Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Shop ride Sundays: Transition redux

We had fun running around and practicing transitions in Butler Park after last Sundays shop ride. The chance to try things on grass helped hugely to work out how to cut valuable time, good luck to everyone doing CapTex Tri on Monday, I'll be there to yell at you if you are taking too long ;-)

My key point is simply this. If I told you I could cut 2-minutes from your swim time with just an hour’s practise, you’d bite my hand off, how many people have ever spent a whole our practising transitions though ?

Back in 2001, I was fortunate enough to be able to take part in the ITU Triathlon World Championships. I was a mediocre swimmer, an overweight cyclist and a poor runner. What was a boy to do? Make sure I gained as much time as possible with a fast transition.

Since that event I’ve honed my skills in transition to the point where I’m disappointed if I’m not in the top-10 for T1 and T2 at a race, including the pro's/elites. So, how do you do it?

Wetsuit – yes, they do make you more buoyant; many wear them because everyone else does. Does the time it takes you to get it off outweigh the benefit? If you don’t have to wear it, think, really, honestly, do you need it? If you do, practise getting it off. The best place to do this isn’t in T1, strip to the waist while running to T1, then find somewhere on the side of a path where you can safely step out of the legs before you get to your transition spot.

Don’t clutter your transition area. Take just what you really need, a clean transition is a clean mind, have what you need, use what you have. If you have to pack a suitcase to take to transition, please don’t leave it there. Work out your race plan before the race; take everything else back to the car!

Practice getting your helmet on and off. Make sure before you leave it to go to the swim start that you’ve tried it on, that the straps are untangled and ready to go. If you can’t do it up with your eyes closed you have not practiced enough. Don’t “faff” around trying to put your sunglasses on, put them in your teeth and go, plenty of time to look cool!

Practice running with your bike. At CapTex Tri, you could end up having to run nearly 150 yards before the mount point. A simple mistake that many people make is they run the wrong side of their bike; they run holding the bike the wrong way. You should run holding the bike only by the saddle.

If you are right handed, hold the rear of the saddle with your right hand and run on the left of the bike. If left handed, hold the saddle with left hand and run on the right of the bike. Hold the saddle loosely, keep your shoulders relaxed. No holding the handlebars; holding the handlebars you'll often have to bend, which is clumsy and prone to the front wheel turning; holding the saddle and running, if done correctly, you can steer and recover, holding the handle bars, you often people unable to recover, fall over as the main part of the bike is behind.

Running mounts/dismounts. This is where you’ll spend 45-minutes of your hour practice.

  • Put bike in easy gear
  • Mount the shoes in the pedals· Make sure the pedals/shoes are parallel to the ground, left food forward
  • Loop a small elastic band through the rear heel tab on your shoes. If you don't have a rear heel tab you can either buy much longer bands and hook them under Look cleats or find some other place to connect the band to the shoe
  • Fasten the other end of the band for the left shoe around the downtube, probably on the front gear mech.
  • Fasten the right shoe to the rear gear mech. or around the lug on the rear stays etc.)
  • When you arrive in transition, helmet on, number belt on, grab the bike and run on the left side of the bike holding the saddle with your right hand - to make this easier I always rack my bike by the bars and NOT the saddle. Many smaller bikes, and bikes with front-mounted aero bottles can't be mounted by the bars.
  • When you are past the mount line get your stride ready and in one swift move place your left hand on the bars and your left foot on the front pedal
  • A fraction of a second later swing your right leg around the back wheel and saddle and onto the right pedal, releasing your right hand from the saddle and grasp the bars(see the picture in blog entry from April, my right hand is still on the saddle for control when the right leg is already on its way around to the pedal)
  • Once your foot is on the right pedal start pedaling.... the bands will snap - you need to do this fast enough so you don't wobble and fall off!
  • Pedal down the road until you get to at least 16MPH, at a safe point reach down put your left foot in the shoe
  • Pedal again to regain momentum
  • When safe reach down and put your right foot in and you are done.

Coming back in is basically the opposite....

  • Well before the dismount line, remove your right foot from the shoe, keep pedalling with the right foot on top of the shoe
  • Remove your left foot from the shoe
  • Pedal to the dismount line and just before getting there swing your right foot over the crossbar
  • Standing on your left foot and gliding in with your right foot tucked behind your left...
  • When you get to the dismount line, drop your right foot, then your left
  • Let go of the bars with your right hand, grab the saddle
  • Let go with your left hand and run holding the saddle...
Practice this on a field somewhere until you can do it perfectly and then try it in the car park of an office or out-of-town shopping center car park at night after its closed.... no one will see you if you fall off or trip! You don't need a transition rack, a bucket, chair or stool will be fine just to keep your bike upright!

I've saved more time by practising this than I have after 3-years of swim training.


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