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The Triathlete Blueprint newsletter #11 This is Why Pro Triathletes Save Enormous Time in Transition

Updated: Apr 8








Read time: 5min.

By Coach Yan Busset



When it comes to triathlon, time is of the essence. Transitions are underestimated by beginners, but they are the fourth discipline of triathlon. You can spend months of hard training to gain two minutes over a 5km run, but by being smart, using some tricks, and a bit of practice, you can gain it in transitions. Pro triathletes have mastered this art, and you can learn from them. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced triathlete these insights will help gain a competitive edge.

Personally, I have always fancied this nerdy part of the sport, maybe because it resonated with my inner MacGyver, and also because I was racing in short distances where every second counts, and a good transition can make or break your race. After +250 races, I have mastered my craft, raced against and learned from the best. I have a lot to share so that you can also win big. The setup of transitions may vary depending on race rules and organisations. However, for in most triathlons, a simple setup is employed, where all the necessary gear is placed next to the bike. Here are some pro tips for optimising your T1 and T2:


Know the Transition Area:

Familiarise yourself with the transition area before the race. Identify landmarks to easily locate your spot, eliminating any confusion or wasted time during transitions.




Wetsuit Techniques:

Practice taking off your wetsuit as fast as possible after each training session to make it a familiar process on race day. Strip the wetsuit off until the waistline while running towards the transition area. If the distance between the swim exit and T1 is extra long (and if the race rule allows it), consider taking off the wetsuit entirely right after the swim exit. You will run faster, and it’s easier to take off the wetsuit when there is still a bit of water inside. Strategic lubricant application: Apply a thin layer of baby oil on the top of your wetsuit, at the end of the legs. Since the wetsuit will be flipped inside-out when stripping it off, placing the lube on the top rather than under it ensures a quicker removal.

Extra wetsuit pro tip: You practice it, but you are still struggling to take your feet off the wetsuit? Try this rad hack: Cut a few centimetres off the end of your wetsuit legs. This way, the cross-section will be a bit wider without affecting the wetsuit property, and taking it off will be easy peasy.


Get a Trisuit:

It’s your first triathlon, and you are wondering if it's necessary to invest in a specific trisuit. Can you change at T1? Hesitate no more! I’ve been there; I still have PTSD from my very first triathlon, wrestling at T1 for a period of time that felt like... eternity, with a "nylon-like" run top. That was a "never again" moment for me. A trisuit will not only save you some time, but also enhance your race experience. It dries fast, it’s comfy, it’s aero, it’s a must, period.






Visualise the Process:

During your swimming, visualise the transition process. An efficient transition is one that is fast but not rushed. Develop a systematic approach and practice automatic movements that will help you execute smooth transitions. Visualisation will help execution.


Don’t lose your swim goggles ever again:

RIP to all goggles lost in the battlefield, amen! But here is a neat technique to never lose your goggles again: while stripping off your wetsuit, hold your swim cap & goggles in your hand. When you take your sleeve off and your hand is in the middle inside that sleeve, open your hand and let them get trapped inside! Boom, that’s it. Millions of goggles saved from being orphans.


Bike Helmet:

Remember that at T1, you must have your helmet on and fastened before taking your bike off the rack, and at T2, you can only start to take it off after you place your bike back. An easy way to remember that rule is to always have your helmet on when touching your bike. Position your helmet in a way that makes it easy to grab, and practice clipping and unclipping the helmet many times. Familiarity with this process prevents any time-consuming hesitations, especially when your heart rate is high or in cold weather conditions.




Bike Shoes:

Use small elastics to secure your bike shoes, preventing them from flying around when running toward the mounting line. Thin elastics will break during the first pedal strokes, so they won’t be in the way anymore. Prefer Tri-specific bike shoes. They are made to put on and take off with ease, and they are also made to drain water off, so you won’t feel like pedaling on sponges after your swim.

Extra pro tips: Learn to run next to your bike while holding only the saddle with one hand. It’s faster than running next to your bike sideways, like a crab when holding both handlebars and saddle. Also, put baby powder inside your bike and run shoes. It will help dry your feet, make it fast to put shoes on, and lower the risk of blisters.




Optimal Bike Chain Position:

Ensure you racked your bike before the race with the right gear on. Having the chain on an easy gear from the get-go allows for smoother pedaling and faster take-off.


Master Bike Mount and Dismount:

Make mounting and dismounting the bike a seamless action. Use every single indoor and outdoor training ride as a practice opportunity by leaving your bike shoes permanently on your bike! This practice not only improves transition speed but also saves you money by preserving the longevity of your bike cleats.

If you are still unsure of your bike handling skills and prefer not to put on/off your shoes while cycling, make sure at least you are good at clipping and unclipping them from the pedals. This skill will help you save time but also avoid awkward incidents if your shoes stay stuck on your pedals…

Extra pro tip: anticipate T2 and start slipping your feet off the shoes a couple of hundred meters before the dismounting line and continue pedaling with your bare feet on the shoes.


Socks on the Run?:

For long-distance triathlons, wear socks during the run segment to prevent discomfort and blisters. However, for shorter races, it's common for triathletes to skip socks altogether. Test running without socks during training to get use to it.


Speedy Shoe Transition:

Replace your running shoe laces with elastic laces for lighting fast transitions. Also, feet may swell over a long runs, and the elasticity of the laces will add precious comfort.





Conclusion:

Pro triathletes understand the importance of transitions. They have fine-tuned their craft and found tricks to save precious time during races, so you can too. Regardless of the length of your race, why waste time in transitions? Use these tips and practice them during training so they will become second nature.




Thank you for reading and see you next week!


 

Whenever you’re ready, there are 3 ways I can help you:


1. If you are looking for support for your triathlon journey, I recommend you book a 30min 1on1 video consultation with me here.


2. If you are looking for an online coaching service check here.


3. if you are in the Helsinki area and looking for the best training group check here


 

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