fitness · racing · triathalon

In Transition: A Non-Expert Chimes in about T1 and T2

transition set-up, Kincardine Women's Triathlon 2014 -- running shoes, bike shoes, ball cap, bathing cap, socks, gel shots, bike helmet, race bib on belt, small towel, on a half towel beside my bike.
My transition set-up, Kincardine Women’s Triathlon 2014.
As Kincardine approaches, a couple of my friends who are doing a multi-sport event for the first time have asked me about the transitions. People spend a lot of time talking about multi-sport training, but I remember like it was yesterday when, two years ago in the lead up to my first triathlon (also the Kincardine Women’s Triathlon) it dawned on me that I needed to “set up” my transition area and I had no clue what that meant.

Enter a whole new thing to worry about.  So, in the hopes of fending off worries for some of the newbies out there, today’s post is about setting up the transition area and about managing the transitions as swiftly as possible (in relative terms — there will be nothing here about a running bike start in bare feet with the shoes already clipped into the pedals).

But before you get to the transition, it’s a good idea to have a checklist of what you need to pack. This one is liberally borrowed and adapted from a checklist that a friend of mine who joined a triathlon training group at our local Y gave me. I’ve added some of my own notes in square brackets and though I do not know who the author(s) of this document were, I am grateful to them for providing some guidance and for much of the content that follows (yes, I’m an academic).

For the swim: wetsuit [if you’re wearing one], goggles, swimsuit or triathlon suit, swim cap or race cap (in your race kit–you’ll only need both if the water is chilly), 2 towels (a set-up towel and a drying towel–[I have found that a small towel is good for drying]).  [Note: I also need very good ear plugs because excruciating ear aches took me out of swimming for a number of years until I discovered ear plugs for swimming.]

For the bike: bike [with adequately inflated tires], helmet, socks [if wearing], bike shoes [if clipless pedals, otherwise running shoes], sunglasses, shirt if you’re riding in a swimsuit, with race # pinned to the front [I recommend a race belt because ideally your number will be in the back for the bike, the front for the run], a pump, portable flat kit on the bike [assuming you know how to change a tire, of course, since it won’t do you a whole lot of good if you don’t know how to use it], full water bottle on the bike in your water bottle holder.

For the run: running shoes, hat

Also recommended: sunscreen (sport style), water, energy drink, banana and whatever other race nutrition you like to have on hand for pre- and post-race, as well as during, duffle bag or triathlon bag for carrying everything, jacket if it’s cold, body glide (for helping with the wetsuit and also for bike shorts chamois or other sensitive areas where you might get chafing)

Optional: race belt (attach number), quick-tie shoelaces, GPS watch, garbage bags in case of rain or wet ground [I also pack a shoe horn and it saves me time because I can pre-tie my running shoe laces]

Okay, so that’s what you need to bring. I have an excellent Zoot triathlon backpack style tri-bag for toting everything. It’s got multiple compartments including a special spot for the bike helmet and another for the wetsuit.

Now it’s when I saw that list that I started to panic. But maybe you’re one of those more reasonable people who can keep in mind that knowledge is power, and knowing what to pack puts you in a better position to handle race day well.

So, as promised, here are the goods on transitions, based on my limited experience over the past couple of years.

Set-up

1. When you get to the race, the first thing you will do is rack your bike. The racks are usually grouped by event (triathlon/duathlon) and by either bib number or age group/gender.  Find your rack and pick a spot. Hook your bike on the cross bar by the seat, and if there is a bike beside, hook yours in so it’s facing the opposite way (so you’re alternating sides of the rack and aren’t on top of each other during transitions).

Get a visual bearing on your location — both the location of the rack (e.g. fifth rack on the right as you come into the transition from the swim, lines up with the trash can over there) and the location of your bike within the rack (e.g. the first bike after the third post). Some people put something neon or otherwise distinctive on or near their bike so they can see it when they come in.

You also want to be clear before the race start exactly where you come in from the swim, where the bike exit is, and where the run exit is.

2. Fold your ground towel in half and lay it on the ground right beside your bike. Space is limited and you are expected not to take up a lot of space. If you look at the picture at the top of the post, that’s about all the space I had.

3. Place bike helmet, straps open and hollow side up, either on your handlebars or on the towel beside your bike, and put the sunglasses in the helmet with their arms open, ready to put on.

4. Water bottle on bike, full.

5. Shoes and socks on towel, laces undone and ready to put on (or, if you’re like me, laces done just how you want them, plus a shoe horn).

6. Shirt on towel with bib pinned to front OR if you’re wearing a suit have race belt ready with the bib number attached and the belt open, placed on your helmet or shoes.

