triathlon transition

Triathlon Tips for Stress-less Transition Setup

Tips for Stress-less Triathlon Transition Setup
By Paul Ruggiero

It’s full of nervous athletes. It’s a cornucopia of chaos. A beehive of activity. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.

OK, it’s not quite Mos Eisely Space Port, but you get my drift. A triathlon transition area is where nervous triathletes go to make other triathletes feel nervous. Sometimes it seems like everyone’s freaked out. Being prepared for transitions is essential for learning to control your nerves and get in and out smoothly and quickly.

Let’s look at a few tips to make transition area less nerve-wracking.

Set up early!

Never rush into transition last minute and expect set up and prep to be simple. You never know how traffic or parking is going to be or how long the walk to the transition area might be, so get to the race venue early. Think of your race start time as a flight departure, and you don’t want to miss that plane. You bank a certain amount of time to get to the airport, check luggage, get through security, and find your gate stress free. Apply the same logic to your race-day routine. There are a million little things to do in transition to set yourself up for success for the day, so don’t be late.

Turn on the tunes!

Or at least, put in the ear buds. It’s totally cool to rock out to Zeppelin as you systematically go through your setup process. Or, try my trick from the NYC subway: put ear buds in and don’t plug them into anything. That way you’re not closed off from what’s going on around you, but you can choose what to engage in and what to ignore. Like when the guy next to you is doling out bad advice, pretend you don’t hear him and it’s easier to dismiss it. And you can still engage in meaningful conversations if needed. The ear buds are great for when you …

Stroll transition.

Because you’re at transition nice an early and you have your ear buds in, go get the lay of the land. Find your spot on the rack, hang your bike and drop your bag, but don’t unpack right away. First, go on your personal walk about. It’s like a triathlon scavenger hunt.

Find the spot where the swim comes into transition area. Walk from “Swim In” to your bike. Locate your bike by using a fixed object, meaning something that ain’t gonna move while you’re out on the swim. A flag pole, tree, or building is good; that U-Haul dropping off water is not. You want zero confusion when you come out of the water on where you need to go. There are a million bikes and racks around, people will be yelling your name, your heart will racing and you’ll be trying to wriggle out of your wet suit. In that moment, everything suddenly looks incredibly different.

Practice the walk from the water to your bike, then from your bike rack to the bike mount line. Do the same from the bike in line to your rack, then to the run out. Know your routes. Walk it. Then go back to your spot and open up the tri bag you know is so well organized because you…

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Prep the week before!

Smooth transitions start days before race morning. Practice makes perfect, and not just for the run, bike and swim. Practice your prep and packing as well. It’s a skill. To coin the popular Marie Kondo Method, only pack it if it brings you joy. Or if you absolutely need it.

Have one and only one bag for transition. When you’re packing, lay everything out in order before you. Swim stuff, bike stuff, run stuff. Any lotions or creams are next., then your food and water bottles. Food goes in zip lock bags and stored away. Bottles can be labeled and filled later. Fold everything up, (Kondo style), put it in the bag and don’t touch it! Time and time again athletes have taken things out of their bags and forgotten to put it back. Lay it out, organize, double check, pack and leave it alone.

And now …


Don’t linger too long in the transition area. Be confident in your preparations. You got there early, put the ear buds in, checked the swim in, bike out, bike in and run out, and made your area nice and tidy. There’s nothing left for you to do in transition area! Don’t mill around, just get out of there. Go for a quick jog. Head to the swim start. Go find a shady tree and watch the madness of transition from a distance. Staying there just increases the nerves. Go be quiet and still. Practice being mindful.

And have a good race! Tune in next time when we talk about smooth transitions during the race.

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