Transition Zen: Tips and Tricks

If I was to write another highly specific book (like lady problems on the bike wasn’t niche enough), it would be about the zen of transition in triathlon.

Since I started racing, I’ve always had one of the fastest transition times—across the board, men and women, pros and amateurs. I don’t do anything fancy, and it wasn’t until last year that I swapped my road shoes for mountain bike ones to make running faster. I don’t rubber band my shoes to the bike, I don’t do anything particularly ‘pro’ in there.

But for some reason, when I get into transition—not anywhere outside of it, not on the bike course, not on the run, and certainly not in the swim—I get into this weird, somewhat “zen” state of mind, where everything just slows down in my little bubble.

The biggest thing I’ve realized that I do is that I DO NOT try to rush. I actually try to stay calm and take my time, and because of that, I think I’m faster because I’m not freaking out and dropping things.

Transition tips:

1. When you first get in, don’t panic. Take one deep breath and assess your situation and your stuff before flinging things all over the place. Doesn’t have to be a long deep breath (and shouldn’t be), but make sure you’re not freaking out. That’s when you start dropping things and wasting even more time.

2. You don’t need that. Or that. Just because it’s in your transition bag (Body Glide, extra socks, sunglasses, gloves) doesn’t mean it needs to be in your area. Pump your tires before you take the bike in, and leave your big bag in the car. I’ve found that the absolute minimum makes life a lot easier, so while everyone else has piles of stuff, I have: bike shoes, socks, helmet; run shoes, race number on belt, hair tie. That’s it. All lined up on a towel.

3. Helmet first. Since you get a huge penalty if you roll without your helmet, best to just clip it on as soon as you hit transition, before you mess with shoes. If you like racing in sunglasses (I don’t), attach them to your helmet. If you come out of the water and jam them on, they will fog and it will suck. I’ve had to toss countless pairs because of that. Ugh.

4. Keep it simple, especially in short distance races. You don’t need a bike jersey to ride in, you don’t need a run-specific top. You really don’t need to change socks (you may not even want to bother with socks at all).

5. Cyclocrosser turned tri geek? Consider racing in mountain shoes (easier to run in) and doing a sweet remount/dismount to get back on your bike. It’s the one time you’ll look ultra-competent even if barriers aren’t your strongest point.

Pretty basic tips, right? Like I said, it has almost nothing to do with a certain way to prep, other than keeping it simple. It’s really just about the mindset. It’s hard to do when everything around you is going crazy—it’s loud, people are shouting, music is blasting, that guy right next to you JUST started running and HOLY CRAP should you be running by now too?

I’m going to stretch my degree here for a second and quote some Rudyard Kipling at you. “If you can keep your wits about you while all others are losing theirs, and blaming you/The world will be yours and everything in it.”

And that’s how you crush transition in triathlon.

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