“Transition” the art of moving seamlessly from one place to another.
Transition is the 4th sport in triathlon. It has 2 parts: The set-up and the execution. Both are important and should be practiced regularly. A good transition is free minutes. The shorter the race, the more critical a speedy transition becomes. Even if there is only one transition area, we still say T1 for the swim to bike transition and T2 for the bike to run transition. (setting up 2 separate transition areas won’t be discussed here)
Pro style T1 is under a minute, likewise T2s of 30-40 sec are easily possible
You should have a bag into which you put all your items you need for your race. You can buy a “tri-bag”, but any bag will work, or a 5 gallon plastic pail, which you can turn upside down for a seat. You will have to wheel your bike from your car to the transition area, so if everything fits into your bag, it is very efficient. Sometimes parking can be ½ mile or more from the transition area.
After you have picked up your race packet, put your number on your bike and helmet. Either pin your run number to the front of the shirt you will wear on the run or better yet, put it on your number belt. Then you don’t have to change shirts. Speaking of clothes. for anything short of an ironman distance race, it is probably better to plan on wearing the same thing in the swim (maybe under your wetsuit), as you wear to bike and run. You may want to dry off before setting out on your bike (especially if it s cold), and maybe don a warm top over your wet tri suit if the temp is less than 60º, otherwise you will warm up pretty fast, usually within a mile or two on the bike. Some folks use arm warmers only between about 50 and 60+º. Depending upon your cold tolerance you will likely need a long sleeve top or jacket below about 50ᵒ.
Go to the transition area (assuming that T1 and T2 are the same place) and find your rack, if the spaces have been assigned. If there are no assignments, chose a place that is easy to get into and out of (the end of the rack). Keep in mind that you will run into transition from the swim, usually in bare feet, and run out in your bike shoes. So, place your bike accordingly. *tip: if it is a long way or a rough ground from the swim to T1, you might want to put a pair of old flip flops at the swim exit to run in. It takes a few seconds to put on the flips, but it can save your feet.* Generally speaking you will want to have your bike close to a main path or aisle, unless you have an assigned spot. Note that leaving your bike in other than your assigned rack slot may be grounds for a penalty or DQ (Disqualification.)
IF you are racing in a regional or national event, then transition rules MAY be more rigorously enforced. For instance, putting a balloon or visual flag on you bike rack is actually illegal as it gives you a potential advantage over other competitors. So, make time to rehearse your entry from the swim, and your return after biking at least twice to avoid confusion and waste of time during the race as described in detail below. Another regional/national tip is that generally speaking, you may have much less room to set up than at a smaller race. In the past that space has been only a couple inched wider than your handlebars! So practice setting up in less than two feet. About one foot on either side of your bike wheel
The SET UP
Count the number of racks from the swim entrance and also from the bike entrance, so you can find your bike after the swim, and find your rack after the bike. Usually the racks have the numbers on the end, but look for a tree or something immovable that will help guide you to your rack. Things look VERY different during the race than they do during set-up.
Set up your transition area to minimize movement. Set your bike on the rack, either forward, with the brake levers hooked over the bar or backward, with the end or nose of the saddle on the bar. Place your mat to the left (or under the front wheel if room is restricted) of your bike. *TIP: Put your bike into the gear you want to be in when you first mount the bike. Give your wheels a spin, to be sure you aren’t dragging a brake, and reset your computer to zero.* Check your tire pressures, but don’t inflate them to any pressure over that you usually use in training. Note that if is raining and is forecast to continue to rain on the bike leg, then often lowering tire pressure by 5 # or so will improve your traction on the wet pavement.
Put your equipment down in the order you will use it. Nearest you, your bike shoes with the straps open, socks (if you wear them) rolled down and inside each shoe. Powder inside the socks. Helmet on top of shoes, upside down, straps undone laid outside the helmet, sunglasses sitting lenses down inside helmet, with arms open, so you can put them directly on your face. Toward the rack, put your hat and number belt, with the clip undone and your run pack, if you use one, also unclipped. On top of that, your run shoes (socks inside if you wear them).
Finally, lay your wetsuit, de-fogged goggles and cap over your bike. If you want a towel to wipe your face after the swim, put that there too.
