Triathlon Tips: First Transition (T1)

Transitioning From Swim to Bike (T1)

Crossing the timing mat into T1.
Crossing the timing mat into T1.

This blog post is for both beginner and advanced triathlete.  The first part will explain absolute basics of the transition between swim and bike, and the second part will describe how to execute it with speed.

Part 1. Basics

Transition can be a confusing concept for the new triathlete.  Until you’ve seen it or done it once, you may not understand how it works.  For your first race, I strongly emphasize comfort and convenience over speed.  For a discussion on how to set up the transition area, check out this blog post.

The basic idea is to switch gears from a swimming mind set to a biking mind set.  Here are some general guidelines to follow:

  1. When exiting the water, start thinking about what you are going to do to get ready to ride your bike.
  2. Remind yourself of the landmarks you picked out to locate your bike.
  3. If you wore a wetsuit, unzip the suit and peel it down to your waist, BEFORE removing your cap and goggles.
  4. As you enter the transition area move directly to your bike.
  5. Most sprint and Olympic distance races won’t have changing tents, so you will have to either ride the bike in what you wore for the swim or put something over it. Just remember that it’s hard to put on clothing over a wet body.
  6. Peel the wetsuit so the neck is on the ground. With one foot, step on the wetsuit, and lift the other foot.  Do the same thing, alternating feet, until the wetsuit comes off.
  7. Cold weather options:
    1. dry off with a towel
    2. put on a bike jacket
    3. put on arm warmers
    4. put on leg warmers
  8. Put on the bike shoes (and socks if you want).
  9. VERY IMPORTANT: Put on the helmet and buckle it before you pick up your bike.
  10. Pick up your bike and walk/run it out of transition to the mount line.

It’s up to each athlete as to how they want to execute their transition and if you follow these general rules, you can do just about anything you want to make your T1 as smooth as possible.

  1. Never ride your bike in the transition area.
  2. Your helmet must be on your head and buckled before mounting the bike.
  3. In general, public nudity is not appreciated and may cause the race to lose support from the host community.
  4. Don’t litter.
  5. Respect other athletes’ transition areas. (e.g. Don’t throw your wetsuit on someone else’s shoes.)
  6. Be considerate of other athletes, race staff and, above all, the volunteers.
Grab the bike and go!

Part 2. Speed

Both T1 and T2 are great places to drop a few seconds, or even minutes, from your overall time: especially if your transition times don’t rank near the top.  The key to a fast transition is being prepared.  The entire process must be thought out long before the race begins.  This means that you need to have a plan and train yourself to make that plan work.  Your plan can be based on a combination of your experience and a little creativity.    My short video series, TriRiot Speed Tips, shows most of the things I do to make my transitions fast.  You can watch the whole playlist here or go to the TriRiot YouTube channel and choose which videos to watch.


As you develop a transition plan, consider the following:

  1. Identify all key phases or control points. For example, the timing mat at transition entrance reminds me to keep moving and not slow down.  Another control point for me is how the bike is racked.  I want it racked so I can remove it and replace it as quickly as possible.
  2. Develop a routine. Before you arrive at a race, you should already know what you need to do to get setup.
  3. Sacrifice comfort for speed. With the right shoes, you don’t need socks and even if it’s a bit cold out, you should resist the temptation to put on extra clothing in transition.
  4. Minimize the amount of equipment you bring in to transition.

I encourage you to watch the Speed Tip playlist on the TriRiot YouTube channel and I hope these suggestions help you in your next race.


Triathlon Tips: The Open Water Swim

The Open Water Swim

The vastness of the ocean, the speed of a river, or the stillness of a lake are all good reasons to enjoy an open water swim.  You can think of them as the original “endless pool”.  This blog post is for the new triathlete who might be a bit nervous about swimming in open water.

The Malibu Triathlon features a beautiful open water swim.

Because we’re talking about triathlon, our first inclination is to talk about speed, but speed is not the only concern in open water.  Safety is important too.   Although several volumes  can be written on open water swimming, here are just a few tips to help with both safety and speed.

Getting Into The Wetsuit

This is just a matter of convenience, but it will relieve a lot of stress for anyone struggling with their wetsuit.   The quickest and cleanest method is to use a plastic shopping bag over the hands/feet.  Don’t use any oils or sprays that might degrade the neoprene of the suit.

