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Check out  So You Wanna Do a Triathlon: Swimming, So You Wanna Do a Triathlon: Cycling, and So You Wanna Do a Triathlon: Running

 

Writing these posts really, really makes me want to do another triathlon! 

There are two transitions during a triathlon: Transition 1 and Transition 2, known as T1 and T2 for short.  T1 occurs between the swim and the cycle, and T2 is between the cycle and run.  Transitions are a very strategic part of the triathlon; even if you aren’t worried about your transition time (and it’s amazing how quickly the clock ticks during T1 and T2!), transitions are mentally and physically challenging.

 

How I Organize My Triathlon Gear:  The transition area is usually organized by race bib number, although it may be a free-for-all.  Each athlete is free to use the space right under their bike; be careful not to spread out too much and take up someone else’s space.  Everyone has different methods for organizing their tri gear.  I like to put all my stuff for the cycle in one reusable grocery bag and all my gear for the run in another bag.  After racking my bike in the transition area, I stash the bags, two small towels, and a big bottle of water (for my feet; explained before) under the bike. 

I definitely lose time using this method because I have to open the bags and pull out each item during T1 and T2, but the bags provide me with a lot of peace of mind.  If everything is just laid out under my bike (like most people do, you can see it in the picture above), I worry I’ll overlook something important, like my bike gloves.  Instead, I simply look in the bag before leaving transition – if it’s empty, I’m good to go.

 

Make it Visible:  You may want to bring a balloon or another marker to tie above your bike rack.  Lots of triathletes do this;  you would be surprised at how disoriented you can feel when entering transition, especially after the swim. 

Learn Entry and Exits:  Before the race starts, be sure to familiarize yourself with the location on the Swim In, Cycle Out, Cycle In, Run Out, and Run In entry points.  Note where your bike is in relate to the entry and exit points.

The Key to Fast Triathlons: Practice, practice, practice.  I highly recommend practicing transitioning from T1 to T2 when you do your bricks.  Also, when you pack your gear the night before the gear, go through each transition step-by-step to make sure you have all your stuff (I’ve listed some basic gear at the end of this post).

Simplify Your Clothing: The #1 question I get about triathlons is “What do I wear?”  I wear a trisuit, which is a one-piece suit that you can swim in, bike in, and run in.  Trisuits have a supportive inner bra, but I usually pull another bra on over my trisuit for the run for extra support.  Another option are trishorts, which are like bike shorts but offer slightly less padding so they dry fast on the bike.  If you don’t have to worry about costume changes during transitions, your T1 and T2 times will be faster.

 

Trisuits and trishorts are expensive, so I held out on buying a suit for many, many races – it was worth it, though!  If you don’t want to buy a trisuit but want to give triathlons a shot, you can always swim in bike shorts and a sports bra (just give your padded butt a big squeeze before getting on the bike or water will go down your leg). Some women even swim in a regular one-piece and then pull on bike shorts for the cycle, but I’m not sure this wouldn’t result in massive chafing of your lady bits.   Basically – don’t worry if you don’t have pro gear for your first race.  You can make do with what you have.

 

Tips for T1:  When you exit the water and begin to run/walk to transition, pull your goggles and hat off.  When you enter the transition, sit down on the ground and use a bucket or bottle of water to rinse your feet – they will be sandy and dirty.  Next, dry your feet and pull on your socks and bike shoes.

Confirm you have your water bottle and fuel for the cycle – I usually take in 100 – 300 calories in during a sprint or Olympic triathlon while on the bike.  You’ll also want to pull on your gloves, sunglasses, and helmet.  It is VERY, VERY important that your helmet in on and fully clipped before you exit transition – it’s against the rules to exit without wearing your helmet.  Don’t get on the bike until you hit the mount/dismount line. 

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Your legs will likely ache when you start to cycle.  Bring the bike to a lower gear so the wheel spins more quickly; it will help ease you in.

