Ten Tenets of Triathlon Transitions
By Jeffrey J. Capobianco of Breakthrough Performance Coaching
Most of us spend all of our training time attempting to get fitter and faster. We spend countless hours in the pool drilling and perfecting our swim form to gain any advantage possible. We spend our winters, at least here in the Northeast, mind numbingly churning away on our indoor trainers. We focus on our run form: planting our foot directly under our center of mass, keeping a high turnover, maintaining a good forward lean. We are relentless in our pursuit to shave seconds off of our race times from Sprints to Iron distance events. Come race day we give our all out on the course, yet when we enter the transition area it’s like someone called time-out. I see many people walking through transition, talking about the previous leg or what’s to come. Do they not realize that their total time includes transition times?
It can take hundreds of hours in the pool, in the saddle, or at the track just to drop a couple minutes off of your time. What if I told you that you could possibly take that much time, or more, off of your time in just a few short hours? It can be done by focusing on your transitions and practicing moving quickly and efficiently through T1 and T2.
The keys to quick transition times are planning and practice.
1. Arrive early – Sometimes, but not always, transition spots are on a first come, first serve basis. Being on the close end of a row can make quite a difference, especially in a crowded transition area.
2. Orient yourself – The only thing worse than forgetting what level you parked on in the parking garage is not being able to find your bike in transition. Take time before the race to do a physical walk through of the transition area. Walk through from swim to bike as well as from bike to run.
3. Layout – Be organized and set your gear out so that your helmet is upside down on your handlebars, with your glasses/sunglasses on top. When you reach your bike, put on sunglasses, helmet, and immediately fasten your chinstrap (this is one of the most frequent violations – don’t fall victim). You should be able to do this blindfolded.
4. One outfit – Changing clothes, especially when your adrenaline is jacked and you are wet can be a nightmare; wear your tri kit under your wetsuit.
5. Wetsuit strip – Remove your goggles, swim cap, and start stripping your wetsuit, if you will be wearing one, the moment you come out of the water. Do not wait until you at your bike or until you are at the “wetsuit strippers”.
6. Cycling shoes in pedals – Have your cycling shoes in the pedals with an elastic band around the frame holding your shoe level so that the heels don’t hit the ground. The elastic will break once you begin pedaling. An indoor stationary trainer is an excellent tool for practicing placing your feet in, and taking your feet out, of your cycling shoes.
7. Run, don’t walk – Run through the transition area. Learn to run with your bike and use a cyclo-cross type mount (hold onto the handlebars and jump landing squarely on the seat with your feet on the pedals) as you exit T1. This may sound difficult, but can be mastered quite easily with some practice on a grass field.
8. No socks – There is no doubt this will save time, but you must practice it and know that your shoes are not going to leave your feet a blistered mess. Walking, because your feet are raw, will take you right out of the race.
9. Stretch it out – Prep for run by stretching back and hip flexors, increasing cadence, and take your feet out of the pedals as you approach T2.
10. Speed laces in running shoes – Don’t waste time tying your shoes. Use elastic laces, such as “Yanks” or some type of speed tying system. Put on your running shoes while standing, grab the rest of your gear (visor, gel, etc.) and put it on as you are running out of T2.
Having a plan and being able to execute that plan on race day will have a big impact on your time and how you view your race. Take the time to practice these skills and you will undoubtedly be rewarded.
Breakthrough Performance Coaching
USATriathlon & USACycling Certified Coach