One of my favorite things about swimming is how the quiet of the water allows me to think.  I tend to zone out to music while running and concentrate hard on my surroundings when cycling, so I really enjoy the peace of the pool. I usually think about work things, but whenever a race is right around the corner, I use the time to mentally prepare myself for the event. The power of positive visualizations cannot be underestimated – I imagine myself going through the entire event and finishing strong.


I’ve been doing a ton of research on triathlon transitions.  You see, this summer, I would really like to get *better* at triathlons.  I’ve got about a dozen under my race belt, and I’ve always just been about finishing (especially when I did that sprint tri 11 weeks post-partum!).  My three weak spots are: 1) the bike; 2) the transitions; and 3) I could use higher volumes overall (meaning that ideally, I should be swimming, biking, and running more for faster times).  At this time, I’m mostly focusing on cycling and transitions because I don’t know how I can find the motivation or energy to work out more often (but I’m trying). 


Anyway – that leads me to transitions.  When I first started to do triathlons, I saw the transition (known as T1 – in between the swim and bike – and T2 – in between the bike and run) as a chance to take a serious break.  I never rushed through T1 and T2.  I’d stand around, talking to friends, relaxing, laughing, maybe I’d snap a pic or two.  And I lost a lot of time as a result.

For example, at my last triathlon, the Top 5 female finishers had the following transition times:


  • T1 – 1:57, 2:00, 1:38, 1:44, 2:08.
  • T2 – :50, 1:13, :59, :59, 1:05


Mine transitions, on the other hand, were as follows.  In my defense, I had popped a baby out three months prior, but seriously – this is no good if I’m gunning for a decent time.  I must improve!


  • T1 – 4:24
  • T2 – 2:59


So I’ve been talking to friends and browsing the Internet for transition tips.  Here is the best of the best advice that I’ve seen so far.


PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT.  My friend Monica told me this:  “Practicing transitions is just as important as all the other training you do. Make sure you include practicing transitions in your training schedule so you aren’t trying to figure it out the week before the race. You should be able to set up your station and get your shoes on in your sleep so when your heart is racing it’s not an added stress on race day.”


KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING. Orient yourself so you know where your bike is from all directions. Counting rows from the entry and exit points usually helps, but I also try to look for landmarks (“One row down from the American flag!”).  Getting lost in transition is a huge time suck.


YOUR CHIP TIMER.  If you take off your chip timer (when removing a wetsuit, for example), be sure you put it back on immediately.  If you don’t, you may lose it among all your stuff or completely forget about it. I have made this mistake before – and it sucks to come back to transition during T2 and see your bloody timer on the ground.  Dammit!

CONSIDER SHOE SHORTCUTSElastic laces can save lots of time.  Not only do you not have to tie them, but they also won’t come loose and require that you re-knot them.


NOT ALL GADGETS ARE HELPFUL. Theodora said, “Consider this: for sprint triathlons, clip-in cycling shoes may be totally overrated. One more pair of shoes to change? I’m not good at triathlons, nor transitions, but I find that I need to be a lot more go with the flow in tris than I do with running.”  I personally love my clip-in shoes, but I can see Theodora’s point – minimize the amount of stuff you bring into transition.  The more you have to screw around with, the more time you will waste.


UP IN KNOTS.  Meghann said, “Surprisingly hair is very important in transition. You don’t want to waste time readjusting your hair in transition, so make sure it’s in a style that can handle the swim cap, helmet, and running hat. I always wear mine in a low ponytail or French braids to keep it easy.” 

GET IN THE RIGHT GEAR.  Make sure your bike is in the correct gear when you leave it in transition.  I have made this mistake before.  Trying to start the bike when your gears are super heavy – huge fail.


REMOVE THE SAND.  Between the swim and the bike, your feet will get really dirty.  Some people like to keep a bucket of water in transition and dip their feet in: I prefer to use a huge water bottle and dump the water over my feet.  I’m too afraid someone will knock over my bucket!