 

Tips for T2:  When coming back to transition, be sure not to get off the bike until the dismount line.  Do not unclip your helmet until you enter transition.  Run your bike to transition, remove all your cycling gear, and pull on your run stuff (FYI, elastic laces will make putting on your run shoes faster).  Don’t feel like you have to entirely prep for the run while in T2; you can slather on sunscreen, eat, drink water, or put on a hat while exiting transition and starting the run. Grab and go is my mantra for T2!  Remember that it’s more than okay to start the run by walking.

Basic Transition Gear:  At a minimum, you’ll need the following gear for a triathlon, not including what clothes you are planning to wear (let me know if I forgot any minimum gear and I’ll update the list):

 

  • Swim cap (caps are typically provided at races, but bring one just in case)
  • Goggles
  • Wetsuit (if legal for the race)
  • Flip flops (to wear prior to the start)
  • Two towels and bucket/bottle to wash feet
  • Bike
  • Helmet
  • Gloves
  • Sunglasses
  • Bike shoes and socks
  • Flat repair kit
  • Hair tie
  • Fuel
  • Water bottle
  • Sunscreen
  • Sneakers
  • Hat
  • Bib number belt / shirt with race number safety pinned on
  • Change of clothes for post-race
  • Post-race snack

 

So – that’s transitions in a nutshell.  Transitions are definitely an art, so if I left anything out, or if you have a super special tip to share, please comment away!

{ 52 comments }

 

Leave a Comment

  • Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife January 24, 2012, 4:05 pm

    LOVE this! I definitely need to practice this before I head into the half ironman. Great tips, girl!!

    I did a tri once during winter time, so it went bike, run, swim. So those transitions were a tad funky to say the least!

    Reply
  • Michelle January 24, 2012, 4:13 pm

    So, I love most of this except for the part about the balloons in transition. The balloons can be a real hindrance for other athletes if it’s windy, etc. Sure, it’s “cute”, but it’s not something you really need to be doing. Know your race number and know where your rack is. Ditch the balloon.

    Reply
  • Rachel January 24, 2012, 4:20 pm

    Baby powder!!!

    It took me nearly a full season to figure this one out. When I got to T2 and swapped shoes, my wet feet pushed the insoles in my runners into the toe, forcing me to untie, adjust, put on and retie my shoes. A huge time-killer!

    My suggestion: use elastic laces, and sprinkle a dusting of baby powder in your running shoes. The powder will dry your feet and makes putting your runners on a LOT easier. Plus it helps keep blisters at bay.

    Reply
  • Mel January 24, 2012, 4:23 pm

    “Tips for T1:  When you exit the water and begin to run/walk to transition, pull your goggles and hat off.”

    Made me laugh. :) though I suppose technically a swim cap is a hat.

    Reply
  • Katie @ Peace Love & Oats January 24, 2012, 4:23 pm

    so many things to remember! This definitely sounds like the kind of sport where you need to practice a lot and learn from your mistakes!

    Reply
    • Rachel January 25, 2012, 12:02 pm

      It definitely is! It takes everyone a few races to nail down a routine. But that’s part of the fun!

      Reply
  • The Budgeting Babe January 24, 2012, 4:27 pm

    Just another triathlete here saying it’s really not as difficult as it seems and that anybody can do it! It’s such as great sport and so much fun. Can’t wait for my next one in June :)

    Reply
  • The Budgeting Babe January 24, 2012, 4:29 pm

    Oh, and during my last triathlon, I started my bike with my helmet on BACKWARDS following T1, then, I fumbled T2 by running out, then running back in because I was a little disoriented. I also realized after T2 that I left my bike gloves in my pockets and had to run with them in my shorts the entire time. But you know what? No one noticed or cared, my transition times were totally fine, and I still had fun. Proof that even people with a few tris under their belts can get transitions wrong.

    Reply
    • Mary January 24, 2012, 8:15 pm

      I did the same thing with running in the wrong direction at one of my triathlons at first too!

