Everyone knows how to train for a triathlon very early on; get in the water as much as possible to increase comfort, ride as much as you can, run off the bike every training session, and on and on, but one piece that can make or break a race is the shortest of them all; the transition. Some people you can see fly through a transition with minimal time spent, and other (me included) struggle to go from one discipline to another quickly. Two 5:00 transition times adds 10:00 to your race, which is HUGE, so learning to get in and out as fast as possible can make a lot of difference in a race result.
Here are a quick 5 tips to makes this process faster, all coming from my first-hand experience.
Have as Little As Possible in Transition
It is a normal right of passage in triathlon from newbie to a seasoned athlete that your transition area shrinks. When you first start out you’re so worried about forgetting something that you bring everything. I have seen brushes, combs, battery operated hair dryers, etc. Once you start learning the amount you bring in starts to dwindle down. The bottom line is that you should only have what you absolutely need and nothing more. When you leave the area to head to the water the only thing left on your mat should be bike shoes, your helmet, glasses/sunglasses (if needed), running shoes, socks, hat, your bib, and maybe on course nutrition and/or water (depending on the distance racing). Everything else is extra stuff to worry about. Leave it in the car.
NO Clothing Changes
Especially after the swim. Ever try to put a tight bike jersey on, or tri top, when you are wet? Takes forever. Don’t do it. Full gear should be on your body in the swim. If you’re using a wetsuit it should be on you underneath. In a PINCH you can probably get away with changing your top before the run portion, but even that takes time. Seconds build to minutes in the blink of an eye.
Speed Laces and Powder
Sounds like a good buddy cop movie title, but a simple change in set up can go a long way. Tieing your shoes takes time. Get a set of speed laces (there are many brands) and learn to use them on your shoes. Some people don’t like them, but I swear by them. I even use them in normal road running events. Another trick it to douse the inside of shows with baby powder when you’re setting up. Your feet will slide right in even if wet, and the powder also helps with blisters if you have issues there.
Preset Items on Bike and Use the Bib
The transition from swim to bike is often the longer of the two, so anything you can do to get on the bike fast helps. Put your bottles ON the bike and put your bib on now. I put my bib over my saddle, so when I come into T1 I grab my helmet, glasses, then put on the bib and flip number to the back, then my shoes, grab my bike and go. When you come into T2, rack bike, shoes off and on, helmet off, hat on, start moving to the course and flip the race number to the front.
And finally … Practice the Plan
You cannot get good at something without practice. It’s the same with transitions. when doing brick training try to set it up as you would a race. Move as quickly from one thing (the bike) to the next (the run) in the same way you will at the event. Too often when brick training we take our time racking bike, locking it, getting some water, changing shoes, etc. It works for that moment, but as with everything else, you will race as your practice.