Guard The Goggles

Choose a style of goggles that is comfortable because you may be wearing them for 30 minutes or more without a break.   Of course, you want them tight enough so they don’t leak, but loose enough so you don’t cause discomfort.

Once you’ve found the right style, get in the habit of putting the goggles on BEFORE the swim cap.  This may not be practical for people with long hair who have to tuck their locks under the cap, but this order has a purpose.   Swimming with goggles is not necessary, but it helps tremendously with navigation and anxiety for those who are new to swimming.  Losing the goggles in the middle of a race can be quite traumatic so you should do whatever you can to protect them.  One of the simplest methods is to be sure the goggle straps are under the swim cap.  That way, if the goggles get knocked off, they are less likely to drift off or sink.  Which leads us into the next tip.

Don’t Fight The Crowd

If you are either a very strong swimmer, you have a lot of confidence in the water, or you are contending for the podium, then go ahead and fight the masses.  Otherwise, you should probably hang back and start out easy.

If you’re not familiar with a typical mass swim start, let me paint you a picture of an in-water start triathlon.  Your group is about to start

Mass swim start
Mass swim starts can be scary for the beginner triathlete.

the race and you are treading water in the middle of about 100 other athletes.  You are so close to them that you can feel their intensity.  When the canon roars or the air horn blows, all those athletes go from vertical to horizontal very quickly which means flailing arms are coming down on more than just water.  Elbows coming up can catch a jaw and hands coming down can smack a fellow athlete in the head.  It can get pretty nasty if you’re in the thick of it, but after a few hundred meters or so the mass of swimmers thins out enough that you can find your own space.

My advice to beginners is to hang near the back and count to 10 when the starting gun fires before swimming.  You’ll lose a bit of time at the beginning, but your stress levels will be so much lower.

Swim Straight

You can waste a lot of time by not swimming straight.  Not only do you waste time, but it’s very demoralizing to look up in the middle of the swim and realize that you are way off course.   Most races provide big, bright sighting bouys to help keep you on track, but they don’t work if you don’t look for them.

The first practice to keep you swimming straight is to slightly lift the head and look where you are going.  Although many beginners will stop swimming and tread water  every so often to navigate, sighting does not have to be so dramatic.  A slight lift of the head between strokes is all you need, but no matter how slightly you lift your head, sighting will slow you down (just a bit), because your legs may drop.

In general, the less frequently you lift your head to sight, the faster you will go.   You can’t eliminate sighting completely except at IRONMAN Lake Placid were you can follow the cable under the water (see my comment above about fighting the crowd).    However, you can shape up your stroke so that you naturally swim straighter which means you won’t have to sight as often.   The best way to do this is hire a swim coach.  To locate a good coach, you’ll have to ask around at tri clubs or among fellow athletes.

Getting Out Of The Wetsuit

This tip is not a matter of safety.  It’s a completely a matter of speed. Getting out of the wetsuit can be a huge time waster.   Spend a little more time in the water by removing the suit before you get out.  When you run to transition in the wetsuit, the water between the neoprene and your skin runs out which makes for a very difficult removal.

Be Safe And Have Fun

Reading a blog post isn’t going to make you good swimmer in the open waters, so put on your goggles and a brightly colored swim cap and get out there.  Safety should be your first concern so get with a training group or with some friends who have experience and have some fun.

See you at the races.

Triathlon Tips: Prerace Warmup

Prerace Warmup

Let’s keep it simple: being successful is accomplishing a goal that means something to you.

Time to Wake Up!

You’ve  picked up your packet, set up your transition area, said hello to your friends and scoped out the competition.  It is now time to focus on preparing your body for the beating it is about to endure. It’s time to warm up.

Why Bother?

The human body is a complex machine that has developed over millions of years of evolution.  (If you are a creationist, please put your own spin on this.  The general message applies just the same. ) Throughout human existence, aerobic and anaerobic exertion of the muscles have saved our species from extinction.  However, muscles can not simply perform amazing feats of strength and endurance without preparation.

Why?, you ask.

The answer is simple.  The human body is not a battery and motor.  It is a complex system of gooey, mushy tissues that are fed by blood vessels and activated by nerves.  Muscle cells, like all other cells, require oxygen and a fuel source (think carbs, fats, glycogen, etc.).  Both must be mobilized and different sources of fuel are mobilized at different rates.  Warming up begins the process of mobilizing the fuel and oxygen.

