Transitions: The Fourth Discipline

author : trys4dummies
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A guide for everything you need to know about T1 and T2

I know that many of you triathletes out there are practicing your threesomes: Swim, Bike, Run. Many of you are cross-train, hitting the weights, spinning, etc. Yet with all of this many times transitions are forgotten about. Your T1 and T2 splits are very important to practice as they are part of your overall race time. It doesn't matter if you can swim really fast, but then only to get out of the water and take 3:00 minutes getting your socks and shoes on. Therefore practicing your transitions should be part of your workouts just like swimming, biking and running are. One minute off your transition time can mean the difference between 3rd and 1st place.

Transition Checklist

  • Socks

  • Shoes

  • Towel

  • Tri Shorts (Although you should race in what you swim)

  • Race Number

  • Race Belt (I highly suggest one of these, they are very affordable)

  • Safety Pins (To clip on race number if you don't have the belt)

  • Helmet


  • Sodium Pills

  • Advil

  • Sports Drink

  • Energy Bars

  • Energy Gel

  • Heart Rate Monitor

  • Hat

  • Sunglasses

  • Cycling Gloves

Pre-Race Setup

Once you have been assigned a race number, proceed to find the rack in which you will be mounting your bike. Once you have found your rack, look to see where the transition for the bike and run will be and place your bike in a place that will make it easy to enter and exit these areas. You should also look at the other races to decide if the guy/girl next to you will be exiting the water at the same time. It is preferable not be stuck attempting to transition next to someone who is trying to leave at the same time as you. Once you have your spot picked out you must decide how to mount your bike, depending on your seat clearance, the height of the rack, and whether or not you have aero bars. It might be wise to rack you bike with the back of the seat on top of the rack and to drag the bike under or mount you bike aero first and grab the bike and go. The most important factor in setting up for your transitions is your clothes and whatever else you will be taking with you when you hop on the bike.

Attempt to put your things in a neat pile as a matter of courtesy to other racers and so that you know where to find everything when you come out of the water. You should have the things that you need first at the very top of the pile. For example, your socks should be above your shoes as you will need them before you need your shoes.

Fast Swim to Bike Transition

Your swim is going great and you are just about to get out of the swim exit, so now what? You may be really excited and ready to bolt out of the water but remember that you have been breathing underwater which is much different then on land. Make sure to mentally prepare for this transition by knowing not to come bolting out of the water as this will make your lungs work in overdrive. As you come out of the water and you are running through the transition looking for your rack, you should already have your transition actions set out in your mind. Remember what you planned to do before you get to the spot where all of your stuff is.

Many times in a race I have glanced over to see a fellow racer doing what I like to call the "sock dance". Trying to get your socks on while your feet are wet can be quite a hassle.  If you are running a sprint tri, and you can stand it, just slide on your shoes without socks - though I recommend that you make sure you are comfortable with this in workouts first. Avoid at all cost sitting down while attempting to put on your socks and shoes as this will take valuable time away from your transition, and is also a great way to get a cramp.

Once you have your helmet on as well as everything else you came to the transition zone for, its time to grab your bike. The best way to take your bike out of transition is to grab it from the back of the seat and run it out by balancing it. This may be a little difficult at first, but with some practice it becomes fairly easy. Run your bike all the way out to where the bike mount start is, hop on your bike on the go, saddle your feet in and GO!

Bike to Run Transition

The bike/run transition is much easier than the swim/bike transition. Your time here should also be much lower as you should not need as many things as you did in T1. The last couple of miles of the bike you should start gearing your mind towards T2 and what you need to grab or leave from there (i.e. hat, visor, water, gel, change of clothes, food). As stupid as this might sound, remember to take your helmet off that you have been wearing so long on your head as you might have forgotten that it was there. It would not be the first time that I have seen someone running whom had forgotten to take their helmet off.

One of my least favorite things about racing is the bike/run bonk which normally happens as you get off the bike and attempt to use your feet on land again. It is such a weird sensation and will make your calves feel like they have rocks in them. I don't really have a secret to tell you how to avoid this other than to practice, practice, practice. The best way to avoid this is to practice riding your bike then hopping off and running during training, and eventually with time this will get better. Regardless you will still get this feeling just not as bad, my main suggestion is to keep going at a relative decent place, and don't try and push too hard through this - or even just walk the first few minutes. Your body's energy to power output is very low during this stage.

Good luck at your first triathlon!

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date: July 9, 2015