Triathlon Transitions – A Step By Step Guide

22 Triathlon Tips

On the day before the race, it’s important to make sure you hit your nutrition targets and stay calm. Your gear should all be ready, and your body is as strong as it’s going to get, so pack your bags and try to get some sleep! Avoid overeating; an overly full stomach might not digest in time for the race. Hydrate well!

Transitions are key for successful triathletes – they know how to move quickly and efficiently from one endurance sport to the next, to achieve their goals.

Every triathlon performance is strongly affected by the transitions between each segment of the race. Therefore, your transitions must be well-planned and executed quickly and efficiently.

Transition; often referred to as the fourth discipline of triathlon, is a key factor in determining your finishing time. A well-organized transition is not only speedy but a major confidence boost. Our experts share tips and advice on how to get through transitions as quickly and efficiently as possible.

At the very minimum, you should have the following items in your triathlon transition area:
  1. Swim goggles.
  2. Swim cap.
  3. Bike helmet.
  4. Bike shoes.
  5. Run shoes (and socks, if desired)
  6. Race number (and a way to wear that number, such as a race belt)
  7. Nutrition and hydration.

1. Plan your transitions during training

You will need to spend most of your time swimming, biking, and running to prepare for race day, but you should also remember to hydrate and refuel yourself, use the bathroom, and practice transitions. Include all of these in your training so you can get an idea of how much time you will need on race day and what your plan should be.

Don’t consume your snacks and fluids during transitions

Transitions can be crucial for your performance. Instead of resting during a transition, don’t take the opportunity to eat or drink something to refuel. If you start to feel hungry or thirsty, push through the uncomfortable feeling for at least three to five minutes and focus on the task at hand.

Create a plan that adheres to the rules and guidelines of the triathlon. You can develop strategies by knowing the order of the endurance sports in the event and incorporating those plans and strategies into your training. To make sure you don’t forget anything, write down the specific steps you’ll do during each transition.

Make your training more challenging by adding in some more difficult transitions. This will help you be prepared for anything that might happen during an actual race. Anticipate possible disasters and figure out how you would deal with them ahead of time.

2. Invest in high-quality, light gear

Your gear and belongings can affect how well you perform and how quickly you transition. If your gear is too heavy, it can slow you down when running and cycling and make it harder to transition. If you don’t have permanent gear yet or plan to change your existing gear soon, invest in gear that is high quality but not too heavy.

3. Pack smarter

You don’t want to either under-pack or over-pack for your event. Make sure to bring items you will need such as a nutrition pack, towels, sun protection, and water bottles. In addition, pack a repair kit in case you need to make any adjustments to your gear during the event.

Make a list of all the things you need to bring, and pack them in your triathlon bag in a way that makes them easy to grab during the transitions between sports.

Organizing and knowing where everything is in your triathlon bag two days before the race will help immensely on race day. Having a mental checklist of what you need the day before will also help to ensure that you have packed everything you need.

4. Fully understand your gear

Having a detailed understanding of your triathlon gear is crucial. Make sure you are familiar with how to use and wear each item. If possible, also learn some emergency repairs in case something goes wrong on race day.

Here are the triathlon essentials you should fully understand to improve your transitions:

Tri Suit

It is best to choose a tri suit with zippers or snaps at the front and back so you can quickly remove and put on the suit.

Cycling or running shoes

You can save time by wearing shoes with no laces that have a snug fit.

Bicycle

To hit the ground running after the swim, check your bike to make sure it’s ready. Your pre-race bike checklist:

  • Do you have your hydration bottles filled and placed in your bike’s bottle cages?
  • Are the tyres inflated to your preferred PSI?
  • Is your bike chain fully on and lubricated?
  • Do your brakes work when you squeeze them? (For rim brakes, are they adjusted so they do not rub against the wheel?)
  • Is your bike in a gear that will not be too easy or too hard when you start pedalling?
  • If you are keeping your shoes clipped into the pedals, are they secured with a rubber band? (Note: This is an advanced move – don’t attempt until you’ve successfully pulled off clipped-in mounts many times in practice!)

