It seems that for most of my triathletes the transition is the most mysterious piece of the triathlon puzzle. There are simple tips and tricks for creating smooth transitions from sport to sport. The most important aspect is how you set up your transition area - most first timers are surprised by how little 'real estate' that each athlete gets. This is why how you set up your transition area is just as important as how you transition.
First off lay a hand towel on the ground - this is about how much room you will have for your transition area. You may have a little more but it's best not to count on it. You want to set up your items in 'layers' for easy access. The first layer will be your running or biking shoes if you are using clipless pedals with your bike. Next roll your socks open then place them into the opening of your shoes so that you can just 'roll' them onto our feet. Put your helmet on your head facing your transition area then lay your helmet on your shoes with the opening up and the straps over the sides to make placing it on your head fast and easy. Place your sunglasses, bike gloves and race belt (if you're using one) in your helmet. Your race belt should be open and ready to put on. Last to go on is whatever top you will be wearing. It's important to lay things out in the reverse order that you will be putting them on. If you are wearing bike shoes for the bike portion then you will place your running shoes behind your bike shoes and don't forget to place your hat on top of your shoes for the run. Drape your towel of the handle bars of your bike for easy access.
On race day we always hope for a bright sunny day but we don't always get what we hope for so it's important to practice setting up the transition area inside of a plastic yard waste bag. Even though you'll get wet druring the actual event it's really nice to put on dry items tranisitioning from the swim to the bike and from the bike to the run. If it does rain make sure to place your towel inside the bag as well to keep it dry.
For the first time triathlete I strongly recommend that you make sure that your feet are very well dried off after the swim and before you put your socks on. This little thing might seem time consuming but nothing is worse than having a grain of sand or a little rock or a blade of grass that rubs your foot just wrong through the bike and the run and ends up being a raw spot or blister. By stacking the items in order that you will put them on after the swim and rolling up your socks to be rolled on easily you will more than make up for the time spent caring for your feet.
On race day make sure that you can easily find your bike after the swim. Great idea Jen but how do I do that? you may ask...... You will have a designated area to rack your bike and set up your transition area make sure that you pick out a landmark of some kind to easily find where your bike is racked. Some people bring huge mylar balloons, other people find a tree or the port-a-potties whatever you decide to use mark it in some fashion then walk to where the swim finish is then to the bike start and finish this will help set the location in your mind. It's important to make it as simple as possible to find your bike after the swim.
It's important to practice setting up your transition area before race day and it's super important to do a mini triathlon at least once before the event so that you know what your body will feel like from sport to sport and what it feels like to transition from sport to sport and how to lay the items out for best flow. During race day expect to be super excited and even though you are super excited please, please, PLEASE remember to take your helmet off BEFORE you start off on the run. Trust me it happens every year - someone forgets to take their helmet off after the bike and they end up running with it on. One way to help prevent that from happening is to wear a hat during the run portion plus you get the added benefit of keeping the sun or rain out of your face AND you'll look good.
If you take the time to practice it will pay off in spades on race day. Have a fantastic day! Jennifer