      Reply
      • CaitlinHTP January 25, 2012, 11:40 am

        I inevitably screw something up during transition LOL no matter how hard I try and practice!

        Reply
  • The Budgeting Babe January 24, 2012, 4:32 pm

    One last thought. I keep two plastic garbage bags on my triathlon gear list. One goes under the towel on the ground and one goes over my stuff if it rains. Keeps everything dry.

    Reply
    • Mary January 24, 2012, 8:17 pm

      I did the plastic bag thing too at a rainy triathlon. The rain had stopped by the time of the transitions and my stuff was dry, but a lot of people had some pretty wet gear that day!

      Reply
  • Greta @ Staying Lost January 24, 2012, 4:33 pm

    Your advice to practice is really important! Before I did my first tri, I biked to a local lake, swam, and biked home. It gave me a good feel for what T1 would be like, and what sort of gear I needed to wear to make the bike ride more comfortable.

    Reply
  • Dana January 24, 2012, 4:35 pm

    I had terrible T times in my first tri. I mean, terrrrible. I didn’t practice transitions and kind of just did whatever. I think my T1 was like 10 minutes. I don’t even know what I did for 10 minutes, haha!

    Reply
  • Courtney Leigh January 24, 2012, 4:46 pm

    Tip 1: I use a microfiber towel in T1 to dry off my feet. Smaller and more absorbent than a handtowel.

    Tip 2: I’m still a Tri-newb and do not have bike shoes yet so my running shoes go on in T1. At a clinic before my first tri, they told us to just run sockless. After a couple of practice runs I discovered that didn’t work for me – so I created: the sock condom. When packing the night before put your socks on your dry feet and then roll them off, creating what looks like a sock condom. You can then roll them back on wet feet with relative ease.

    A have a picture tutorial on my blog: http://scarletwallflower.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/just-roll-with-it/

    Reply
    • Mary January 24, 2012, 8:18 pm

      Sock condom- great idea!!!!

      Reply
  • Jen January 24, 2012, 5:07 pm

    I really applaud that you provide great content in your blog – and not just “this is me, this is what I did” (some of that is nice but you know what I mean?).

    Since it’s been a while doing a triathlon for you, do you kind of feel like that’s another person when you write about it?! Or does it still feel like ‘you’? Give you motivation?

    Reply
    • CaitlinHTP January 25, 2012, 11:38 am

      I still feel like it’s me, I’m just at a different life stage.

      Thanks!

      Reply
      • Jen January 25, 2012, 9:51 pm

        SUCH a great positive outlook! I love that. I need to do that – to relax and not be so hard on myself. Sometimes, feelings are just feelings. Observe them and look them objectively. And then move on. Our thoughts and feelings are just ideas. They are not always real. They are not us.

        Okay, looney thought of the day over ;)

        Reply
  • Moni'sMeals January 24, 2012, 5:10 pm

    I loved this recap. SO inspiratinal!!

    Reply
  • Amanda's Notebook January 24, 2012, 5:30 pm

    I was definitely hoping you would put ‘hair fubby’ instead of hair tie. :)

    Reply
  • Shannon January 24, 2012, 5:55 pm

    These are such great tips! You inspired me to check out my transition times from my first (and, to date, only) tri last summer. They were both under 2:30, so not too bad I guess. I will definitely be making use of all your great tips this summer, since it’ll be my first open-water swim tri.

    Thanks for taking the time to provide such great content!

    Reply
  • Carin January 24, 2012, 6:29 pm

    On some pics you have your wedding ring and on some you don’t – do you recommend removing it now? I think it’d be awful to lose it in the swim and am sure that it’d affect your time if you were thinking about it! I take my rings off for running because my fingers get hot and swell or sweaty and they slide. Just as an aside – it’s likely that after you have bubs your rings won’t fit right again – mine were too big (I’m excellent at finger dieting, not so good at shrinking the butt!).

