Why transitions are so important and helpful tips

Paul Savage shares two examples of how transitions can make or break your performance in a race;

At the London Triathlon in 2011, Joe Skipper and I were racing in the Elite wave. Joe sat on my feet all the way round the swim and exited the swim 2 seconds behind me. However, my transition time was 12 seconds faster than Joe’s and I just managed to get on to the back wheel of Steve Worthington (draft-legal race) as I started the bike. I heard Joe shout ‘Savage!’ to me as he struggled to make up ground, but he never got on my wheel and I managed to get into a pack of 8 strong riders including Mark Buckingham. I beat Joe by over 2 minutes that day but I know it would have been a different result if he’d managed to have a better transition and get into the same bike pack as me! It was a very easy 40k ride for me and I ran well off the bike, but Joe had to work hard all through the bike and didn’t have the legs for the run – he should have practised his transitions!

The following year at the 2012 Ironman UK I made the decision to bike in cycling shorts and change into run shorts for the run. Because I was getting ‘naked’ in T2 I had to go into the separate male change area which was in the boys school changing room of Rivington High School (the main T2 was in the sports hall for those not getting naked). It meant a longer run through transition and the act of changing clothes obviously took more time. I remember I even used the toilet, flushed it, washed my hands and did my hair in the mirror! My T2 time was 3:41 compared to 1:30 from Michael Meier who took the final Kona slot in my age-group. My finish time was less than 4 minutes behind Michael – I reckon if I’d worn a tri-suit to race in (which would have been more aero on the bike) and saved time in transition I would have got that Kona slot…

Whatever level you compete at, you will still be looking at your times after the race and having a speedy transition will improve your overall performance time

The key to good transition is meticulous planning and plenty of practise

Comments from Tony Jolly

Transition is all about preparation, practice and not slowing down…..

The best way to get good at transition is to volunteer at a race and help out in transition, you will see so many issues and how not to do it. Remove all these issues and you will go faster.

Practice the key activities in advance.

Wetsuit removal, running with a bike, bike mount, dismount, etc. You can do these nearly every time you train in certain environments.
For example every time you train in open water, practice getting the wetsuit off at speed as soon as you get out of the water, don’t leave it to race day, experiment when practicing.
If you leave your race bike shoes on the bike during a race, then leave them on the turbo and practice getting feet in and out f shoes during turbo sessions.

Prepare at a race. Walk through transition beforehand, give yourself reference points as to where you bike is both on swim exit and returning on the bike. E.g. When enter transition from swim, the bike is on the third row of bikes, and then 10 good strides up on the left.

In the race, less haste more speed and keep moving are key mantras. Ideally keep moving as much as possible, but don’t rush it. Make sensible decisions under pressure. I watched the age group race last year at Hyde Park last year, one guy ran all the way through transition to go out on the run (it’s a very big transition) and then remembered he’d forgotten his watch so went back for it. It cost him over 2 minutes (I timed it). But at least he knew very accurately he was two minutes slower, so maybe he was happy.