How to Have a Fast Transition
When setting up your transition site, it is important to remember to set things up in a manner that will require no brain power during the race. Laying out your gear in the morning in an efficient manner will help you execute a fast and stress-freee transition. Here are some simple steps you can take to making your transitions faster.
Pre-race Set Up
The key to quick transitions is to keep them as basic as possible. You don’t need a bucket of water or some of the other things people drag into transition. Also, courtesy for your fellow athletes is something to keep in mind. Take your backpack and all your other non-essential gear and remove it from the transition area once you are set up.
The overarching thought when putting together your transitions is to make them orderly and have everything you are going to need when you need it. I like to use a mid-size towel and set it right next to my bike. As I do not wear socks for any races other than Ironman distance, I get my bike and running shoes setup for easy access. I like to use BodyGlide or Vaseline on the inside of the tongue, as well as the upper heel of my bike shoes and in the toe box of my running shoes for easier entry and to reduce friction to prevent blisters. If the race allows, I have my bike shoes on my bike, but as many races do not allow that for the age grouper, I simply set them on my towel. If you are not comfortable keeping your shoes clipped into your pedals, don’t try it on race day. Remember, what you are most comfortable with is the fastest way to proceed through transition. On the towel, I set my sunglasses inside my helmet and place my race belt next to it. I prefer to put any nutrition on my bike, a gel laying on your arm pad for example, so there is no chance of me forgetting it. The items I need for T2, like my running shoes, visor, and another gel, are also placed on my towel or next to it.
How to Handle T1
It is very common for me to be dizzy coming out of the water. Running to my bike, I’ll pull my wetsuit down half way to get the process started. I like to sit down next to my bike, pull my wetsuit all the way off, drape it over the rack, don my sunglasses and helmet, then slip on my bike shoes, attach my race belt (if required in the particular race), grab my bike and away I go. When I rack my bike before the race, I ensure I have it in an easy gear so I can just clip in and pedal away. It is not important how you rack your bike, by the seat or by the bars if fine, as long as it is secure.
How to Handle T2
Riding into the transition area, I have removed my feet from my bike shoes and leave them on the bike as I run into T-2. If this is something you have not practiced, don’t pick race day to give it a try. I rack my bike and remove my helmet. This is where having organized your area in the morning comes into play. My running shoes, an extra set of sunglasses, my running visor and a gel are all laid out on my towel. I don’t necessarily sit down for T-2. I slip on my shoes, don my visor and fresh sunglasses, grab my gel in my hand and away I go. Ensure you put everything back on your towel and don’t just throw it in the general area.
Pre-race Walk Through
Something I always do is “preflight” the transition area. Starting from where I will come out of the water, I walk my way through the entire transition to the bike exit. I do the same for the second transition. I start at bike entrance and trace my path to my rack, then out through the run exit. In the bigger races, it is crucial that you come up with a recognizable landmark to help you find your spot. I suffer from race brain during the race and numbers can sometimes not be enough to help me navigate. I look for trash cans at the end of the row or something else that makes it obvious where I am.
Lastly, be careful to not rush too fast. I have seen athletes come sprinting into transition in frenzy and make all kinds of mistakes due to the pace at which they are rushing. Be business-like and efficient. Don’t waste any energy or movement. Move in a straight line, keeping the task at hand right before you. I actually start thinking about my transition before I get there. When I see I am getting close to the end of the swim, I start to think about where I am going when I get out of the water. I do the same when I am getting close to the end of the bike. I start to plan where I will take my feet out of my shoes and how and where I will dismount and where to go afterward. All I have to do after that is execute. Quick transitions can really help with racing faster. Keep it basic, think ahead and be smooth and business-like. Your transition splits will immediately improve.