Updated: Dec 24, 2019
Transitions offer the unique opportunity for time savings with no physical costs. These savings can only be realised through planning, practice and training. An additional benefit of effective and planned transitions is lower emotional stress.
When it comes to everything in triathlon, we want to absolutely cut the time we spend in any race being passive.
This is especially true during transitions. Sitting on a bench (or your butt) in transition is the epitome of passive and we want to minimise that time. There needs to be purpose behind every action
Understanding transitions: The first steps to a successful transition are to:
Nail down a repeatable, easily adaptable transition plan. Write it out, step by step – every detail. It should be so ingrained as to require little to no thought. If there’s any doubt to the order you plan to do something in transition, then you haven’t practiced it or refined it enough. Practice.
Know the course: Study the swim exit, the run, where your bike will be racked, the bike exit, bike entrance and the run out. You must know and mentally rehearse your route.
Understand the transition type: Each race can do things differently, so make sure you know the transition type. Does it have change tents? Can you leave things by your bike? What do you do with the wetsuit? Reading and knowing the rules is simple but important in every race.
Nail your routine: Adapt your transition plan to the constraints of the course you are racing. Defining transition is a powerful way to keep emotional and physical energy costs as low as possible and leave space for effective and smooth progression to the next discipline. This should include:
Start the process before the start: Toward the end of swim or the bike, begin thinking through the upcoming transition and process, as well as prepping the body from going from one activity to the next.
This prior planning and mental prep avoids the unneeded panic that ensues for the surprised and the unprepared.
Rinse and repeat: Out of the water it is unzip the wetsuit (or skin suit), run up the ramp, goggles and cap off, take the top of the suit down to the waist, and on and on. The same routine, every time. The same applies for arriving at the bike rack. The same order, the same routine. Make it habitual.
Don’t panic: Your heart rate can race here, aim to stay calm, lower your breathing and drive toward purposeful effectiveness over chasing and racing through.
Transitions are seldom 100% smooth. Things get caught, it is tough to get the wetsuit off, you trip, etc. Anything can happen. Roll with it and keep a level head.
Practice: Nail this approach and you can save energy, ensure you are fast (it is about the only ‘free’ time you can claim), and minimise the embarrassment of having the fastest swim, bike AND run in your category, but only getting 3rd!
I hope this helps.
Sisu Racing Triathlon Coach