January 23, 2018

Tips For Tiny Transition Times

Jarrett Pflieger

What if there was a way to shave seconds, or even minutes, off your race times without doing a thing to your current training regimen? Sounds too good to be true, right? Wrong.

Practicing and mastering transitions is by far the easiest way to shave time off your triathlon races. With how competitive age group racing has become, even a few seconds could be the difference between a medal around your neck, or a sour taste in your mouth. Lets look at five things you can do to speed your way through T1 and T2 and gain time on your competition.

Transition tip #1: Practice!

It does not matter if you know exactly what to do and have ran through it 1,000 times in your head. If you are in the middle of a race with your heart pounding out of your chest, nerves racing, and blood pumping, 95% of the time you will screw up something if you do not practice it.

You need to practice unzipping and pulling off your wetsuit in a fatigued state, taking your bike/run shoes off and on, putting on your helmet and sunglasses, getting on and off your bike safely and quickly, etc. Even simple motor tasks become difficult when you are under pressure. Developing muscle memory through practice will make it second nature for you to perform these tasks in any situation, even under extreme stress.

Transition tip #2: Lube up

If you are wearing a wetsuit in your race, which you should be, it is very important to be able to take it off quickly in transition. If you struggle to get the thing off, it will negate any advantage you gained in the swim by wearing it.

Put some Body Glide or baby oil around your calves/ankles as well as your wrists/forearms. This will help the wetsuit slide off your body without you having to struggle. Don’t be the person wiggling and thrashing around on the ground after they fell over trying to get their feet out of the wetsuit. Along with lube, a proper fitting wetsuit is also important.

Transition tip #3: Place equipment properly

If you are one of those people that bring a king size beach towel and have all your stuff strewn all over, just stop it. You only need something about the size of a small workout towel for your gear. Having everything compact and close together will eliminate wasted time searching and moving around to get things. Your fellow racers will thank you too.

Your towel should be organized like this from top to bottom:

-Running shoes with socks (optional) on top of your shoes. Not wearing socks will save a few seconds, but don’t do it unless you have been trained without socks without any problems. If you wear a hat during the run, place it on top of your shoes so it’s the first thing you put on. If you wear a nutrition belt you can put that on top of your shoes also. Just make sure the straps are wide open so all you have to do is grab, wrap, and snap. Some people put their race belt on under their wetsuit so they don’t ever have to mess with it.

-Cycling shoes (if you don’t strap them to your bike) with your helmet resting on top with straps pulled out and fully extended.

-Sunglasses and race belt should go inside your helmet in a position that makes them easy to put on without fumbling around.

Some people put their helmet on top of their bike. This works well, until the person next to you bumps the bike rack or your bike and your helmet falls off and rolls away from your transition area.

Transition tip #4: Clip your cycling shoes into your bike before the race

Disclaimer: This is the tip that requires the most practice to truly master. Please do not attempt unless you are confident in your athletic ability and bike handling skills.

The technique of having your bike shoes already clipped in before the race will save time by allowing you to just put your helmet on, grab your bike, and go. You will run out of transition barefoot, mount your bike, and pedal with your feet on top of your shoes. Once you get moving on a flat stretch of ground, well clear of the mount line, you can bend down and strap each foot in. Make sure there are no riders around you and you are not on an uphill or steep downhill section. If you have to ride a while before you find a good flat stretch of ground, no problem. You’re still gaining ground on people trying to put their shoes on in transition and run with their clunky cleats.

To keep your shoes from dragging on the ground, put a thin rubber band through the loop on the heel of one shoe and hook it to your quick release lever on the rear wheel. This will keep your shoes in a fixed position until you start pedaling and the rubber band snaps.

Transition tip #5: Don’t sit. Stand or kneel.

The goal in transition is to save time; there is no place for sitting in a race. Sometimes standing can also be difficult when you’re tired and/or dizzy after the swim. When you dip your head down to put your shoes on and pick up any other gear you need, a massive head rush may ensue and you could end up taking an unintended nap for a bit.

An alternative method is to get down on one knee like you are proposing to the bike rack, place your first shoe on the front foot, then switch and do the same to the other side. You will need to put another towel in front of your transition area to keep your knees from getting scraped up.

Hopefully these several tips will help you save some time in transition and give you a small edge. If you’ve ever tried to run someone in your age group down at the finish, but can’t quite bridge the gap, a few seconds saved in transition could have made the difference. These are not the only time saving strategies out there. Feel free to be creative and experiment in training to find what works for you. Happy training and racing!

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