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Most triathletes spend the bulk of their training focusing on the three main disciplines - swimming, cycling and running - and spend very little time mastering transitions between the different disciplines.
Transitions provide an opportunity for time savings with minimal physical effort, so why not try to capitalise on that?
Just think, it could take twenty, fifty or literally a hundred hours of swim training to cut two minutes off your swim time; whereas, it may only take two hours of transition training to cut two minutes off your transition times.
Many triathletes are so focused on swim, bike and run splits they forget that the clock is still running in the transition area. Every second counts. Transition practice is a good investment in your training time. Triathletes looking to win or be competitive in races need to shift their entire mental focus and integrate the transition seamlessly into their race. The transition is not a rest area, but a place to move in and out of efficiently, in the fastest time, whilst conserving energy for when you really need it!
Here are some tips for a fast transition:
Have a plan of exactly what you are going to do on race day and practise it over and over again until you are fast with no mistakes. Too often, athletes wait until the day before the race to practise transitions. That is too late. You need to practise regularly in advance in order to execute the fastest transitions possible and have them become second nature. One way to do this is to include transitions in your brick workouts (swim to bike sessions /bike to run sessions).
The fewer things you have to do in the transition area, the faster you will go. Get rid of anything you don't absolutely need. Clutter will slow you down. Organise your equipment in a way that will allow it to be easily accessed in the order that you need it throughout the race.
Arrive early at transitions, check your bike (brakes, tyre pressure) and put your bike in a low gear before it is racked. It is also important to rehearse your transitions mentally several times on race morning. It is helpful to walk and jog through transitions. Note where your rack spot is and how to find it from the swim exit and bike entrance. From your rack, know where the bike and run exits are and the quickest route to them. By the time you are in transition during the race, you should be moving on autopilot. Never try something new on race day.
Everything you need on the bike course should be attached to your bike: tape gels to the frame, water bottles should already be on board, sunglasses looped to a cable, spare tube in a seat pack and CO₂ cartridge taped to the seat post.
This is another great time saver and something that I would recommend to anyone new to triathlon. For the cycling section of a triathlon, you need your number on your back, whereas for the running section you need it on your front. Having a number belt means that you can simply swivel your belt around in transition two and you’ll be ready for the run, rather than having to reverse or change your racing vest.
Elastic laces are a great help when trying to put your feet into your running trainers as quickly as possible and at a very low cost. They save you minutes in transition and avoid you trying to tie laces! It will also save you time not putting on socks during transitions. To help get your feet into your footwear and prevent blisters, sprinkle talcum powder into your shoes before racing. It is important to practise running without any socks in training before racing.
Some triathletes leave their shoes attached to the pedals and put them on at the start of the bike section of the race. This will save you a lot of time! A trick to use is to attach an elastic band from the heel loops of the cycling shoes to the bike holding them horizontal. Once you leave transition one, pedal with your feet on top of your shoes (elastic will break). Once you are moving at a steady speed, coast and slip your feet into your shoes. At the end of the bike section, slip your feet out of your bike shoes before you reach transition two. Learn this skill first on a turbo trainer before trying it on the open road.
The distance from rack to mount line can be considerable at large triathlons. By running safely and quickly with your bike, you can make up a lot of time. Run upright with good form holding your seat with your hand. Hold the bike upright to go straight and lean it to the side to turn. Practise this in training!
As you do more and more events, you will find what works best for you, but these tips will help you develop transitions that are efficient so that you can save your energy for biking and running. Practise transitions regularly in training and maintain your focus for a fast and flawless transition on race day.