Although triathlon consists of three primary sports – swimming, biking and running, there is a fourth sport, transition, which is often overlooked. The time spent between the swim to bike (T1) and the bike to run (T2) is essential to beating the clock and the competition. Improving your transitions has its rewards. First, it doesn’t take a lot of sweat and training to improve your transition efficiency. Second, it’s a lot easier to gain time on competitors in transition than having to run or bike faster to gain time. And third, a quicker transition won’t crank your heart rate or drain your energy. Here are a few basic tips to help improve your time.
Arriving: Arrive before the start of the race to organize your transition area. If the racks are not numbered, locate an area that is the most direct distance from the entrance to the exit. If possible, depending on the rack itself, rack your bike by its seat with the front wheel facing out and towards the direction you will be going. Put your sunglasses in your helmet or have them inside your water bottle cage to put on after you are moving. Hang your helmet with the front facing toward you as you approach your bike and with the straps outside of the helmet ready to be grabbed easily and buckled. Have your shoes already attached onto your cleats with the Velcro straps loose for an easier entry. The only exception to this is if you have a very steep hill right out of transition where it is wiser to put your shoes on before getting on your bike. Have your transition area marked with a colorful towel, baby powder in front of your spot or even have a balloon tied to the rack where your bike is located. Anything to make your transition area easier to spot in the mass of bikes. Race numbers can be pinned on to your jersey or displayed on an elastic waste belt. For men, tuck the jersey with the race number or race belt into your swimsuit so you can pull it out while you are running from the swim to bike. If you are wearing a wetsuit, have your race number and jersey already on.
Before going to the start, walk through all of the entrances and exits of the transition area. It may seem trite, but when you are racing the adrenaline is pumping and if you aren’t prepared, the slightest bit of being disoriented can create panic. Pick out your bike as you walk to T1 from the swim exit. Make specific notes of your rack location. Is it the fourth rack over, second row back? Is it near a particular race banner, etc.?
T1 Swim to Bike: During the swim leg, visualize what will happen as you exit the water. Think about where your bike is and the order you will do things. Approaching T1, take off your swim goggles, swim cap and untuck your race number while running. If you are wearing a wetsuit, have the torso section already off by the time you get to your bike. Once at your transition area, you can even be putting on your helmet as you kick off the wetsuit. Lubrication on the inside and outside of the ankles helps this process. Next, lift your bike off the rack, push it to the mount line and you are out of T1. A simple process that people tend to make too difficult.
T2 Bike to Run: This transition is even easier. Simply dismount your bike at the dismount line. With practice, you can have your feet out of your shoes while riding the last 100 meters or so. As you approach the dismount line, hurdle one leg over your bike and hop off, keeping your momentum as you dismount, and run to your transition area. Hang your bike and unbuckle your helmet. Put on your running shoes and see ya! Use elastic shoelaces so you don’t have to tie your shoes. Wear a lightweight mesh cap to keep the sun out of your eyes and if it is hot, you can use the cap to hold ice from aid stations on your head.
Improving transition time is a simple way to decrease your overall time. Practice the basic tips above as part of your regular training regimen to keep your transitions smooth. Come race day, you will have two chances to gain on your competitors … T1 and T2.