Newbie triathletes generally regard the transition area as a place to rest and regroup—a place to celebrate the completion of one leg of the race and prepare for the next.
Sometimes it feels like the gravity in transition areas is 10 times normal, with food, drink, sunscreen and friendly volunteers happy to chat. Out on the race course everybody is pushing forward in the same direction but in the transition area, athletes are milling around in all directions and the sense of racing can disappear.
How many hours of swim practice would it take to lop two minutes off your swim time? Probably hundreds, maybe even thousands. How many hours of transition practice would it take to lop two minutes off your transition time? Maybe only one!
Many triathletes are so focused on swim, bike and run splits that they forget the clock is still running in the transition area. Every second counts. Transition practice isn't as fun as running, but it is a good investment of your training time.
Triathletes looking to win need to shift their entire mental focus and integrate the transition seamlessly into their race. The transition is not a rest area but a place to speed in and out of, in the fastest time, with the least energy.
1. Practice Your Plan
Have a plan of exactly what you are going to do and practice it over and over again until you are fast with no mistakes. Practice it physically several times in training and then rehearse it mentally several times on race morning. By the time you are in transition on race day, you should be moving on autopilot. Never try something new on race day.
2. Be a Minimalist
The fewer tasks you have to do in the transition area, the faster you will go. Skip the socks and get rid of anything you don't absolutely need. Clutter will slow you down.
3. Bike Shoes in the Pedals
Coasting down the course at 15 mph while you put your feet in your shoes will move you far ahead of your buddy sitting on his butt in T1 doing the same task. Set your bike up in the transition area with your shoes attached to the pedals and rubber bands looped between the heels and frame, holding the shoes horizontal. On leaving T1, pedal with your feet on top of your shoes. Once you are cruising at speed, coast and slip your feet into your shoes. Keep your eyes ahead on the road, not down on your feet. On the return, slip your feet out of your shoes before you reach T2. Learn this skill first on an indoor trainer before taking it out on the open road.
4. Run With Your Bike
The distance from rack to mount line can be considerable at large triathlons. By running safely and quickly with your bike, it is easy to fly over this distance. Run upright with good form on the left side of your bike, holding your seat with your right hand. Your left arm swings by your side. Hold the bike upright to go straight and lean it to the side to turn. Practice in an empty parking lot.