Our trip to Scottsdale last week included more than just swimming. We were there to learn about all three sports that make up a triathlon—running, cycling and swimming, plus how to properly set up your transition area. The whole idea is to make the process as easy and non-intimidating as possible so that you’re not freaked out before you even begin. One of the biggest ways to clear your head is to give yourself as much prep time as possible on race day.
First, you’ve got to be smart about setting up your transition area. Arrive with plenty of time to organize your gear accordingly.
The beautiful Specialized bicycles waiting for us in our transition.
When setting up your transition area, you’ve got to think about what’s going to make your switch out as fast and simple as possible. Turn your helmet upside down so that you can literally pick it up and put it directly on your head, stick your sunglasses inside the helmet, unstrap your cycling shoes so that you can slip them on quickly, and put your cycling gear in front of your running stuff, since that portion comes first. When figuring out what to actually wear, here are a few thoughts:
1. If you can, opt for a triathlon-specific cycling shoe. These tend to be more breathable and are intended to be worn without socks. Specialized is coming out with a sport version of its Trivent Shoe for spring 2011 that we love. It is super comfortable, easy to walk around in, can be used with either a mountain bike or road cycling cleat and features a long strap at the heel to help you pull the shoe on fast, which is especially helpful when you’ve got wet feet.
2. Wear running sneakers that are supportive, lightweight and breathable, with a lot of mesh. The shoes you train in should be the same ones you wear on race day, so practice wearing them without socks during training. It’s so much easier to slip on a pair of sneakers without the socks, but the last thing you want is to develop blisters because your shoes rub against your feet the wrong way.
3. If you’re doing a sprint triathlon, don’t worry about the gloves. Squeezing your fingers into a pair when your hands are still kinda wet can be tricky and totally slow you down.
4. Invest in a wet suit. BlueSeventy makes some great ones with every bit of technology you’ll ever need. The suit will help you stay afloat in the water and keep you warm when it’s cold. Plus, you can wear your tri shorts underneath (check out SheBeest for recommendations) so you don’t have to wear your bathing suit on the bike.
Once you feel like your transition area is all set, you have to get in a good warm-up. Coach Barrie told us that in order to be ready for a triathlon, we should aim to warm up for a good 45 minutes before the race even begins! First, ride your bike around for a few minutes, check your brakes, make sure you’re in an appropriate gear for the start of the race (for example, if there’s a hill to climb at the start, drop your gears down low, if you’re on a downhill, put it into high gear, etc.).
We were riding the new Specialized Dolce, which is a smooth ride with all the gears you need.
To warm up your running legs, do a few easy drills. A-skips, B-skips, butt kicks and grapevines are great to get the blood flowing and all your muscles moving. Check these drills out at Fitnessmagazine.com. Finally, swim a couple of laps, if possible. If not, bring a resistance band with you, wrap it around a tree, grab one end in each hand and practice doing your stroke (on both sides) with the added resistance in front of the tree.
Last, but not least, practice running from where you exit the water to your transition. Make sure you know exactly where your bike is amidst the craziness, because it’s easy to get turned around after your swim.
Oh, wait—one more: Relax, breathe deep and think about how much fun you’re about to have…
The group, post-ride. Look at those smiles!