Tri Talk Tuesday – 5 Tips To Speed Up Your Triathlon Transitions

Tuesday, such a wonderful day. Tuesday brings us the most fabulous triathlon link up, Tri Talk Tuesday, with my awesome co-hosts Cynthia from You Signed Up For What and Phaedra from Blisters and Black Toenails. And today we’re finishing our series of swim, bike, run with, of course, transitions.

Transitions are a crucial part of triathlon and yes, they count towards your race time. This is one area of triathlon where it’s pretty easy to shave time off with minimal effort. Yet very few people actually practice transitions. I personally write transition practices right into my athlete’s workout calendars because it not only important in terms of time, but also for making sure you’re moving onto the next part of your race ready to go with everything you need taken care of.

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So, what can you do to improve your transition time and efficiency?

1. Practice- Obviously. As stated above, just by practicing transitions you’ll develop a flow and it’ll become easier for you to know what you need both in T1 and T2 so you’re less likely to leave things behind, like, oh, say, your number bib.

2. Pick a routine and stick with it- The way your function in a transition should become second nature. There will come a point when you get in there and just turn on your autopilot because you’ve practiced it enough that you don’t even think, you just do. I always work from my head down to my toes, although in T1 I work down then back up, so my T1 looks something like this; Remove cap and goggles, take off wetsuit, put on socks and bike shoes, sunglasses, helmet, bike, go. My T2 is similar in my top to bottom fashion for the most part; helmet and sunglasses off, visor on, bike shoes off, running shoes on, grab and clip on bib on my way to the run out. I’ve been following this flow in transitions for years and I rarely put any thought into what I’m doing inside the transition area. My brain and hands just do what they know to do at this point. And with enough practice, that autopilot will become the norm for anyone.

3. Know your setup- This will help you develop the autopilot and speed inside transition. Always set up your gear in the same way, every time, no matter what. It helps you to nail down that routine. For some races you’ll have more things than others in your transition area, and that’s okay. Still lay out what you have in the same order so you don’t confuse yourself or forget anything. Some longer races like some half irons and full Ironman races will have transition bags. You’ll obviously not have a setup laid out, but you should still plan to get your gear on and off in the same order once you get into your bag.

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You can see my setup is always the same. I have my bike shoes and socks open and ready to go, my running shoes behind them with my visor and bib, set on top of each other in the order I put them on. One the left you’re looking at my IM Syracuse setup and on the right my Mini Mussel setup from 2014’s race. You might notice there is a significant amount of “stuff” difference in these photos, taken only three weeks apart. That leads me into my next tip…

4. Less is more- The less stuff you have in your area, the better off you are. Only bring what you deem as essential to the race. The things you bring for one race you may not bring to another, and that’s okay. But if you bog down your area with extra stuff it becomes more you have to sort through and can throw a wrench into your autopilot as you try to cram extra things into transitioning. Figure out what you really, truly need and then take the rest out with you or leave it home.

5. Do what you can while in motion- The more you can do during the run in and out of transition the faster you’ll be. Pull off as much swim gear as you can on your way into T1. Start taking off your bike helmet and sunglasses (assuming you don’t with them) while running into T2 and pull on your hat or visor and race bib while moving towards the run out. There’s no need to be standing at your area taking time to do things you can easily accomplish while you’re moving throughout the transition area. This also means less time staring at your stuff in your personal area, which makes that practice and autopilot even more important, so you’re less likely to leave something behind.

What is your best tip for cutting down on time in transition?

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Tri Talk Tuesday is moving to biweekly linkups for the duration of triathlon season! Our next link up will be Tuesday, June 16th and we’ll be talking all about race etiquette! Come join us in two weeks!

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  1. Awesome post with great tips! I have a triathlon on my TO Do List, hopefully for next year, so these tips are helpful. I would never have thought that the transition between activities was so important. Now I know!

    • Good luck on your first tri! I hope you do sing up for one, they’re pretty awesome!

    • It’s definitely different practicing and what you go through racing, but knowing the motions you practiced still makes me feel better on race day. Good luck getting back into the swing of things!

    • I’m a klutz too. I never said I was good and doing while moving, just that I try to do it, hahah

  2. Great list!! I would only add that make sure you prepare nutritionally on the bike for the run. There is no need to be drinking water and taking in gels during T2. This should be done in the last 15-20 minutes on the bike in preparation for the run.
    Kecia recently posted…9 Weeks โ€™til Ironman BoulderMy Profile

    • Yes, definitely! I grab a swig of water sometimes on a hot day, but I’ve never eaten in transition. Typically I bring a water bottle more for rinsing my feet after the swim, not for drinking.

  3. The one thing I learned not to do is SIT! During my very first duathlon ( a local event) I brought a bucket to my transition so that I could sit on it when transitioning from the bike to run. Well, it worked great for taking off my bike shoes and putting on my running shoes, but it sure was NOT easy to remove myself from the bucket. I almost got a little too comfortable and just wanted to sit a little longer. Keep the legs in race mode by staying on your feet – it may mean only seconds, but mentally it can mean the race! ๐Ÿ™‚
    Kristen @ Glitter and Dust recently posted…Week 24; Getting Settled, A Gun Tattoo, and Medical Student SyndromeMy Profile

    • Good call! I usually try to stay on my feet too. Great tip!

  4. Good tips. I have a pretty good routine now, but every transition is laid out differently and weather conditions can impact my fine motor skills so sometimes I am slower than I like. Sometimes those seconds in transition can mean the difference between a podium spot or not!
    Kelli recently posted…TriTalk Tuesday: TransitionsMy Profile

    • Oh yeah, sometimes you just move slower. Harder swims leave me a bit disoriented sometimes which slows me down. But those are precious seconds for sure!