By Coach Suzan Ballmer, M.Ed Breakaway Athletic Coaching
Now that you all have a race or three under your belt, it is a great time to revisit the meaning of the transition in triathlon and how it fits into your training and racing. How do you view and mentally process this small moment of time within the larger picture of your triathlon racing? What does the transition signify for you? Is it just a necessary task or does it hold a more significant meaning? I think about these questions a lot from both perspectives; as coach and athlete. Hopefully what follows will add something new to your process or at least serve to remind you of what you already know, but what may have been forgotten.
What distinguishes this sport from all others is this moment of transition. It is the smallest segment of time within the whole race, but holds the most importance in essence. Unlike the individual sports of swimming, biking & running, triathlon requires you to always use your brains as well as your bodies. You must think about form, technique, speed, finishing, direction AND transitioning. This transition is the place in the triathlon which accentuates how you must live in the present – in the moment – while always considering the future.
The practical application of this concept is to have a plan, but, within the parameters of this plan, to always be flexible. That is, stay mentally sharp & relaxed so that if something un-forseen happens, you can respond immediately with an alternative.
Most of you know that at GSTC trainings, we often practice transitions through the Brick workouts. These are the trainings that teach your nervous system and your muscles about quickly moving from one sport to another. Usually the focus is on the bike to run transition because adapting to this change is the most difficult. However, swim to bike and swim to run transitions are also important to add to your overall training program.
There are a number of different trainings which focus on different race distances, different aspects of the bike to run transition and different times of the year (periodized). It is important to tailor this training to your needs, level, goals, life stresses, etc.
Things to think about and practice:
· Find a transition format that works best for you and
· Practice it.
· Set up your race bag the night before the event and use a check list to be sure nothing is forgotten.
· Know the rules of the event transition zone.
· Know the directions of the in & out gates and how to get there from your transition spot.
· Walk through both transitions and pick land marks so that when you are running from one place to the next you will be clear on where you are and where you are going.
· During the race with about 100 left in the swim, kick more to bring blood flow to your legs so that you will be comfortable standing up and running to your transition area. As you are running there, think about the task ahead…helmet first, sunglasses, socks/shoes, bike…go!
· With about 400 meters to go on the bike, gear down (easier) a bit and spin your legs to help flush some of the lactic acid out of your legs. Also stand up, stretch your hamstrings, calves & and back.
· Then get your feet, or at least your heels out of your shoes and when you reach the spot for dismounting your bike, leave your shoes on the pedals and run to your area with bare feet. As you run think about the next task – rack bike, unclip helmet, socks/shoes, number, hat, GO!
· When you begin to run on the course, use a shorter stride and faster cadence, then as you feel more comfortable running, you can move into your normal stride. Keep your lower abs strong, stay light, have fun!
Triathlon gives us the opportunity to allow our physical bodies, our minds and our emotions to work in harmony. The process of transition from one thing to the next is the foundation upon which this triathlon experience is built – kind of like life. Remember to have fun with it, immerse yourself in the moment, think toward the future, have a plan, be respectful of your process, honor the transition, smile…:)