Transitions are critical in a triathlon. Do them well, and you can make up for a bad swim or gain an advantage for the bike. Do them poorly, and you can lose crucial time. Similar to many other things, planning and regularly practicing your transitions yield improvement. First of all, and most importantly, take some time to actually practice some transitions yourself before the actual race. Don’t just read through some blogs, but actually go out there and do it, it will pay off on race day!
How to Practice Setting Up Your Transition for Triathlons
T1: For practicing the first transition, I suggest taking some time after swim training to set up a mock transition zone with everything you need for T1, including your bike. You can do this either at the pool or a nearby lake. Set up your bike like you would for a race. Put your helmet on your bike and prepare the bike shoes for mounting. Then practice coming out of the water, removing your goggles and swim cap, finding your bike, taking off your wetsuit (if necessary), put on your helmet, sunglasses and race number, run with your bike, mount it and get your bike shoes on. Repeat this process multiple times. I like to start out slow with a focus on clean execution and then try to progress the speed while maintaining the quality of the transition. Oftentimes when I try to speed up my transitions, they actually take longer, so try to stay calm and focused.
T2: For practicing the second transition, I recommend finding an empty space such as a parking lot. Bring everything you would use in a race, set up your second transition zone and practice the transition multiple times. Start with dismounting your bike, find your transition place, take off your helmet (and put on a visor, if wanted), put on your running shoes and take on fuel (if needed). As with the first transition, stay calm and focused and progress to faster execution, while paying close attention to executing the individual movements precisely.
Sidenote: It is much more fun, if you practice your transitions together with other people and simulate it like a race.
If you really want to master transitions, I recommend taking the individual movements apart, perfecting them individually. Then put them back together to a complete transition once you are happy with the individual steps. You can begin with the most essential skills and then progress. For example, you can start off with standing in front of your bike and practice putting on and off your helmet 10-15 times. Next, you can go to a parking lot and practice running with your bike (with your hand on the saddle, if you want). Also practice mounting and dismounting your bike. Start with what feels comfortable, such as a standing mount and then try to progress to a flying mount like in cyclocross. Another helpful skill is getting out of your wetsuit. Put on your wetsuit in the shower or in the yard, put some water in the suit, and then take it off.
And lastly, keep in mind that triathlon is about having fun. It is rare to have a perfect transition, so if something goes wrong, don’t obsess about it, but move on and focus on the next best action that you can take.