There are people in triathlon who glide like porpoises through the water. Fly along the bike course, quads firing hard enough to power a small city. Blow past all mere mortals like a bionic gazelle on the run. They could probably put on a pot of chili in T1, bake some bread in T2, and still beat us to the finish line. Then there are the rest of us -- you know, people who started swimming after they had kids -- this is my clan. So, in addition to optimizing available training time to get as fast as I can, I pay close attention to opportunities for "free speed" in a race. There are all kinds of things you can tweak, such as your position on the bike, your helmet, bike tires/tubes and tire pressure, race wheels... but perhaps the biggest place you can make easy and instant gains (without any cash outlay) is in transition.
Get there early and choose your spot
Some races have assigned rack spaces, in which case you don't have a choice of where you set up. And all well-run races have transition areas set up so that all athletes have to travel the same total distance regardless of where they're racked. But in races where you can choose your rack location, arriving good and early isn't just good for the pre-race nerves, it can help you get an optimal transition spot. Though everyone has to run the same distance through the T-zone, you can weigh whether you'd rather run a shorter distance in your wetsuit, or a shorter distance with your bike. Perhaps there's a tree or other permanent (the "permanent" part is important) landmark that will help you find your stuff faster.
|Arriving early assures a prime spot on the rack|
Keep it simple and distance-appropriate
|Ready for anything at Ironman 70.3 Mont Tremblant|
What I keep in my transition area, Sprint or Olympic:
- small towel to put stuff on and stand/wipe feet on
- running shoes and socks
- bike shoes
- sunglasses and/or hat
- bike helmet (for a sprint, I'll rest it on the bike between the aerobars... for an Olympic, that space is occupied by a hydration system)
- race belt and number
- a bite of food, usually part of a chocolate wafer -- and a bottle of sports drink to swig from to wash it down (this is typically for a sprint, where I don't carry nutrition or hydration on the bike)
Know where you put your stuff (no, really)
|Bright gear is recognizable at a distance|
Once you've decided what you want/need to have in your transition area, you'll want to lay it out such that you can put it on as quickly as possible when the time comes to do so. Consider the order in which you'll do things. The first thing you'll need to do is get out of that wetsuit...
Getting out of your wetsuit
Before donning your wetsuit, apply Body Glide (or Trislide, or whatever you're using) liberally around your neck (this part is to avoid swimming "hickeys" from chafing), wrists, and ankles. I'd recommend against vaseline or cooking spray as lubricants, a) because I've heard they can damage neoprene, and b) because... well... it's kind of gross.
As you're running from the swim, unzip your wetsuit and yank it down to your hips. At some races, they have wetsuit strippers who will help get you out of your suit as soon as you exit the water. I've both used and bypassed this option... you have to decide whether it's worth your time to stop. Once you reach your gear, give a last hard yank to get your suit down as far as you can. Then step on it with alternating feet to pull your legs out.
Grab and go
While you're stomping yourself out of your wetsuit, you'll have time to put on your race number and helmet. When I can (i.e. when I don't have my hydration system taking up that space), I rest my helmet upside-down on the aerobars with my race belt either over or under it depending on how windy it is. Make sure the straps are open and untangled. Some people leave the race belt clipped closed, and step into it... of course, you have to wait till you're out of your wetsuit to go that route. And you have to trust yourself not to get tangled in it and fall down (which I do not). If I'm wearing sunglasses on the bike, I'll place them in my helmet with the arms open.
Be very careful as you're hurrying in transition that you comply with race rules regarding helmets. At most races, if you forget to do up your chinstrap before mounting the bike, or if you unclip it before dismounting, you risk disqualification.
|Race belt and helmet at the ready for easy access|
|Optimized for a fast change of footwear|
Make haste slowly
Remember that when you're in transition, your heart rate will be up, and your hands and legs may be a little shaky. Be deliberate and efficient, rather than scrambling.
Have any of your own transition tips? Leave a comment! :)