The most important thing you can do for your race happens before it. Be prepared for anything and everything. This article will help you prepare everything you need for race day.
Equipment and Set-Up
- Wetsuit and swimsuit or
- Lubricant for wetsuit
- Use a lubricant that is safe for wetsuits
- Spray around your neck and armpits to avoid chafing, and your forearms, wrists and calves to help you get your suit off faster.
- Bring two pairs with you that you have worn before race day (tinted/clear)
- Make sure they fit comfortably and do not leak
- Use an anti-fog solution
- Timing Chip
- Be sure you don’t lose this! You must wear it throughout the entire event and the finish line crew will often remove it for you at the end of the race. Wear your timing chip around your left ankle- you don’t want the velcro coming loose and getting caught in your bike’s drivetrain.
- Swim cap
- The race will provide you with one to wear on event day, but it’s a good idea to have an extra one that you can layer underneath for warmth in cold water, or buy a neoprene one for extremely cold water.
- While you may swim with your goggles over the top of your cap in the pool, you may want to wear your cap over top of them for racing. With the thrashing that comes with swimming in a group, it is not uncommon to have your goggles knocked off in a race. If you have your goggles strap under your cap they will stay on your head instead of getting knocked off. Just be sure to practice this way a few times before your event.
- Transition 1
- Equipment needed: bike, cycling shoes (with baby powder sprinkled inside), helmet, sunglasses, gels (if they're not ON your bike already), and possibly gloves and a hydration pack if it’s an off-road triathlon
- Bike- Before you leave T1 for the swim start, look at what gear you left your chain in. You’ll want it in an easy gear in order to get some momentum up so you can then coast for a second or minute as you make any small adjustments, like getting your shoes clipped in, sunglasses situated, shoes tightened, etc.
- Transition 2
- Equipment: Running shoes (and socks if you need them), number belt (if it’s not pinned to your suit), hat or visor if wanted, maybe a fresh pair of sunglasses, and gels or your preferred sports drink
- Familiarise yourself with the course and listen to the pre-race briefing.
- Swim to warm-up for 5-10 minutes if possible and do some bursts of 10-25 yards at nearly full effort at the end of your warm-up.
- Finish ~5 minutes before the gun goes off if possible. If the water is cold, don’t avoid the warm-up, it’s actually even more important! If you don’t get in before the start, it will be a rude shock to the system and you’ll have difficulty controlling your breathing and heart rate.
READY, SET, GO!
- Line-up appropriate with your ability—faster swimmers in the front, slower swimmers at the back or on the sides of the group.
- Find yourself some space—in the middle and three to four rows back are bad places to be…there is no safety in numbers, only chaos!
- Stay calm and relaxed—don’t fight the water.
- Start strong but settle into a comfortable pace after the initial starting “sprint.” If you’re uncomfortable in this environment, don’t sprint at the start. Stay relaxed and go at your own pace.
- Breathe early and often
- Sight frequently
- Buoys are not always the best place to sight because of the splashing water in front of you so picking bigger objects further in the distance like houses or a lone tall tree, etc. that are easy to spot can be better to aim for. Generally speaking though, if you’re in the midst of the splashing, it’s highly likely that you’re going the right direction and don’t need to sight as often as if you were swimming alone.
- Draft on the feet or hips of another swimmer to save energy
- Most importantly, keep calm and swim on!
EXITING THE WATER
- The transition from water to land is not easy. Blood rushes from your arms and head to your legs and can make you light-headed.
- Make sure you kick a bit harder in the last 200m to get your legs primed
- Stay low and push forward
- Stand up and run only when the water is about knee-deep
- Don’t trip—lift your feet over the water (you practice high knees for a reason!)
- Stay calm as you exit the water; don’t sprint all out to T1
SWIM-BIKE TRANSITION (T1)
- Unzip your wetsuit and pull it off your arms as you run to transition and let it hang around your waist, then remove your cap and goggles. Once you find your spot, drop your cap and goggles, pull the wetsuit down to your ankles and step on the legs to tug your feet out or pull it off with your hands.
- Put your shoes on (and socks if you need them) and tighten them enough to run/walk in. They don’t have to be perfect, you can tighten them more once you’re on the bike.
- Put your helmet and sunglasses on, or have your sunglasses tucked into the front of your helmet and put them on while riding. BUCKLE your helmet before unracking your bike. You can be disqualified for exiting T1 without your helmet fastened.
