Transition. The 4th and 5th discipline of triathlon. Transition is where close races can be won or lost. They can be free time or they can ruin you. The key first step in having fast transition times is knowing how to set up your area when you show up to the race. A good set up allows you to flow naturally through the switch and be out on the bike or on the run in as short a time as possible.
First lets go through the characteristics of what makes a good transition area.
-Everything is in a place that makes sense. All of your equipment should be in the easiest place to grab it. Less time reaching for an item, less time in transition.
-Everything should be oriented in the direction either you will be facing or you will be moving. Having to turn things around adds up to crucial seconds.
-If you have the option, grab the best spot. Many races assign transition sports, but sometimes, its a free for all. Pick the spot where you have to do the least amount of running with your bike and that’s on the main pathway through transition.
-Keep it simple. Too much clutter and too many items can cause confusion mid race.
-Keep it concise. Transition areas are crowded, so keep your equipment in as concise an area as possible.
Now lets talk about what needs to be in your transition area and where it will all go. You’ll need your bike, bike shoes, your helmet, your running shoes, your bib number if your race has them and your extras (water, sunglasses, hat, nutrition, socks, etc.) Now if you refer to the picture above, we can run through what goes where. I’ll go through this piece by piece.
Bike – This is the biggest thing in transition and the easiest to set up. If the rack is tall enough, try to hang your bike by the saddle. This will be the fastest way to grab you bike and go because once you take it off the rack, its already facing the right direction.
Bike Shoes – If you are proficient at doing flying mounts, go ahead and clip these into your pedals. Flying mounts and dismounts are the fastest way to get on and off your bike and you can wait until you are already moving to actually put the shoes on your feet.
Helmet – Hang your helmet from your handlebars with the front of the helmet facing whichever direction you’ll be running in from. This way you don’t have to bend down to grab it, and all you have to do is flip it over onto your head.
Sunglasses – If you are wearing sunglasses for the bike, stick them in the vents on your helmet and wait to put them on until you’re already moving.
Water & Nutrition – If you’re carrying them on the bike, have them already on the bike. Put your water in the bottle cage and have your energy gels taped to your top tube. This will minimize the number of things you have to pick up in transition.
Running Shoes – Have these facing the same direction you’ll be facing when you run into T2.
Sunglasses, race belt, hat & extras – Any of these things that you plan to bring on the run, have in a nice stack next to you running shoes. Don’t put these on in transition, but rather grab these things in your hand and start running. Once you’re already moving, then start to put these things on.
Wetsuit – While this won’t be part of your set up, it is one of the most time consuming things you do in transition. However, you can minimize that time by starting to take your wetsuit off as soon as you’re out of the water. Unzip the suit and roll it down to your waist while you run, and then just strip the bottom half off when you get to your spot.
Swim Cap and Goggles – Just like the wetsuit, you can take these off while you’re running to your bike.
Bike in T2 – When you get to T2, you’ll be running with the handlebars forward, so when you get to your spot, rack your bike by the handlebars. Just like in T1, this eliminates the time it takes to flip your bike around.
While this is all a lot to remember, practice makes perfect. Most of these things are common sense if you think about it. When you go through the process of setting up your transition on race morning, just think about what the easiest and fastest way to grab everything will be. Eventually with enough practice, these things will just come naturally and you’ll be a transition expert!