Triathlon transition performance tips
July 19, 2010 Leave a Comment
Transitions are the fourth sport in triathlon. Training for them is often omitted early in a triathlete’s progression from beginner to experienced triathlete. Transition training is also one way to take several minutes off your time almost free. In general order of importance the following will lead you to pro style transitions:
- IF your T1 is less than 1:30 (wetsuit swim) or less than 1:00 for a non-wetsuit swim and your T2 is less than 45 seconds, then your room for improvement here is marginal. Take these numbers into consideration only in light of the distances involved in T1 and T2. If there are long runs in either place, then your times will be longer.
- When you exit the water, strip off your cap and goggles while still running out of the water. (Of course, you swam hard until your finger tips touched the bottom 2-3 times before standing up. Right?) Then when your feet hit the ground, keep your eyes ahead on your path to T1 and begin to strip the top off your wet suit down to the waist. Occasionally, there will be volunteer “wetsuit strippers” near the water exit. Observe their procedure briefly, get your arms out of your suit, and take advantage of the service. Usually you must simply lie down and lift your legs into the air. They grab your suit at your waist and bingo, you are free in 5 seconds. Jump to your feet, grab your suit. Remember to say “thanks!” Off to the bike racks.
- Run to your bike rack, do not walk. If you have tender feet, or if the surface is rough, then you will need semi-disposable shoes or flip-flops that can be pre-positioned near the barriers on either side of the water exit.
- Prior to the race, you must rehearse your path from water exit to your bike rack several times. Concentrate on this task, count the number of racks and turns to your bike. Take note of any landmarks (a tree or lamp post) that will help you identify your rack. Memorize the pathway looking forward and backward.
- Sometimes you will see others marking their rack with a balloon or ribbon. According to the rules, however, this is taking an action giving one competitor an advantage over other competitors, and is forbidden. Beware if you see this, that an official may remove the landmark before you return and you could be penalized. It is best to stay honest, and memorize the route to your bike.
- This is the most important recommendation other than the need to practice transitions before racing. ALWAYS set your transition site up the same way! As you go to various races, especially very large or important ones like a national championship, you may well find that the space allotted to you seems to get much smaller than in small local races.So, you must develop a very compact method of laying your gear out that takes up no more than about 2 sq ft. A real aid is to have a mat for your gear. We recommend a piece of outdoor rug runner available at major home improvement stores. This should be about 3-5’ long. It can be tightly rolled, tied with a strap and then carried with your tri bag from your car to transition. Place this pad so it is under your rear bike wheel, and projects into the path between racks about 2 ft behind your bike. The mat should be on the side from which you will mount the bike as you face the rack.Put your run stuff farthest toward the rack, hat on top (bottom side up), shoes opened ready to don on the bottom, number belt, bottle belt or anything you are going to carry on the bottom. Next in order is your helmet upside down, straps to the outside, glasses resting inside the helmet. On the bottom are the bike shoes, powdered, straps loosened, (coffee covers on the cleats if the transition area is muddy.) Unless you have practiced the maneuver over and over, do not have your shoes clipped into the pedals and plan to get into the shoes while on the bike. The same advice applies to the bike dismount.
- As you approach your bike from the swim, fold your wet suit (if it was stripped) stuff goggles and cap inside, and upon reaching your bike, dump the suit toward the rack so that it is directly under the rack and out of the way. If you still have your wet suit on up to your waist, then grab it with both hands stripping it in one motion all the way down till your hands touch the ground. Stand, grab your bike seat for support, and step quickly on first one pile of wetsuit near one ankle, pull up with the other foot, repeat on the other side. Always lubricate your leg with a non-petroleum lube like Body Glide, to make this easier. PAM and similar products will destroy your wetsuit in as little as a year or so.
- Put your sunglasses on, helmet on, BUCKLE UP. Then scuff one barefoot at a time on the pad to remove most dirt and grass, pull on one shoe, then the other, tightening straps as you go. Lift your bike off the rack, head up! Always look when you intend to go, then RUN for the bike exit (which you have rehearsed 2-3 times, right?)
- Run to the bike exit. As you advance in experience, you may want to pre-attach your bike shoes to the cleats, string a rubber band from each to the back axle to keep the shoes of the ground, then simply run barefoot to the bike mounting line, leap onto your bike, put your feet on top of your shoes, then pedal away to a less crowded part of the road, and get into one shoe at a time while still riding. This process requires a lot of practice, and very advanced bike handling skills. It is a lot harder than it looks. Until you have practiced this maneuver at least 50 times by yourself, put your bike shoes on at the rack and run your bike to the bike mounting line. Always run at least 5-10 yd past the bike mount line and to the side of the road to mount your bike.
- Upon returning and sighting the bike dismount line for T2, you should spin up your cadence, and loosen up your legs. Then either uncleat on one side, swing your preferred leg over the back of the seat and coast to a stop standing on the other pedal. With practice, you can now literally take the step forward, uncleating the remaining shoe and transition in 1-2 steps into a run back to your bike rack position guiding your bike with a hand upon the stem. (Again, you have rehearsed this path also 2-3 time pre-race, right?) Or, you can simply stop, uncleat both shoes and get off the bike. Then run to your rack.
- Upon reaching your rack position, rack your bike. Then remove one bike shoe, and the other, toss them toward the wet suit, and remove your helmet placing it under the bike. Pull on your shoes. This assumes you’ve invested in lace locks (see tip 13), or some other easy lace system, so you don’t have to tie your shoes.
Grab your number/bottle belt and hat as you stand to run toward the exit, keep your head up, and always look where you intend to go. Sprint to the run exit, while putting on your belt and hat (if your number belt wasn’t already on for the bike).
- Make eye contact with staff and volunteers at the run exit, and call out your number to anyone with a quizzical look on their face. Be sure to run over the mat if you are wearing a chip. Thank the volunteers!
- Get elastic laces but avoid getting them too tight. Tying your shoes takes about twice as long as pulling them on with elastic laces. Always powder your shoes with talcum powder as it makes them easier to slide on if you are not wearing socks.
- Toughen up your feet. With practice, and time, most triathletes can at least race Olympic, and many ½ IM distances with no socks and no blisters. We lose our socks when the snow melts, always train without socks, and are compulsive about shoe lube with Glide and talcum powder. Paint any spot that ever got sore on your feet with tincture of iodine nightly to toughen them up. Successfully transitioning to no socks will save 15-45 sec in T1.
- Practice transitions! You can do this in your drive way, or in an empty parking lot with friends. Time, take video, and critique each other. It can be a lot of fun!
- If the air temperature is above about 65°F, don’t waste time toweling off, you will warm up within 10 minutes of starting to bike. Below 65°, many smaller competitors will become hypothermic without, at least, arm warmers or a long sleeved top. Tops require drying off, as otherwise pull-over types are almost impossible to put on.
- If the swim is in salt water, take an old water bottle full of fresh water to transition in your pre-race kit. You will want to pour this over you as a first step upon reaching your bike in T1. The salt from an ocean swim will dramatically increase chaffing as it dries. The 5 second pour of fresh water is well worth the time. Check things out pre-race. This problem is well recognized, and many salt water swim races will have a fresh water spray wash near the swim exit.
IGNORE most of the above IF you are doing an IM distance race. You will want to change into dry bike clothes, and possibly change again to run-specific clothes prior to the marathon. You will need to wear socks to run the marathon. You may want to put dry socks in your “Special Needs Bag.”
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