    Reply
    • CaitlinHTP January 25, 2012, 11:37 am

      I ALWAYS wear my ring, I never ever take them off, however, during the Lake Logan tri, the water was really cold and I could feel them getting loose during the swim. It totes freaked me out. After that, I stopped wearing my rings during triathlons.

      Reply
  • Kristina January 24, 2012, 6:39 pm

    One more comment about T1 – if you are wearing a wetsuit and not participating in an event that has people helping with “wet suit removal”, come out of the water and peel the top of the wetsuit down. THEN take off goggles and cap while running to your transition area. It’s almost impossible to to peel down the top of the wetsuit while holding cap and goggles.

    Reply
  • Anna January 24, 2012, 8:00 pm

    You called it a hair TIE?? Haha. I bet you wrote “fubby” and then changed it to tie so people would know what you were talking about. Am I right? :)

    Reply
  • dee January 24, 2012, 8:29 pm

    This is a great post – i was just at (not competing) an iron distance triathlon last weekend – i was astonished at how quickly the pros moved through transition. Practice is obviously key. I went to a seminar by the official coach as part of the event (his elite athlete came in third and he’d come in 2nd himself the previous year). He advised what a couple of commenters have said: when you get out of the water just get to the transition and don’t worry about your suit. It doesn’t give you a faster time by struggling to reach the zip and getting flustered at the same time. If there’s a change tent with volunteers let them do the work.

    Reply
  • Ebernst January 24, 2012, 10:04 pm

    I found your blog through all of your triathlon posts and I have to say they (and the rest of your blog) are AWESOME!

    Thanks for this great advice! I can’t wait to compete in my first sprint tri in May! :)

    Reply
  • AmandaRunsNY January 25, 2012, 5:56 am

    i’m doing the NY Triathlon in 2013 and transitions are one of my top fears for the race. Def going to come back and look up this series when I’m training for it.

    Reply
  • Emily January 25, 2012, 8:27 am

    Another great one. Thanks for much for all of the great info!

    Reply
  • Life's a Bowl January 25, 2012, 8:28 am

    I’d love to do a triathlon sometime in the future! I love competitions and have signed up for a few races but my health and injuries have prevented me from completing anything over a 10K [mostly because my body can't handle long distance running], but a mix of swimming, biking, and running sounds like the perfect solution!

    P.S. How did you train? Did you have an opportunity to practice on the real course or just at the gym/ home?

    Reply
    • CaitlinHTP January 25, 2012, 11:34 am

      Rarely do I have a chance to train on the course – I will do a training post soon though so stay tuned!

      Reply
  • Angie January 25, 2012, 9:46 am

    In response to a previous commenter, I wear NO JEWELRY (including wedding rings) to tris because I am too worried about losing them.

    I also waited a while to get a 1-piece tri suit (found it on clearance at the end of a season at REI), and let me tell you they are worth the $$. I did my first couple of tris with the tri shorts and tank top outfit, and I found the tank flapped around during the swim and then rode up on the bike and run. Love love love the 1-piece tri suit and will be getting a new one before the upcoming season.

    Reply
  • Angie January 25, 2012, 9:50 am

    One more note about the 1-piece tri suit…I think they are more flattering than 2 pieces. I am not at all skinny (healthy weight with some parts I don’t love) and was worried about how it would look. It’s much sleeker!

    Reply
    • CaitlinHTP January 25, 2012, 11:33 am

      Hah trisuits are v. sexy, I agree :)

      Reply
  • Carolina John January 25, 2012, 9:55 am

    I don’t want to take the T time to put on bike gloves, esp for a sprint or oly race. you’ll find that you just don’t need them. Some people go so far as to not wear socks on the bike or run; I’m not one of them.

    It’s also a good idea to leave your bike helmet resting on top of the handlebars/aerobars of your bike. That way you know it’s the last thing to go on before you roll out of TA and you won’t forget it. Plus you can already have it setting head side up with the straps on the outside which makes it faster to put on.

