Triathlons are a fast sport—athletes train hard to shave mere seconds off each discipline. Training entails endless laps in the pool, hours on the bike and miles of running.
However, there is one area that is frequently overlooked for shaving seconds, but is the fastest way to improve your overall time: Transitions.
If it takes you three minutes to tie your shoes, or if you get your foot stuck in your wetsuit, then that means all that hard work—shaving seconds or minutes off your swim, bike or run—has gone to waste.
There are some foolproof ways to ensure that your transitions are as fast as your running, biking and swimming.
- Apply BodyGlide — Rub down your body with BodyGlide or any anti-chafe product prior to putting on your wetsuit. Be sure to get all of the lower leg, arms and neck, as these areas are frequent problem spots. The extra lubrication will make it easier to pull the wetsuit off post-swim. You don't want to get stuck or waste time wrestling with your wetsuit.
- Never Sit Down — While you may sit down to put on your clothes at home, in a race it's a waste of time. Practice pulling your wetsuit off while standing. Once you get to your transition area, work the wetsuit down to your ankles, then step on the excess to pop your feet out.
- Use Triathlon-Specific Cycling Shoes — Why tie your shoes if you can Velcro them on? Triathlon cycling shoes should have one or two Velcro straps, as opposed to several straps on regular cycling shoes. Practice getting your biking shoes on quickly. Figure out if you need to hold the tongue or slide a finger in the heel. Once you get a few races under you belt, then you might be ready to mount and dismount the bike while leaving your shoes on the bike.
- Don't Wear Socks — There is no need for socks. Socks are traditionally worn to help reduce rubbing in your running or cycling shoes. However, in a race, getting a sock on an already clammy or wet foot could take some serious time. Rub BodyGlide, petroleum jelly or another anti-chafing product into your shoes before the race begins. This will help minimize chafing, blistering and hot spots, and will make sliding into your shoes that much easier. Who needs socks anyway?
- Try Speed Laces — Having spent time tying shoes, you know it can be a time-consuming process. Plus, when rushed, you could easily tie them too tight, too loose or have them come undone mid-run. Speed laces, which are elastic bands that serve as shoelaces, replace the tying process. Simply slide off the biking shoes and slide into your running shoes. This also eliminates the need to sit down and tie your shoes!
Andrew Kalley has been a USA Triathlon Level 2 coach at the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers since 2006. In addition to his coaching duties, Kalley is an accomplished athlete, taking second overall in the 2009 Mighty Montauk, winning the 2008 West Point Triathlon, finishing third in the 2010 South Beach Triathlon, and winning his division in the 2009 USTA Club Nationals. Kalley is a head coach and a leading competitor on the Full Throttle Endurance Racing team, guiding them to three USA Triathlon National Team championships and back-to-back victories at the NYC Triathlon Team Challenge.