What the Experts Recommend

DISCLAIMER:  This author is not an expert in exercise physiology (or anything else for that matter!).  

One of my favorite books on triathlon training is Joe Friel’s book, “The Triathlete’s Training Bible”.  From pages 135 to 137 of the second edition book, Friel describes in excellent detail the warm up process.

He recommends spending about 15 minutes for each sport during the warmup process.  And you have to do it backwards!  So that’s a total of 45 minutes in your warm up routine starting with running and ending with swimming.

What I Do That Works For Me

I agree with all that rational about warming up and the effect it has on the body.  However, I don’t spend 45 minutes at it.  I’m not saying that it shouldn’t be done.  I’m just saying that I don’t do it.    Here’s my typical warm up routine:

LG's Warm Up Routine

TimeWarm Up Activity
5 min.Stretch the legs with active stretching.
10 min. (max)Run out on to the run course. Start EZ and build to a zone 2. Add a couple of quick pickups to open up the legs.
5 min.Stretch the arms in preparation for swimming.
10 min.Swim EZ and build to race pace then just relax in the water (treading water or sitting).

For an open water swim, It is best to first warm up at the swim exit point and then warm up at the swim entrance point.  That’s not always possible as is the case with Ironman 70.3 North Carolina where the swim exit is not accessible before the race.    However, at

Swim exit at White Lake
Swim exit for the White Lake races.

most races, it is possible to swim from the exit to the last turn or marker buoy and back.  This will do the muscle warm up and will show you what to look for as you are finishing your swim.   Things to look for are landmarks for swimming straight and uneven sand drifts or rock beds for when you stand up.

My warm up routine does not include the bike unless I have time.  If I arrive at the race extra early, I’ll warm up on the bike before I set up my gear in transition.   My bike performance is rarely the best in my age group, but I don’t believe that it has suffered from a lack of warm up.  The most important warm up for me is the swim, the swim is my warmup for the bike ride.

Mental Preparation

I agree with the experts that a physical warmup is necessary for optimal performance.  I also believe that you have to be in the right frame of mind when you begin a race.

If you start the race with a pissed off frame of mind, you are setting yourself up for failure.  On the other hand, if you start with an outlook of excitement and gratitude, you’re likely to have a great race regardless of your performance.

Find What Works for You

You have to find what works best for you, because the main goal is to arrive at the start line feeling relaxed, confident, and ready to perform.

See you at the races.

Triathlon Transitions: Lost in Transition

Lost In Transition

Put some thought into your transition

Lake Placid Transition Area
Ironman Lake Placid is one of my favorite transition areas.

The Problem

You just had an incredible swim.  In fact, it was your best swim time ever.  Your mind is full of congratulatory thoughts which explains the big grin on your face as you run into the transition area.  You turn off the main aisle into a rack of bikes only to discover that you turned down the wrong rack.  You look around and realize that you have no idea where your bike is!

Thankfully this scene is not too common, but it does happen.  It’s actually quite funny to watch, but it’s not funny if you are the athlete searching for your bike.

Here are five habits to learn and practice at every race so you don’t get lost in transition.

Mentally Prepare

As you get close to the end of the swim, take a few seconds to think about what you are going to do between swim exit and your bike. About 10 seconds is all it takes to visualize:

  1.  Getting out of the wetsuit.
  2.  Taking off the cap and goggles.
  3.  Running to your bike.
  4.  Putting on the helmet.

This simple trick will jolt your mind back to the big picture of the race and remind you of things you probably forgot while you were getting beat up in the swim.

The remaining four habits need to be practiced before the race begins.

Walking the Transition Area (TA)

Be sure to arrive at the race venue a bit early so you have time to

Bike In
Before the race, get to know the transition area from end to end.

wander around the transition area after you’ve racked your bike.  This practice will help you understand the challenges in the TA.  As you travel from one end to the other, be sure to note the following:

  1. All entrances and exits.
  2. The designed flow from swim to bike out and bike in to run out.
  3. The location of the bike mount line.
  4.  The number of aisles that span the length of the TA.
  5. Obstacles in the aisles.  For example, the Malibu Triathlon TA is in a parking lot and has a huge median or concrete curb in the middle.
  6. Bike mechanic location (if there is one).
  7. Posters, billboards, light poles, trees, or any other permanent structures.  This is how you will orient yourself and navigate through the sea of bikes and athletes when you’re in a hurry.

