I did the Cleveland Triathlon last week. Although we will not be discussing my sub-stellar performance, which was very slack to say the least (I blame it on foggy goggles), I did watch closely the T2 transition of the Olympic-distance triathletes and made a profound discovery!
What is a good T2?The second transition should be the easiest of all. First, you have no wetsuit to remove, no sand to get off your feet, no socks to get on if you prefer using them on the bike. No shirt to get stuck on your wet torso if you are a newbie during the T1 change. Ahhh...the list can go on. But the T2 should be the easiest-really. All you have to worry about is the dismount and the donning of the running shoes and perhaps ingesting some fuel. Well, you have the 'rubber legs', but let's focus on the mechanics of the actual second transition.
CliplessHmmm. Sounds easy right? Sure, I have been doing triathlon here-and-there for several years...you know, the recreational triathlete, just content to be out there training and not concerned with overall standings. But this was the year that I went from the 'cages' (toe clips) to the real 'clipless' pedals. I felt like a 'real' biker for once. It was a long time coming. Training-wise, the transition was easy. I could bail and dismount on demand if trouble occurred-or if I just needed to get off the bike or coming to a red light. I haven't made a complete fool of myself yet by coming to a stop then falling down as I couldn't remove my shoes from the pedals. I'm sure my time will come...it's like a right of passage.
The T2 dismountWhat I'm about to show you and tell you will shave precious seconds off of your overall time. Sure, the 1year+ athletes (or even the 1month+) may have this all figured out, but I'm a little slow on the draw and I tend to train by my lonesome. I had to pay attention and see this myself.
So what's the secret?DO NOT dismount with your clipless shoes still on your feet.DO dismount with your feet already removed from your shoes.
What? That's right, as you enter the transition area, reach down and remove your feet from your shoes and rest your feet on top of the pedals. Coast into the transition and just hop off. Even practice some to already have your legs on the same side of the bike so you can just do a little hop off. No need to get off the saddle and painfully straddle the bike like I do THEN swing a leg around while almost falling down.
All of this fancy play will serve to eliminate the weird 'running-with-your-bike-shoes-still-on-and-sounding-like-a-tap-dancer'. You are now just running with your bare feet-a LOT easier then with your shoes still attached and running in the cleats.
*Note, Aquaterm has given some good cautionary advice: "Just a note - only do this if you have triathlon cycling shoes! Typical cycling shoes have straps that open INTO the center of the bike. So when you unstrap them, the loose straps can get caught in the chain. Tri specific shoes generally have a single strap that opens outward, free from your chainring."
Time savedYou have now just eliminated the 'click-clack' sound and have shaved a few seconds off of your time as you can run faster to your T2 spot and you don't have to remove your shoes when you rack your bike. You only have two things to do now: rack your bike, put on your running shoes. You have eliminated a step. Sure, this tip may be bordering on the trivial and mundane, but if you are pursuing the higher ranks of your age-group, make sure you are doing all that you can to be lowering your times-even if it seems insignificant. Don't lose first place because you are belligerent and didn't listen to me.
Practice, practice and practice. This shouldn't be something you screw up (as you will see in the video), but it should instead be a simple but perhaps unrealized technique to save a few seconds and put you at the top of your age-group.
VideoLooking at the attached video above, this technique is plain-as-day. In both examples, the triathlete's shoes stay on the bike while they dismount. BE CAREFUL! If you watch the second guy, he must have applied some sideways torque to the pedal getting off the bike as his shoe detached from the pedal causing him to waste several seconds to go back and get it.