Transition tips

Here’s a list of transition tips put together by Rob Popper with some additions from other club members.

  • Get to the race early, get set up in transition early, scope everything out and walk through it several times – go through the steps of jogging in from the entry point from the swim, jog over to your bike (count how many rows you need to go), then go through the steps of jogging towards the exit point for the bike ride, then go through steps of jogging in from the re-entry point from the bike, jog back to your spot in transition, just so it’s all fresh in your mind.
  • Take note of what the exit point on the bike looks like beyond the transition area – is it uphill, downhill or flat, which might require different bike-mounting techniques? is there a narrow area where people might get bunched up in front of or behind you if you all come out at the same time, which might mean it is better to run out an extra 20 metres away from the crowds before you try and mount your bike? is it likely to be wet or dry, slippery, muddy or gravelly?
  • Practice what you will do when you come in from the swim, take your swim stuff off, put your bike gear on, put your HELMET on, take the bike off the rack and then jog off; then, practice what you will do when you come in from the run, re-rack your bike, take your bike stuff off and put your running gear on – literally go through these steps a few times, that’s why you got to the race early.
  • Use larger landmarks to recognize your spot in the transition area (not, say, the gorgeous, red Cervelo parked next to your bike or the yellow towel being used by the person next to you, which may not be there when you come through transition), and generally get really familiar with the transition area from all angles. Remember your bike won’t be there as you run in for T2 so make sure you will recognize it without your bike there.

These first 4 tips are probably the most important, perhaps more important than any other equipment recommendations, because these are specific to the racing venue and may change from race to race, or even from year to year in the same venue, and are worth practicing every time

  • Use some sort of water-proof lubricant on your ankles, wrists and neck if you are racing in a wet suit (there are some specialist ones you can buy from triathlon shops, such as BodyGlide, which are very good but a little on the expensive side, so I use baby oil as an inexpensive, easy-to-find alternative – and it leaves your skin soooo smooth!), to make it easier to get the wet suit off and prevent chafing around the neck – BUT DON’T USE VASELINE or any PETROLEUM-BASED lubricants, as it will deteriorate the rubber of the wet suit over time
  • Wear a trisuit or something that doesn’t need to be changed between events (they come in one-piece or two-piece, in an attractive range if colours, including black, blue and, um, more black), because trying to put a shirt on when you’re fresh out of the water is just too darned frustrating. AS A TRI LONDONER YOU REALLY SHOULD BE RACING IN CLUB KIT
  • Use elastic laces on your running shoes as it makes your shoes easier to slip on, easier to fasten before you run off, and easier to adjust if you need to tighten or loosen the laces on the run.
  • Decide how best to display your number. With a wetsuit swim and where there is no plan to change kit during the race the easiest option is to pin the number to your race kit front and back. Where it is a non wetsuit swim or there is a chance you may change your kit (say in a longer distance event) use a number belt to display your race number, as it is easy to clip on before the bike ride (showing the number on the back), then slide it around so that the number is displayed on the front during the run.
  • Put talcum powder in your shoes (but not if it’s raining on race day), which is especially handy for keeping your feet dry when you come from the swim and go out on the bike, but also good for coming off the bike and going out on the run to avoid blisters (especially if you don’t wear socks for Sprint and Olympic distance races).
  • It is for you to decide where you fall on the spectrun of comfort versus speed, but I see a lot of people who forego “extras” like cycling gloves, socks or any extraneous clothing (but, do remember, nudity is not allowed at most events) when they go through transition – just make sure to practice with (or, rather, without) these things before your race, so that you are comfortable running the full distance without socks in those shoes, or cycling the full distance without gloves on those handlebars.
  • Avoid clutter in the transition area, as it will make it easier to find what you are looking for later on (an extra energy gel pack, for example).
  • For easy entry into your wetsuit, take a plastic supermarket carrier bag with you, and put each foot into the bag before putting each limb into your wetsuit. You can do this with both your feet and hands, and it’ll help your suit to slide on with a minimum of friction.
  • Always try things out before a race, never change anything or try anything new on the day of the race, if you can avoid it!
  • There are tri-specific cycling shoes which usually have only one velcro strap to do up or undo, have a loop at the heel to make them easier to pull on and off, and (for those who like to keep the shoes clipped into the pedals on your bike at all times) the velcro straps open away from the pedal arms on the bike so they don’t get caught on the bike when you are running along next to your bike. Note some tri specific shoes don’t velcro in that direction – avoid them.
  • There are tri-specific running shoes
  • I bought a pair of “tri-specific” socks at Windsor l ast year – they are ankle socks with a little extra tab of fabric at the heel to make them quicker to pull on – which is nice.