Everybody focuses on swimming, cycling and running.  After all, that’s what you do on race day.  Some people also spend some time on strength training.  That’s a good idea, as it helps you keep your form and pace all the way to the end.  Plenty of athletes, too, pay attention to nutrition and recovery, because you only gain fitness when you recover from workouts (not while you are in your training session) and you need good nutrients to fuel that recovery.

So, what about transitions?  After all, all you are doing is just changing your shoes, hat and eyewear.

Okay, not exactly.  Transitions really matter.  If you can save one minute in your transition on June 10, if you are doing the sprint distance, that’s the same as running the 5k leg nearly 20 seconds per mile faster.  To a lot of athletes, that sounds like free speed—and it is.

At the Denver Triathlon, you will race through two separate transitions.  The transition area from the swim to the bike is along Sloan’s Lake.  You will exit the water, leave your swim gear in the corral and head out on the bike.  The bike course starts at Sloan’s Lake, and then it finishes at Mile High Stadium, a completely different location a couple of miles away.  That means you’ll need to be organized.  Here’s how to do it.

Step 1.  Organize your gear.  I like to lay out my swim, bike and run gear on the floor in the shape of a person.  Lay out your wetsuit, swim cap, goggles and lube for your neck.  Lay out your bike gear: shoes, socks (if you like), shorts, top, helmet, glasses (and gloves if you like).  Pin your race bib to your top or lay out your race belt with your bib attached.  Lay out your running gear: running shoes, ball cap, sunglasses.  Once you have all these figures arranged in the shape of a person, run down your gear checklist to see if you are missing anything, and fix up any omissions.

Step 2.  Pack your bags by transition.  Take everything you need for the first transition (T1) and put it in one bag.  Pack everything you need for T2, at Mile Hi Stadium, in a second bag.  You can also pack in this bag things you will need for after the race. You will have access to this bag after completing the bike leg and after crossing the finish line.

Step 3.  Practice your transitions.  On race day, set up your transition areas and walk through them a couple of times to make sure you will have smooth, unhurried but rapid transitions.  Walk from the water to your bike, make note of where it is at least a couple of times, then walk out through the exit to start the bike course.  Practice putting on your bike helmet, glasses and shoes a couple of times.  Before you get to T1 at Sloan’s Lake, you will set up T2 at Mile Hi Stadium.  Again, walk in through gate where you will finish the bike course, find your racking spot for your bike, then walk out through the “run out” gate.  Do this a couple of times to make sure you can find your spot in the heat of the moment.   Practice taking off your helmet, putting on your race bib, switching from bike shoes to running shoes.

Lots of athletes practice transitions during some training sessions.  It’s a really good idea.  Set up a pretend transition area and go a dress rehearsal once a week or so.  When you do your open water swim practices, do a couple of wetsuit removal  practices.  You don’t want to have to figure all this out on race day—you want it to be nearly automatic.

Now you are ready to have a great swim, bike and run experience, and gain all the free speed.  Good luck.  Go have your day.

Will Murray is a Denver Triathlon Brand Ambassador, a USA Triathlon Level 1 coach and co-author with Craig Howie of The Four Pillars of Triathlon: Vital Mental Conditioning Skills for Endurance Athletes.  For more techniques for great transitions, see Murray, Will and Craig Howie.  Free Speed from Quick Transition.  Tri-Magazine.net October, 2011, p. 70.  www.tri-magazine.net.

Dana Willett
3/27/2012 01:02:52 am

Excellent write-up, Will - this will be so helpful, especially for a race that has two separate transition areas.


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