7. Put your drying towel on the set-up so that it’s easy to grab when you get back from your swim.

8. Put your running cap or visor with your running shoes.

9. Race nutrition if needed should also be on the towel or already on your bike, ready to go. Sometimes I put an extra water bottle on the towel to grab a quick drink before heading out but I’m not sure that’s recommended since it takes up valuable transition time.

T1: Swim to Bike

1. As you’re coming out of the water, start running towards the transition. Put your goggles on your head (leave goggles and swimcap on so you have two free hands). Peel your wetsuit down to your waist. Finish taking it off when you get to your set-up. Leave it, cap and goggles on the ground beside your bike (not on the rack — that’s not allowed).

2. Step on towel to dry feet as quickly as possible (they don’t need to be perfect!) and then pull on your socks.

3. Put on your bike shoes (or running shoes)

4. Put on your t-shirt or, if wearing a tri suit, your race belt with number to the back.

5. Put on your sunglasses.

6. Don the helmet and do up the strap — you must not touch your bike until the strap is done up (doing so is grounds for disqualification).

7. Run with your bike to the “Bike Out” and when you get to the “mount/dismount line” (and not before!), cross the line, get on your bike, and ride as if someone is chasing you and you don’t want to get caught.

T2: Bike to run

1. Dismount at the dismount line (do not cross the line on your bike or you may be disqualified) and run with your bike back to your transition spot.

2. Re-rack the bike.

3. Remove your helmet (make sure you do this in the right order: re-rack the bike first, remove the helmet second)

4. Change your shoes if you’re wearing bike shoes

5. Switch your number to the front if you’re wearing a race belt

6. Grab your hat

6. Run out the “Run Out” chute. I find this is a good time to bring in positive self-talk, smile at people, and remind myself of my awesomeness for being out there and doing this!

Finish Line

The Y-group’s checklist and transition guidelines sheet says this about the finish line:

Big smile for camera and FANS You made it!! Enjoy the moment; congratulate yourself and your fellow competitors. You are now a Triathlete!

Yay you!

The finish line is for hugging friends and loved ones and fellow competitors, for photo-ops, for re-hydrating, and for finding some post-race food. At Kincardine, they always serve sausages, which, as a vegan, I don’t eat. But there is also a little snack hut on the beach and they make awesome fries. So that is my post-rate “nutrition” after Kincardine.

I hope this annotated overview helps to alleviate some stress for anyone who is doing a triathlon for the first time, including my newbie friends who are joining me at my favourite event of the season, The Kincardine Women’s Triathlon, Saturday, July 11th, 2015.

Other tips and suggestions are more than welcome! Please comment with them if you have experience to share! 

9 thoughts on “In Transition: A Non-Expert Chimes in about T1 and T2

  1. When I did triathlons, I had one of those plastic dish washing tubs for T1 that I would put some water in so I could dunk my feet and get sand & gravel off my feet before I got my socks & shoes on…it made a huge quality of bike difference and it only takes a moment to step in 🙂

    For laces, LocLaces (one brand) have a plastic slide so they don’t have to be retied. For me, I ended up using them for my everyday sneakers because my feet swell and the elastic in the LocLaces let my feet have room to swell & shrink without my shoes getting loose or cutting off circulation.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I used to have a separate water bottle for feet & face (I hated having a salty face) in transition for the same reason. If a bucket isn’t going to be a possibility, could be an option.

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  2. More Tips:
    1. Practice transitions, running up to your bike in your swim stuff and putting on your bike stuff, then jogging next to your bike, then mounting; coming off the bike after a hard ride and running next to it, then racking it, switching to running shoes, etc.
    2. Open the wrapper of your energy bar or gu or whatever before you go to the swim start. It’s hard to fumble with packaging with wet/sweaty hands.

    If you practice smooth transitions, you can save up to a minute or two which can make a big difference in your overall time, especially sprint triathlons.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s an awesome suggestion: practice. Also the tip about having open food available. The shorter the race the more important a good transition time is. Good point. Thanks for there suggestions.

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  3. I used to carry spray Pam with me instead of body glide. It was cheaper and worked just as well. Also, if you’re doing a longer event, make sure the water bottle is something you don’t mind tossing if you need to grab another full one along the way. And bringing some different shorts to hang out in after the race and prior to the awards ceremony was always a good idea. A wet bottom can breed all kinds of things as the day goes on….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, a change of clothes is a must. I’ve never heard of using Pam or of a toss-away water bottle for longer races. Do they actually give out full water bottles on longer courses? Thanks for these tips!

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  5. I love this- would’ve been a godsend before my first tri last year! I also have a washing up bowl, though I just use mine to dump my wetsuit hat and goggles into to keep it all together. If you place it behind your towel set up then its kind of under the crossbar of your bike so keeps it out of the way! I always put baby talc in my cycling and running shoes too to make them easier to get on with wet feet! x

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