So, you call yourself a triathlete. Why? Because you swim bike and run? There’s more! In this article, I’m going to give you a few pointers on being more than a triathlete. In fact, I’m going to show you how to be Superman (or Superwoman if you prefer). You see, in the beginning, we are just a bunch of Clark Kents. What does Clark need to become Superman? That’s right, a phone booth.
I’d like you all to become acquainted with your own personal phone booth called transition. Specifically, we’ll be looking first at T1 and then at T2.
First, a note on how to move quickly. You want to move in an efficient manner, more so than in a hurried manner. Knowing what you plan to do ahead of time and being organized will allow you to have confidence in your transitions. Preparation = Confidence. Confidence = Efficiency. Efficiency = Speed.
It seems to me that the theme of the swim-to-bike transition at most triathlons is “Where the heck am I?” You see people doing full stops and looking around as they exit the water. This is not the makings of a fast transition. My take on this is that you have just been horizontal for a significant amount of time, with blood pumping to your arms which are doing most of the work. Suddenly, you are vertical, with blood trying to get to your legs since you are up on them. Also, your system is trying to thermo-regulate after being in a different environment. Add to this that you have been turning yourself from side to side and you may feel a little dizzy or out of sorts.
T1 starts before the exit. Don’t blast toward shore, but rather keep the pace steady. Swim until you are touching the bottom with your hands. Just before you stand, pull the neck of your wetsuit open a bit at the front and let in some water. Then as you stand and run those last steps out of the water, you can unzip your suit and the extra water will aid in pulling off the suit. Lift your feet out of the water rather than dragging them through as you exit the water. Make your way efficiently to the wetsuit strippers or to transition. You can easily have the top of your wetsuit off while moving toward transition. It may be faster to pull the bottom off at your bike and skip the wetsuit strippers. Your choice. You don’t need to run unless it is safe to do so. Fast walking is good too, but keep moving.
Keep T1 as simple as possible. Wetsuit off, helmet on, sunglasses on, un-rack bike. Move efficiently out of transition.
A note on footwear. Socks on the bike are personal preference as are shoes-on-the-bike or shoes-on-your-feet. For socks, roll them up so that they are easy to pull on. For shoes-on-the-bike, only if you have practiced in training. It is a good idea to use elastic bands to hold the shoes horizontal on the crankarms if you plan on going that route. Again practice this in training.
On to T2
It is with great fondness that I recall my first attempt at running off the bike in my first duathlon. I’m quite sure I made every mistake imaginable. I had never tried it in practice. I tried to run as fast as I could right away and I nearly fell over as I started to see moiré patterns in front of my eyes from lack of oxygen. Then I slowed down and suffered with legs of concrete for most of the run. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
My first pointer is to practice. The best way to get used to the feeling of running after biking is to try it a few times. The simple act of having done something before makes it easier to repeat in a race situation. Athletes I coach will see these workouts in their schedule. That’s right – BRICK workouts. Bike/Run/ICK.
Next is stretching. The run should start in your mind while you are still riding. Don’t leave everything you have on the bike course. Notch back the effort a little so you don’t arrive completely beat for the run. Within the last kilometer of the bike leg, get out of your saddle and stretch out your hip flexors. An easy way to do this is to stand with one leg at the bottom of the pedal stroke and the other at the top and move your pelvis forward. Switch legs and repeat. This will help prevent some discomfort when you get off your bike and try to run.
When you do get off your bike, be quick and efficient in transition, but don’t rush. There’s a big difference between fumbling around with your shoes and clothes in a mad rush versus quickly and methodically making the change. Practice this as well during your BRICK sessions. You can also try leaving the shoes on the pedals and doing the “speeding bullet” transition. Remember to practice this before doing it in a race.
I like to have my hat and anything else I want for the run all wrapped up. I just start the run with this in my hand and organize it while I’m running.
As you begin to run, your brain has been accustomed to going bike speed and will attempt to imitate this speed while running. Now unless you are an exceptionally fast runner, it is unlikely this will work out well. Force yourself to run comfortably even if it feels slow. You are moving faster than you think.
Each person will adapt at his or her own rate, but very shortly, your legs will feel less weird and the blood in your body will have redistributed itself to where it is needed. You’ll be running happily, red cape flowing in the wind.
Try these suggestions out in practice and let me know if you have any questions (or tips) that are specific to you.
Preparation = Confidence. Confidence = Efficiency. Efficiency = Speed.