Episode 95 - How To Shave Minutes Off Your Triathlon Transition Times

How To Shave Minutes Off Your Triathlon Transition Times

Having a smooth and efficient transition is crucial in a triathlon to save time, stress and maintain momentum.

I’m a firm believer in fast transitions – get in and get out!

You can waste SO MUCH TIME mucking around in transition having a picnic or sitting down to put on toe socks. It’s not uncommon for athletes to waste between 5-10 minutes in T1 and T2, shooting themselves in the foot if they’re hoping for a PB or podium spot. 

And not to mention how much it can take you out of a racing mindset. Giving you time to stop and think about how much you’re hurting instead of pushing through. 

So because I’m all about supporting you to become a fitter, faster, healthier triathlete -  here are my 7 tips for a faster triathlon transition.

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Episode Transcription

Episode 95: How To Shave Minutes Off Your Triathlon Transition Times

Taryn Richardson  00:00

Welcome to the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. The show designed to serve you up evidence-based sports nutrition advice from the experts. Hi, I'm your host Taryn, Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Advanced Sports Dietitian and founder of Dietitian Approved. Listen as I break down the latest evidence to give you practical, easy-to-digest strategies to train hard, recover faster and perform at your best. You have so much potential, and I want to help you unlock that with the power of nutrition. Let's get into it.

Taryn Richardson  00:42

Welcome back to another episode of the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. And today you are stuck with just me again. But I'm loving the responses that I'm getting from the survey I put up a couple of weeks ago on Spotify, about whether you prefer solo episodes, or guest interview episodes. And it turns out that you love a mix of both. So that's really good to know. And I'll keep doing that for you so that you actually can listen to what you want to listen to. Despite today's topic, we are going to talk about nutrition. But I wanted to give you some top tips to shave minutes off your triathlon transition times. Having a smooth and efficient transition is really critical in a triathlon. It's going to save you so much time, and also just help maintain that momentum, so it's less stop start.

Taryn Richardson  01:35

I'm a really firm believer in fast transitions -  I just think you need to get in and get out. You can waste so much time in the transition area - having a picnic, sitting down and putting toe socks on!? There are so many things that you can do and I think you just need to get out and have a look at how the pros race. Even for long course they have very, very fast transitions and they do everything they need to when they're out on the course racing. Now this came up in our Power Hour session a few weeks back - whether you should wear socks in a race or not. Now Power Hour is where I jump on Zoom with all of the Academy athletes, and they have the opportunity to pick my brain, ask me questions and generally just make sure that they're not stuck on anything nutrition wise. They are not stuck on calculating their perfect recovery targets. They are not stuck with understanding how much carbohydrate they need to start practicing their carbohydrate loading plans. Or maybe they need a bit of direction around the best sports nutrition products to try. Whatever it is that we're talking about. That happens in Power Hour.

Taryn Richardson  02:48

And we have this beautiful community of athletes all over the world and it's what I love most about the Academy program. And they all just become friends. Everyone is super invested in everyone's race results, What people have got coming up and just their lives and I love that about Power Hour and I love that about our community. So I asked them - I don't even know how we got onto it -but I asked them how many people put socks on in a triathlon versus don't. And oh my goodness, it was hilarious. So put a vote out in our Triathlon Nutrition Academy, our exclusive community group, and here's the results. So 45% of them put socks on in a race and only 5% don't - full stop.

Taryn Richardson  03:36

Then we had the remainder with random variations of "Yes, but..." - so that was people that would put socks on but only in certain situations or circumstances. So not on the bike but yes for the run. And things like yes for the run, but only if it's Olympic distance or longer. It was absolutely hilarious. So I would love to know -are you a sock wearer in a race or not? I'm going to put a poll up on Spotify. It'll sit just below the episode description. Cast your vote - to sock or not to sock in a race. Because I think there is a lot of time to save here, but I get it like you don't want bleeding blistering feet. I've been there. There are a few tips that we'll talk about today, though, that can help you overcome that if that's problematic for you.

Taryn Richardson  04:27

Now, this is definitely a nutrition podcast and I've got some nutrition transition tips for you. But I've also got some good general transition tips before we dive into those which could be really useful if you're new to the sport or transitions is something that you're still working on. So some general tips to help make your transition faster.

1. Organise your gear

So it goes without saying that if you're going to race you should do a little bit of thinking and planning ahead around what that's going to look like and transition is a big part of that. So lay out your equipment and everything that you need in transition in a logical order so that it's easily accessible.