In the larger races, like the Chicago Triathlon, there will be several routes to get to your bike rack.  Pick a primary route and a secondary route just in case the primary route resembles traffic on an L.A. freeway.

While you’re walking around, visit with some of the other athletes.  It helps to calm the nerves and will help you get comfortable with the transition area.  You might make some new friends too.

Permanent Landmarks

Use permanent structures like a tree to identify your location in transition

Back at your bike rack, look for some permanent markers that indicate where you are located relative to the exits and entrances.  The best markers are light poles, trees, buildings, walls, fences, etc.  These things don’t move.  Trucks can and probably will move so don’t rely on using trucks or cars to locate the bike.

Counting Racks

The best way to locate a bike is the same way a computer locates a file on your hard drive: counting.  OK, so that analogy is weak, but counting racks is the method I use most often when a TA is organized in a rectangle: which most are.

Starting from the swim-in point, jog to your rack counting all racks that you pass.  Do the same thing from the bike-in point.   Keep those two numbers in your head and, if necessary, write them  on your arm with a permanent marker.

Balloons And Markers

Finally, you can put some kind of bling bling, get-your-attention marker on the end of your rack.  Some people use helium balloons.  Others use bright pieces of cloth tied to the rack.  You could even stretch a brightly colored swim cap on the end of the rack.

There is a downside to relying on these markers.  You may be overwhelmed by the number of balloons and things marking the bike racks if too many athletes do this.  All those markers may blend into one unsightly mess, especially if five other racks have the same colored piece of cloth hanging on the end.

If you need a big visual cue to locate your bike and the race allows it, be sure to get a helium filled mylar balloon in a shape that no one else would dare use: red hearts and yellow emojis are too common.

Put A Little Thought Into Your Transition

If speed is not your main concern, then be sure to soak up the atmosphere on the way to your bike.  You might see some interesting things like athletes struggling to put tight stretchy shirts on their wet bodies. Hint: it’s harder to do than you think.

But if you want to get in and out as fast as possible, prepare your entrance into and escape from TA with as much detail as you can.  If you use a combination of the practices mentioned here, you won’t lose time looking for your bike.

See you at the races.

Triathlon Transitions: How To Prep The Bike

How To Prep The Bike

Put some thought into your transition

It’s All About Speed

The transition area is a back hole of speed.   It begs you to slow down and take a rest before that nasty long run.  It’s Siren call draws you in to the comfort of a warm towel after a cold swim and invites you to sit down to take off the wetsuit or put on the shoes.

If you want a fast race time, you have to train yourself to ignore the temptation to slow down in transition.   One way to do that is to prep the bike before the race with all your bike gear.

Put It On The Bike

In a previous post, I went on and on about having a clean space next to the bike.  That’s because everything for the bike ride goes ON THE BIKE.


Clip the shoes into the bike and hang the heels with rubber bands on the rear quick release and on the front derailleur.  The down side of this is running barefoot through transition but you’ve probably already been running barefoot from the swim.   The upside to this is that you can run barefoot through transition and avoid your bike cleats slipping on the pavement or concrete.  Here’s a video to help describe how to prep the bike with the shoes:

Helmet, Gloves, Glasses, …

The rest of your gear goes on the bike too.  Hang all of it on the handle bars or aero bars.  Here’s another video:

If you think you might use arm warmers, roll them up so they can easily slide onto your wrist,  then put them on the aero bars.  When you are ready to use them, put them on like a bracelet and unroll them up your arms (one at a time, of course).

For most athletes, the bike computer is already on the bike.  And that’s actually faster than what I do.  I have problems seeing the computer so I wear the computer on my wrist like a watch.  If you’re interested in doing that, here’s a link to another video of a bike computer hack that I made:

push button - play video

Be Careful

With everything hanging on the bike, your transition area should like like this…

keep the mat tidy by hanging all bike related stuff on the bike
Only the absolute essentials should be placed on the transition mat.

You don’t have to do this next step, but I’m a big believer in it.

Put on all your bike equipment after you’ve mounted the bike and are riding down the road.

The only thing you put on before mounting the bike is the helmet.

WARNING:  This is really dangerous if you haven’t practiced it.  Even if there were no other cars or athletes on the road, you could easily lose your balance trying to put on the gloves at 16+mph.  Add the cars and cyclists to the mix and you’ve got to be steady.

