Mastering the Triathlon T1: Part 2 - Transition Area

When you’re out of the water and surrounded by hundreds of slippery, slightly disoriented, emotionally-heightened athletes in various stages of control and orientation, your “go to” stabilizer will be your T1 plan.

Your plan should quickly, efficiently and smoothly transition you through T1, converting confusion and chaos to transition efficiency and shaved seconds off your race time - while also providing a mental edge.


The best way to accomplish a successful T1 on race day is to prepare, prepare, prepare. Having already packed your racing bag with gear and nutrition a few days before, it’s equally important to methodically place everything you need precisely where you want it in the transition area. Well before the race starts.

Most importantly, uniquely mark your bike site for easy recognition. Better to prepare now than risk confusion and make mistakes when it counts.

It’s also good practice to mentally run through your T1 multiple times on race day. Lynda Wallenfels recommends in her article “10 Tips for Faster Triathlon Transitions” having a plan that’s “exactly what you are going to do and practice it over and over again until you are fast with no mistakes. Practice it physically several times in training and then rehearse it mentally several times on race morning. By the time you are in transition on race day, you should be moving on autopilot. Never try something new on race day.”


Once you’ve quickly located your bike and kicked off your wetsuit, cap and goggles, it’s time to fully transition from swimmer to cyclist. Most experts advise to put your helmet on first, since failure to wear one results in disqualification. Remember to also fully strap the helmet as some events will also penalize you for an unstrapped helmet inside the transition area.  

Affix your sunglasses while drying off and making your feet clean and comfortable. Quick but careful is the key.

A good tip regarding cycling shoes is to have them pre-mounted on your bike beforehand. Many seasoned triathletes do this by using rubber bands to affix their bike shoes horizontally to the pedals or by simply clipping them on. Once you mount your bike, you can pedal off and slip into your shoes at a comfortable riding point early in the course. Every second counts.

Concentration - Focus

Maintaining focus is essential. It’s easy for some racers to stress out in T1 since everyone is pushing forward in the same direction, time is ticking and a sea of confusion is standard operating procedure. By just remembering and executing your transition plan, you can establish an efficient order and discipline that improves your time.

Other athletes see T1 as a time to take a breather and have a quick conversation with a fellow racer. Or maybe they just take longer than needed to shed their wetsuit and strap on their helmet.

Regardless, this type of approach can cost you valuable seconds and momentum towards reaching the podium or attaining a “PB.” TriDot-trained triathlete Ken Bramble notes the difference a strong transition can make, “Because of the speed of my transitions, I have won races against athletes who were faster than I in the three disciplines.” 

Transitions are just that: interim stages from one point to the next in pursuit of your final destination. Successful T1s include a quick acclimation from water to land, a well laid-out transition area and a flawlessly executed plan.

Master this progression and your “go to” plan will help you “to go” quicker.

In Part 3, we’ll discuss the bike mount and ride off phase of T1.


“10 Tips for Faster Triathlon Transitions” http://www.active.com/triathlon/articles/10-tips-for-faster-triathlon-transitions

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