Taryn Richardson  05:13

You want to arrange your items in a sequence that matches the order that you're going to need them in your race. So you're obviously going to bike and then run if you're doing a traditional triathlon. If you're doing a duathlon or an Aquabike, it's going to be different. But for swim, bike, run, you know the order and the sequence and so you know the order that you're going to need things.  You don't want your running shoes sitting inside your helmet. And I'd actually suggest putting your helmet on your bike, if you can. Put it, sort of, top down with a straps out over the side so that all you have to do is chuck it on your lid, chuck it on your head. It's definitely something to practice because it can fall off your bike depending on where you put it. If it's not sitting there properly, or it's windy or someone knocks your bike, so you want to kind of wedge it in a way that it's not going to fall off very easily.

Taryn Richardson  06:05

Now, do you want your sunnies inside your helmet? And you want to put those on first before your helmet goes on, so that when you take your helmet off your sunglasses, the side of them is tucked underneath your helmet straps - they're not over your helmet strap so that when you go to take your helmet off at the end of the bike, your sunnies don't come with it. Or do you want your sunglasses stuck in the top of your helmet? So outside your helmet, stuck in the top - that's a really good place to put them if you have the ability to get them out of there and onto your face while you're moving. So don't do that method if you need two hands on your bike at all times - it's kind of a two hand job. You can do it with one, but again, something to practice. To get your sunglasses onto your face with one hand is definitely a skill. But you know, good cyclists, the elites, the pros, they can take both hands off their handlebars for a quick second to chuck their sunglasses on their face.

Taryn Richardson  07:05

Now think about also where you need or want to put your race number and when you want to put it on. For some races, there's strict guidelines around when it needs to be visible on your body or on your person. A lot of races will typically only need that on your body for the run. You've got your number on your cap or on your arms in a swim. On the bike, you've got bike stickers. So typically you only need a race number on you for the run. But check the race rules, make sure you're across that because you might need to put your race number on underneath your wetsuit before you start the race altogether. And that might just be your strategy because you don't want to think about it at any other point through the race. Or can you have your number clipped onto a race belt that you've got sitting on top of your shoes already with your run stuff that you clip on as you're running out of transition? Think about that before your race because that is really going to save you time and effort and just distractions in transitions, which are going to speed them up.

Taryn Richardson  08:08

Now before the race, you want to make sure that your bike and your shoes are properly adjusted. Your bike shoes are undone, they're not fully clipped up, you've got them perfectly positioned so that you can slip your feet in and then do a couple of ratchets up to get them tight. That's going to save you a lot of time as well. And thinking about things like sunscreen - have you already put it on before the race? Make sure it's waterproof. Make sure it's long lasting. If you're somebody that has really sensitive skin, do you need a race suit that has better coverage if you're going to burn easily. Now long course events, you might need to reapply your sunscreen. You can do that while you're running though - you don't have to sit down in transition and lather up. Sunscreen is available at all aid stations on the bike and the run. So whether you can slap some sunscreen on while you're moving on the bike. Up to you. Something to practice. But particularly running, you could easily grab some while you're running and rub it on your arms, rub it on your legs while you're moving without having to stop and waste so much time in transition to do that.

Taryn Richardson  09:15

2. Alright, my second tip - it's a general one still - is to use a transition towel or some form of mat. Longer races, you can have something like a transition box or a bucket but that's not always available for all races. And my hot tip here is to use something that's really brightly colored and unique. You really want it to stand out from everyone else's race towels. I used to use a blue and white striped one. No one ever had the same one and it meant that I can see that from a long way away - from the start of my row, from multiple rows away. So I knew in that sea of bikes exactly where I was heading. And that saves so much time in transition so you don't get lost. So that's not only going to help you spot your bike easily. You also get a clean, comfortable spot that you can chuck your feet on, maybe give them a wipe, get the sand off. That can help, particularly if you're a sock wearer, to dry your feet a little bit. Just wipe them quickly before you run out of there.

Taryn Richardson  10:20

Number three - try and simplify your setup. Now you need to minimise the number of items you have in transition, and the things that you need to handle in that period of time as well. You only want to keep the essentials. Remove anything that's unnecessary, or gear and things that slow you down or might slow you down. Like ideally, you have everything ready to go on your bike. You're not grabbing water bottles or nutrition for the bike. It's already on there - set up ready to go. If you're thirsty after the swim, and you're one of those athletes that has a transition bottle, totally personal preference, but I would encourage you to think about whether you can live without it. Hang on for a minute, and drink once you're moving. You're not going to die without that extra transition bottle.  It will slow you down, it's distracting. And you can do that while you're moving.

