Tips/Gear for a Seamless Transition on Raceday
When training for a triathlon, you typically focus on swimming, biking, and running as much as you can. As raceday approaches, it's important to start thinking about your plan for transitioning between each discipline. Long before you arrive at the race venue, there are actions you can take and gear you can pack to ensure you have as seamless of a transition as possible. By preparing in advance, you can avoid chaos and spend as little time in between the swim and the bike (also called Transition 1) and the bike and the run (Transition 2) as possible
Packing methodically can save time and energy in the transition area, easing the stress typically associated with raceday. Triathlon-specific bags (called transition bags) are built with various separate compartments which aid in organization. Compartments are individualized and are designed to carry specific race gear. For example, certain compartments are large enough to store shoes and will keep them totally separate from other items in your bag - ensuring your clothing or other gear isn't soiled by dirt trapped in your shoes' treads. Some bags have compartments with a harder shell to protect fragile items like sunglasses or cellular phones, and some have a removable waterproof compartment for storing wet or dirty gear. Bungee cords and clips attached on the outside of the bag are often used for securing a helmet, and outside pockets help keep hydration easily accessible. Using these compartments will help you keep track of your gear and ensure nothing goes missing or gets broken in transit. Additionally, most bags have adjustable shoulder straps to make carrying all of your essential gear easy and comfortable.
Setting Up Your Transition Area
When you're running in from your swim and are searching for your little section on the bike rack, a brightly colored transition mat will help you locate it as quickly as possible. Transition mats are sized to fit between bikes and aid in keeping your area clean and organized. Be careful not to overstep your boundaries and lay too much non-essential gear out; cycling shoes, running shoes, and a hat is typically more than enough to place on your mat. Set your helmet on your bike's handle bars, with the strap unbuckled and your race belt and sunglasses inside (put these three items on first when returning from the swim- you'll be disqualified if you begin cycling without your helmet buckled). If needed, you can also slide a cycling glove onto each handlebar for easier access. If you wear socks, roll them up and place one inside each shoe. (Some triathletes will even clip their shoes to their bike pedals in advance so they can simply slip their feet in as they begin pedaling.) Before you leave for the starting line, make sure your water bottles are filled with your hydration of choice. Do a walkthrough from the transition entrance to your specific area on the bike rack. Make a mental note of where your spot is and where you'll be exiting after both the swim and the bike.
As you can see, the main goal of transition is to fully prepare yourself for the next discipline of the triathlon in as little time as possible. The following gear can be extremely helpful in easing your time spent in transition and getting you back on the course quickly:
Race Belts: Designed to hold your race bib, these adjustable belts can be easily snapped around your waist after the swim. Some belts simply have snaps, clips, or lace locks for attaching the bib, while others also have loops to hold nutrition, like gels. For longer triathlons, store extra nutrition in your tri top's pockets or in a bike bag.
Elastic Laces: These laces replace regular shoelaces in your running shoes and are ideal because they don't need to be tied. Expandable elastic cords allow you to slip your shoes on quickly and easily, saving time and energy in transition. Because the laces are elastic, they can't come untied; this can prevent injury from tripping, or at the very least, ensure you don't waste time stopping to tie a shoe during the race.
Bike Pump: Many race organizers require you to drop your bike off in the transition area the night before the race. In this case, it's helpful to bring your own floor pump on raceday. It's risky and a little inconsiderate to rely on someone else to let you borrow theirs, so bring your own pump to top off the air in your tires before you head to the starting line. At this point, you should also double check that your bike is in a proper gear. You don't want to begin the bike leg in a gear that's too hard or too easy, and readjusting can waste time.
To help ensure a seamless transition on raceday, practice transitioning in advance. Lay out your gear and pretend you're running into transition after both swimming and biking. The more you practice, the more natural it will feel on raceday.