The WALK- THROUGH
Now, your transition area is set up. Time for the walk-through. Take a good look at where your bike is. Look at it from both directions. Make mental notes. Go down to the water. Look at the course, the buoys, how many there are, are the turn buoys a different color? Look at the swim exit. Now walk from the swim exit to the “Swim In” at the transition area (will you need to run in flips?) Where is your bike? Count racks, look for landmarks. Go to your bike. Now, walk out of transition through the “Bike Out” exit. Turn around and walk back in through the “Bike In” entry. Where the heck did you rack your bike? Find it! Then walk to “Run Out” exit. Then go find the Finish Line. This may seem like a lot, but during the race, you will see folks stopped dead in their tracks, unable to find their bikes or confused about where the exits are. Don’t be that person.
Depending on the length of the race, you may choose to warm-up by jogging for 10 minutes. Generally, the shorter the race, the more important a warm-up is for you. There is no reason to start warming up until close to the race start. You must know if the race officials will clear the transition area at some point prior to the start, so you don’t get caught out on the road. In some races, bikes must be placed in transition the night before the race. If that is the case, you will want at least 2 small kitchen garbage bags to place over your seat and aero bars to keep the dew off the bike. Definitely, take some time to stretch a bit. Find the port-potty…you know that drill. At some races, the porta potty lines can get to be more than 30 mins long, so think creatively.
Pro Tip #1: IF your race is in colder water ( less than 75ᵒ F), than pack a bottle of hot water in your tri bag, make sure the top doesn’t leak, and wrap it in your towel before heading to the race site. Take this disposable bottle with you to the swim entry, and pour it down inside your wet suit thru the neck within 10 min of the start. The bottle can go into trash or recycle at that point. Then make sure to splash some water on your face before entry.
For really cold water (less than 60ᵒF), plan to wear a neoprene hood under your required color race cap. This tip is especially valuable when swims are longer than sprint distances.
Pro Tip #2: No More Tears Baby Shampoo in a small squeeze bottle is as good an anti-for as any made. One drop in each side, rinse once before putting goggles on for 10-20 sec, put goggles on, and don’t walk around w them on your forehead!
Pro Tip #3: For racing involving cold water there simply is no substitute for a couple practice swims in that water. ALWAYS, do it exactly as you plan for race day.
Time to put on the wetsuit. Body Glide on your neck, wrists and lower legs. Put that grocery bag over your foot and slide right into the suit! Amaze your rack mates with your brilliance! Grab your defogged goggles, cap (and disposable bottle of warm water, if the swim water is cold.) Head to the water. If it isn’t too cold, you might want to take a little swim. But, if it is cold, don’t do it. It isn’t worth getting cold before the race, while you wait for the other waves to go off. Right before your wave is called, pour that water into your suit…ahhhh! Then splash cold water on your face several times. Have FUN! All your hard training has paid off. Now it is time to do what we do… YIPPEE!!
Pro Tip #4: You can’t win the race in the swim, but you can lose it! THis doesn’t apply in draft legal racing as the first group out of the water, has an overpowering advantage if they can work together on the bike!
YEA! You did it! Dry off and put on warm clothes if it is cold, sooner rather than later. Otherwise walk around all sweaty with 100’s of other sweaty triathletes with a big grin on your face. Eat the post-race food and hydrate. Sit around with your friends and tell race lies! Clap for everyone who gets the hardware and tell yourself that if you just went a little harder or transitioned a little faster, you would be up there too! At smaller races, be aware if race management is not monitoring entrance and exit from the transition area after the race. Security for your stuff is rarely an issue, but you would hate to help someone else permanently upgrade their wetsuit or bike. What should be happening is that every entrance should be manned, only competitors in transition, and someone at each exit obviously comparing bike numbers to numbers on the competitors.
HOW TO BE COOL
It is cool to have your race number on you at the race site after the race. Uncool to still have it on your arm or thigh the next day. It is cool to have your race number on bike or helmet at the race site after the race. IT is geeky, weird, nurdy, and definitely the mark of either an idiot or rank beginner to still have the numbers on during next weekend’s workout. Besides, after a couple of bakes in the sun, number removal from your nice bike or helmet removes more than a little paint with the number. Lastly, by about 2 hours post race, most folks start to smell rank enough to attract buzzards. A dip in the swim venue, or a shower will help mitigate this unwanted after effect. Besides, standing in the lake or ocean for 20-30 min. post race goes a long way toward preventing post race muscle soreness!