Taryn Richardson  11:18

Now an Ironman race, a full distance event, might be slightly different. But anything 70.3 or less, get the hell out of there - hydrate and fuel once you're on the bike! No picnics in T1 please! You're about to start the rolling buffet - plenty of access to food and fluid. You can do without it for an extra 60 seconds. All you want to do when you come out of the swim is strip off everything you need to - hat, goggles, wet suit (if you've got one on) or any sort of race suit, chuck your sunnies on, chuck your helmet on and then get out of them. Your shoes can already be attached to your bike - and that's something that you want to practice. Particularly if you want to do a flying mount  - a lot of fun. A lot can go wrong in that space, though.

Taryn Richardson  12:04

Now my top tip here (this is something that I used to do when I raced) is I would put rubber bands, attach them to the back loop of my shoe and I would attach them somewhere to my bike pedals so that my shoes lay flat - they were ready for my feet to go on top of them. That saves a lot of time.  I've seen so many shoes clip off with people trying to get on them when they're not flat enough. They're dangling down because they're heavy. So much harder to get your foot on that - on the top of that - if it's not level. So rubber bands is a great tip. But again, something to practice because they don't always snap and so you spend the ride with your shoe attached to your bike with a rubber band, which is going to completely waste all that time that you just saved in transition. And then think honestly, (I'm going to see your votes when they come in), but do you need socks for the bike? Your feet will be wet. They're potentially sandy, they're potentially pretty dirty. If you're a sock wearer, and you like to wear socks, could you put them on after the bike? Just for the run? Because that will be a much smoother process to put those on - your feet will be drier unless you're a really heavy foot sweater.

Taryn Richardson  13:25

Number four - think about using elastic laces for the run. This might be a no brainer for you. But if you're new to triathlon, elastic laces are a huge time saver in transition. Sitting down to tie up laces when you're nervous, you're anxious, maybe you're a little bit shaky, and you're a bit stressed, is going to take you double the time if you were outside of a racing situation. So consider replacing those with elastics. And that allows you to slip your shoes on super fast and easy. Watch the pros do it - they're straight in there. And that saves precious seconds, even up to minutes, in transition trying to get that right. And then there's no risk of them coming undone when you're running as well. Now this is where you might want to wear some socks on the run, particularly for longer course runs. Elastic laces don't hold your feet in as tight as your standard laces so your feet are more likely to slip around more and that'll increase your chances of blisters and bleeding feet - you know, worst case scenario. I used to tape my feet with RockTape before I would even start racing where I knew that I would get blisters from my shoes. and so that prevented getting blisters and bleeding feet. But it also meant that I didn't waste that precious time sitting down and putting socks on. Like I've seen people sit down and put toe socks on in transition. It just blows my mind. We're racing - get out of there!

Taryn Richardson  14:59

Ok. No 5. Plan your nutrition in advance. Goes without saying you're going to need a race plan. And you're going to need a race nutrition plan for every single distance - Sprint, Olympic, 70.3 and full distance. You can't halve your full distance Ironman plan to get a 70.3. The same as you can't double your 70.3 plan for an Ironman. They're completely different beasts. Sprint and Olympic distance are also different. You need to have a plan and have strategies that set those races up for success. And you should know exactly what you're doing on the bike and the run that's well practiced and well rehearsed. You want to check what's on course, and practice with it - even if you aren't planning on using it. Like just in case. I've heard so many horror stories of people completely dropping all of their nutrition or vomiting their guts up and having to switch strategies. One of my athletes had his teeth kicked out in the swim of an Ironman and his whole race plan had to go out the window. But he knew what was on course and he'd practiced with it so he knew how to adjust and completely make up his plan for an Ironman on the fly.

Taryn Richardson  16:17

And that's how I like to equip my athletes - Plan B's and the knowledge and understanding of what we're doing so that you can do that if you have to. Now I don't wish anyone to have their teeth kicked out in the swim but at least it meant his day wasn't over. Now, I don't know about you, but I probably wouldn't continue racing if I had my teeth kicked out. But he was a really good athlete, and it didn't seem to bother him.

