Transition 101

Any race requires that you get from the starting line to the finish line as fast as you can. In triathlons, this involves swimming, biking, running and TRANSITIONING between disciplines. Races can be won or lost in transition. In fact I can identify two races I WON because I transitioned faster than the 2nd-place athlete. Below are my secrets to fast, efficient transitions.

What to Bring on Race Day

1) Your timing chip
2) Towel
3) Flashlight
4) Race uniform
5) Goggles
6) Swim Cap
7) Wet suit or speed suit
8) Anti Chaffing / Body Glide
9) Sunscreen
10) Race watch
11) Flip flops / shoes to wear to the swim start
12) Pony tail holder (if needed)
13) Bike
14) Bike pump
15) Helmet
16) Sunglasses
17) Water bottles
18) Contacts and extra solution
19) Spare tire kit – A way to fix a flat
20) Bike computer
21) Nutrition / Hydration
22) Duct tape of electrical tape
23) Running shoes
24) Race belt
25) Cap or visor
26) Sunglasses
27) Baby powder
28) Cooking spray
29) Plastic grocery bags
30) Rubber bands (if you use them)
31) Permanent Marker


Pre Race Tips – Do your homework!

  • Look at the racecourse transition maps on the web site to understand the flow.
  • Find out when transition opens. If it is first come, first bike rack get there early.


The Day of the Race

1) Walk through transition and understand “Run Out” “Bike Out”
2) Get body marked and pick up your timing chip.
3) Put on your timing chip on your left leg so it does not get caught in your bike chain.
4) Find out when athletes need to be out of transition.


Setting up your Transition Spot

1) Be mindful of your fellow athletes.
2) Put a towel down.
3) Plastic grocery bags can help you get on your wet suit.
4) At the front of the towel place your race belt, visor on top and then running shoes on top of your race belt and visor.
5) Race nutrition (gels, water bottle, Red Bull) can all be on the side.
6) If bike shoes are clipped on bike then they are there, or they go on the towel.
7) Make sure your bike tires are aired up properly but do NOT over inflate.
8) Gear your bike appropriately for the first part of the bike section.
9) Turn on your bike computer / turn off the “Auto Off”
10) Helmet should be on the ground next to your shoes or on your aero bars open.
i) Most convenient to have it on your aero bars but it can get knocked off and you may have to look for it.


T1 – Swim to Bike

Flow of T1 / Swim to Bike
1) As you run out of the water, get your goggles up to forehead so you can see and your hands are free to get the wetsuit off.
2) Unzip your wetsuit and pulled down to your waist while running into T1.
3) Take Cap and Goggles off as you run into T1.
4) Get to your bike.
5) Throw goggles and cap down at your transition spot.
6) Get wet suit to your ankles
7) Reach for helmet
8) As putting on helmet get the wet suit off your ankles
9) Helmet on and snap your strap
10) Before you can take the bike off the rack, your helmet MUST be strapped!
11) If the wet suit is not off at this point, you may need to reach down and get it off your ankles
12) Sunglasses ON
13) If your shoes are clipped on your bike, grab your bike and run to “Bike Out”
14) If your shoes are NOT clipped on your bike, put your shoes on and run to “Bike Out”
15) Do not get on your bike until you are at the “Bike Mount Line”


T1 Tips

1) Know where your bike is from the “Swim In” and the fastest way to get to it.
i) Count the racks, use balloons, colorful towels, remember the number
2) When it is damp or humid sunglasses can steam up, you can put them in your helmet or low on your nose until they clear.
3) Duck tape the tab of the gels on your top tube or stem, so you can just take it off and it is open as you ride.
4) The most efficient transition is grab and go. Everything should be on your bike and ready to go. All your calories should be on your bike.
5) Spray cooking spray on calves to remove wet suit quicker.
6) Have your helmet on your aero bars with your straps open so you can grab it and stick it on your head with the straps properly placed and not tangled up.


T2 – Bike to Run

Flow of T2 / Bike to Run

1) Approach the dismount line – Flying dismount or Stop and dismount your bike
2) Run your bike to the bike rack and rack your bike on the same side as it was.
3) Your helmet must stay on your head and strapped at this point!
4) Rack your bike
5) Take off helmet
6) Take off bike shoes
7) Slip on running shoes (Elastic laces are fastest and most efficient)
8) Socks are optional – Sprint – No!, OLY – Maybe, ½ and beyond – yes
9) Grab visor/hat and your race number belt and begin running out of T2.
10) Put on hat and race number as you are running.


Tips for T2

1) Hot days – Freeze a water bottle and put in transition. Dump frozen water over your head the first half-mile.
2) Put baby powder or Vaseline in your shoes to prevent blisters.
3) You can hold your gels as you run.
4) Put your race belt on as you run and are moving forward.

In a sprint tri, for every three seconds you save in transition, you have basically saved yourself one second per mile on the run! A 30-second faster transition can save you 10 seconds per mile on the run!!




Below is an example of how faster transitions allowed me to have a decent cushion to win a race. Matt is a top age grouper and strong biker-runner. On the 4-mile run, he was the hunter, I was the hunted. Without the 18 seconds I gained in transition, the last part of the run would have been, well, very stressful…