A Transition Plan Combined With Practice Can Take Minutes Off Of Your Triathlon Time


Hi folks,

Transition area before and Ironman race.

Transition area before the race.

It really is worth planning your transition. I’ve made pretty well every mistake in the book. The real trick is to plan your approach, which should be as simple as possible, and practice the routine until it is completely automatic. I have learned some tricks over the years, largely from other people in my age group, including the use of layers that you peel off. It is important to avoid having to put on clothes when you are wet, for instance, as this can become a real tangle. My problem has always been a tendency to ‘hang around’ in the transition, but that is easily fixed with a little discipline.

Transition are Lake Placid Ironman

Transition area just before an Ironman race.

Even with a perfect system, you will still have some surprises, and here are a few that I have had to deal with:

  1. Bike racks were in a field of clay, which got into my bike cleats making it almost impossible to engage the pedals. I solved this one by finding a large puddle and vigorously washing my cleats. Fine clay is the worst.
  2. I used to wear bike shorts over my running shorts and then I dump my bike shorts in the transition. Once I forgot, and found myself running with wet bike shorts, which I had then to throw away. I now do the bike leg of Ironman distance races in running shorts, to save time at the bike-run transition, but this only works when you are generating a decent wattage as it tends to spread the load away from my saddle towards the pedals. This might indicate that my spin is less then perfect?
  3. One year in the Lake Placid Ironman it rained for almost 10 hours of the race. Heavy rain! The result was a transition tent that was essentially pitch black with six inches of mud as a floor. It was a good thing that I had a system, but I didn’t have a flashlight; it all had to be done by feel in the middle of a mass of struggling athletes.

If you train like crazy over the winter you might take two minutes off your swim time. A little planning and practice can reduce your race time by five minutes or more, which may be the difference between placing or not.

OH! YES! Aside from transitions, don’t forget to go to the roll down meeting; I missed a Hawaii slot that way.

-k @FitOldDog


  1. Pauline Watson says

    Great advice! Especially the note about not trying to put clothes on when you are wet, this is made even worse if your hands are cold from the swim!

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.