Login | February 21, 2020

Triathlon transitions––practice makes perfect

Pete’s World

Published: August 26, 2019

Have you been beating yourself up over the last month or so trying to knock a few minutes off your triathlon times, but you’re not having much success? Well, how would you like to eliminate a few of those precious minutes while expending minimal training time to do so?

If you’ve answered yes to those questions then you just might want to start thinking about your transitions, like speeding up them up - because they’re literally free time for the taking.

Indeed, many triathletes fritter away far too much time in the transitional phases of the race, and that’s not being too smart considering all the hard work that’s put into swimming, biking and running. So why should you give that hard won time back via weak transitions?

Transitions, T1 (swim to bike), and T2 (bike to run), need to be looked at as a fourth crucial component in your three-event training regime. And it’s a component that certainly deserves more than just lip service or that occasional run-through after your primary workouts.

So let’s take a look at how you can improve your transitioning by focusing on several different facets of this task.

Now right off the bat, to perform better in your transitions, you have to practice your transitions. I know that isn’t a grand revelation, but you’d be surprised how often this advice isn’t heeded. So make it a priority to set aside a couple days a week for transitioning practice and I’m suggesting you do this practicing on your recovery days.

By using a recovery day for transition practice you can really focus on the mental and physical technique rather than just going through the motions as you might after hard training sessions.

Okay, to begin with, it’s important to try to replicate a transition area whether that be at your home or at an oft used workout venue. Lay a towel down as you would at a race venue, and recreate the layout and placement of all the items you’ll use in each of the two transitions.

For T1 practice, rehearse this sequence of movements slowly: Jog to your transition area just like you would when coming out the water off the swim, fully remove your wetsuit (if you wear one), put on your sunglasses, put on and buckle your helmet, put socks on (or not), put shoes on, and finally lift your bike off the rack and run the bike out of the transition area. Repeat again and again until you can do it fast, without thinking through each step.

If you’re a regular wetsuit user, make sure to practice taking off the wetsuit,when it’s wet. Wet wetsuits come off the body far differently than dry wetsuits. Either spray yourself with a hose or soak yourself in a shower so you can get used to removing the soaking wet neoprene from your soaking wet body.

To avoid the “suction” effect of a wet wetsuit, reach for the corded zipper and unzip the suit as soon as you exit the water and pull it down to your waist while you run to the transition. In the transition, grab the wetsuit and pull it all the way down to your ankles. Then, step on the crotch with one foot and pull the opposite foot out of the suit. Repeat with the other leg.

For T2, half the battle is prepping prior to the actual transition. Close to the bike finish, carefully reach down to loosen your cycling shoes. Dismount at transition and leaving your shoes clipped into the pedals. Walk/jog the bike back to your number and rack the bike. Then remove the helmet, keep sunglasses on, slip into your running shoes (using a lace locking system), and off you go.

One more thing: Your pre-race prep should entail taking note of the details of your transition area, primarily where your bike is situated. I’ve gone as far as memorizing how many rows deep the bike resides, and on what side it lies. The second item concerns where you’ll exit and renter the transition area. Can you run or walk to and from the swim-to-bike transition? Ditto for the bike-to-run transition. Know the race rules and know the in’s and out’s of its transition area.

Do this minimal bit of prep work and you’re sure to pair down those pesky transition times. So get at it. Master the transition.