Whether you are competing or completing in triathlons, I am sure that a quicker time next to your name on the results list would be a welcome sight. For the elites and in sprint and Olympic distance races, the margins at the sharp end of the field can be a few seconds (I personally have finished 3rd and 2nd by three and eight seconds respectively in two races in 2016!) so eking out as much time as possible can be very important to your overall position. If you are completing, aiming to dip under a target or personal best time is always satisfying.
Without further ado, here are some simple transition tips to improve your triathlon times!
Practice your transitions – whether this is by performing multiple brick workouts (see below!) or by specifically doing a few sessions focusing on transitioning between disciplines you will soon find out how much time you can make up by altering your actions.
If you have finished an open water swim session, dash over to your kit bag and remove your wetsuit as quickly as possible rather than ambling out of the water and casually taking it off whilst talking to the other athletes without thinking about your actions. You could also set up your trainers (and possibly socks) next to the shower and see how quickly you can get them on as soon as you step out of the shower (it’s actually a bit of a challenge with wet feet!).
Working specifically on flying mounts and dismounts on the bike (also below!) can also prevent embarrassing falls and is something I practice during the week leading up to a race.
Know your spot – this could be by noting a distinctive landmark that will indicate which row your bike is racked on as you cannot physically mark your spot in transition with arrows on the ground or a balloon tied next to your bike.
Next, walk, then jog the route you will take from the swim exit to your bike, to the bike out point and then bike in back to your spot and finally the run out gate – this will help you focus on where you need to go during transition and will help prevent you from becoming lost in the sea of racks and bikes!
Keep it tidy – transitions can be cramped so leave as little equipment as possible at your spot. Do you really need three gels, a water bottle and a banana next to your trainers for the run? You don’t need mounds of equipment. Streamline what you need to the essentials, you will be less likely to forget something, spend less time moving or faffing with equipment and will be in and out of transition quicker.
Another way to save time in transition is to lay out your equipment in the order that you will use it, so bike equipment in front of your run kit. To save you from constantly bending down for kit or crouching/kneeling down for an extended period and risking seizing up, rest your helmet on your bikes aerobars or loop part of the strap onto your handlebars with your number belt and sunglasses placed inside it. That way all your equipment is straight in front of you at an easily accessible height.
One way to gain a lot of time in transition is to perform flying mounts and dismounts when exiting and entering transition with your bike. This is quite advanced and is best practised on a soft surface prior to attempting on race day.
A flying mount entails having your bike shoes already clipped into your pedals and held parallel to the ground with elastic bands and running with your bike out of transition barefoot and with your bike to your right.
After crossing the mount line, hold onto the handlebars and whilst still moving forwards, jump and swing your right leg behind and over your saddle, landing on said saddle and placing your feet on top of your bike shoes. As you pedal away, slip your feet into your bike shoes at an easy to do so point, such as a descent.
For the flying dismount, remove your feet from your bike shoes prior to the dismount line and rest them on top. As you approach the mount line, balance on your left pedal by bringing your right leg over and behind your saddle and have it slightly in front of your left foot. Just before the dismount line, step forward and off your left pedal and commence jogging/running with your bike back to your transition spot.
As mentioned above, this takes a fair bit of practice to be able to comfortably pull off (see video examples and guides online) but when done correctly it is a speedy way of entering and exiting transition.
Multi-task – this can include stepping/kicking your way out of your wetsuit whilst putting on your sunglasses, number belt and helmet during the swim to bike transition and putting on your running hat/visor and sunglasses as you run out of transition rather than standing at your racking spot whilst the clock is still ticking during the bike to run transition. It may only make a few seconds difference but they all add up!
Stay calm – this is one of the most important points to remember. There is no point storming through transition with the aim to be uber fast but running past your bike or forgetting something vital like your number belt or sunglasses on a sunny day.
Run through your transition layout and processes at home, check your routes when setting up in transition and visualise what you will do during the race. Aim to be quick but in control, utilising the tips and tricks above to save some valuable time in transition.
And there you are, seven tips to improve your transitions and overall race time. Be sure to read part two coming soon that will provide you with further time saving tips!
About the Author:
James Hodgson is a competitive triathlete, representing the Great Britain age group team at European and World Championship events. When he’s not swimming, riding his bike or out running, he can be found doing core exercises and studying for his Masters degree.