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Transition Time, break it down

The transition between swim, bike and run can be one of the biggest challenges.

Transition Workouts - Breaking it Down
Transition Workouts - Breaking it Down

There’s more to triathlon than swim, bike and run – the transition between the different sports can be one of the biggest challenges. There’s nothing quite like the “jelly-legs” feeling you’ll have the first time you try to do a run after biking fairly hard. We asked a couple of coaches for some tips on making that process a bit easier.

Pre-Race Practice
“There should never be any surprises when you get to a race,” says TMC editor Kevin Mackinnon, the author of A Healthy Guide to Competition. “Before your race, you should do some transition (often called ‘Brick’) workouts to simulate the race experience.” Mackinnon suggests doing a series of workouts that build to about three-quarters of your race distance for the bike and run. So, if you’re gearing up for a sprint triathlon, before your first race you should aim to complete a 15 km bike ride followed by a 3.5 km run.

Race Morning Preparation
Ironman world champion and coach Greg Welch stresses the importance of knowing exactly where you’re going in the transition area. He suggests that before the race, after you’ve set up your bike in transition, you walk through transition to ensure you know exactly where you’re going after you come out of the swim, start and finish the bike and start the run. Mackinnon says, “Before the race, follow a warm-up plan you’ve practiced a few times during your transition workouts. Do a short bike ride, followed by a short run about 45 minutes before the race. With about 15 minutes to go, if the water is warm enough, do a short swim warm up before you head off to the start.”

The End of the Swim
“Shortly before the end of the swim, your time would be well spent starting the mental changeover from being a swimmer to becoming a cyclist,” writes Cherie Gruenfeld in her book Your First Ironman. “Start visualizing the transition and see yourself – in detail – going through the motions of getting out of the water, shedding the swim gear and donning bike gear.” “In this visualization, make sure to see yourself as calm. This will not only get you prepared mentally prepared for a quick and efficient T1, but will keep you on an even keel when you get caught in the frenzy that begins in the finishing chute of the swim.”

Starting the Run
“Even with all the brick training, your legs will likely still feel like bricks,” Gruenfeld writes. “But, because of all that brick training, you know that you can get settled in and run well. That first mile is all a mind game. The body wants more time to get going, while the mind wants it to start running well right now. Relax, and try to see yourself running like a pro.”