Monday, June 11, 2012

Tips for a Good Transition 1

Don't let the name 'triathlon' fool you. On its surface, the sport is swim-bike-run. However, you don't magically get out of the water and appear on your bike. It takes work to transition from one discipline to the next. Work takes time and the race clock does not stop for you once you enter the transition area.

It would be excellent if that were the case. Suppose everyone got a 2 minute grace period. You enter transition and your 2-minute window of opportunity started. If you took care of business quickly, you would wait until your 2 minutes were up before being allowed to leave. I would do considerably better under those circumstances. Alas, it is not the case. Once the whistle blows, time does not end until you cross the finish line and some unlucky volunteer has the responsibility of plucking your sweaty, smelly, gross timing chip firmly attached to your ankle.

Getting from the water and onto your bike, with all of the necessary accessories, is a skill and needs to be practiced. Before you practice, you should have some idea of what you are doing. I am going to tell you.

Why should you listen to me? Great question. Especially when you recall that, at my most recent race, my 2:55 transition time was one of the slowest in the race. But, look at this from a different perspective... I have made all of the mistakes. I know now what should NOT be done. Basically, if you want a fast transition time, do the opposite of what I did and you'll be golden.

Step 1- Run, don't walk.
There's some simple truths we cannot ignore. For most people, running is faster than walking. Remember, the goal is to get from point A to point B as fast as possible. Point A is the edge of the water. Point B is the place where your bike is sitting. Most race directors do not allow personal transport systems. USAT rules clearly forbid outside assistance, such as a shuttle buses or Star Trek style particle beams. Therefore, you are basically stuck doing the work alone.

In my last race, my legs were spent from climbing stairs. This is completely my fault. I did not run from the water to my bike. I sort of strolled. Walking adds time versus those who run.

Advanced technique: Run really fast.

Step 2- Be a minimalist
The more stuff you put on your body, the slower you will be. Most of the time, triathlon is a summer sport. This tends to yield pleasant temperatures. Unless you live in the New England area. Then, it's anybody's guess. Last week, we had highs in the 90's and lows in the 70's. On race day, the high was 62 and race temperature was 59ยบ. Once the race has started, the temp started dropping slightly as the wind picked up and the front moved in.

I made the decision to be warm instead of fast. I put on the arm warmers I got for Christmas (thank you Mommy!) These things are skin tight and have grips on for my wrist and biceps. They are sticky and tricky especially when you sport huge guns like mine.

I made the decision to wear socks. These are not needed for triathletes. Sure, if you hang out with a bunch of roadies, socks are a cult-like requirement. So be it in their sport. Mine wants speed and my bike shoes are quite comfortable without needless material. Socks, on the other hand, do provide a significant wind barrier and thermal trap. Since I am a pansy whose feet get cold just by looking at pictures of cool weather, I opted for socks.

Advanced technique: Race naked. (Technically against the rules but has the potential for super fast transitions.)

(Please send pics.)

Step 3-No sitting on the job

Sitting down is a waste of time. Don't do it. You have to travel all of that distance down and then back up again. Let's also not underestimate the amount of energy taken out of your quads by doing plyometric squats in the middle of a race.

I have not mastered this trick yet. Getting out of your wetsuit should be as simple as peeling the neoprene down past your knees, stomping one foot out, using that as an anchor while you stomp out the second foot.

Some say you should Body Glide your ankles. Guess what? It doesn't help. Some say you should remove your wetsuit in the water. Guess what? It helps. Unless there is a specific rule forbidding it (the KLT has such a rule).

I am at the point where I am ready to take a knife to the wetsuit. I'd like to shave a few inches off the lower legs in hopes that my massive calves will free themselves of their black rubber prison. That's right! I am ready to cut my couple-a-hundred-dollar swimming tool in an effort to shave 10 seconds off my transition time. It would be worth it.

Advanced technique: Bike with your wetsuit on. Your transition will be fast. Your bike time may suffer, depending on your training.

Step 4- Have everything ready
Okay, this bit I actually do correctly.
  • My shoes are pre-attached to my pedals. I can efficiently slide in my feet on the go.
  • My helmet is on my handle bars, upside down, with the straps out.
  • My glasses are inside my helmet.
  • My jersey is already on, under my wetsuit.
  • My race number is already on, under my wetsuit.
All I have to do is make it to my bike and get through steps 1-3 efficiently (not an easy task for the Banter). Then, I'm in the money. Put on my glasses. Helmet on head. Strap in. Grab bike and go.

Advanced technique: Okay, that's a farce. My Step 4 is as good as you can get.

So there you have it. Tips on how to make a better T1 from a guy who's made almost all of the mistakes (most of which in his last race). Remember, a good T1 is like adding an extra mph on the bike ride without the need to pedal. T1= Free speed.

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