Transition - from zero to hero

Transition – from zero to hero

We’re often asked on our training holidays what athletes can do to make themselves faster, quicker, stronger with minimal effort. Our usual response is that there are no short cuts to success and you have to swim, bike, run faster/harder to be able to achieve that. There is no golden nugget, there is no ‘Pass go and collect 10 extra Watts’, or a quicker and easier way to progress. 

Or is there...

As most triathletes will tell you, transition is classed as the fourth discipline, mess things up in transition and your race can all fall apart. Get it right, however, and you can go from zero to hero in the space of a very short period of time.

There are a number of things we, as coaches, cringe when we see – all those extra hours spent in the pool reducing your swim times by 15 seconds, all those hours on the running track and all that money spent on aero kit thrown away by not executing your transitions correctly. What’s easier, spending 6 months in the pool shaving off 30s, or practising getting dressed? If you opt for the pool option, then you can kiss those seconds goodbye if your transitions aren’t slick.

If you’ve raced already this season and are looking to shave off a few extra minutes in your upcoming races, then hopefully the below will help you along the way.

"Let’s face it, this is one part of the race where you can be at the 
same standard or even better than the elites!"

1. Avoid Clutter!

Don’t clutter up your transition area (and mind!) with items you aren’t going to use in the race. You do not need that 2kg tub of energy powder, nor two pairs of run shoes as you still can’t decide which ones to wear.

2. Know Where You are!

Make sure you know where your transition spot is. Walk away from your spot and navigate back to it using immovable objects as a reference point e.g. a tree, advertising boards. Do this when transition is full and not when yours is the only bike there!

3. Lube, Lube and Lube!

If you want to get your wetsuit off in a hurry then moisturise your legs and ankles before putting it on. It doesn’t need to be anything expensive, but it will become a lubricant once it mixes with water and hey presto – a wetsuit that slips off easily.

Whip that wetsuit off in T1

4. Belt Up

If it is a wetsuit swim, simply have your number belt under your wetsuit, this is perfectly legal apart from at Ironman branded events. Make sure you are aware of specific race rules by asking at the event or reading athlete information beforehand.

5. Arrange Your Helmet Appropriately

Your helmet should be placed with the inside looking up at you and with the straps undone. You don’t want to be spending time undoing the straps, just pick it up, pop it on your head and do up the straps. If you wear glasses for the bike, then either have these pre inserted into the vents in the helmet or placed inside the helmet, arms open so you can pick them up and put them on straight away before then picking up your helmet and doing the same thing. Remember to do up the strap before touching your bike – if not then it’s goodbye to all those extra seconds you took 6 months to gain in the pool and hello to a 2 minute helmet violation penalty.

Helmet with the straps open and glasses ready to put on

Again, Ironman branded races and some other longer distance races specify that your helmet must go in your Transition 1 bag (often called swim to bike bag or bike bag). Check the transition rules for your specific race, but the strap rules and 2 minute penalty still apply!

6. Sort Your Mount Out

Mounting your bike – choose which method you are going to use and practice, practice, practice. There is the stop start method, the scoot mount and the affectionately titled Flying Squirrel

Always practice your chosen mount (and always remember to smile!)

7. Dismount With Style...

So now you’ve smashed the bike section of the race and you’re ready to come back into transition (T2). Getting off your bike can be as daunting as getting on it, so here’s how to do it well

8. Use Elastic Laces

Putting elastic laces in your shoes will mean you don’t need to fiddle around with laces, just pull them on and go. If you aren’t wearing socks, then Vaseline on the hot spots inside of your trainers can help avoid any rubbing or chafing as well as some talcum powder to soak up some of the moisture.

Essential run accessories

9. Make Haste, Don't Rush

Now is the time to take your helmet off – don’t be tempted to drop it or chuck it on the floor (it damages the helmet in the same way it would if you crashed!) and make sure you keep it strapped up until you have racked your bike….if not, say hello to 2 more penalty minutes.

10. Running Nowhere At All!

Know where the run out is! So often athletes focus on the swim exit and bike in and out points, they forget to look for the run out point. Once you have racked all your kit, physically walk from the swim exit to your bike, then the bike out, back to bike in and then run out. It’s much better to know this in advance rather than run round like a loony trying to figure out where to go.

Cool, calm and collected - knowing the route out of T2

There is a reason why we spend a whole morning at our training camps practising transition skills – it is important!

Knowing what you are going to do, repeating it in your head (hat off, goggles off, wetsuit off, belt on, glasses on, helmet on, grab bike, go) whilst you do it and then sticking to the plan is guaranteed to ensure you don’t lose any precious seconds in transition. 

Develop your own process, practice it in training, do it in racing, review it after a race and keep looking to improve it.

Coach Sorrel