Practicing transitions requires more than just jumping off your bike and going for a run. To zip through transitions, you need to make them automatic, otherwise you'll burn up valuable time and energy on race day fretting over what to do and where to go.
In order to conserve as much energy as possible, you need a well-thought-out strategy to nail down all those little details that, if ignored, can turn into a nightmare on race day. This kind of preparation comes from a little pre-race research.
While you might not be able to nail down every last detail, there's a good chance you know more than you think. Hint: Emailing the race director with questions often helps. Here are a few tips to get you started:
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- Make a list: Write down what you'll need for the swim-to-bike transition and the bike-to-run transition. Put everything on the list you can think of; you can eliminate unnecessary items later.
- Write down race-day logistics: Are you able to walk to the transition area(s) from where you're staying or is there a drive involved?
- If there's a drive: Can you park near the transition area(s) or do you need to pack all your gear and walk, catch a shuttle, or ride your bike?
- Find out if your T1 and T2 areas are assigned or if it's first-come, first-served setup. If it's the later, you should probably plan to arrive early.
- Will you lay your gear out on the ground or do you put it in specific transition bags? Most World Triathlon Corp. (WTC) Ironman races and some 70.3 races give you specific bags for your bike and run gear. Note: If there are bags then make sure you tie them securely, yet in a manner where you can easily slip them open during the race.
- Practice setting up a transition area at home: Figure out how much time you need for setup. This might include pumping tires, and laying out your bike and run gear. Note: Be sure to give yourself some fudge time to account for unexpected delays.
- Determine if there is a single transition area: Sometimes T1 and T2 are in different locations.
- Visualize: Take note of all entrances and exits for the swim, bike and run legs of the race.
- Plan ahead: Find out where body marking takes place and decide if you will you do this step before or after you set up your transition area.
- Figure out how long it will take to get to the swim start from the transition area? At big races it can take 20 to 30 minutes just to funnel everyone over the timing mats.
Transition areas are frantic places on race morning. If you leave your plan to chance, and follow the "I'll just wing it" approach, that usually increases the craziness factor as you wander around stressing over where everything is. This wastes valuable energy as you pile on more anxiety to an already edgy situation.
When you use the tips above to create a transition strategy and take the time to visualize your transitions in the months leading up to the race, you'll show up on race morning with the extra peace of mind that comes from knowing you're prepared and ready for the day's challenges.
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