Transition 101 by John Wallnutt
John Wallnutt is a former DCT race director, and is race director for this year’s inaugural Dublin Ironman 70.3. Here he gives his view on what’s required for successfully negotiating transition.
We all train our socks off from one end of the week to the next. We swim, bike and run in the quest for better times and the perfect race. But do you ever give transition any time? Do you practice it or plan it? Would you be happy to be 2 minutes faster without having to train any harder? Minutes are lost in transition at every race so I thought I would give you my take on transition and how to get through it as quickly as possible.
Find A Spot
Transitions come in different shapes and sizes but they are generally set up to be natural so everyone travels the same distance. First, find a spot for your bike ( if its not numbered racking ). I usually go with the nearest to the bike exit. Then walk to the swim exit and look at where your bike is from that point as this is how you are going to find it when you come out of the water. Take note where it is, i.e. 2 lanes to the left, 4th last bike etc . If you can line it up with something like a tree or a flag then that’s all the better as this gives you a good reference point. Once you’re happy with your bike location, walk to the bike exit and look for the mount & dismount lines. Walk back the route into transition noting where your bike spot is from this direction. At the start of this I mentioned placing the bike nearest the bike exit. The reason I do this is it means I have the shortest amount of time running out with the bike. That said, it means you are usually have a longer run back into T2 with the bike.
Set your bike computer to zero so you can tell at any time where you are on the course. Put the chain on the bigger chain ring. This is so the chain does not bounce off while running out of T1. Select a suitable gear so you can get going when you jump on – not to high, not too low. Make sure you have your drink bottle. I half-fill it for Sprint and three quarters-fill it for Olympic but rarely finish all the fluid during the race. Tape a gel to the cross bar. Tape it at the top so you should be able to tear off and open at the same time.
Check the tyre pressure and make sure the quick release levers are closed on the wheels. Place your helmet upside down on the tri bars with the straps hanging out to the sides. Click in your cycle shoes and hold in place with elastic bands. If you do not already do this learn and practice it as it will save you a lot of time. Sprinkle talc on the insole of your cycle shoe and runners and smear Vaseline on the heel area on both shoes as well. Place your runners to the side of the bike. Position them so you can use them as a spotter to find your bike spot. As Transition clears hang back as long as possible to make sure no one moves anything.
When I exit the water my system is as follows:
• Unzip the wetsuit
• Remove hat and goggles
• Pull suit off shoulders
• Pull out first arm holding hat and goggles, leaving hat and goggles in the arm of the suit as you pull through
• Remove second arm
• Push suit down to waist.
At this stage you will be close to the bike unless it’s a very long run in. When you get to your bike leave the wetsuit alone and get your helmet on first then remove the rest of your suit. These extra couple of seconds standing while clipping on your helmet will help before you tackle your wetsuit. Roll / push the suit down close to the knee, pull one leg up and then step on the suit and pull leg out. Repeat with the other leg. Grab your bike and go.
Run with the bike, holding it by the saddle in one hand ( it will steer itself, if you don’t believe me try it!). Get over the mount line and hop on. If there are a lot of bikes around keep running until you have clear space. Get moving and then, when it’s safe to do so, tighten your shoes.
As you approach T2 make sure you have your feet out of your shoes nice and early. Brake in a straight line while your weight is still on the saddle. When you have slowed to a suitable speed dismount well before the line and hold the bike by the saddle in one hand and run in to T2. Hopefully you’ll spot your runners jutting out from everyone else’s. Rack the bike and unclip your helmet. Place your feet into your shoes and off you go. Most races will have a water station on the course so if you have taken your gel at about 2/3rds of the way through the cycle and have been sipping your drink you will not need to bring anything with you.
This is how I do it but don’t just take my word for it as other experienced triathletes will undoubtedly have other helpful hints.