-being after!
Decide on your routine and stick to it. Don’t do anything new on race day, and don’t second guess yourself by missing something. You don’t need any distractions while racing!
3) Monitor your speed!
I like to jog in slowly from the swim to T1 and catch my breath. I figure the extra few seconds saved by sprinting do not pay off. Once on my bike I go hard straight away as I can recover from the swim while sitting down and get my legs going immediately before settling in to a rhythm. My last T2 was poor and I tried to make up for this by running very fast out of transition. I realized pretty soon that I was going at an obscene & unsustainable pace and had to ease off the gas. Having said that, my legs seemed to wake up quicker than normal, so maybe there is something to be said for going for it straight away on the run!
Practice your transitions, from set-up through to your pacing in and out of each transition. Incorporate this into your workouts. Your legs and lungs will get used to the changeover, and your brain will learn the routine.