Posted by: Joe English | September 29, 2009

Triathlon — How can I shorten my triathlon transition times?

Coach Joe English

Coach Joe English

One my marathon runners wrote to me last week and was worried about her transition times in a duathlon / triathlon this past weekend. Although much improved, she asked for tips on ways to shorten her times in transition. I’ve got a few that I can suggest to her and anyone else out there that wants to knock some key seconds off of their transitions.

The first question that you might already be asking is how long should a triathlon transition take. That really depends on the length of the race. For a short triathlon, such as a sprint distance race or most Olympic distance races, most racers should target one to two minutes at a maximum for completing these transitions. Elite athletes will often make these transitions in well under one minute. As races become longer, the transition times will get longer as well. As the length of the bike increases, in particular, you’ll start needing to think about wearing a pair of true cycling shorts and taking the time to put on sun screen for example. It isn’t uncommon for Ironman distance racers to do a complete change of their clothing in each transition and this can take some time.

Keep in mind, when trying to measure your transition speed, that there is often time running on the clock when you are moving from the water to your bike or entering/exiting the transition area. This can really add up in some races. If you’re curious how well your times stack up, look through the other participants’ results in your age group and take a look at the fastest transition times to give yourself a benchmark to compare against. An even better exercise is to practice your transitions at home and try to get those times as quick as possible outside of the pressure of competition. Practicing transitions might be one of the most effective tools to cutting the times down.

Let’s think a little more about what we’re trying to accomplish in the transitions. It may seem obvious, but in the first transition (T1) we are transitioning from swim to bike and in the second (T2) from bike to run. I start by pointing this out, because often times people try to do too much in T1, trying to change everything in that first transition. Use T1 to transition to the bike. Leave the transition to the run for later. I say this, because trying to do everything in that first transition tends to overwhelm people and when you’re talking about seconds, you want to to cut things down and remain as focused as possible. Also, because you are soaking wet coming out of the water, it may make sense to leave some things until T2 that you don’t want to do when wet — like putting on socks if you need them for running. I’ll come back to this later, but it serves as a good example of something that if needed would be better done with dry feet.

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