Make sure you’re familiar with your bike and how to fix it since you’ll be spending a lot of time on it during the race. In transitions, quickly check your bike to make sure everything is in working order so it doesn’t affect your performance in the next endurance sport. Develop a system so you can set up your bike quickly and efficiently.

Helmet, goggles, and other wearable gear

Be familiar with the locking mechanisms on your swimming, cycling, and running gear so you can easily remove and wear them in seconds during transitions.

5. Wet Suit

Lube up your arms and the inside of the suit near your armpits. This will create a slippery surface that makes it easier to get your arms out of the suit. If you’re feeling stressed about putting on your wetsuit right before the race starts, try applying some lube to your arms and legs first. This will help the neoprene material glide onto your body with less effort. The water-repellent lube will also help you take your wetsuit off quickly when you’re finished swimming.

6. Finishing the swim

In the last 200m of the swim, increase the frequency of your leg kick to get ready for the run to T1.

Adding a bike to your triathlon training will help to increase the blood flow to your muscles and give you more energy for your legs. Once you get out of the swim and are standing up, your running legs will begin to work more effectively.

7. Race Line 

It’s important to look ahead and find a clear path when you’re running out of the swim exit, so take off your hat and goggles as soon as you start running.

Keep a tight grip on them until T1 or you might drop them while running.

8. Zip

Attach the zip cord to the Velcro strap around the back of your neck to make it easier to locate when running and prevent you from slowing down your stride.

9. Start to strip during the run to T1

Remove your wetsuit as soon as you’re out of the water and into your running area. This will make it one less thing to do in transition. To take off your wetsuit quickly, start by unzipping it or undoing the fastener. Then, grab the collar and pull your arms out of the sleeves. For one-piece designs, you can take off the suit’s lower part. For a two-piece, you’ll also need to remove your tri shorts at the transition area. Fold the bottom half up to your hips, and then do the same with the top half. Running with a wetsuit on can feel heavy and tiring. To transition, prioritize getting as much of the suit off as possible. With the zip unfastened, grab the collar and pull your arms through. Fold the bottom half up to your hips, and then do the same with the top half.

10. Learn the art of kicking off your suit

It’s important to be able to take your wetsuit off quickly and easily so you can improve your race position. However, this can be difficult. If your legs are fully lubricated, the wetsuit should come off without any problems.

An efficient method for removing a wetsuit is to pull it down towards the bottom of the legs, stand on a section of the neoprene and kick the other foot out, freeing it from the suit.

11. Be patient

Often, the other leg can become entangled when attempting to remove the wetsuit. Don’t panic, one may try to immediately disengage the leg, as was done with the initial leg; however, this can be futile.

Roll the wetsuit down your ankle and pull it over your heel to put it on faster. To do this, stand on the suit and kick your foot away. Now you’re out of your wetsuit – If you’re going to get flustered during your race, it’s most likely going to happen in transition, when nerves get the best of you and you suddenly can’t find where you stashed your bike, or when you realize that tying your shoes is a lot more complicated than you remember (it happens – a lot) with shaky hands.

12. Get to know the transition flow

After you have prepared yourself during the swim, the next step is to get to your bike quickly. Transitions can be chaotic, which can make it difficult to find your bike.

Before the race, make sure you are familiar with the transition flow to avoid confusion. Also, have your kit ready so you can see it as you come in

13. Mentally rehearse where you have stacked your bike

Most triathlon events have specific allocated numbers where you will stack your bike, this you can’t change, but, if there are no allocated numbers for your bike, try and get as near as possible to the Exit of transition, Not the entrance, this way you will be able to get your best exit without having to navigate past other competitors. It’s much easier to dodge other athletes with your body compared to dodging with your body AND a bike.

14. Lay out your racing equipment in transition

Arrange your equipment in an order that makes sense when you are setting up in transition so that you don’t have to spend time looking for different pieces.

Make sure to take off your wetsuit, goggles, and hat and place them away from your racing equipment before your race to avoid potential obstacles.

