We train like crazy on the bike, run hundreds of miles and spend endless hours in the pool. On top of that, we spend a fortune on aerodynamic wheel sets, and really cool looking (debatable) helmets so we can shave a few seconds off our overall time in the next race. The gun goes off, and as we exit the swim and enter T1 something strange happens, we forget where our bike is? After running around the end or worse yet, trying to go under the bike rack we become flustered and rush out of the transition area. Sometimes we leave our helmet behind or maybe put it on backwards, most of the time it’s the little things like our glasses, water bottles, gels, race number, salt tablets, you name it, and it’s been forgotten at least once. Now ready to enter T2, we hop off our bike, shoes and all, and try and run back to our transition spot. Once there, we rush through everything as fast as possible and once again usually forget what we wanted most. I have seen people take 3, 4 maybe 5 minutes in transition then after the race wonder how we can be 10 – 15 seconds faster on the swim, bike or run. The more organized and relaxed you can stay in the transition area, the better your odds of making it out with everything you need.
The easiest way to improve your transition is to PRACTICE it. It seems most people only worry about transitions the day of the race. How many people actually practice or time themselves on how fast they can get out of their wetsuit? I know it sounds crazy, but if the only time you try to get out of your wetsuit in a hurry is a race, I can promise you, it is not going to be easy.
Another way to help speed up your transition is to find a spot at or near the end of the rack. This makes it easier to spot your bike, while giving you a little more space to spread your stuff out. After transition is set up, ALWAYS walk through the transition area the same way you will see it during the race. Go through the whole scenario of coming from the swim exit into T1 locating your bike, exiting T1 and then coming off the bike into T2 and out of T2 to start the run.
I find if you can establish a routine and keep it the same for each race, you can eliminate a lot of transition stress. For example, I get to my bike, take off my wetsuit if I have one on, put my helmet on followed by my glasses, then my shoes. Now on my way back into T2, before I get there, I have my feet out and on top of my shoes. I get to the dismount line, jump off my bike and proceed to my spot. Once there, I rack my bike, take my helmet off, put my shoes on, and then grab my race belt and hat and put them on as I am running out of T2.
Some other ideas that will help you achieve a faster transition. Speed or quick laces for your running shoes. If you are taking the time to tie your shoes, you are wasting a good 15 – 20 seconds. A race belt with your number attached. Not only will you be more comfortable with a race belt, you will not destroy your new $85 dollar jersey by sticking safety pins through it. Fluorescent tape. In big races where you may have 1500 to 2000+ athletes, and you have to pick up your transition bags before you get to the changing tents, you should attach some fluorescent green or orange tape to your transition bags to distinguish them from everyone else. You can also put the same tape at your bike area or the end of the rack where your bike is to make it easier to locate your area!
I hope these tips are helpful, but remember you have to practice your transitions just like everything else. Have Fun and Race Hard.