If you practice many times in a safe environment, it will become habit and save you seconds, possibly minutes, in T1.

Put A Little Thought Into Your Transition

The advice here is just suggestion.  Your situation could differ.  For example, you might not need gloves or you might use running shoes and cages on the bike.  Whatever your situation is, analyze the entire process of moving through transition.  If you breakdown the process in this way you will see all the critical points where you could save time.  Then you can decide what is best for your race.

And if speed isn’t your thing,  I hope some of what’s written here will help you realize greater enjoyment from your triathlon experience.

See you at the races.

Triathlon Transitions: Design Your Personal Space

Design Your Personal Space

Put some thought into your transition

Mark Your Territory

Your little plot of real estate within the greater transition area is sacred ground.    This includes your section on the bike rack and a little bit of ground next to the bike tire.   If all athletes respect each other’s borders, peace and harmony will abound.    Disrespect these boundaries and you might witness an exchange of heated words or worse.  Chicago Triathlon 2009:  she moved her stuff into his area and they almost came to blows.  (And that fight would have been hard to call!)

A clean and well organized transition area will help you get in and out as fast as possible.  Don’t be messy with your triathlon transitions.


There is only one thing you need to mark your space: a mat.  Most

Personal transition space
Transition spaces can be marked with s simple towel
Transition space
A crate or box can be handy to hold your gear and mark your space.

people use an old towel.  A small towel is all you need.   Others use crates or buckets or some combination of towels and buckets.  If you want to get fancy, you can buy a special mat made just for triathlon transitions.  It’s not necessary to buy a special mat, but the neoprene types are handy because they don’t scrunch up like a towel and they dry quickly.

The neoprene mats are durable and dry quickly

They make great gifts too.

By placing the mat on the ground next to your bike, you establish property lines.  Within those lines, you can do pretty much anything you want.

Keep It Clean

Transition is a dead spot.  It’s where most people slow down, because they are gathering their thoughts, putting shoes, drying off.  I even know people who have fallen asleep in transition on longer races!

If speed is your goal, the transition area should be a speed boost.  Every thought and action should be well rehearsed and planned out so you get in and out as fast as possible.  One minor thing that helps with this goal is to keep the area around your bike as clean as possible.  DO NOT CLUTTER THE AREA WITH THINGS YOU WON’T USE.

keep the mat tidy
Only the absolute essentials should be placed on the transition mat.

As you walk around the transition area, take a look at other personal spaces.  See what others are using to hold their gear and how much junk they put on the mat or in their box.

Transition spaces
Buckets work well for carrying your gear and if necessary sitting down to put on shoes.
Messy transition space
Whatever you use to mark your space, just keep it clean and tidy.

Whatever system they use may work for them, but the fastest way to find your gear when you are in a hurry is to have the least number of choices and decisions.  A clean and tidy area will help with that.

The Bare Maximum

Don’t put any more than this on your mat unless you like clutter:

  1. Run Shoes
  2. Number belt

Bike shoes (if you use them) and helmets should go on the bike if you’re advanced, otherwise they can go on the mat.  If you wear socks, put them in the shoes with the ankles rolled down.

Put A Little Thought Into Your Transition

With a little foresight and practice, your transitions will be lightning fast.  The main point here is to train yourself to not slow down.  Do whatever you have to do to get through T1 and T2 as fast as you can while being considerate of the other athletes around you.

See you at the races.


Triathlon Transitions: How To Rack Your Bike!

How To Rack Your Bike

Put some thought into your triathlon transitions.

Lake Placid Transition Area
Ironman Lake Placid is one of my favorite transition areas.

Why Bother With Such Detail?

Your little plot of real estate within the greater transition area is sacred ground.    This includes your section on the bike rack and a little bit of ground next to the bike tire.   If all athletes respect each other’s borders, peace and harmony will abound.    Disrespect these boundaries and you might witness an exchange of heated words or worse.  Chicago Triathlon 2009:  she moved her stuff into his area and they almost came to blows.  (And that fight would have been hard to call!)

But the main reason to fuss over the bike rack is speed.  A clean and well organized transition area will help you get in and out as fast as possible.  Don’t be messy.

What To Do With Your Gear

Obviously, the bike goes on the bike rack.  Some races specify an exact location on the rack.  Others just designate a rack for a range of race numbers and it’s up to the athletes to place their bikes in a civilized manner.  Be courteous here, because this is where everyone establishes their boundaries.

