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Triathlon in a Nutshell, Part III: Transition

by Christa on May 28, 2013

in In a Nutshell,Triathlon

Part III of Triathlon in a Nutshell! I’m no expert, but I’ve survived a few triathlons ;) Some handy info for beginners…
Check out Part I and Part II.

So you might think swim, bike, run is all there is to triathlon. And for the most part, that’s true. Pretty basic. BUT there is a very important piece that comes after the swim (AND after the bike, but since we just talked about swimming, this comes next in the order). TRANSITION!

There’s a lot of anxiety surrounding transition, especially since the whole concept can be a little confusing. If you’re coming from a running or cycling background, you’re probably like, “Wait, what? I’m TIMED on changing my shoes?” Yes, you are. Transition is a key part of triathlon and the goal is to make them as speedy as possible.

So when you rack your bike in the transition area, you’ll get your own spot. Sometimes you’ll have a specific spot for your number, and sometimes the racks will just have a range. For instance, numbers 100-125. Well if you are number 122, you can rack your bike anywhere you see fit unless they have specific numbered spots. It’s best to be towards the end – easy access to get out! It’s important to orient yourself in transition and know where you are in relation to swim in, bike out, bike in, run out…find where these are before the race and get your strategy together. Nothing worse than standing in T2 looking around furiously to find the direction in which people are running! Some people even tie balloons next to their bikes so they can easily find where they’re racked and head straight for it! I’ve never done it but not a bad idea.

Then you’ll get a space next to your bike (under the wheel of your neighbor’s bike) to set up your junk. I use my burnt orange towel (easy to spot) and set up my shoes, race belt with number (this is a necessity as you don’t want to be safety pinning and losing time!), gels, handheld water (for the run). I put my helmet, sunglasses, and Sweaty Band on my aerobars. Sweaty Band is ready to go on my head, sunglasses are open and read to be slid on, then I snap on my helmet and go (after putting on the bike shoes of course).

Some pics of transition area – yes, I set this up next to my indoor trainer!

The less you can leave in transition, the better.
photo (50)

Gear in the helmet, ready to go:

photo (49)

And one more shot of the Jeremy the bike, because he’s pretty.

photo (48)

Potential timesavers:

1) Don’t wear socks. Some people keep a bucket of water to rinse their feet off after running from the swim to T1, but I don’t bother. Dirty feet FTW! My bike shoes are made to be barefoot in, and so are my Zoot tri shoes. For a half (or full!) ironman, I’ll definitely wear socks on the run, but not the bike – but that’s only because I want my more comfortable running shoes for the longer distances.

3) Get slip-on shoes or locking laces. The Zoot tri shoes I use are slip-ons, so it’s super easy. But it’s just as easy to buy a pair of Yankz or Lock Laces and convert your regular running shoes to slip-ons – this is what I do for longer races, wherein I’m wearing socks.

2) Flying start. Do this at your own risk. Basically, you clip your shoes into your bike ahead of time, mount, and start riding before sliding your feet in and strapping your shoes. I would most definitely fall flat on my face if I did this, so I just put my shoes on in transition and then clip in after the mount line.

3) Wear a tri suit. Then you won’t have to change anything at all in transition! You do the swim, bike, run in the same getup. Easy peasy.

4) Put on any sunscreen before you start. If you’re super pale like me, you might need a haphazard reapply in transition, but for a sprint or Olympic I’ll usually chance it and not take the time to screen up (oops).

5) Grab and go. I’ll usually have my gels, race belt, handheld (sometimes, if it’s hot), and maybe a hat for the run. Grab your shit and get out of transition. It is super easy to put on your race belt and hat while you are starting the run. Don’t waste time standing around and doing that.

Practice transition!! The more you get used to it, the faster you’ll be at it. You might feel silly practicing changing shoes and putting on a helmet, but it’ll help. Hope some speedy T1s and T2s are in your future!

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Triathlon in a nutshell, Part IV: Bike
June 13, 2013 at 4:24 pm

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelly L May 31, 2013 at 3:02 pm

I have no intention of doing a triathlon but these posts are so fascinating to me!


Christa June 5, 2013 at 12:50 pm

haha glad to keep you entertained!! :)


Melissa January 7, 2014 at 5:03 pm

This is a great post! I’m thinking of doing my first triathlon. I only have a mountain bike though. Is that okay?


Christa January 10, 2014 at 10:15 pm

That’s awesome! You can absolutely do a tri on a mountain bike. Keep in mind that road bikes are faster simply by manufacturing, but if your goal is to finish and not to win, then a mountain bike is perfectly fine! Good luck!!


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