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Transition Q & A

We all know triathlons consist of three disciplines—the swim, the bike, and the run—but what about transition? Transitions—moving from swim to bike, and bike to run—can make or break a race. There are all kinds of tricks and tips out there to make the time you spend in T1 and T2 quicker and more efficient. Recently, we asked our Instagram community for their biggest transition headaches and got IRONMAN Certified Coach Jason Lentzke to drop his knowledge on the unspoken fourth discipline of the race.

I always have a slow T2. What are some ways to make it faster? – @little_newman16

First and foremost, have a plan. After you dismount from the bike there should only be a few things to do: rack your bike, remove your helmet, and shoes (if you didn’t perform flying dismount), slip on your running shoes, grab your race belt, cap, etc and go! Do as much as you can while you’re moving. You can put your cap, sunglasses, and race belt on while you’re running. Get in and get out. I also recommend leaving T2 with your own water bottle. This will allow you to blow past the first aid station, which is often congested. If you plan to wear socks, I recommend putting them on in T1 as you can make up much more time on the bike.

Should you change socks in T2 if they are soaked? – @markus.cuevas

Changing your socks depends on your comfort level and experience with running it wet shoes and socks. If the run portion of your event is longer than 10k and you’ve never run in wet socks, I would recommend that you change socks. However, if you know it’s going to be a rainy ride, you could easily avoid this situation by not wearing socks on the bike.

Socks in a sprint? How long until I don’t get blisters anymore? – @meagan81

I do not recommend socks for a sprint triathlon, but it is purely a preference. Find a shoe that has seamless internals to prevent chaffing or hot spots. Rub the inside of your shoe with vaseline, or your preferred body glide to prevent blisters and sores. Blisters are avoidable once you’ve developed calluses in the right places. To toughen up your skin try not to use a daily lotion or moisturizer on your feet. If you find a hot spot developing or a blister, you can always keep it protected with athletic tape.

After the swim, I obviously take off the wetsuit but if I’m already wearing a tri suit under it do you recommend a jersey as well? – @mr__hurley

The beauty of wearing a triathlon-specific race suit is that you can wear it throughout the entire event. Triathlon kits are designed and engineered to be worn during the swim, bike, and run. Unless it’s unseasonably cold when you get out of the water, wear your triathlon suit. Be sure that your kit fits comfortably snug. You don’t want any “flapping” fabric during the swim or ride. For longer events, make sure that your kit has ample storage for gel flasks or anything else you might want to carry on your body.

Should I change into a new tri suit after the swim if I wear mine under my wetsuit? Also, should I wear the same one I wore on the bike for the run? – @nat_elise

Unless air temperatures are frigid, always wear what you plan to ride in underneath your wetsuit. For IRONMAN 70.3 events and IRONMAN events, many athletes will choose to change into a pair of running shorts or a singlet for improved comfort and breath-ability.

Handle bars or seat on the rack? – @Joleencarol

Read your Athlete Guide. Race Directors may require that you rack your bike a specific way, but in most cases you should rack your bike in an alternating pattern. For example, if the athlete next to you racks his or her bike by their saddle, you’ll want to rack your bike by your bars or brake levers. This will make for a less congested transition area and give you a bit of extra space. It will also help you identify your bike more easily when you’re flying into transition after the swim.

I have the flying dismount down, but I cannot get the flying mount at all…where am I going wrong? – @kpkennison

Practice is key with learning any new technique. Here is a breakdown of how to conquer the flying mount:

Upon exiting T2, run along the left side of your bike with your saddle in hand. You never want to mount your bike on the drive side. Steer your bike as you run by pointing your saddle where you want to go.

Once you pass the mount line, keep jogging and place both hands on your bars. Then step onto your left shoe with your left foot and throw your right leg over the saddle. Let your glutes hit the saddle and allow your right foot to naturally fall on top of your right cycling shoe. Be sure your pedals and shoes are in the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions as you jump on your saddle. To achieve this, attach a rubber band to the heel of your left shoe and around your rear skewer. Attach a rubber band to the heel of the right shoe and around the front derailleur. Many triathlon-specific shoes have looped heels for this reason. As soon as you apply pressure to the pedals, the rubber bands will snap and you will be rolling. Always look forward as you get up to speed. If you look down for too long you may ride into another athlete or worse. Once you’re up to cruising speed, slide one foot into a shoe at a time. You will most likely feel slow and awkward at first, but that’s to be expected. After a few practice runs you will be looking like a pro. You don’t necessarily need a triathlon-specific cycling shoe, but the shoes need to be easy to get into. Get out on a quiet street or in an empty parking lot to practice. As you gain confidence, you will be able to increase your speed and save huge amounts of time in transition.

I would love to know more about combating dizziness from the swim in T1. Any tips for an old-timer? – @redsettri

The dizziness is most likely caused by the sudden switch from a horizontal swimming position to an upright vertical running position. Try to increase your kicking intensity over the last 50-100 meters to get more blood flowing to your legs and feet. This will help prepare your legs for your run to transition and should reduce the rapid drain of blood from your head.Earplugs (wax or silicone) have also been proven to help prevent any equilibrium issues, especially in cold water. To prevent any light-headed surprises on race day, practice swim to run transitions in training. If you’re truly on the brink of passing out as you enter T1, contact an on-site medical professional.

I’m new to the world of triathlon, and I’m hoping to participate in my first next year. What words of encouragement can you offer a beginner? – @twitchy313

Congratulations on committing to your first triathlon! Do not be intimidated by the event or the training. Make your training fun and slowly a part of your lifestyle. Put an emphasis on frequency over volume. Connect with a local club to get to know athletes in your area and check out CoachMatch to be paired with your perfect coach. Lastly, live the multisport lifestyle and embrace a healthy, well-balanced way of life.

My first triathlon is coming up in three weeks. Any tips on remembering where my bike is located? (race nerves and a bad sense of direction will not make transition easy!) – @scatterbolthheston0308

After you rack your bike on race morning, take a look around. Try to spot a landmark or an object that is in line with your bike. Once you’ve spotted a landmark in relation to your bike, head back to the transition entrance. Walk slowly through transition as if you were exiting the water and headed into transition for your bike. This walk-through will help you remember where your bike is located. Additionally, most bike racks may be numbered or labeled alphabetically.

What’s the most important piece of transition advice you would give, if you could only share one tip? – @kathyrncritchell

I have two critical pieces of advice. First, don’t focus on being fast, just focus on being smooth. In order to be smooth you need to practice your transitions. Secondly, less is more. You really don’t need that much stuff in your transition area. Keep it simple and clean.

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