If you have ever watched the Triathlons on TV and marveled at how easy it all looks – it is – for the pros! They are poetry in motion! They do their swim, whip off their wet suits, grab their bikes, helmets and shoes in one motion and are on the road within seconds! When they finish the ride, they are running before the bike skids to a stop.
And then there are the rest of us. We need all the help we can get to reach that level of professionalism and although these may seem kind of silly, here are the top 5, best tips to transition between the one discipline and the next!
Pace yourself – The best way to make sure you are going through all the motions is to do it during practice. Practice getting your wet suit off. Your helmet buckled; race number and cycle shoes on. Keep your towel handy and talcum power to dust your feet to make sure they are dry before donning socks. The most important rule is “don’t rush”. Take your time, make sure all your gear is within reach and time yourself. You will improve – I promise.
Have your own bicycle pump – You may not think you will need this after all, you checked your tires a million times, they are brand new and this is only one race! Murphy’s Law – you WILL need it and asking the next guy to borrow his – is unfair to him and shows a lack of professionalism on your part.
Keep a supply of toilet paper – After swimming for half a mile, you WILL want to use the Porta-Potty and if you are stuck without toilet paper … there is nothing more embarrassing than hopping out with your wet suit around your ankles requesting T.P. Bring a roll and leave it behind – just a nice thing to do!
Always have a spare pair of goggles – another of those mysteries of the universe when the strap of a brand new pair snaps as you put them on. If you are lucky and they behave perfectly, pass your spare ones onto someone else who was not as foresighted as yourself. You’ll be racking up the karma points, big time!
Use a dedicated Triathlon Transition bag – these really are lifesavers. These bags are as specialized as the rest of your gear and are specially made for the Tri-athlete. They have compartments for everything from your wet suit to your running and cycle shoes, and pockets for keys, wallet and I.D. Your sun glasses and energy chews on top so that you don’t forget them. The compartments on the outside for your water bottles ensure you don’t forget your energy drinks.
It will save you time and effort and you will put your hand to whatever you need in an instant. Your nerves won’t get the better of you if you have practiced all the moves.
I must mention the Triathlon Transition area. At first sight, with hundreds of athlete’s competing in three disciplines, the area could be totally chaotic. Rows of cycles propped up in their racks, athletes rushing around changing, sitting, standing and panicking (if they are newbie’s). Support groups seeing to their teams and so the list goes on.
The trick here is to keep your movements to the minimum. You will know exactly what you have to do next as you have practiced it a zillion times. Tie a bright towel around your bike so that you can spot it from the other side of the area in the sea of bikes. You could tie a helium balloon onto the rack – if you are brave enough. The pros don’t do that! Keep alert so that you are not run over by the eager-beavers running for glory.
Remember – time can be your enemy or your friend. Make all the preparations you can to give yourself the best possible advantage. Transitioning is a huge part of the race and has to be practiced as much as the rest of it.
I have gone through all the things you need to do, but there are a couple of ‘don’ts’ that bear mentioning.
Trying new moves on race day – Taking a flying leap onto your bike like a Wild West cowboy and trying to land into your shoes that are already clipped to your pedals? I tried a rolling dismount once and got so entangled in the bike, I wasted more time trying to untangle myself, while trying to look nonchalant, at the same time. My pride was hurt more than my knees. I really do not recommend this.
Another rather important point that is sometimes overlooked by the beginner is where to rack your bike. The pros get there early so that they can get the front rack. They deliberately leave a space between each bike to enable an easier retrieval. This is known as prime real estate, so squeezing your bike in between, without asking permission is tantamount to squatting or gate-crashing. It is not illegal, but it is definitely not polite or the accepted behaviour for anyone who wants to be taken seriously in this sport.
Be polite at all times, be helpful and kind and the karma points you have been racking up will pay off a hundred-fold. Take my word for it!
As you work your way up the ranks, someone just like you and me will be staring at you in awe, as you transition like the well-oiled pistons in your newly purchased Porsche.