Transition, the 4th Discipline in Triathlon

By Rodrigo Tosta, coach, Brazil

Transition, the 4th Discipline in Triathlon

When we talk about triathlon, we imagine that it is a union of three things, right? No, it is not so! In fact, between each of the sports that make up the triathlon there is what we call transitions, representing the transition from one sport to another and which plays an important role both in short and long races.


The T1 starts exiting the water –

The transition from swimming to cycling, best known to triathletes as T1, is usually more complicated due to the following:

– During swimming, our body stays in the horizontal position, which causes the blood flow to concentrate mainly in the upper part where the energy demand is greatest. To this end we need to step up, or change the body position and hence blood flow has to change because now more energy demand will be in the lower limbs. When we are not used to this change, we experience dizziness, nausea and even fainting (depending on weather conditions on race day, as the strong heat can also contribute to hindering this adaptation). A tip I give to my athletes is to simulate it in practice “breaking” the time proposed for the training outputs with sea or lake and running 30/40 seconds before returning to the water. In the pool usually spend long, progressive series of 500-1000 meters, where the intervals are made running around the pool.

– Another situation that sometimes makes this a more lengthy transition is the fact that we are using a wetsuit (in races where this equipment is allowed). As well as being thin, if not tight, these are difficult to take off, so much so that in long races, it is common to have the aid of staffs for this “arduous” task! The tip here is for the use of products that help with the removal of the clothing such as hair conditioner, or special lubricants (there are several brands), and practice taking the wetsuit ever faster after workouts in this material is used.


– It is also worth remembering that when we use the wetsuit, we can swim with gear that will fit under it, which saves time. If the wetsuit is not allowed, a good option is the trisuit without pockets (if making a long race, remember to use a “fuel belt” to store your nutrition on the run stage).

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– Another important factor to remember is that we should create some reference to find the bike when it is among so many others. Some may put a fancy colored towel on their bike to make it clear. See if there is anything that is in the same direction of the bike and can guide you such as a tree, a pole or a tent. I usually count bicycle rows from the entrance in the transition to where my bike is. I’ve seen people tying balloons on the rack, so it is easy to identify the place from afar. Now that’s creativity!!!

– Create an order of the tasks that you have to perform in the transition and memorize every step. This helps you not to forget anything. Regarding the shoes, you can leave it attached to the pedals, but know that this requires some training.  You will have to put them moving and usually with plenty of people around you. Train for this dynamic whenever climbing on your bike from now on.

Already the transition from cycling to running, also called T2, tends to be faster, but still we must take some care and pay attention to all the details:

– Arriving at the transition area, you should pay attention to the mount/dismount line (range limiting where athletes need to get on/off the bike), as is common, especially in short races, we see athletes being punished for going through this line still on the bike.

– You do not need to get off the bike moving, because the time to get out of it is irrelevant (Chrissie Wellington stops the bike before).  But if you think it looks attractive and that it holds a certain kind of status to do that bold maneuver, train this dynamic whenever get off your bike to familiarize yourself with this movement.

– Once again, create an order of the tasks that have to be performed within the transition and memorize every step to not to rush out and forget something.

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The T2 is usually faster

If you are a beginner athlete and your goal is to complete the race, do not worry too much about the time spent inside the transitions. You can even lead a “short list” with all they have to do, you can change clothes between modes if you feel more comfortable and take time to enjoy every moment, because the transition area is a place to meet with friends and family and it is always nice to receive the support and encouragement of all, even for those few minutes that we are there.

Now, if you’re looking to improve your time, a place on the podium or the rating for the world is a different story! You should optimize the most of your time in the transitions, because every second you spend in there is recorded as energy saving to reduce the same time swimming, cycling and / or running. So, create your plan for transitions and practice it constantly, timing and see how you can create ways to be even faster without leaving anything on the way.

Enjoy your training!

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