15. Have your helmet at the ready

Be sure to wear your helmet and secure it before leaving the transition. It’s important to be quick so you’re ready for the race. Before the race, put your helmet on your handlebars with the cords opened and unlocked.

Make sure your helmet fits comfortably on your head without too much adjusting. This will help you avoid any unnecessary delays.

16. Improve your bike mounting strategies

Don’t worry—you can avoid all of these difficulties by refining your skills. Getting on your bike quickly and efficiently is one of the most challenging skills to improve in triathlon. It’s also a trial-and-error process. You might trip, go in the wrong direction, or lose significant speed with improper mounting. Don’t worry—you can avoid all of these difficulties by refining your skills.

Run alongside your bike as you push it through the transition, to the bike exit and the mount line. Whatever you do, don’t get on your bike before the mount line—you could get a penalty!

When you are training, try to improve your speed each time you get on the bike. Try to keep this momentum going when you start cycling. Proper mounting can help you transition faster.

 

Transition 2

17. Take your feet out of your bike shoes 

When you have 200m left on the bike course, you can take your feet out of your shoes and place them on top of the pedals to save time.

It is ideal to have quick-release shoes if you want to be able to take your feet out of the pedals and get back into pedalling smoothly.

18. Perfect a confident dismount

It is just as difficult, if not more difficult, to get off the bike as it is to get on the bike. There is more potential for something to go wrong when you are tired. When you ride up to the line where you will get off the bike, lightly touch the brakes to control your speed.

Swing one leg over the top tube of the bike so that your weight is on the pedal that is still attached to the bike. Then, step off of the bike while continuing to move forward.

19. Use your bike to help you into the run

For everyone’s safety, triathletes must dismount their bike before a designated dismount line before entering T2—again, if you wait too late to get off your bike, you could get a penalty.

Transitioning from cycling to running can be difficult because your legs have to adjust to the different motions. Running with the bike can be unforgiving if you don’t have the right technique, practise, practise, practise.

Don’t worry, steer the bike in the direction you need to go for T2 and keep pedalling quickly. This will help your legs get ready for the next section, running.

20. Rack your bike with the nose of the saddle or the handlebars

When you are putting your bike in the rack, there is usually only a small area to do it in. This can be challenging because it is easy to hit your gear or other people’s bikes.

To attach your bike to a rack, you can either use the nose of your saddle (most commonly used) or your handlebars. Both of these methods work well.

21. Remove the kit quickly and place it out of your way

Once the bike is racked, it is time to begin the running portion of the race. Remove your helmet and sunglasses and place them next to where your wetsuit is.

To remove your helmet, first, unlock the straps, then place it out of the way so it doesn’t get in the way when you’re putting your shoes on.

22. Make your run shoes as easy as possible to slip on quickly

Opening up your shoes as much as possible will make it easier to put your feet in them when it’s time to run

If you can, get laces that are stretchy instead of string laces. This will make it easier to put your shoes on and be more comfortable.

Quickly transitioning affects the overall performance

The way athlete transitions between endurance sports can have an impact on their overall performance. If the transition is done poorly, it can negatively affect the athlete’s performance for the rest of the race.

Transitions between endurance sports can affect an athlete’s momentum, either negatively or positively. For example, research has shown that the transition from cycling to running can lead to a slower running speed due to respiratory muscle fatigue from cycling.

Some athletes may experience poor running performance after cycling, no matter how fast the transition is. Similarly, swim-cycle transitions may also lead to poor cycling performances where athletes can only perform below their anaerobic threshold after getting out of the water.

Bottom line

Try out these tips and see how well they work for you. If some don’t work, don’t use them, and stick to the ones that do work. Keep in mind that transitions are just as important as the other aspects of triathlon training, so you need to be able to do them well if you want to improve your overall skills and discipline.

General Information

Headphones, headsets and audio devices are not allowed at any time during any triathlon event. Most races allow you to carry your cell phone if you wish, but it must be stored out of sight in a bike bag or jersey pocket.

 

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