By LifeSport coach Jessica Adam
Often referred to as the fourth discipline of a triathlon, the transition is an important part of your success on race day. Learning to master it will have you shaving off time and will build your confidence come race day. Many triathletes find transitions a bit nerve wracking so getting through them as fast as possible is the ultimate goal. Here are a few tips in order to get through transition faster and to help you prepare for this part of your race.
1. Know where you are. There are a few scenarios when it comes to your spot in transition. You may either get assigned a spot or can pick your own. You also may get to go in the day before or not until the morning of the race. Either way, give yourself enough time to study where your bike is. Go to the swim entrance and look for an easy way to remember where your bike is either by counting rows or a sight marker of some kind. Same for the bike entrance, it’s a bit harder to remember where you were when your bike isn’t there for a marker so make sure you know where your spot is from this entrance as well. Sometimes a really brightly colored towel or transition mat can help with this.
2. Mentally go through your transitions. The night before your race go through your transitions in your head. Picture yourself getting out of the swim, taking off your wetsuit, finding your bike, putting on your helmet and sunglasses, etc. This will have you better prepared and help to make sure that you don’t forget anything.
3. Practice transitions in training. Many triathletes don’t practice their transitions, which is a big reason there can be so much confusion on race day. Bike to run is a bit easier logistically to practice but where you can really shave time off is the swim to bike transition. Whenever you do an open water swim take the time to do a few transition drills when you are getting out of the water. In particular taking off your wetsuit, which can be a huge source of frustration for many athletes.
4. Learn to mount your bike with shoes clipped in to pedals. Many triathletes find this intimidating but with practice it really isn’t hard. This saves so much time not only because your shoes are already on your bike but mainly because it is way faster to run through transition in your bare feet than slip sliding around on your cleats. Also, if transition is a bit muddy and you are wearing your bike shoes you can get your cleats clogged with dirt making it difficult to clip in and you have to take the time to clean them out potentially stopping to do so.
5. Organize your stuff. Only have what you need to race with at your transition area. Leave everything else out of the way. Clutter is confusing. Have your race things available in order. For instance, have your sunglasses open and in your helmet so you can quickly put them on first, or your socks on top of your running shoes.
6. Wetsuit tricks. One of the most time consuming and frustrating things to do in transition is take your wetsuit off. Although probably against most manufacturers recommendations, a little cooking spray on your calves goes a long way in getting your wetsuit off quickly. Make sure you have lots of sunscreen on before you do this! You can also cut the legs of your wetsuit a little bit so that they cover just to the bottom of your calf muscle. This makes it easier to get off because there is less material folded over. You don’t need your wetsuit to be all the way down to your ankles. Make sure you do not cut above any adjoining seams.
7. Gearing. Make sure your bike is in the gear you want to be in when you get going. There is nothing worse than having your bike in the big ring and it is uphill out of transition. This is not only time consuming but dangerous as you may be in peoples way or weaving around trying to get your bike in the right gear as you go.
8. Race number. Another time saving trick is to wear your race number tucked in to your race suit and under your wetsuit right from the start. This way you don’t forget to put it on and one less thing to think about. You do have to remember to pull it out once you get going on the bike. Scrunch it up a little bit then smooth it out again before you do this, it softens the paper a little. You can’t do this if wearing a one piece tri suit though, you need to be able to tuck it in your suit or the number will tear off the belt.
9. Race laces. Use elastic race laces so that you don’t take the time to tie your shoes in transition. Make sure to train in them as well so you know how tight to keep them especially because your feet will swell a little bit during the race.
10. Use triathlon specific gear. Specific gear is designed with speed in mind. Triathlon specific cycling shoes are designed so you can clip them on your pedals and are easy to do up on the move. Running shoes have loops or pulls at the back so you can pull them on faster and with ease. Most are even seamless to minimize rubbing if going sockless. Triathlon specific suits are important so that you only have one outfit you can wear for the whole race eliminating the need to change clothes.
Transitions lead to as much discussion between triathletes as swimming, biking, and running do. It’s a shame to train so hard for those three sports and then lose a bunch of time in transition just because you didn’t put much thought to it. Practice makes perfect and will ensure that you have a race you can look back on knowing you had a great day and left nothing to question.
LifeSport triathlon coach Jessica Adam has been a coach in Victoria, Vancouver and now resides in the Toronto area. She loves to share her years of experience with beginner triathletes and also experienced triathletes that are trying new distances like ½ IM or IM for the first time. She coaches athletes online all across the country.
If you are interested in working with Jess, write Jess@LifeSportCoaching.com