Improving your triathlon performance takes months, and even years of dedicated work. However, there is one discipline that you can master much faster and shave off a significant amount of time. Working on your transition can improve your finish time by up to 10 and even 15 minutes by developing a simple, efficient transition process. Read this today and get faster in your next race.
Organization + Efficient Process = Speed
The key to fast transition is organization. T1 and T2 each have a simple, efficient path that gets you out of transition the fastest. After you read this article, go out and practice it!
Setting up your transition:
Place your bike at the end of the rack if the race does not have assigned spots. For that, you will have to arrive as early as possible, as many athletes gun for that spot. It will help locate your bike position faster when you come in and out of transition. Make sure your bike is in an easy gear to complement the start of your bike ride. Place your gear on the side of the bike, closer to the direction from where you are coming from. Use a bright towel to mark your spot. This towel will help you see your spot from far away.
Depending on how much room you have for your gear, you can organize your bike and run gear in two different ways. Side by side or inline. If you set your gear side by side, the bike gear should be closer to the bike. If you set it inline, have your bike gear first and run gear second. Regardless of which option you choose, your gear should be organized in a “ready to wear” position/set up.
- Helmet with the opening facing up and the straps laying out of the helmet
- The helmet can be placed on the aerobars or on the ground
- Sunglasses open with the arms facing up inside the helmet
- Shoes next to the bike with the straps open as wide as possible
- Socks placed in the heel of the shoes rolled out halfway
- Face your running shoes with the heel towards you and pull the tongue out, open the quick release shoelaces for fast entry
- Hat/visor with the opening facing up
- Race belt with a nutrition pouch closed and bib attached
- Consider a second pair of sunglasses (for IM and 1/2IM) open with the arm facing up inside the hat
Nutrition should be placed pre-race on the bike in water bottles, bento box, or taped to the frame.
Once you finish setting up your equipment, learn the fastest way to get to your transition spot and out.
- From the swim-in gate
- To bike-out gate
- From the bike-in gate
- And to run-out
Make sure you focus on a fixed object like trees, light poles, and street signs to help you get to your spot. Avoid objects that can be moved, like a garbage can, cars, and even opening in a fence. That fence can be shut while you swim.
Start thinking of the process as you are making your first few steps out of the water. If wearing a wet suit, take your arms out of the sleeves and roll the suit down to your waist. Take your swim cap and goggles off as well. Once in your transition spot, pull your wet suit down to your calf and start stepping and pulling process to get the suit off your leg. Step on the suit with one leg and pull the other leg up and vice versa. Do this until you have the suit off your legs completely. If the suit stubbornly does not come off, bend over or even sit down and finish the process with your hands. While you are working on getting the suit off with your legs, use your hand to put the sunglasses and helmet on. Once your wetsuit is off, stick your feet into the rolled-up socks and pull them up. Put your bike shoes on. Stand up, grab your bike and run out of transition.
In the last 400 yards, before the end of the bike course, take your feet out of your shoes and ride the rest of the way with your feet on top of your shoes. Dismount at the dismount line, keeping the bike shoes attached to the pedals, and run to your transition spot. If you are not confident in doing that, ride all the way to the dismount line and dismount with your shoes on. Run to your transition spot holding your bike by the seat (this is a learned skill that enables you to run faster with your bike). Rack your bike, helmet off, hat on, bike shoos off, running shoes on, and tighten the shoelaces. Take your race number belt and run towards Run Out.
As with everything, practice makes perfect. Make time to practice your transition and master your skill of changing from one sport to another. Every triathlon race has different transition area setup, size, and shape that will dictate the time it takes you to get to and out of your spot. Your organization and process once you get to your spot, will dictate how long you stay there. I believe you can reduce that time standing by your transition spot to 30 sec for T1 and 10 seconds at T2. Try it and let me know how you are doing.