Triathlon Transitions 101

It is that time of year with the first triathlons not far off, so I thought I would offer a bit of advice on packing equipment and transitions. I will not talk about training.

Here are a few hints for a smooth experience on race day when it comes to equipment set up and transitions.

Packing should be done the day before, in as stress free situation as possible (not in a hurry). Assuming:

  1. you picked up your kit the day before,
  2. you have no special race nutrition needs
  3. you know the course profile etc.

Make 5 piles:

  1. Pre-race clothing—something warm and comfortable.
  2. Swim stuff—wetsuit, 2 pairs of goggles, lube if you need it, swim cap, bib number and race belt if you plan to wear it under your wetsuit.
  3. Bike stuff—helmet, cycling shoes, ride nutrition, bib number and race belt, optional sunglasses, optional computer stuff
  4. Run stuff—running shoes, optional socks, run nutrition, optional hat, sunglasses
  5. Post race clothing—something warm and dry. Maybe a towel for a shower if available.

Pre-race set up.

  • Arrive at the race at least 90min early,
  • Take bike out of car, pump tires AND LEAVE YOUR PUMP IN THE CAR!!
  • Rack your bike, make sure brakes are not rubbing (spin them and look for 1-2mm space between both sides)
  • Scope out the transition zone flow—where you enter from the swim, exit on the bike, enter
  • from the bike and exit to the run.
  • Place your helmet on the bars, upside down, sunglasses inside the helmet, open and ready to slip on
  • Place cycling shoes and race best with number attached on the side from which you will approach your bike.
  • If you are going to wear socks, place one on each shoe.
  • Place your ride nutrition where you want it and will not forget it, or waste time getting it. Place your running shoes on the side from which you will approach your bike. If it is the same side as your cycling shoes are on, put them behind your cycling shoes.
  • If you are going to wear socks, place one on each shoe. Place your optional hat on top of your running shoes.

It’s that simple. Should take 5min. 6 at most.

Take any large objects like bins, chairs or baskets and put them back in your car. Be courteous to your fellow competitors and take up as little space as necessary. They paid their money too.

Next, get body marked.

Pick up timing chip (remember, you need your bib number to get the chip)


45 min before race start

Ride easy for 10min. Make sure all your gears work.
Remember to wear your helmet for this as it technically counts as part of the race and you could be disqualified.
Leave your bike in the correct gear for starting off (ie if on an up hill, in an easy gear) Reset your bike computer to zero.
Re-place your helmet and shoes properly.
Eat something small like a Powerbar or bagel.

30 min before race start,

don the wetsuit. A plastic bag on the feet and/or hands helps with the extremities sliding through the neoprene sleeve.

10-15 min before race start

Get wet. Get your face wet for sure.
Go for a swim if allowed. Do some drills and a few 20m accelerations to get the blood flowing. Get out of the water and stay loose.

All this should, of course, be done while paying strict attention to any and all race announcements.

Why no socks on the bike? I have always found that sand or dirt in the feet after the swim falls off in the shoes during the bike ride, so you do not have to spend any time cleaning and drying them before putting socks on for the run, if you are going to wear socks in the run.

This schedule should accommodate port-o-pottie line up time.

A word about extra weight and multiple water bottles on the bike: a body cannot absorb more than a large water bottle of fluid in an hour, so if the ride is going to take you close to or less than that, save the weight and ride with one. You’ll be fine.

The actual race.

You are now in the water waiting for the start. Naturally, you have put yourself in the correct wave and the correct place for your ability.

Even more naturally, you know where you are going.

You have a bit of water in your goggles to clear your lenses with when they fog (shake your head, splash the water around inside the goggle and voila! Clear vision again).

You are ready to go.

Last minute announcements and BOOOM! Start is given.

I suggest you take the first 20-30sec and gently get faster, find a good set of toes to follow and hang on for dear life.

If those toes are not going in the right direction, like seriously off course, let them go. If they are zigging and zagging just a bit but generally going the right way, stay with them.

Swim is done.

Swim to bike transition begins

Swim as close to shore as you can. Stand up.

Remove goggles and swim cap. Begin running to bike
Exit water

Unzip wetsuit and remove top portion. Continue running to bike
Arrive at bike

Remove rest of wetsuit.

Sunglasses on, helmet on (yes in that order—keeps the helmet straps on the outside of the sunglasses so when you take off the helmet, sunglasses can stay on)

Race belt on

Shoes on

Grab bike and go.

Bike to run transition begins

Dismount bike at dismount line Run/walk carefully to transition spot Rack bike
Helmet off (surprise! Your sunglasses stay on) Optional hat on
Optional socks on

Shoes on.

Grab optional nutrition (which you should not need much of—that is why there are aid stations) Away you go.
Just like the swim, take the first 20-30sec and wind your way up to speed. This will save you from going
into oxygen debt, which really is something to avoid.

By Rick Hellard, Head Coach @ Zone3sports, an Ottawa based triathlon coaching service that has achieved amazing success at the long distance triathlon.




Posted Mar 27, 2014 | Categories: Training, Triathlon

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