TRAIN HARD, TRAIN SMART! HAVE FUN!
Final Pro Tip #5: ALWAYS set up for races the same way, and NEVER, ever eat or drink anything different on race day than you would before a big brick workout. Varying your eating or drinking habits/solutions on race day, especially for longer races is a recipe for vomiting/diarrhea or worse yet, the horror of horrors, a DNF!
Plastic grocery bag (helps you slide into your wetsuit)
Big garbage bag (for wetsuit after the race)
Pre-race hydration and nutrition, in case the race is delayed (banana, bagel?)
Race nutrition (gel, bars etc)
Race hydration (bike bottles, prefilled)
Bike (pump your tires or bring your pump)
Spare tube or tubular tire
CO2 cylinders ( Get the 16 Gm ones)
Helmet (with race number on front)
Gloves (if you wear them)
Sunglasses (2 pair: light lenses, dark lenses)
Crotch lubricant (Sport Slick stays on well)
Socks (if you wear them)
Powder (for shoes)
Race number belt (with number attached)
Run shoes (put in elastic laces or “lace locks”)
Run hat or visor
Run pack/bottle holder w/pre-filled bottle, gel, etc
Dry, warm clothes, flip flops or dry shoes for after the race.
Neoprene swim cap
Bottle of warm water to pour into your wetsuit prior to the swim start
Warm cap, long pants, jacket, socks
Tips for Smooth Execution in Transition
Practice, Practice, Practice
KISS (keep it simple, stupid)
Wear the same outfit throughout the race. No changing clothes. EXCEPTION: Ultra-distance racing where comfort is the key.
Powder the inside of your shoes (and socks) so feet slide in easily. Apply grease to your crotch. For faster transitions up to half IM distances train your feet to race w/o socks.
(That is a separate story, we will gladly provide - the R2R patent method virtually guarantees blister free training and racing)
While exiting swim, unzip wetsuit and pull it down to your waist. Take off cap and goggles.
As you are running toward your bike, look for the tree or other item you found to mark your bike. As you run into T1, count the racks and find your rack.
When you get to your bike, pull your wetsuit the rest of the way off and put it out of the way. Put on your sunglasses, helmet, BUCKLE IT,shoes (socks, if you must). Grab your bike and head to the “Bike Out” exit. You must walk or run the bike until the “MOUNT” line, get on and ride, baby, ride! Remember, an unbuckled helmet can get you a DQ from a strict official. When you reach the MOUNT line, be aware of those racers around and directly behind you. Mark of a real sportsperson is to run to the side of the course to mount you bike, giving room for others to pass
Don’t start eating or drinking on the bike for about 10-15 minutes until you settle down. Get that cadence up to 90+ and let ‘er rip! Know the USAT rules and follow them!
Drafting: The non-drafting legal race rule says you cannot be closer than 3 bike lengths behind another racer. If you want to pass, you will have to get up to where your front wheel is at his front wheel and make the pass in 15 seconds. If you can’t make it, you will have to drop back to the 3 bike lengths again. (Ladies, beware! If you are passing a guy, he will not like it and likely speed up. So hit that pass with lots of oomph!!) And, NEVER apologize for passing! If you get busted for drafting or anything else, you will get a time penalty or in some cases a DQ tacked onto your finish time. Ditto for blocking infractions. https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Triathlon/About/Multisport/Competitive-Rules
The rules are at this link. Know them!
It is good sportsmanship to encourage other racers, especially if you pass someone who is struggling. “Good Job!” is always appreciated. Those that try to draft in secret know it and so will you if you pass them on the bike……. they may wind up in a special unpleasant place reserved for such dishonesty when they cross that final finish line
There will be volunteers and law enforcement folks at some corners. ALWAYS thank them! ALWAYS! If they weren’t at the race, there would be no race. NEVER ARGUE WITH A RACE OFFICIAL!
As you come into the last mile of the bike, be sure your cadence is 90-95! That will make the transition to the run much easier. Get off your bike at the “DISMOUNT” line and run into T2, finding your rack and bike slot. Do NOT take your helmet off until you reach your bike rack! Helmet and shoes off. Run shoes on. Grab your hat, number belt and bottle/pack belt and start running out of T2. Dress as you go out the “Run Out” exit. (Try not to sit down in transition.) Get your cadence up to 90+. Rock and Roll to the finish line!