Specific Locations

If your race requires you to rack your bike in a specific location on

Some races tell you exactly where you have to rack your bike.

the rack, there’s no strategy here.  There’s nothing you can do to gain a position advantage.  If you get stuck against the fence… so be it.  That just means you have to make up precious seconds elsewhere.  It’s not the end of the world.

Anywhere On The Rack

Other races expect you to place your bike in any position on a rack

Some races just assign racks a range of bib numbers.

or set of racks.  Each rack has a range of bib numbers and as long as your bib number is within that range, you can park anywhere on the rack.


Now we’ve got a little strategy to work with!

The most desirable spot on the rack is closest to the aisle and pointing toward the bike exit.  The least desirable spot is the opposite: against a fence pointing away from bike exit.

General Rule

Rack the bike by the tail of the saddle if you have that option.  If you’re not sure what I mean, have a look at the picture above of the red saddle at position 216.   See how easy it is to just lift the bike and GO!

If you do have that option, never –

and I mean NEVER

– rack the bike by the nose of the saddle.   Most people who rack the bike by the

Racking your bike by the nose of the saddle means you have to pull the bike under the rack to get it out.

nose of the saddle take much longer to get out of transition.  If you do, you’d better have a good reason because it’s a big time waster.

Some athletes are more comfortable racking their bikes by the handlebars.


So what are you supposed to do if your saddle is not designed to be racked by the tail?  Rack it by the handlebars… if you can.




Some bikes don’t have saddles or handlebars that fit into my neat little strategy.  In that case, you will have to rack by the nose of the saddle.   Sorry 🙁


Put A Little Thought Into Your Transition

With a little foresight and practice, your transitions will be lightning fast.  The main point here is to train yourself to not slow down.  Do whatever you have to do to get through T1 and T2 as fast as you can while being considerate of the other athletes around you.

See you at the races.

How To Prepare for a Triathlon

How To Prepare for a Triathlon

A long winded explanation of what to do the day before a race

Six Things To Help You Get Ready

There’s no way that reading this is going to completely settle your nerves or get you feeling perfectly ready, especially if this is your first race.    Even experienced triathletes do stupid things like:

  1. forget to bring their bike to the race.
  2. wear see-through tri shorts.
  3. lose their goggles.
  4. get lost on the bike course
  5.  …you get the idea!

There are so many things to talk about, like what NOT to eat the night before the race or how to taper.  This post will just focus on the little things that will help you get ready for the big day.

1. Packing List

Use a packing list, even if you’re not traveling out of town.  Here’s a standard  packing list that has saved my butt many times.  Here’s a link to that list (PDF).   Use it or make your own.  Review it a couple of days before the race in case you need to purchase items like tubes or CO2.

2. Your Kit

That’s athlete talk for what you’re going to wear.   Decide several weeks before the race on two alternatives: cold weather and hot weather (and wet weather if you want a third alternative).

  1. One piece tri suits are popular, but are uncomfortable for some people.
  2. Some tri tops have short sleeves, many don’t have sleeves at all.
  3. Running shorts?  It’ll slow you down in transition, but may make for a more comfortable run.
  4. How about socks?  Many athletes don’t wear them for the shorter races.

Make some purchases early on in the season so you can train with each alternative and get to know your kit.

3. Ziploc Bags

I know… Ziploc is a trademark, but you know what I’m talking about.  Use four of them.

  • Bag 1.  Swim cap, goggles, plastic shopping bag for putting on the wetsuit (here’s a video of that), other swim specific items.
  • Bag 2. Bike computer, gloves, glasses, dry bike nutrition (bars, powder, etc), electrician’s tape, DZNuts.
  • Bag 3.  If you’re still with me here, you’re thinking run stuff: socks, visor/cap, number belt, run nutrition (gels, chews, etc).
  • Bag 4. General purpose stuff: body glide, moleskin, ID, USAT card, chap stick, more gels.

4. Transition Bag

There are some big-ass transition bags out there.  You could fit my 4’10” coach into some of them!  Use the smallest bag that will hold all your equipment.  The night before the race, it should hold:

  1. The four Ziploc bags.
  2. Transition matt or towel.
  3. Bike shoes.
  4. Run shoes (if you’re not going to wear them on your way to the race).
  5. The helmet can be slung on the outside of the bag.
  6. Wetsuit (if using one) and plastic bag for bringing home the wet wetsuit.

