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Rookie In Training: Practice Your Triathlon Transitions

  • By Jason Devaney
  • Published Jun 5, 2013
  • Updated Oct 9, 2013 at 1:26 AM UTC
The more you practice, the sooner you'll be transitioning like a pro. Photo: Aaron Hersh

Every Wednesday in “Rookie in Training,” beginner triathlete Jason Devaney will share training advice he learns as he trains for his first half Ironman.

My swim was slow. My first transition was awful.

The bike was strong, while T2 and the run were good.

Overall, I was pleased with my first triathlon of the season last weekend. It was a sprint, and it consisted of a 400-meter pool swim, a 15-mile bike and a 5K run. A lot of things went well, while some things definitely need to be improved.

This week, let’s talk about transitions. They’re an integral part of a triathlon, whether you’re racing in a sprint or an Ironman. If you spend too much time fiddling with your bike helmet or tying your running shoes, you’re throwing away time.

I learned this the hard way.

I emerged from the outdoor pool feeling pretty good, and as I ran the short distance to the transition area I peeled off my cap and goggles and went through what I needed to do in my head.

“Wipe off your feet, put on your socks.”

“Put on your bike helmet. Make sure it’s buckled!”

“Don’t forget your sunglasses. And put that bag of energy chews in the pocket of your jersey.”

My mind was racing and when I got to my transition spot, any sort of order went out the window.

RELATED – Rookie In Training: An Introduction

My feet were wet and covered with grass clippings, so I ended up plunking myself down on my butt and wiping my feet off with the towel I had laid out. Putting my socks on was a challenge because my feet were still wet. And then I squirted some sports drink into my mouth.

I was all over the map. Two and a half minutes later, I left the transition area disgruntled as I mounted my bike and started pedaling.

The lesson: I should have practiced this stuff.

“The less stuff you take off and put on, the faster you’ll be,” said author and endurance sports coach David Glover when asked what he tells his athletes. “Race in a tri suit from start to finish. Don’t wear socks on the bike. Wait to put on your race belt until you’re already in motion out of the transition area.”

Let’s fast forward to the end of the bike leg. I was focused on unbuckling the straps on my cycling shoes while still moving, and then slipping out of them before dismounting. This would save the step of having to run awkwardly in the shoes to transition, take them off and slip into my running shoes.

It was almost a disaster. I managed to get my right foot out at the last second but my left foot was still in the shoe when I had to jump off my bike. So I ended up putting my right foot down as I stopped, unclipped my left shoe, took the shoe off and then ran to T2 while carrying a shoe in one hand and pushing my bike with the other.

“Well, at least I got one off,” I said to the small group of spectators.

“Practice and simplify,” said Glover, who runs School of Tri. “If you get a chance, go watch a race and see what the fastest athletes do.

“The transition area is not a rest stop. You are simply passing through quickly.”

So remember this: Transitions are essentially another leg of triathlon, albeit shorter. You wouldn’t do a race without having practiced swimming, right? Same goes for transitions.

Practice in your driveway or an empty parking lot. Lay everything out and then run up to your bike, put everything on, grab your bike and go. Then practice T2, where you dismount, run to your spot, and gear up for the run.

After a few sessions, you’ll be able to breeze through transitions on race day.

More transition advice from Triathlete.com.

Jason Devaney is a freelance contributor to Triathlete.com, VeloNews.com and Competitor.com. A resident of Virginia, he spends way too much of his free time training. When he’s working, he’s typically dressed in either sweatpants or a cycling kit. Follow him on Twitter @jason_devaney1.

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FILED UNDER: Getting Started / Race Tips / Training TAGS: /

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