It’s said that there are really four sports in triathlon – swim, bike, run, nutrition. Anyone looking for triathlon tips or advice on how to train will surely be told to train for those four, which is logical, as nutrition is a key element for training and racing success; but if an athlete breaks down the actual event, there are two very important parts of any triathlon race that should not be forgotten in training – those are T1 and T2, the triathlon transitions.
A smooth triathlon transition will not only prevent an unnecessary heart rate spike, it also means free speed! In a sport where speed is hardly ever free, here are some triathlon transition tips that only cost a few minutes’ worth of time:
1. Make transitions a spectator sport
Although the swim and bike portions of a triathlon might lack in entertainment value, you can learn a lot by simply making time on a weekend to be a spectator. By watching what other athletes do and don’t do in transition, you essentially will learn from other people’s mistakes! How do other athletes set up their transition area? Who does what to get in and out the fastest? Who appears to be losing time and why? What gear, triathlon clothing, equipment seems to cause the most delay for athletes? Setting aside a few hours each season to observe a race transition can give you plenty of insight into what might or might not work for you, and you'll most probably have a blast cheering on the athletes too!
2. Use each open water swim as T1 transition practice
One of the most stressful parts of any triathlon can be the swim exit. Your body goes from being horizontal to standing up, the anti-fog you used has blinded you, and you have to make the ever-important decision of where to take off your wetsuit, before or after the timing mat. Before means a slightly longer swim time, after means a longer transition and possibly a longer race time, as dry wetsuits are more difficult to remove. By using every open water swim training as an opportunity to practice how and how quickly to remove your goggles, swim cap and triathlon wetsuit, you'll save yourself useless stress and potentially wasted time on race day.
3. Practice! Practice! Practice!
Proper planning prevents poor performance, this is equally true in swim, bike and run training as it is for triathlon transitions. Transition practice should be a part of every bike and run workout, not just during brick sessions. Taking a few moments to set up your run gear before you go ride so that you can roll in and practice the bike to run transition is not always fun, nor what any athlete really wants to do after a long bike session, however, the value added is huge as each step of T2 will become automatic. The same goes for T1. Simply putting your helmet, sunglasses and bike shoes beside your bike so that you can practice before each ride will assure you don't misstep on race day, especially since you saved time and hassle by having quickly removed your wetsuit! Triathlon transitions are very much a fake it ‘till you make it part of the sport!
4. Nothing new on race day!
Probably the most repeated piece of triathlon advice is nothing new on race day, the same goes for transition. Even if you feel you've mastered triathlon transitions and don't need the practice, be sure to take time to practice T1 and T2 anytime you get new gear or equipment. This also applies to any additional triathlon clothing you believe you may need due to race day weather. Different helmet brands buckle differently, aero helmets can be more challenging to get on over your ears when you are wet from the swim, running shoe elastics may be too tight, rain jackets or arm warmers might need to be included in your T1 steps so don't wait for race day to figure out how to get dressed.
5. Free speed!
Transition practice might sound extremely basic and therefore extremely boring. So, make it a fun challenge by setting personal bests! By using a stop watch to time yourself in training, you'll not only be more motivated to practice but you'll also be calmer on race day as you'll have already beaten the clock in training. By including these triathlon transition tips into your training, you will not only be more efficient and quicker on race day, you'll also impress the spectators!