Jen Rulon

As we know, triathlon is a sport of three events: swim, bike, and run. We also know that there are there is also the 4th event.


Transition 1 (T1) is the swim to the bike, and Transition 2 (T2) is the bike to the run. Transitions can be the best place to shave seconds off your race. I feel that it depends on the type of competition you are doing. Doing an Ironman vs. a sprint triathlon is a big difference with your transition times. I have seen some athletes spend 15-30 seconds in a sprint, but I have also seen athletes spend 15 minutes in an Ironman transition. Heck, I even received a massage in the T2 at Ironman Wisconsin while putting on my running shoes. Depending on your race depends on what you need for your transitions. But let me give you some quick tips to improve your transition times.

The first part of making transitions easy, fast, and smooth is to get organized. It is being organized consists of having the right gear and having it arranged in the order in your transition area. Each race that I do, I have a gear list of what I need for each event, pre racewear/post racewear and nutrition. Then mark it off when I have it packed and when I get to the sight. Need that list? Click HERE!

You are at the race. Now it is time to set up your transition area with the…

“Rulon Rules to Transitions!”

First, get to the race site early! This is an ongoing battle with Chris and I, BUT I am happy when I get there soon enough to not stress about things. I can take the time to listen to music, talk to friends, set up transition and make sure I have figured out where to bike out/bike in is and run out is! Trust me, I am not a fan of getting up uber early but the morning ☀️is so much sweeter! Wear your swimsuit or race gear underneath your clothing because there may not be anywhere to change. An excellent investment is a transition bag. This bag will help you from your car/hotel to the transition sight. There are plenty of transition bags out there. Find one that fits for you!

Second, find your race number to rack your bike. As of recent, I have seen some races have the first come first serve bike rack. Hence, see #1. Some athletes prefer the front wheel going right out to the transition area, or others prefer the front wheel and handlebars on the rack. It is totally up to you and how you have practiced it beforehand.

Third, spread your towel to the left/right of your back wheel or front wheel. You only need a ¼ of your towel. Please don’t spread the whole towel out. The most important, set your gear in the order in which you are going to use it.

Bike Set-Up: Layout your bike shoes; put the clothes you plan to wear for the bike (if any) on the shoes. Lay your helmet up on your aero bars with the straps out and put your sunglasses inside your helmet. Make sure you have water or your nutrition (that you used in training) in your water bottles, which should be in your bike cage. Freeze your water the night before your race, especially if you are racing in TX, it should still be cold during your ride!!

Run Set-Up: Put your running shoes (if different from your bike shoes) just behind your bike shoes. If you wear a hat, put your race belt in your hat. The race number is made of Tyvek and can flap in the wind, so I suggest you crumble up the race number, so it doesn’t flap. But if you are like my athletes and my husband, who can NOT do that. I understand! HA!  If you are doing an Olympic and up, you will need some nutrition. With that said, I like to put my nutrition in a ziplock baggie, and put that in my hat as well. When I leave T2, I can grab my hat and start running and put all my stuff on.

Fourth, figure out where your bike is from T1 AND T2. For example, walk from your bike rack down to the entrance of T1. Then walk back to your bike and count the number of bike racks to where you racked your bike. Do the same from the entrance back into T2, so you can again find your spot at the end of the bike leg. If you can’t remember these two numbers, find some other way to spot your bike out of hundreds or thousands that will be racked in the transition area. Look around to see if there are any landmarks, trees, etc. that will help you find your bike easily. Remember though, once the race starts, the hot pink Cervelo that is next to yours may not be there when you come out of the water. So don’t pick another bike!

One thing that people don’t practice is transitions in their workouts. For example, I may give an athlete who is doing a sprint triathlon on Sunday and have them do this practice on Wednesday, so it is fresh in their head. They can also mentally prepare for the race:

10’ Warm-up bike

5’ warm run

15’ bike

10’ run

15’ bike

10’ run

10 min cooldown of bike or run

This workout may help a sprint athlete work on changing from bike to run shoes or if they want to work on getting out of their bike shoes without clipping out or practice with the shoes already in place on their bike.

I hope you have learned some ideas and some tips about transitions. Once again, practice these transitions, and you can learn to shave off seconds on your overall time. Who knows, that may help you place 1st or get a spot for Ironman-Hawaii.

Do you have any tips for newbie triathletes, getting ready for their sprint triathlon and transitions? Share below!

AUTHOR: Jen Rulon

I am Jen Rulon, a Coach, Kona Finisher and a Public Speaker. I’ve been coaching triathletes for 18+ years and I received my Masters in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Science. I train triathletes to reach their potential and coach triathlon coaches to successfully grow their businesses using my own proven methods. My knowledge has been featured in Triathlete Magazine, Runners World, on the TEDx Stage, the Health and Wellness Expo in San Antonio, TX, Men’s Journal Online, and the New York Times. I also practice what I preach — I’m a 15x Ironman Triathlete who participated in the World Championship in Kona, Hawaii on October 14, 2017.

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