Taryn Richardson  16:42

So how much are you going to need? When are you going to take it? What are your requirements? And how are you going to meet them? This should encompass what you're doing during the race but also everything in the lead up and your recovery afterwards. Because our race nutrition doesn't stop as soon as we cross the finish line. We need to keep thinking about our nutrition strategies for the next few days if we want to recover well, recover fast, not have horrendous doms, and also not get sick or injured in the weeks following a key race. Do you have the right hydration setup for what you need? These are all things that we cover inside the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program. And we open doors again in July if you've been waiting for that.

Taryn Richardson  17:27

Which leads me on to my next point, which is optimise your transition area for your nutrition. So you want to set it up in a way that allows easy access to all of your supplies, where and when you need them. And that's part of your planning and practice - is to figure that out in training. Where are you going to put everything on the bike? And you want to make sure that it's done pre race, like I said, so it's all ready to go. You're not kind of fiddling with bottles, you're not grabbing nutrition and stuffing it down your bra. You've already packed it on your bike, whether it's in your bento, it's taped to your top tube. Your bottles have the right amount of liquid in them and the right type and positioned where strategically you need them and you want to use them. Because we want to fill them to the right level - every ml is a gram on the bike. So if you've got four massive bottles that are full, that's three kilos of weight, that we could save and speed up our time by not dragging that around the course. So we don't always want full bottles. And we need to understand what our needs are so that our nutrition and our transition area and our bike and everything is set up to match that. And I cover all of that sort of stuff inside the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program.

Taryn Richardson  18:46

For the run, you want to make sure that everything that you want to grab is in a convenient location. You haven't got gels stuffed into the ends of your shoes that you're struggling to get out with shaking hands that aren't working properly after the bike. That way, if they're ready to go where you need them, they're easy, they're not going to get kicked off by somebody running past, you can quickly grab them in transition and get out of them. Do you want to have a think about whether you have everything packed in, like, a race belt? So that all you have to do is grab this race belt that maybe has your number attached to it already and you're clipping that onto yourself as you're heading out of transition. It's not something you have to stop and pack and do at that time. And you're not wasting time trying to search for it either - it's right there laid out, ready to go. Unclipped already, so all you have to do is clip it on. You're not going to stop for a gel in T2 and have a picnic. You're going to get the hell out of there and do all of that fuelling and hydration while you're moving.

Taryn Richardson  19:53

Now an Ironman again might be slightly different. You can have a slightly slower transition in an Ironman distance event because you're out there all day. But we're not sitting down having a picnic. We're not sitting down, putting toe socks on -  just put regular socks on and tape your feet. It's going to save you so much time. All right. And my final point is practice. Obviously, you're going to need to practice all of this stuff in training to make sure that there are no surprises on race day. So set up something that is a mock transition area, and simulate going from swimming to cycling to running. That will help you to identify any potential issues and just to develop a really quick and efficient routine. Like anything, the more we practice, the better we get at it. And the things you'll learn and realise, will kind of highlight themselves if you're practicing.

Taryn Richardson  20:48

Now, the day or two before a race, I love to do a little 45 minute mini tri - 15 minutes swim, do a T1, have it all laid out and practice. Do a 15 minute bike, then do a T2, laid out so that you can practice exactly. And then do a 15 minute run to finish. It was a great chance to practice my transitions. Make sure that everything's set up and working as well. So chat to your coach about something that you could implement if you like that idea as well. And of course, practice your race nutrition strategy. The golden rule of racing is never try anything new on race day. So incorporate your nutrition strategy into your training sessions and just make sure that it works for you. You want to experiment with different types of products and find what sits best with you and tastes the best. Because you're more likely to consume it and keep pace with your fuelling if it's something that you like. Make sure you can digest it and make sure you can absorb it while you're exercising as well. That's really important. And then you want to practice that at race pace too ideally. So in your peak heading into a key event, you should have some sessions that are quite race specific. The intensity, the duration may not quite be there. But at least they are similar to racing conditions and you can make sure that you can eat and drink while you're on the move.

Taryn Richardson  22:16

So hopefully, I've saved you at least a couple of minutes in your transitions today. I've got some general tips there and some nutrition ones for you as well. And if you're ready to get faster and save even more time in your races, the next things that you want to tackle are your fuelling and hydration during the event. Plus what you do in training because the biggest gains are made in what you do day in, day out. It's those consistent habits that compound over time and give us those big training adaptations that are what are going to help us perform better on race day. It's not the little one percenters or things that we might do once when we race. It's honestly what we do every single day. So come and join us inside the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program and I'll teach you exactly what you need to do - all the things. Head to dietitianapproved.com/academy. We open next on the 8th of July - from the 8th - 16th, Australia time. So if you're not already, make sure you add your name to the waitlist as I love to send some nice little bonuses to everyone that is on our waitlist - that's told me that they're keen.