Maybe I’ve left out something here, but you get the idea.  Don’t overload it.  There won’t be much space in transition for all the stuff you want to bring “just in case”.

5. Know the Course

Study the bike and run courses before the race: especially if it’s a long or ultra course race.  People do get off course and most of them are not too happy about it: especially when they are told that it’s their own fault because they didn’t know the course.   Believe me.  It happens more often than you think.

6. Visualize the Race

Once you know the course, you can visualize it.  I try to do this for every race from sprint to ultra.   Here’s how to visualize your race:

  1. Get comfortable, but not too comfortable. No sleeping.
  2. Close your eyes and imagine yourself standing at swim start so you can actually see everything around you in your mind.   The more detail, the better.  Feel the air on your skin.  Hear the announcer blathering on about the sponsors.
  3. Imagine the swim start with the same level of detail.  Are you bumping into others?  Are you breathing to the left or the right?  Are you breathing at all?
  4. Go through the whole race as you would want to race it. Imagine the bike. Imagine T1, T2, and the run.  Make it perfect.  In fact, you should take first place overall.  Imagine what it will feel like to cross the finish line.
  5. Now do it all over again from the beginning, but this time imagine everything that could go wrong and how you are going to overcome it.
    1. Panic in the swim -> count strokes, sing a song, yell into the water (that wastes energy but sometimes it helps me).
    2. Wetsuit won’t come off in transition -> backup and take it off in the water (you’re imagining this so anything is possible).
    3. Flat tire on the bike -> note to self: learn how to change flat before race day.
    4. Cramping on the run -> focus on relaxing, drink water, drink electrolytes, backup and drink a little more on the bike, ice your muscles.

Visualization is not easy because in the middle of imagining the swim your mind is likely to drift off somewhere far away from your race.  Just bring your thoughts back to where you left off and keep going.  Don’t give up until you finish the whole race.

Now Go to Bed and Rest

Don’t expect to get a good night of rest before a race if it’s your first. If it’s your 100th race, and you still get excited the night before, then you are a real triathlete and you probably love the sport as much as I do.

Just do your best to get some sleep. The more you prepare in the days leading up to the race, the earlier you will get to bed.  Disciplined preparation also sets the mind at ease knowing you’ve done everything ahead of time.

Good luck and see you at the race.

Preparing For The Bike To Run Transition

The Bike To Run Transition Is Not A Rest Area

rest area sign

When I started racing in triathlon, I used to come in from the bike ride and fumble around with my shoes, grab my hat, my number belt, my glasses, my watch and then stand by my bike while I made sure that I had everything.   It didn’t take me too many races to realize that I was throwing away 15 to 30 seconds in T2.

For those of you not familiar with triathlon, T2 is the bike to run transition.  I’m sure you’ve figured that out by now :-).

Anyway, my current strategy is to prepare EVERYTHING before the race so all I have to do is:

  1. rack the bike
  2. remove the helmet (which gets unsnapped as I’m running from the dismount line.)
  3. put on the shoes
  4. grab my run gear
  5. GO!

I don’t wear socks on shorter races which is any race with a 10k run or shorter.  That’s a big time saver.  I talked more about socks in this other blog post.   So the key to my speed through T2 is the gear “bag.”   Sometimes it’s not even a bag if I’m only taking a number belt and a hat.

Put It On Running

Starting the run.
Starting the run.

The gear “bag” method makes a fast transition, because all I have to do after my shoes are on is grab ONE thing.  I put on everything as I’m running.

For longer races, I actually put a few things into a bag like lip balm and gels.  I put those items into my suit pockets as I’m running.  At the first water station, the empty bag gets dumped in the trash unless I think I’m going to need it for holding ice later on.

A Word About The Shoes

Triathlete tying shoes
Tying shoes takes up way too much time.

Here’s something I did not mention in the video.  I don’t mess around with tie up laces.  They are so “yesterday” if you know what I mean.  Instead, I use speed laces like Yankz, because it’s so easy and quick to get the shoes on. But you can’t just buy speed laces the day before the race and expect everything to be fine. This is something you really have to practice for the sake of adaptation.

Yankz laces
Yankz laces

Speed Tip #13. The Video

I hope this help you with your races and may your bike to run transition be as fast as ever.