Athlete Guide

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.

Triathlon Club

Trent Hayden has been working on putting together a triathlon club for the Cape Fear region here in SE North Carolina.

There are plenty of sources for training, but not many social outlets for athletes who are unaffiliated.  I think this could be a great asset to the multisport community in our area by boosting participation in the local endurance sport scene (training, retail, etc).

First meeting
First meeting of the Cape Fear Multisport Project


Reasons To Race

Season Opener

This year’s season opening race for me is the Azalea Triathlon in Wilmington, NC.  It’s a short sprint that can be done in about an hour or less.  This year it is a remarkable race for two reasons.

I Have Two Reasons To Race

Reason One

The race date is March 11, 2017.  For many Americans, that date doesn’t mean too much.  September 11 is usually more meaningful. However, it was on March 11, 2004 that Madrid, Spain suffered its worst terrorist attack in modern history.   The train station bombings left 197 dead and almost 2000 injured.   Events like this affect me deeply and I want to show Madrid that there are people around the world who care.  I will commemorate the event during the Azalea Triathlon by wearing a symbol of 11-M (the 11th of March).  One small symbol will be painted on my left calf and another will be on the back of my number belt.

11-Madrid. One of my reasons to race this week.
A symbol of the March 11th, 2004 train bombings in Madrid Spain

Reason Two

My goal with the TriRiot webshow and blog is to inspire others to join an active lifestyle and discover that “finish line feeling”.   One of my coworkers will be racing in his first triathlon this weekend.  I’m happy to have trained with him and excited to find out what he thinks of triathlon after the race.    But there’s something more amazing in this story beyond one person beginning their journey into the endurance lifestyle.  This coworker I’m talking about lost 180 pounds in the last 18 months.  Two years ago, he said he wanted to do this very race.  For him it started with a dream and soon it will be a reality.

Anything is possible.  It took triathlon to make me believe that and through triathlon, I keep seeing it over and over.

Coffee and Doughnuts

Not Your Normal Training Diet

After a tough swim workout, it’s OK to celebrate National Doughnut Day.  Even if the real Doughnut Day is three months off!

As a triathlete, I’m not used to so much caffeine and sugar.

Wild Horses And Endurance

With Wild Horses?

Riding wild horses border to border.
Ben Masters knows mustangs

There’s a guy named Ben Masters who is not a triathlete and  he probably wouldn’t call himself an athlete.   But he has definitely pushed himself to extraordinary limits… with wild horses.

TriRiot is mostly about triathlon and endurance athletes.  Not today. Today it’s about going that extra mile because of passion.  Ben Masters has a great story to tell. He and three friends rode horseback from the Mexico-Arizona border to the Canada-Montana border.   As if that’s not enough, they did it riding horses that were wild only a few months before they left.  And this wasn’t in 1874. This was only a few years ago.  There’s a very good movie about it.

If Ben’s story interests you, I highly recommend watching his movie, Unbranded, and reading some of his articles.

Why Wild Horses?

The reason I picked this subject is because the very thing those men did is something I would love to do.  Not only that, but when it comes to endurance events, riding border to border like that is far beyond participating in an IRONMAN or even the Race Across America (RAAM).  I have enough difficulty planning, training, and paying for an IRONMAN.  It’s hard to imagine what Ben and his friends went through.

I don’t have much more to say on this topic even though there is a huge controversy raging over mustang policy.   I guess my point of this post is that life is an endurance event… training for triathlon is training for life.