Our last two multisport topics are transitions and brick training. Both are unique to triathlons and duathlons. Let’s break ‘em down:
Ahhh… the transition—aka “the fourth sport in triathlons” (or third if you’re doing a duathlon). Understanding and practicing your transitions is crucial to a good race; it can save valuable time and generally makes for a more enjoyable experience.
The transition zone is a separate area where you’ll change into various gear you’ll need for the different raec disciplines. All your gear is kept in the transition area, at your assigned number. Your transition breakdown will look like this:
Triathlon: Swim to bike, bike to run.
Duathlon: Run to bike, bike to run.
Transition Tips for Race Day
Real talk: the transition area can be a chaotic frenzy. Other than during your transitions, set-up, and packing up, you shouldn’t be in the transition area. It gets clogged quickly. Other athletes will be rushing in and out trying to find their gear, change, and get out as quickly as possible. Want to make it easier on yourself? Here are some things you can do to make your time in the flow in the transition area more efficient:
* After you’ve checked in, find your transition spot—by bib or entry—number right away. Hang your bike with the front of the seat facing you.
* You want to be familiar with your assigned spot. Do a walk through—entry and exit—a few times before the race.
* Your stuff will easily blend in once other athletes set up. Along with the walk-throughs, you can use a marker (like a balloon or bright towel) so that your stuff is easier to find.
* Set up your gear on the ground next to your bike (it will butt up to the rear tire of the athlete opposite you); most people bring a bright colored towel to arrange their things on.
* Arrange your gear in the order that you’ll 1) need it and 2) put it on. A typical layout looks like this. It’s always a good idea to put your helmet on top of your bike shoes—it’s the first thing that should go on when you transition to bike.
* Always, always be courteous to other athletes. It can be crazy, and bumping may happen. Be respectful of others and their gear.
For the Swim to Bike Transition: With all the athletes coming off the beach, this swim to bike transition is often one of the most hectic. There are two important steps to remember to make this transition easier on you: learn to get your wetsuit off smoothly and learn how to get your feet clean of sand and dried off quickly.
“Running in a wetsuit is awkward; practice pulling zipper down, and wearing it halfway [how you’ll want to run to the bike]. Put body glide on everything to make getting the suit off easier,” says D3 Multisport’s Founder and Director Mike Ricci, a Level 3 USA Triathlon Certified Coach and USA Triathlon Coach of the Year. “To clean your feet, step in the bucket of water, and then wipe feet off with towel.” Check out more tips here.
Training: During your open water swim training, work in some time to practice exiting the water. Remember, zip your wetsuit down halfway, so it’s not constricting as you run. Practice getting your wetsuit off in a timely fashion and cleaning and drying your feet.
For the Run to Bike Transition: Once you’ve changed out of your running shoes and have your bike gear on (helmet first), you’ll run the bike out of the transition area. Don’t get on your bike until you’re out of the transition area and at the designated “mount” lin —a volunteer will gladly show you where this is before the race.
Training: Do a test run with your gear arrangement. Make sure everything is readily available and in a sensical order. You’ll also want to practice mounting your bike. There will probably be other athletes coming out of transition behind you, so try to be proficient in a quick mount before your race. Familiarity will ease the pressure.
For the Bike to Run Transition: Make sure you’re off your bike before the designated dismount line, and leave your helmet on until you’re off your bike. You’ll have to re-rack your bike and then change gear. Elastic shoelaces are helpful to save time on tying shoes.
Training: Like the other transitions, practice is key. Set aside time to work on dismounting your bike, running with it, and getting changed from bike to gear.
Again, having a great multisport experience usually comes down to training and execution. Have and practice a plan for your transitions. “Simplicity is best for transitions; only bring in what you absolutely need. Anything you can do while moving will speed it up as well (put on number belt while running out of transition, have shoes clipped onto bike, etc). Finally, practice your transitions!” says world champion triathlete, Timothy O’Donnell.
Brick training is a multisport-specific training method: stacking two disciplines for your workout with minimal interruption between them. For instance, your brick workout could include running and biking or swimming and biking. The key isn’t necessarily to push yourself to maximum distance or effort, but more so to prepare your body for the rigors of back-to-back sports.
Likely, your body will feel unsteady, rubbery, or just plain weird when switching disciplines. Use brick training to gauge how your body adjusts to the change. Play with how you layer your brick workouts, how long they are, and how often you do them.
“When I first started triathlon I really emphasized running off the bike. I’d do all my runs after riding, even before my long runs I’d ride for an hour on the trainer to get some fatigue in the legs and used to that feeling of getting your cadence off the bike,” says O’ Donnell. “Now I usually do bricks on my two long rides a week. In my buildup to an Ironman I’ll do a few key runs off the bike (10km at race pace or 10×1 mile at race pace).”
You can try shorter, repeated intervals, or try a simpler brick—like going for a run and then hopping on your bike immediately after. If possible, try to work on every switch that you’ll encounter during your race: swim/bike, run/bike, bike/run.
Practicing your transitions and doing a few brick workouts will give you a mental and physical edge when it comes to race day—which is how we want you going into your multisport event: confident and prepared.
Remember: train, have a plan, and execute. Most importantly, have fun. You’ve worked hard for this!