How Serious is Transition in Triathlon?

As an endurance sports coach I have had many Triathletes over many years asking about what they should do in transition? How important is transition?

Now this ranges from Ironman to Super Sprint athletes, the theme is the same across all the distances, so I will start by giving my own personal experience.

My first Ironman, (I did not have a coach and there were no Facebook groups to help) I had raced many endurance events but this was my first Ironman and Triathlon.

At most Ironman events the bags for your transition are different colours for swim to bike and bike to run, these are big bags. I used mine to their maximum capacity.  I loaded my bags up with every bit of kit I could possibly think of, and for all weather conditions, oh yes I was not going to get caught out. Luckily these bags are strong, and as an athlete I was able to carry them and hang them onto the peg with my race number, which I also had to stick on my bag.

Off we go ready to compete with my entire bike wardrobe in one bag and then same again in the run bag.

Key point here, psychologically this gave me peace of mind.  There are no rules about how much you can put in the bag or even what (within reason), if its your first event then keeping your head straight is the most important aspect of Transition.

Before I progress, yes, you guessed it, I did not use all the kit in my bags, in fact no where near.

Fast forward one year to South Africa IM, and now looking at racing for Kona slots, my two bags were a little different. Swim to Bike bag had Helmet and sunglasses, Bike to Run had trainers and Sun visor.



Over the year I had learned and built confidence with what I really needed in Transition, and so looking for a speedy Transition I had removed nearly all the extra kit.

How do you apply this to your race, if it’s your first Super Sprint and you just want to survive, then have what will make you comfortable and mentally happy in your transition (most likely in a box by your bike for shorter Tri’s)

If you are looking for National qualification in an Olympic distance, then you need to go with minimalist in transition, your shoes attached to your bike, gels taped to top tube and then fly through.



Transition is transition. Be it Ironman or Sprint, approach it with your goal in mind, and then apply this so you can feel confident.  I have had a good friend take 20mins in T1 having a cup of tea from her flask to help warm up after the swim, she was a sub 13hr triathlete even with this, so do what works for you.

Research your event. There will be videos of major events so you can see how the transition works. Just as you practise swimming, cycling and running, practise transition. Get it sorted before the event, again helping your mental state by removing a worry.

My penultimate piece of advice, is when you get to your race, no matter if Ironman or Sprint, walk through Transition over and over. You need to know where your bike is from swim exit, walk it through, you need to know where bike in and run out is, walk these from your racked bike. Do it until you are happy. Then chill and focus on your swim.



Last piece of advice is to ask people who have done the same event, making sure you ask athletes of your level, otherwise you will have lots of varied answers which will just cause you more stress.

Remember there are no silly questions!


For more advice or information on Transition practise