Joe Deja shares some words of wisdom for effective and efficient ways of getting through transition during a triathlon. These come from his personal experiences and experiences as an observer.
- Less is better! Some races are different than others as far as how much is even allowed into transition. I’ve seen people bring in enough gear for an all-day outing, including coolers, buckets to wash their feet, 4 different size towels, pumps, large duffels, picnic lunches, etc. If race directors even allow that stuff, most of it is unnecessary and will get in the way of the individual racing and neighboring racers. I’d suggest the minimal amount of gear to keep it simple and clean. Typically there’s a bike shop with an aid station set-up for any bike repairs and air, so bringing in a bike pump isn’t really necessary either, It will get in the way and more than likely you’ll forget it after the race. You should be shooting for PR times in transition, as much as on the run, bike or swim.
- Rack to Race! Hang your bike by the seat and right before you leave transition to the start line, make sure you have clearance to pull it off fast!! Place your helmet so you can grab it easily but don’t balance it on the bike because I’ve seen helmets fly off from a neighboring racer pulling their bike out and knocking things around. Be respectful of your neighbor and if his/her stuff is too close, push it over near their bike not scattering in the middle of the aisle (even though you might feel like it, ha)
- Strip the suit – I think this one takes a lot of practice, I watch racers peel their wetsuits off like it’s nothing and others like me jump around like they’re in a wrestling match. (I’m not sure what the secret is on this one [The secret to this on at the Grand Rapids Triathlon is letting one of the awesome wetsuit strippers help you out of your wetsuit.]) All I can say is try to throw it where your bike was so that people don’t trip over it. If I’m working transition I’ll move it to the right spot if I see one laying in the middle, but some volunteers might throw it in the lost and found pile.
- Shed the pins! Definitely, use a belt for your race number, it’s easy, flexible and fast way to attach your number. Put it on as you’re moving. (Watch the pros sometime if you haven’t already.)
- Practice putting on shoes – As far as drying feet and putting on shoes and socks, practice that over and over. I notice that the fast racers quite often race without socks, so it’s easy to pull your shoes on fast! I personally like wearing socks but I could easily burn a minute or so getting them on and on right. I see a lot of racers spread out a small blanket and spend minutes drying and fixing their sock and shoes. If you don’t mind burning time, that’s fine, but it can get in the way of others trying to get around you on the ground.
- Bike shoes clipped or unclipped? – I usually see the fast guys and pro’s have the shoes clipped on the bike so that they put them on after they jump on the bike, some don’t, but it can be hard to run and slippery around any corners. I’ve helped many, many racers up of the ground and on their bike, after taking a spill. More time wasted!
- Helmets on – This one can be funny! My suggestion is to put your helmet on first thing, even before you suck down that gel, or pull the bike off the rack. I often have to stop racers from leaving because they forget their helmet. If your bike was parked at the opposite end of the transition that’s time wasted running back to get your helmet. Also, make sure it’s on the right way, you’d be amazed and entertained at the number of racers heading out of transition with their helmet on backward . . . and that includes aero helmets, now that’s just funny!
- Racking your bike after the bike section – Remember where you started, a lot of racers actually forget where they were racked, especially on the bigger races and start thinking about your transition as your running into the transition with your bike. Rack your bike by the seat again and if you like your bike don’t toss it against the rack from 10 feet out. Wow, I’ve seen racers literally throw their bikes at the rack, thinking it’s going to save time when they actually lose time, because they have to pick their bike and two of their neighbors, up off the ground. Position your small towel and running gear including your race belt with number under and slightly off to the side of your bike. Be careful not to put it too far out in the aisle because other racers will end up tripping over your gear and kicking it all over the place, where you’ll spend time looking for it.
- When you finish the race WAY before anyone else and come back into the transition after eating some burgers and fruit, be respectful of the people still racing. I’d have to say this is the most challenging times of the race whenever working transition, managing people leaving with bikes and gear while still supporting the slower racers coming through.
If I get back into racing Tri’s (which I plan to one of these years), I’ll spend more time practicing transitions, it IS the fourth discipline, and can boost your overall times!!
Just some thoughts from an observer!