Transition 101 - Are You Prepared?
Now before we jump into leg #2, we thought we’d cover another anxiety increasing area of triathlon…..Transition. For being such a small part of a triathlon, your transition can either improve the flow of your race, or cause you a great deal of pain! So here it is….Transition 101.
What is transition?
For those new to triathlon, transition is one of the less talked about unknowns. Quite literally it is the step between the legs of your event. This is where you swap out your swim gear for your cycling gear, and then you’re cycling gear for your running gear. Simple, right?! Well, not always. Sometimes we are in such a hurry to move onto the next leg, we forget simple little things that can become really big problems down the track.
So, depending on how your event is set up, you will either have a T1 (swim to bike transition) and T2 (bike to run transition) in different places, or it will all be at the same transition point for each switch. The key to transition is in your preparation.
So how do I prepare my transition area?
Step 1 is to collect all of your gear that you will need for both your ride and your run. In most events, the athlete pre-race information will have a list for swim, bike and run of gear you might need. Take the time to read through this and add your own personalised items as needed BEFORE, the night before your race. Some people find it helps to make a list on a regular training day as they are getting ready so they don’t forget anything. However you do it, double check that you have everything you need before race morning. When you’re completely happy that you have everything you need, picture what order you are going to put it on the next day. That is probably how you want it on your towel. The last thing you want to do is dig through things, frantically looking for an item that is right in front of you.
On race morning, go to your bike and get it set up. Tires pumped, (how hard? We will cover this in a technical blog later) nutrition on (again covered in a nutrition blog), brakes checked, fluids and electrolytes on, bike kit secured and any special equipment or requirements you may have are all set up on your bike. Don’t forget your helmet! Generally you won’t get in to transition without it.
Once your bike is ready, it’s time to set up your area. You may be told a specific side to set up on, usually the to the left of the bike. We recommend laying out a towel so you can put all of your gear on it to keep it all together. Lay out all of your bike items that you need to put on. Socks, shoes, helmet, sunnies, gloves, etc. plus anything extra that you want to carry in your jersey pockets. Next to them, lay out your running gear: shoes, socks, hat or visor, nutrition, sunnies and anything that you will need for your run. Everything else has to be taken out of transition, you are not allowed to leave any bags etc behind only race gear what you are actually wearing.
Before you leave transition, double check that you know exactly how to get to your bike. Pick a big tree, count rows, memorise a number or letter marker….whatever it is, plant it firmly in your head because when you come out of the water, struggling to control your breathing, running on legs you can hardly feel while desperately trying to wiggle out of your wetsuit while pulling your off swim cap and holding your Garmin in your teeth, the last thing you want to do is look out over the vast sea of bikes and realise you don’t know where yours is! Top tip put chalk or talk just before your bike in T1 so you know where yours is as you run down your row.
Swim done, transition 1 (T1)…..
You come into transition from your swim and race towards your bike. If you can, start working on getting your swim gear undone in preparation for taking it off. If you struggle with multi-tasking, get to your bike first. Get your swim gear off and your riding kit on. We would suggest having a second towel and a spare water bottle available to wash your feet off after the swim. Nothing like blisters from salt chafe! Or sand. You can also use the second towel to stand on while you change shoes so you don’t collect a million little rocks and debris that will cause you nothing but pain on your bike and run. You can hang your wetsuit on the bike rack or put it on your towel where your bike gear was. If you do hang it on the rack, just make sure it’s in your area, not your neighbours.
Before you jump on your bike do a quick check and make sure everything you have everything you need for the ride. Check that your bottles are securely in place and double check you haven’t left anything on the towel. Make your way to the mount line and off you go! Top tip especially check your timing chip as this can be pulled off when taking off your wetsuit, this would not be a good end to your day!
Bike to run, transition 2 (T2)……
You’ve screamed through your bike and are now coming in to T2. For long course athletes, you will have been on the bike for a long time, so you need to get your legs prepped and ready to carry your body weight again. A few km’s out from the end of the bike leg, start doing some stretches, stand up on the peddles and mobilise the back and stretch out the hamstrings, then drop in to an easy gear on the last 1km and spin the legs out. There will be every kind of dismount imaginable coming into T2: swing one leg over and balance standing on the opposite leg, feet out of shoes standing on the tops of shoes to bound off, unclip-full stop-and hobble off, bike in hand. Whatever your technique has been in your training, stick with it. Don’t attempt something spectacular if you aren’t used to doing it….this is not the day to try new things.
Once you’re safely on the ground again, get your bike to your racking point by whatever means possible; walking, jogging, hobbling. Get it racked up and swap into your running gear. This may be easier said than done depending on the day. Be cautious when bending over that you don’t stand up too quickly and get a head spin. Not a good feeling after a long ride and before your run.
To make swapping your shoes easier, several of our experts recommended fast laces, aka speed laces or lock laces, which we use as well. Saves time bent over trying, with very un-dextrous hands, to tie your laces up. Simply slip your shoes on, tighten the lock and you’re done. Easy as that!
Don your hat, sun-cream, running belt and grab any nutrition that you’ve planned for and off you go. Do a quick double check of your towel that you haven’t forgotten anything important and head out of transition and onto the last leg of the day.
Those are the basics of transition. Make sure that you read your pre-race information and know where each of the transition points are. If a tour is offered, as in Ironman and 70.3 events, take advantage of them. They will walk you through the transition entry and exit points and answer all of your questions about where things will be and how to navigate through the area safely.
Transition distance can vary greatly – anything from just a few meters if you are lucky to one race we went to was nearly 700 meters from the swim up some stairs to T2! The key here is to make sure you know what’s going to happen walk the transition areas and visualise you doing it on race day, make no surprises for yourself. Lastly make your transition smooth have a plan and practice the sequence you can lose a monumental amount of time faffing around in transition, and as we know it’s all about the minutes.
Do you have your nutrition?