Taryn Richardson  23:32

And if you're rearing to go right now, the best place to get started is my Triathlon Nutrition Kickstart course. You could get that done between now and when the Academy opens in July, setting you up for success with some epic foundations when it comes to triathlon nutrition. It's for you if you are a triathlete, and you feel like you've got your training under control now and you're ready to start layering in your nutrition. It's kind of your warm up on the path to becoming a supercharged triathlete. So make sure you go to dietitianapproved.com/kickstart to check that out.

Taryn Richardson  24:08

Over five modules, I'm going to set you up for success. So we talk about the fundamentals. and if like me you missed nutrition 101 at school, yep, I'm a dietitian, and I didn't get any nutrition education at school. So our first module forms a foundation for everything that you will learn about nutrition. You'll learn about your different macronutrients and what food groups they come from, and how they impact our health and performance. It blows my mind how many athletes have no idea where carbs come from, where fats come from, where protein comes from. So we're going to talk about all of the micronutrients as well and how to get enough from your diet without needing to take expensive supplements and pills and potions. And then we tie all of that together with how to build your plate real estate for performance and low long term health, which is really important.

Taryn Richardson  25:03

Our second module, we cover label reading. And we're going to dive into the nutrition information panel and how to read that, as well as our ingredients list and health claims because they're really confusing beasts and companies do a lot of nifty little marketing things to trick you. So I'm going to help you wade through all that BS so that you can make educated decisions around the types of packaged foods, and also sports products, that you buy. That way, you'll be able to smell marketing BS from a mile away.

Taryn Richardson  25:37

Our third module, I'm going to show you my best hacks and tricks to help you get organised in the kitchen. Now, I can't cook for you, although I get many requests for that, but I can teach you the knowledge and skills to manage it for yourself, which is honestly so much more powerful. If you really want to get better, do better, and be better, you're going to need to get your shit together. So this module is going to buy you back at least two hours a week and save you money as well.

Taryn Richardson  26:09

The fourth module in the course is all about recovery nutrition. Now most triathletes suck at recovery nutrition. Sorry, I can't help it, but you do. The right balance of recovery nutrition components is often missing, the timing is wrong, there's no plan, it's not organised. And you're doing yourself a disservice by not doing a really good job here. So after this module, I'm going to make sure you have a clear framework for exactly what you need to do. No more winging it and hoping for the best. And you'll be confident that you're hitting your right recovery targets. Because we only adapt, or get fitter and faster from the sessions that we recover from.

Taryn Richardson  26:56

Our fifth module is all about fuelling training 101.  I'm going to help you understand the basics of fuelling endurance training. Thanks to Dr Google, it's incredibly overwhelming trying to figure out how much fuel you need during different types of training sessions, what are the best sports nutrition products to use. So I'm going to cover all of that, and fast track you through some products to start with.  What they're made of, how we digest them and some specific suggestions to start with, plus some real food options too. So it is the best course to kickstart your triathlon nutrition journey if you're looking to feel more energised and want some confidence that you're putting the right fuel in your high performance engine.

Taryn Richardson  27:41

Now I've just finished re filming it - long story short version - was not good enough. So I've just finished redoing the whole thing again. So if you already own it, and you haven't watched it or you've watched some, go back and watch it again because the second pass is so much better. So make sure you go and check that out. If you've been listening for a while, you're not part of the academy yet but you're thinking about doing it, I would honestly do the kickstart course first. Do it now. And then you're ready to hit the ground running when we open doors for the Academy in July. So head to dietitianapproved.com/kickstart to go and get that now. All right, thank you so much for listening. I will talk to you next week.

Taryn Richardson  28:31

Thanks for joining me for this episode of the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. I would love to hear from you. If you have any questions or want to share with me what you've learned, email me at [email protected]. You can also spread the word by leaving me a review and taking a screenshot of you listening to the show. Don't forget to tag me on social media, @dietitian.approved, so I can give you a shout out, too. If you want to learn more about what we do, head to dietitianapproved.com. And if you want to learn more about the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program, head to dietitianapproved.com/academy. Thanks for joining me and I look forward to helping you smashed in the fourth leg - nutrition! 

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