Ah, the unsung fourth component of triathlons – transitions. When the clock is ticking and you’re not moving forward, many people panic and try to move too fast. In T1 at my very first triathlon, I hurriedly put on my bike helmet, not realizing my sunglasses were inside. I pulled it off and the sunglasses fell to the ground, whereupon I promptly stumbled and stepped directly onto them. No more sunglasses for this race.
Many books teach you how to shave seconds off of your transition times. Some even recommend to clip your bike shoes onto your pedals, using rubber bands to hold them level so that you can run and jump into them with a flying start, no doubt with Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” playing in your head at the same time. While I am awed by those who can achieve this feat of gymnastics, I am equally as sure that my attempt to do the same would result in a broken collarbone and somewhere between 10 and 50 stitches.
Here’s my advice: take your time. United States Special Forces have a saying, “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” This is the best way I can think of to emphasize the importance of staying composed. Know the things you need to do and what order you will do them in. It is incredibly helpful to practice this beforehand, setting up your transition area and running through the motions, making sure everything is in its place. Better yet, practice your bike-to-run transition during a brick workout when you’re sweaty and tired and breathing hard after your bike ride. This is, after all, how it will be during your race.