WHAT TO WEAR.  A trisuit (see:  Trisuits: One Piece or Two?) will reduce time in transition, as you wear the trisuit for the entire race and don’t need to worry about putting on different clothes.  I love my trisuit, however, I don’t feel like the built-in bra is supportive enough so I pull on a sports bra over my trisuit before exiting T2 (see: Sports Bras Reviews by CaitlinHTP).


START EARLY.  If possible, begin to ‘prepare’ yourself for transition before you actually enter transition.  Take off your goggles and swim cap as you run into T1 and remove your bike gloves and sunglasses as you slow down on the bike (as long as you can do so safely, of course).  Warning – do not remove your bike helmet until you have dismounted or you will be in violation of USAT rules!

Here are a few things that I like to do during the transitions:


  • I separate my Swim to Bike and Bike to Run goodies into two reusable shopping bags. I know some people lay everything out, but I am paranoid someone will trip over my stuff and scatter it everywhere. I like knowing its all contained in two bags.  Also, before I leave transition, I check the bag – if it’s empty, I know I have everything I need.
  • Eat on the go.  I take in gel packets on the bike and munch on snacks during the run. And I drink as much as possibly on the bike.
  • Sunscreen.  I put sunscreen on between the swim and the bike. It probably eats up my time, but I don’t want to risk getting burnt.  I’m pretty dedicated to sunscreen.


For more triathlon stuff:


Give Triathlons a Try

Packing for a Triathlon

Triathlon FAQs

So You Wanna Do a Triathlon: Swimming

So You Wanna Do a Triathlon: Cycling

So You Wanna Do a Triathlon: Running

So You Wanna Do a Triathlon: Transitions

So You Wanna Do a Triathlon: Training

So You Wanna Do a Triathlon: Pool or Lake Swim?

Should You Buy a USAT Membership?

Need-To-Know USAT Triathlon Rules

Four Burning Bike Questions

Best How To Swim YouTube Videos

Do Not Buy Your Spouse a Bike

How to Take Care of Your Swim Gear

The Athena and Clydesdale Category


If you are a master transitioner, I would love to hear your tips!  Or – are you working on transitions, too?



  • Tiff @ Love Sweat & Beers April 25, 2013, 12:36 pm

    Sounds challenging. I can see why you’d be scared someone would knock over your bucket. Yipes!

  • Julie April 25, 2013, 12:42 pm

    2 thoughts – I loved the shoe lace toggles I bought at Fleet Feet… Super fast way to switch to running shoes (which I also biked in).. Also – can you wear your sports bra under your tri suit so it’s already on? Saves you from having to pull it on at the transition. I would think it would dry during the bike so chafing should not be a concern.

    Transitions are such an exciting part of a tri – such a challenge to get out of there as fast as you can! Good luck!

  • Ja @Ja on the RUN April 25, 2013, 1:10 pm

    LOVE THIS! I’m thinking of signing up for a triathlon. I’m saving this post for my future reference. 🙂 I get to read all the links too. 🙂

  • Carolina John April 25, 2013, 2:45 pm

    I pick a point on the way out on the bike to mark as my return spot, then when I see my return spot at the end of the bike leg I know there are no more uphill climbs. When I get back to that point I’ll go ahead and take my feet out of the shoes. You can still press down on the pedals to get to the dismount line. Then rack the bike and leave your shoes attached to the pedals while you run. All you have to do then is dump the helmet/sunglasses and slide on the running shoes with speedlaces, grab the race belt and you are gone. Leaving the shoes clipped onto the bike took me a long time to get used to but it really is one of the best T-tips I’ve learned.

  • Jane @ Not Plain So Jane April 25, 2013, 5:40 pm

    This sounds like a foreign language to me!

