Triathlon is a super fun sport – or really – collection of sports. It can also be a little frantic because with swimming, biking, and running there’s plenty of gear and things to keep in mind on race day. You’ve got your wetsuit, helmet, bike shoes, running shoes and probably some sort of race belt too. But let’s not forget the fun!
In 2015 my husband, one of our friends and I all participated in our first sprint triathlon. We were strong runners but had no idea of what we were getting into. We were CLUELESS about how hooked we were about to get on this crazy sport. We somehow survived the swim with a combined 4 hours of pool time between the three of us; managed not to wipe out on the bike as the skies dumped on us the worst downpour I’ve still ever rode through; and finally made it to the run where we were ready to shine. Looking at my results I realized what most newbie triathletes probably realize at some point – I had lost a ton of time in transition.
Transition is the fourth discipline in triathlon because the clock never stops and you are getting timed for how fast you can get your s**t together. But this is what makes it fun and frantic and holy hell HOW long does it take me to tie my shoes? And everyone you passed on the bike has now lapped you because they thought ahead with lock laces. With that in mind here are some transition tips I’ve picked up along the way. Even if you’re participating for fun and not racing the clock, some of these tips can help you develop a little more structure to reduce race day stress and keep you moving.
1. Leave the bucket at home. If you’re using it to carry your gear, that’s fine, but the second you flip it and sit on it, you’re doomed.
2. Which brings me to: No Sitting. Sitting is wonderful and feels so great after a swim – but it’s also a great way to lose lots of time. Unless you’re feeling wobbly and need a minute, stay upright.
3. Practice your swim-in. Going from swimming to jogging down a beach can be tricky. You’ll also learn how to maneuver out of the top of your wetsuit while moving!
4. Keep your swim cap and goggles on your head – just lift your goggles off your eyes. This keeps both hands free for unzipping your wetsuit. Some races will penalize you for discarding either on the beach. This ensures they’ll stay with you.
5. Take off the top of your wetsuit while you shuffle back to T1. I’ve seen some people try to take the whole thing off in the sand, but usually they end up falling because of that whole wobbly thing. By the time you’re back in transition your body usually starts working again.
6. If you are a strong swimmer and have trained without one, consider ditching the wetsuit. Try an Aero Skinsuit instead. Aero Skinsuits are made for reducing drag in the water, and you wear it for the entire race. Not wiggling out of a wetsuit can save you some extra time.
7. Plan how to lay your transition- I lay my gear on a towel exactly how I’ll grab it. Bike shoes with helmet on top, run shoes behind them with hat, socks, and race belt on top. Sunglasses secured on my bike with nutrition in my aerobag. Be considerate of other athletes and take only what space you need.
8. Clip your helmet first - I always clip my helmet before grabbing my bike shoes. Having a routine will make sure you don’t forget to clip it – which is a major area for time penalties for good reason. It can’t protect you if you’re not wearing it correctly.
9. Don’t bother with socks in your bike shoes. Your feet will probably be wet and sandy from the swim but they’ll usually dry by the time your ride is done.
10. If it’s your first race practice running while guiding your bike with one hand. This is an efficient way to roll your bike to where you can mount it.
11. Save the pro moves for the pros - I’ve seen triathletes attach their shoes to their bikes with rubber bands and do some fancy flying mounting moves. I am one of the clumsiest people – so while this may save others a ton of time, I can only suggest YouTubing and practicing the heck out of it before trying it on race day.
12. Practice racking your bike - Be respectful of other athletes’ bikes and mindful of your gear below.
13. Lock laces, lock laces, lock laces. Tying shoes takes time! Time better spent running!
14. Lay your hat/visor on top of your sneakers. It’s harder to forget when you have to go through it to get to what you need.
15. Get a race belt for your run number. Grab it and clip it on while running out of transition.
16. Nothing new on race day. This is universal but bears repeating. Test all nutrition and gear beforehand.
17. No making sandwiches. My husband and I still wish each other luck by saying “no making sandwiches”. What this means is be mindful of your time, do and take only what you need, and don’t add extra minutes by leisurely enjoying transition or stopping to make a sandwich.
18. Get the heck out of there and enjoy your race!
Triathlon is unlike any other sport. There are so many areas where things can go haywire on race day but that excitement is one of my favorite parts. With a little practice you’ll develop a routine that works for you to ease race day nerves and ensure you’re economical about your time. Once you iron out the kinks you’ll sail smoothly to the finish line!
Written by Kristy Wang, Siren Luminary
Follow Kristy on Instagram @runningkween