While we get through this transition from our day to day norm, why not learn to transition like a pro on race day? Shaving time in transition is FREE TIME that can help you PR or give you an edge on your competition. The key is to get in and get out in as little time as possible, while expending the least amount of energy as possible. In a normal racing season, practicing transition may seem out of the question due to time and other life constraints. With the “extra” time this year, why not practice it now? Have you ever practiced transition? Most triathletes have not. A great transition starts way before race day. If you want to get better at any skill, you have got to put in the time and practice.
As we walk through this, we are going to practice visualizing race day. Visualization is a great exercise, if you visualize a great race and a great transition, it is that much more likely to happen. That said, let’s visualize its race morning. You’ve arrived on site. Yesterday, you picked up your packet and swag. Now you’re walking to transition area, bike and transition bag in hand. You find your spot, greet your neighbors and rack your bike. Next up, optimize your transition layout.
T1: Everything you need on the bike course should already be attached to the bike. This is something you do the night before. Hydration/water bottles full and in place. Spare tube either taped under the saddle or in a seat pack, spare CO2 canisters taped to the seat post. For nutrition, most races are wetsuit legal, so put your nutrition in the back of your jersey BEFORE race start, underneath your wetsuit. It will not slide out or get ruined if it’s not open. For the rest of your nutrition, tape it to the top tube of your bike, ideally partially open and ready to eat depending on what it is.
Place your helmet upside down on your aerobars, positioned towards you so you can easily put it on without having to flip it around. Put your sunglasses inside your helmet so you can quickly put them on and won’t forget them. Depending on preference and race distance, place your socks in your cycling shoes. However, if this is a short course race, to maximize speed, do NOT wear socks. Put baby powder in your cycling shoes to help your feet dry out from the swim and to prevent blisters. Be sure to get training rides in without socks, this will help build up calluses prior to race day. Not to mention, you should NEVER try something new on race day. Which brings me to my next point, if you can and HAVE PRACTICED a flying mount, clip your shoes in, using rubber bands to keep them horizontal. If not, place them directly next to your bike on the ground, facing forward, so you can easily slip them on.
T2: There is much less needed for the run, so place your running shoes next to your cycling shoes if they are not clipped in. If you are not wearing socks, put A LOT of Vaseline inside of your shoes so you can quickly slip them on, and your feet do not blister. As a side note, if you don’t already, use lock laces so you can slip your shoes on and go without having to tie your shoes.
Next, place your hat, race belt with bib attached and running nutrition in one small pile in front of your running shoes. This way, after you have thrown on your shoes, you can grab your items and go. Do not waste time putting these on in transition. Get running. Throw on your belt and hat and load your nutrition in your jersey on your way out of transition.
VISUALIZE: Next, take in your surroundings and visualize. Find swim in. Count the number of rows and bike racks from swim in to your bike and remember this number. Visualize yourself running into transition from the swim, stripping off your wetsuit, goggles and swim cap while finding your bike. To make finding your bike easier, consider bringing a small brightly colored towel to drape over the saddle of your bike so you can quickly find it. Next, find bike out and run out. Visualize yourself going through the motions in each of these transitions.
PRACTICE: Practice, practice, practice. Do it from home. Or, find an empty parking lot, empty track, empty field. Bring your bike, your transition gear, your race day mindset and practice. Visualize setting up like race morning (place your bike against whatever is around since there likely won’t be a bike rack) and go through the motions. Time yourself. Practice running to “transition,” putting on your bike gear and running with your bike out of transition. Go ride for 15-20 minutes, spinning your legs out in a high gear as you head back into transition to prepare for the run. Take off your bike gear, grab your run gear and take off for a quick run. This can be a great brick workout while also practicing transition. Use every open water swim to practice running out of the water and removing your wetsuit, swim cap and goggles with speed.
Be minimal, bring only what you need into transition and nothing more. Practice your transition set up. Practice going through the motions. Visualize what you will do race morning both in practice and on race morning.
Transition like a pro. AME high. And no matter what, always wear that smile!