Athletes often write off transitions as a means to save time and often assume that the few seconds saved by a flying mount or sprinting through the bike racks is simply not worth the energy when it’s put in the context of a triathlon. However, Racesnake coaches would argue that, with a few simple changes and a bit of practice, not only will your transitions be quicker but also less stressful and save energy!
Keep it Simple
All that you should take in to set up transition is exactly what you need for transition. Avoid taking bag’s full of extraneous items such as towels, talc, vaseline, track pumps etc. It adds to confusion and the chances of forgetting or losing something. For most transition set up’s all that is needed are running shoes, bike shoes, bike and helmet. Attach your nutrition etc to the bike whilst outside T1, get shoes clipped onto the pedals so that the bike can simply be wheeled in and hung on the rack, with no faff.
It also helps to keep your wetsuit and goggles outside of your transition set up, dropped goggles and lost swim hats hastily flung from bags, as you hunt for bike shoes or elastic bands, can cause a lot of stress lakeside!
Plan your Routine
Having a simple sequence in which you do things can significantly reduce mistakes when you exit the water or leap from that bike.
Check where the bike and run exits are and walk your route through T1 and T2 a couple of times pre race.
Make a note of how many rows you run past from the swim exit and the bike in so you know when to turn into your rack. Remember you can’t mark your racking place but you can look for significant things that line up with it (advertising hoardings, catering vans, tress etc.) to use as markers when looking for your space on return form the bike leg.
In the build up to the race and even at the end of the swim, recite your sequence to yourself, it will help you do it on auto pilot in as you exit the water and it helps control nerves!
Do it on the move
One thing that can really save time, particularly in long races, it’s doing as much as possible whilst on the bike or run. Putting on sunglasses, eating gels, pulling on arm warmers, sliding feet into shoes or applying sunscreen are all things that are as easy to do cruising along at 30km/h as they are standing still in T1!
Of course you have to make sure that the things you need are attached to your bike in advance (or stored in pockets under your wetsuit if possible). In addition, wearing your number belt under your wetsuit (although not allowed in IM events) is a time saver and requires no practise whatsoever!
Each athlete will have to consider what they can and can’t do on the move (Racesnake athletes have been known to get socks on whilst on the bike !) but you should give it real fore-thought.
Keeping moving steadily (or rapidly if you can) through transition is not only time saving but also helps the body adapt form one discipline to the other. By running/jogging out of the swim blood is diverted to the legs more quickly and doing things whilst sitting on the bike avoids bending in T1 which can lead athletes to the feelings of nausea and dizziness often reported in T1.
Some Simple Techniques
It is good practice to get you wetsuit unzipped and arms out before removing your goggles and hat as you then have both hands free to do so!
Practice aggressively snapping your arms from your wetsuit, think elbowing an opponent behind you in a fight and you get the idea.
Stamp your wetsuit down as you put your helmet on. Whilst this isn’t easy at first, with a little practice it can save a lot of time and is actually a very easy method of wetsuit removal.
lay out your helmet shell down on the handlebars (tri bars make this easy) with the straps falling open. Place any sunglasses inside the helmet orientated so that they are ready to slide on, if you haven’t simply taped them to your bike to put on once your cruising.
Getting on you bike with your shoes pre clipped to the pedals. This doesn’t have to be flying mount, although these are no where near as hard as people think, a simple *dutch hop can be nearly as quick and is a much less intimidating affair. The benefit of this is that running barefoot through T1 and T2 is much easier than with cleats on and carbon soled shoes!
(*mounting your bike by standing on the non drive side pedal and scooting a few steps before swinging your leg over the saddle)
Equally flying dismounts are a straight forward way of being able to leave your shoes attached to the bike. Obviously these need practise before race day but again they aren’t that hard and you don’t have to do them at 40km/h, a slow and controlled dismount is just as useful and will still save time and energy.
When you mount your bike, pedal with your feet on top of your shoes for a kilometre or so. Get the bike up to speed so that you are clear of the choas of the mount line and then you can freewheel as you strap your feet in. If there is simple descent out of T1 this is an ideal time to put feet in shoes but if the race organiser is wicked, there may be a climb out of T1 which means those shoes have to go on ASAP, so a little pre race recce is useful!
It Always Counts
Now obviously the shorter the race and the fatser the athlete the more crucial these transition techniques will be. Certainly any junior or youth athletes or age group guys who are going to be ITU AG champs that are draft legal need to have this stuff nailed down and fast! But it would be mistake for middle and long course athletes to neglect T1 and T2 . I’ve lost count of athletes who miss their goals and in the regret the 10 minutes spent in T1!
A Racesnake athlete recently qualified for IM 70.3 World Championships. The difference between him and number 2 on the podium at qualification was 7.30mins, the difference between the two in T1 and T2 combined was 9mins 45s! It literally cost the guy the top spot on the AG podium!
A smooth transition puts you in good place mentally and physically and it is the one aspect of the triathlon where anyone can genuinely match the times of the Elites! So get your changes slick and see if you can whip Brownlee- in T1 at least 😉