There’s much more to triathlon than knowing how to swim, bike, and run. Sure, a streamlined body and strong kick will get you through the first discipline, a steady cadence and good aero position will help out on the road, and sheer endurance and a kick of speed will power you to the end.
But what about the bits in between? How can you master both transitions to save valuable minutes? And what can you do before your swim wave is called that will set you up for success?
Here are 5 triathlon hacks you might not have considered… but you’ll be glad you did!
The Carrier-Bag Trick
Yes, really (we got this one from a Team GB Olympic athlete). This nifty trick is a great way to get your wetsuit on (especially if you’re a bit clammy before the race). Put a carrier bag over one foot, then slide that leg into the wetsuit. Take the bag off, put it on the other foot, and repeat. And no, it doesn’t matter what shop the bag came from - budget works just as well as a bag for life.
Memorise Your Bike Location
There’s nothing worse than running into transition with your dripping wetsuit flapping around your waist only to realise… that you can’t remember where your bike is. You scour transition, looking at row upon row of shiny frames, whilst all the swimmers you just beat stream past you. Its worse than forgetting where you parked your car in the supermarket. The only solution is finding a way to remember exactly where your bike is. Before the race starts, rack your bike in position and then walk away (no looking back!) to the “swim in” entrance. Now turn and imaging that the pressure is on. Where is your bike? Devise a way that will make sense to your brain when your heart is pounding and there’s water in your ears. You could look for a distinctive marker (like a sign, flag, or parked car) but be sure you choose something that won’t be gone by then. Or you could count rows. Just remember to do it from the position of that “swim in” part of transition.
Set Up Transition
You can save yourself valuable seconds by setting your transition area up in an organised state. Once you’ve racked your bike, slow down and think about things methodically. When you come out from the swim, what will you need to do first? Make sure your bike helmet is easy to grab (you can’t exit transition without it on and done up). If you aren’t swimming with your number already pinned or on a number belt, have the number belt somewhere obvious. You definitely don’t want to rush out on to the bike course without it. Have your bike shoes in front of your run shoes. Have the laces on your run shoes undone, or the quick-lock laces pulled loose. Lay a towel down under your bike’s elevated wheel so you can stand on it with wet feet as you put your bike shoes on. It’s the little details like this that will make your race faster, less stressful, and more comfortable.
Eating & Drinking On The Go
You will almost certainly want to drink on the bike, even if you are doing a short distance triathlon. The bike is the time to refuel and get liquids on board after the swim plus fuel up for the run. And if you are doing a longer race, it will be crucial to take in fluids and calories on the bike as well as the run. Eating and drinking on the bike is a real skill which will need some practice. Think about the logistics of carrying the liquid and fuel you need. How many bottle cages will you need, and where do you want to put them (on the frame or behind your saddle)? Will you carry gels or other fuel in a zip bag on your frame, or in your back pockets? And then you will need to practice the physical skill of reaching down to find your drink bottle, lifting it out, drinking from it, and putting it back securely - all whilst keeping up your cadence and pace.
You won’t want to lose time as you come into T2 after the bike leg. Imagine how demoralising it could be to pass plenty of people on the bike, only to see them fly past you as you fumble with your cleats and struggle to dismount before the line. So practice unclipping, getting off your bike, and running with it. Set up a “dismount” line at the end of a regular bike training route (if you live on a quiet street or have your own driveway, use the opportunity). You want to be able to unclip shortly before the line, get your feet out of the cleats, and then swing your leg over the bike and hit the ground lightly before running safely with your bike. Spectators will be impressed, marshals will be relieved, and - most importantly - you’ll be on your way into transition quickly, safely, and without missing a beat.