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Before your next triathlon, make time to plan and practice your transitions. With some strategic preparation and practice, you’ll save time, energy and stress as you switch from swimming to riding and from riding to running. Read on for tips about how to make your transitions easier and faster.

Get to Know Your Transition Areas

Before races, thoroughly survey each transition area. First, figure out where your gear will be, then plan your routes for efficiently getting in and getting out. Better yet, practice those routes so that on race day you don’t have to think about where to go when.

Prep your Gear

Space is limited in a transition area so only bring the gear that you’ll actually use; it reduces clutter as well as the chance of grabbing the “wrong” gear. Think about the order in which you will don gear for each leg of your triathlon. Strategically place items with the furthest away being the ones you’ll need last and the nearest being the ones you’ll need soonest.

For example, set your helmet on your aerobars upside-down and with your sunglass inside because you will first put on your glasses followed by your helmet before grabbing your bike. And instead of putting on your cycling shoes in the transition area, you can clip them into your pedals. Don’t actually slip them on until you have hopped on your bike and are rolling out of the transition area.

Be Efficient in T1: Swim to Bike

Figure out in advance up until what point you will be able to swim and where you will have to start running. Since you’ve already dialed in your route, you can concentrate on starting to strip your goggles and wetsuit on the fly. Have the top of your wetsuit down by the time you get to the swim-bike transition area.

After you get to your gear, remove your goggles, don your sunglasses and helmet and move toward the exit. Know at what point you will hop on your bike, but be flexible in the moment; it may be worth running a little farther to escape transition area congestion.

Keep Your Focus in T2: Bike to Run

Remove your feet from your shoes as you approach the second transition area so that you pedal the last few strokes with your feet on top of your shoes. Know ahead of time if you will have to rack your own bike or can hand it off to a volunteer.

Remove your helmet and set it down so that you can quickly put on your running shoes and cinch lace locks. Then grab your race nutrition, number and hat and start running. You can stash your gels and adjust your number on the fly.

Practice Makes Perfect

While you are tapering for your triathlon is a great time to practice your transition skills. Since you’re no longer putting in the big training hours, you’ll have more time to focus on and improve skills. Set up a mock transition area and practice repeatedly switching between swimming and riding and between riding and running. Measure your progress objectively by timing yourself or ask a friend or coach to time you.

Watch and Learn

Ask others to observe your practice transitions and tell you what they see. Then watch other more experienced triathletes practice their transitions and copy what they do well.

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