- Grab your bike and run to the Bike Exit. Mount only after crossing the specified “mount” line.
- Mount your bike however you’re comfortable. A flying mount is the fastest but takes practice.
- Get up to speed and then make any adjustments to your shoes, helmet, sunglasses, etc.
- Stay to the right side of the road and if it’s a non-draft legal event, stay about four bike lengths behind the rider in front of you. When you want to pass, look to the left to make sure it’s safe, then pull out and make your pass quickly, then move back to the right side.
- If it’s a draft legal event, find someone who is going about the same speed and tuck in behind them.
BIKE-RUN TRANSITION (T2)
- Dismount before the designated “dismount” line. Make sure 1 foot is on the ground before the line to avoid a penalty.
- Find your gear spot and rack your bike
- Remove your helmet and shoes
- Put on your running shoes, however you’ve practiced- while standing or sit down
- Put on your number belt, hat/visor and sunglasses
- Grab your gels or any other items you need and proceed to the designated “Run Exit”
- Start at a controlled pace, but with a high cadence and settle in until your heart rate is stabilized
- If you’ve planned and practiced a negative split strategy, pick up the pace as you feel ready.
- Remember to eat and drink according to your pre-race plan and finish strong!
Pro Tips from our Coaches
- Practice ahead of time - Our training plans include back-to-back sessions specifically for you to practice the swim-bike and bike-run transitions. It’s vital to go through the motions of each transition before you do it in a race. That way you know what to expect and can switch into autopilot while your heart is pounding and the adrenaline is pumping.
- Work on the layout of your transition area. Think chronologically. Put all of your bike gear in front of your run gear since you’ll need it first. That way you’re not moving your running shoes around trying to get your bike shoes or helmet during the race.
- Keep your transition area clean. Only lay out the items you absolutely need so you don’t have to search through a pile of equipment for something. Put any extra gear back in the bag you brought everything in and set it somewhere out of the way.
- Recon, visualize and practice your race transition on site. Walk through the transition area the way you will flow through it during the race. There will be different entry and exit locations for T1 and T2, so make sure you know which is which. Figure out some landmarks like rack numbers or sides of the transition zone so you can orient yourself when you run into the transition area and know where to go to find your stuff. You can also invest in a bright or unique towel that stands out so your gear is easier to find.
- On a day that you have a bike workout scheduled after a swim, bring your bike to the pool and have it set up nearby (if it’s safe and secure) and go through the transition as if you were racing. If you can’t bring your bike, just go through the first few steps of getting your gear on and practice the bike mount later. You don’t have to do it at every workout, but it’s good to do at least a couple of times before race day.
- The bike-to-run transition is generally easier for people, but that does not mean you shouldn’t practice. On days that you have cycling and running workouts on the same day and the run is specified as a “brick,” you should do them back to back in order to practice transition and get used to running on tired legs. Gather and set up your running gear as if it were a transition area and go through the transition process quickly, but smoothly and methodically. If the timing does not allow for this every workout, it’s ok to do them separately; simply practice the transition immediately after finishing your bike workout and make sure to do them back to back next time.
- For advanced triathletes who want to save as much time in transition as possible, you can have your cycling shoes clipped into the pedals on your bike and put your feet in your shoes while riding. This takes a lot of practice to do quickly and smoothly and is not recommended for most people. Removing your feet from your shoes before dismounting the bike and running into T2 barefoot is also a time-saving tip and is slightly easier, but still requires practice.
Note: Most people lose time in transition because they are stressed and try to rush the process. Focus on remaining calm and relaxed when practicing your transitions, and come race day you will be less likely to panic and make mistakes.
Tips for your best race:
- Stay calm. Running around frantically isn’t fast. Slow down and think about what you’re doing and where you need to be going. Think about smooth movements when taking off your wetsuit or putting on your shoes.
- Take one last glance around your area before heading out. You don’t want to forget your sunglasses or an important gel for the bike or the run. An easy way to avoid the sunglasses issue is to stash them in your helmet while setting up your transition area.
- Laugh at yourself if you make a mistake. If you drop your sunglasses or struggle to put your shoes on, getting upset won’t solve the problem any faster. If you want to get the most out of yourself you have to enjoy what you are doing!
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