  • Nadiya @ Milk and Honey on the Run April 25, 2013, 7:34 pm

    Awesome tips 🙂

    I wonder if you can put on water resistant sun-cream before the swimming leg that way you don’t have to put it on during T1

  • RunEatRepeat April 25, 2013, 11:52 pm

    Love the “remove the sand” reminder 🙂

  • Stevie April 26, 2013, 8:53 am

    There are so many great tips here, Thank You 🙂 i’m just starting out and the tips you have given will save me a lot of time trying to figure it out on my own… I’ll definetley be keeping an eye on your blog for future tips 🙂


  • Laura April 26, 2013, 9:22 am

    I need a very spportive sports bra so I know the bulit-in bra in tri suits won’t cut it. I wear my sports bra and tri shorts for the swim and then I just pull on a lightweight tank top in transition to wear during the bike/run portions. Works pretty well for me!

  • Angie April 26, 2013, 9:40 am

    I have a specific order in which I do things, I try to make it top to bottom – i.e. for T2 helmet off, hat on; camelbak off, race belt skirt (best invention ever!) on; bike shoes off, running shoes on; then grab handheld water bottle and I’m off.

    Transitions are my nemesis, too; in the tri I did 8 weeks after having my last baby, my transition times were ridiculous, I don’t know what I was doing but whatever it was, it was really slow!

  • Rebecca April 26, 2013, 11:31 am

    I’ve watched a couple of tris and everyone’s always in a rush to get through transitions because they want good times. Never occurred to me that anyone wouldn’t be in a hurry and would sit and chat. I can see why you’d be paranoid about people tripping over you stuff, but if it’s up near the middle of your bike like in that picture, nobody’s feet should even be near that area of the bike, right? I mean, unless it’s someone whose bike is near yours, and they should be considerate enough to not knock things around in their transition. But someone who’s just trying to get to their own bike through a middle aisle shouldn’t even be near your stuff. Idk.

    A good chunk of the race chips my dad has used are clipped onto the shoe or around the ankle. I would think that more of them would be ones you don’t have to take off and put back on during transitions if they don’t want you losing it.

  • Courtney April 26, 2013, 12:02 pm

    I second the speed laces recommendation. I also put my sock on before the event and then peel it off slowly and place it in my shoe, so that it’s ready to be put on and already pre-molded to my foot. I know it probably saves 0.00001 seconds, but it helps me. I also place my helmet on my bike, unclipped, interior side up, so it’s ready to put right on. Essentially, I try to make everything as quickly accessible as possible.

  • Sarah April 26, 2013, 1:01 pm

    i wore a two-piece athletic bathing suit (TYR) so it could double as undies and a sports bra – worked beautifully. i hate the idea of being in a “suit” the whole time, and the water was plenty warm enough.

    one thing that I would love you to do a post-on: learning how to ride clipped-in! I read your previous cycling post but it didnt’ really offer much on this. I did my first tri last year and didn’t clip in, and it was SO hard – so I really want to learn to clip-in this year. I have been teaching spinning and clipping-in on a stationary bike for years, so I get the feeling of clipping in and off. What I’m scared of is falling over when stopping outside! I have low bone density and am terrifeid i’ll break a bone the first time I try it! Help!

    Thanks 🙂

  • Anna {Herbivore Triathlete} April 27, 2013, 8:22 pm

    Great tips! I am working on transitions too, in fact I just got a pair of Zoot tri sneakers that I’m hoping will help me in T2. I have clip in shoes for my bike as well, however, the drawback is they have laces! I’m wondering if I could use the elastic laces for my bike shoes, maybe?

  • Jess April 28, 2013, 10:14 am

    Great tips you share here! I’m currently on the injured list with a bad knee at the moment but I want to be able to get back into transition training soon.

  • Sarah April 30, 2013, 7:51 pm

    Love this! I’m looking at getting a bit more intense with triathlons this summer, too. I’ve only done a few, but I’d like to focus more and transitions are definitely an easy place to shave some time. Any tips on how to fall in love with the bike…? (I’m a runner.)

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