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Triathlon Transitions

We asked a couple Team SKORA members about their triathlon transition zones. Here's what they had to say!

Swimming, cycling, running.
Adam Sierakowski, Baltimore

Those three disciplines take years of devotion to master, but we triathletes must remember that there is one additional discipline that can also make or break our race: the transitions.

In races where every second counts and we work so hard to ensure that everything goes off without a hitch, we must not neglect the time we spend switching disciplines.

Transitions are all about being quick. I want to maximize the amount of time spent moving forward on the course with two rules when it comes to transition zones:

Here's how I plan and set up my transition zone for a race:

Keep it simple
I am admittedly a transition minimalist. I've seen some athletes set their transition zone up with everything but their kitchen sink (though I have a feeling if they could get running water piped out there, they'd bring the sink too). In order to minimize the amount of time I have to spend standing still, I strive to minimize the number of tasks that I must complete between legs.

For T1, the transition from swim to bike, I attach my cycling shoes to my bike before racking it. This way I can jump on my bike and go as soon as I get out of the transition zone, riding on the course while tightening my shoes. Aside from that, my T1 is bare: my helmet sits on my handlebars with my sunglasses inside.

For T2, the transition from bike to run, I loosen my cycling shoes while approaching the transition zone, swing my leg over, and come off the bike at a comfortable run pace. I leave my shoes attached to the bike and swap my helmet for my running shoes and race number.

That's it! To recap, in T1 I have:
Sunglasses
Helmet
Bike + shoes
In T2:
Running shoes
Race number belt
By keeping it simple, I make sure to spend as little time as possible standing still.

Practice, practice, practice
We practice swimming, cycling, and running all the time, but I believe many people neglect to practice their transitions. The perfect time for practicing transitions is when cutting back on mileage and intensity in the week before a race. I make sure to put in a workout that contains a handful of repetitions of both transitions before every race. I go to a park, set up my transition zone, walk away, and then run through the motions:

Run to transition zone
Drop swim cap & goggles
Sunglasses on
Helmet on
Grab bike, run with it, then mount
Tighten shoes while riding
Then I ride a kilometer or two before simulating T2:
Loosen shoes and put feet on top of them
Slow down, swing leg over, dismount, and run to transition
Rack bike
Helmet off
Shoes on
Grab race number belt and buckle it while starting the run
Then I run a few hundred meters. I never wear socks while running (even while training) because I want to avoid surprising my feet on race day and causing blisters. Of course, the insides of the SKORA Base and Form shoes in which I race and train, respectively, are so well designed that blisters are hardly a concern to begin with.

I repeat this process about five times depending on what kind of distance I'm trying to accumulate, making sure to repeat the transitions exactly the same way every time.

The goal is to leave nothing to think about during the race: you want it to be automatic. By keeping your transition zone set up simple, you minimize the amount of time spent standing still during the race. You also prevent yourself from forgetting anything because there's no extra gear that you intend to leave behind to clutter the area. By practicing the transitions over and over again, you know exactly what to do when you get there, further helping to ensure you remember everything you need. When you've practiced your transitions enough to be able to visualize exactly what you need to do without having the gear in front of you, you're well on your way to making your transitions as efficient as possible. To maximize your forward progress in a race, keep your transition zone simple and practice your transitions often.

What I keep in my Transition area and why?
Jared Fayer, New York

When it comes to Triathlon transition and what to keep in your own area, my feeling is less is more.

When you start to put too much in their transition area a few things happen. One is that everything you need gets too cluttered. You start having things in there that you aren’t going to use and this takes up space for the items that you actually do need. The second thing is that you piss off everyone around you who has to share this area. Unless you have your own designated area or bags to keep your transition gear in, the transition area is community property so if you are “that guy” taking up to much space, you are bound to get dirty looks from your fellow competitors and possibly your stuff moved “by accident” when you aren’t there.

As for what I keep in my transition area, it’s pretty simple. I put everything is the same place for every race I do. You could take a picture of my transition area for every race I do and the only way you would know which race it is is by the race bib with my number on it. This allows you to get familiar with your set up and keep everything consistent.

Here’s my list in order from the back to the front:

2 white towels to put everything on, and an orange ShamWow for the front of the toweled area to put my feet on when I come back in the transition zone
-Running shoes
-Socks- optional depending on how far the run is
-My race belt with number on top of my left shoe
-A piece of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum on top of my right shoe
-Extra Gel sitting towards the heel of my left shoe

Those items are on the floor ready for me to pick up and roll coming off the bike.

As for what’s on my bike set up when I come out of the water:
-Aero Helmet sitting upside down on my aerobars on my bike
-Sunglasses opened and upside down in my helmet ready to be put on
-Stick of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum sitting in helmet half opened so I can put it in my mouth quickly.
-Triathlon specific cycling shoes already attached to pedals so I can grab my bike and go without wasting time.

Other miscellaneous items that I have depending on the distance of the race:
-Body Glide
-Different tinted sunglasses
-Water bottle with only 4 ounces in and already mixed in Crystal Light Energy

Some recommendations that I have for triathletes:
-Practice, practice, practice your transition. This is the easiest way to shave some time off your race. I have a friend who during every race he does this out of the water…spends about a minute trying to get his wetsuit off, sits down on the ground to put his socks on then cycling shoes, takes a drink of water, gets up, grabs his helmet to put it on then his bike. His average transition time is just over 4 minutes. Even during a sprint race. He could easily shave time off his transition time by just spending an hour or so practicing what he needs to do. So practice your transition. Do a few dry runs leading up to your races and see what works best for you. If it becomes second nature to you during training, it will be just as fast during the race.
-Don’t overcomplicate things. The less you have in your transition, the quicker you’ll be. If you have more than necessary you’ll be tempted to want to use what’s there. So only include what you absolutely need.
-If you’re going to wear socks and have to put them on, set them up in your shoes already and have them rolled up so all you have to do is slide your foot in. Don’t leave the sock flat on the ground. So many things can happen to them this way, plus it’s a lot easier to put for your foot in an already rolled up sock than a flat one.
-If you can do it on the move, then do it. For example, when you put your race belt on do it while you already started the run. Don’t sit in transition to put your race belt on wasting precious time. Anything you can do while moving will save you time, and ultimately that’s what we all want.
-Learn how to do a flying mount. Have you ever seen a big crowd at the bike mount line where all athletes are standing over their bike trying to clip in and blocking the path? One way to overcome this is to already have your shoes clipped in your bike so you can grab your bike, run past the bike mount line and jump on your bike and strap your feet in while you’re already moving. This will save you at least 2 minutes over the course of the race and will get you in front of that big pile up near the bike mount line. Same thing for coming off the bike. Learn how to dismount while still moving, so you can jump off your bike, run to rack it and grab your shoes and go. You should practice this a lot. It takes a while to learn how to jump on and off your bike without falling, so if you haven’t tried it and perfected it, don’t do it.

With all of that said think of the transition area as part of the race. If you view the area as a break between the swim to bike then bike to run, then you will sit there and relax in the transition area. But the transition area is part of the race. View it as that. Try to get in and out as fast as possible. It’s a race, and the fastest person wins. Let that be you.

Run Real Everybody!

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