    Also when the dismount line comes into view before hitting T2, go ahead and take your feet out of your bike shoes leaving them clipped into the pedals. That way you hit the dismount line running and don’t lose the time taking the shoes off in the TA. Yes you have to run back to your TA area in your socks but that’s not so bad.

    Reply
    • CaitlinHTP January 25, 2012, 11:33 am

      Good tips! I always wear gloves because I am afraid of falling and ruining my palms :)

      Reply
  • Lindsay @ Salt, Sun & Sanity January 25, 2012, 12:54 pm

    Thank you thank you thank you for this post! I’m planning on doing my first Triathlon this summer, and the transitions definitely seem like the most intimidating part! Your posts have been so helpful :)

    Reply
  • laurie May 5, 2012, 5:39 pm

    I will be competing in my first sprint tri this summer. My biggest fear is the clothing. I’m concerned about what to wear. I NEED to wear a good sports bra to protect the “girls”. What do I wear to avoid chaffing in the boob area and the “down there” area?

    Reply
    • Caitlin May 5, 2012, 6:57 pm

      Are you thinking you’ll chafe because it will be wet? Body Glide or Vaseline works wonders!

      Reply
  • Lydia May 10, 2012, 2:20 pm

    I’m considering doing a duathlon this summer and am reviewing some of your tri posts. Thanks for such excellent posts on multisport races!

    Reply
  • Heather March 13, 2013, 5:41 am

    I’ve never worn a wetsuit or registered for any kind of race let alone a triathlon. While googling and you tubing I ran across your site. WOW! I’m a planner and was nervous because I wanted all of the specifics but couldn’t find them until your site. Thank you.

    Reply
  • Jessica Weaver-Stoll May 27, 2013, 1:14 pm

    Caitlin!

    THANK YOU! I’m usually not a huge fan of blogs but I’m so grateful that I happened upon yours in a Google search. I’m not sure that my nerves would be ‘as settled’ as they are before my first tri next month.

    The second time I was reviewing your blog/gear list, my husband asked what you were doing in one of the pictures (rinsing off your feet at T1). My reply was that you were answering all my unasked questions about triathlons. Now, to finish my first tri … Thanks again & Godspeed your next triathlon.

    Jessica
    Rome, GA

    Reply
  • Carrie July 13, 2013, 7:32 pm

    Thank you for all of the information. You’ve given me the inspiration to try a tri!!

    Reply
  • karen August 31, 2013, 9:44 am

    Hi there,

    Great tips. Thanks so much. What should a newb wear in an october tri? Ocean swim? Mid atlantic region. Tri suit and full wet suit?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  • Allie September 11, 2013, 9:00 pm

    help! i am doing a MINI triathlon. 500 yard swim, 11 mile bike & 3 mile run. These things alone are all easy for me, not hard. However, the transitions ( I just learned) seem to be the biggest trouble spots. I just tried the bike-run and experienced the BRICK feeling, for sure. Even though the bike did not tire me, nor make me sore the next day, it was still a different group of muscles that I was working. I’m only 10 days out and worried if I compete I’ll hurt myself. But, all of these items on their own are quite simple. Is it still possible to crunch my transition training? I don’t want to not compete, and I’m also NOT competing for any kind of time goal. I’m fine with a longer transition time. I just to get it all done…eventually.

    Reply
    • Caitlin September 12, 2013, 7:22 am

      Just take it slow during the transition and WALK the first bit of the run. Don’t start running until you feel normal(ish) in your legs again!

      Reply
  • Aubrey October 1, 2013, 1:01 pm

    I am doing my first Tri this weekend. Becuase I just moved and have had a very hectic month, I have barely trained. I think I am going to be able to complete the tri, but the bricks are making me nervous. I will not be using a wetsuit, and was going to swim in a one piece, and then throw tri-shorts on top. I know the author said that sounds like a recipe for chaffing, but has anyone else done this and had a good experience? Otherwise, I guess I can swim in the shorts and a wicking top.

    Also — When do I attach my number after the swim?

    Reply

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