Transitions - The Fourth Sport
Although triathlon consists of three primary
sports - swimming, biking and running, there is a fourth
sport, transition, which is often overlooked. The time spent
between the swim to bike (T1) and the bike to run (T2) is
essential to beating the clock and the competition. Improving
your transitions has its rewards. First, it doesn't take
a lot of sweat and training to improve your transition efficiency.
Second, it's a lot easier to gain time on competitors in
transition than having to run or bike faster to gain time.
And third, a quicker transition won't crank your heart rate
or drain your energy. Here are a few basic tips to help
improve your time.
Arriving: Arrive before the start of the race to
organize your transition area. If the racks are not numbered,
locate an area that is the most direct distance from the
entrance to the exit. If possible, depending on the rack
itself, rack your bike by its seat with the front wheel
facing out and towards the direction you will be going.
Put your sunglasses in your helmet or have them inside your
water bottle cage to put on after you are moving. Hang your
helmet with the front facing toward you as you approach
your bike and with the straps outside of the helmet ready
to be grabbed easily and buckled. Have your shoes already
attached onto your cleats with the Velcro straps loose for
an easier entry. The only exception to this is if you have
a very steep hill right out of transition where it is wiser
to put your shoes on before getting on your bike. Have your
transition area marked with a colorful towel, baby powder
in front of your spot or even have a balloon tied to the
rack where your bike is located. Anything to make your transition
area easier to spot in the mass of bikes. Race numbers can
be pinned on to your jersey or displayed on an elastic waste
belt. For men, tuck the jersey with the race number or race
belt into your swimsuit so you can pull it out while you
are running from the swim to bike. If you are wearing a
wetsuit, have your race number and jersey already on.
Before going to the start, walk through all of the entrances
and exits of the transition area. It may seem trite, but
when you are racing the adrenaline is pumping and if you
arent prepared, the slightest bit of being disoriented
can create panic. Pick out your bike as you walk to T1 from
the swim exit. Make specific notes of your rack location.
Is it the fourth rack over, second row back? Is it near
a particular race banner, etc.?
T1 Swim to Bike: During the swim leg, visualize
what will happen as you exit the water. Think about where
your bike is and the order you will do things. Approaching
T1, take off your swim goggles, swim cap and untuck your
race number while running. If you are wearing a wetsuit,
have the torso section already off by the time you get to
your bike. Once at your transition area, you can even be
putting on your helmet as you kick off the wetsuit. Lubrication
on the inside and outside of the ankles helps this process.
Next, lift your bike off the rack, push it to the mount
line and you are out of T1. A simple process that people
tend to make too difficult.
T2 Bike to Run: This transition is even easier.
Simply dismount your bike at the dismount line. With practice,
you can have your feet out of your shoes while riding the
last 100 meters or so. As you approach the dismount line,
hurdle one leg over your bike and hop off, keeping your
momentum as you dismount, and run to your transition area.
Hang your bike and unbuckle your helmet. Put on your running
shoes and see ya! Use elastic shoelaces so you don't have
to tie your shoes. Wear a lightweight mesh cap to keep the
sun out of your eyes and if it is hot, you can use the cap
to hold ice from aid stations on your head.
Improving transition time is a simple way to decrease your
overall time. Practice the basic tips above as part of your
regular training regimen to keep your transitions smooth.
Come race day, you will have two chances to gain on your
competitors ... T1 and T2.