Every second counts in triathlon and that includes the seconds ticking by as you transition between swimming, biking, and running. Your training prepares you for those three disciplines.
So what is a good transition time in triathlon? Anything under three minutes per transition is considered to be an exceptionally good transition time in triathlon. This is based on times for professionals who often race on courses with highly organized staging areas. For the average athlete, anything under five minutes would be a good time to aim for. However, this highly depends on the Terrain and length of the transition area, as in how far is the swim exit to the bike mount line and from the bike dismount line to the run transition exit.
This is based on the 2021 Full Ironman World Championship in Florida, these were the fastest and slowest times of the top 10 pro men and women.
|Average (Top 10)||3:42||2:52|
Thus, it is hard to generalize what would be a good triathlon transition time, yet one could check out previous years transition timing and perform the same analysis above to make sense of what would be a triathlon transition time for his or her specific situation.
You don’t need to put as much time into your transition training as you do for the actual race, but running through your transitions at least a dozen times can make a huge difference.
The easiest way to incorporate them into your training is to practice them any time you do a brick workout. Your nerves will be running high on race day, so you’ll want your transitions to feel like muscle memory. This will give you a few moments to rest rather than scrambling to get to your next focus.
Do Transition Times Count in Triathlon?
Triathlon transition time in both transition, T1 and T2 do count. The clock doesn’t stop once the race starts, so you need to have a plan for every stage of the triathlon. While a few seconds here and there may not seem like much, they really do add up.
Take those 2021 IRONMAN results, for example. The difference between first and second place was 5 minutes and 53 seconds for the men. For the women, it was only 3 minutes and 39 seconds.
In other words, a difference of a few minutes is a fraction of the time within a roughly 8-hour long race, and a lot of that time can come from the transition zones. Learning to strategize for each transition will pay off in the long run and could even be what seals you that first-place finish.
What is T1 and T2?
There are two transitions in triathlon. Swim to bike (T1) and bike to run (T2). Both transitions happen within the same staging area. You’ll often find it located between the swimming area and the bike path (sometimes the run is on the same path, sometimes it goes a different way) There will typically be signs, ropes, or banisters indicating the entry and exit for the transition zones.
The clock for T1 starts the moment you leave the swimming area (whether it’s a pool, lake, or river) and ends once you’ve left your staging area with your bike. There will typically be signs, ropes, or banisters indicating the entry and exit for the transition zones.
T2 begins when you re-enter the staging area with your bike and ends once you’ve passed the exit for your run.
For more on triathlon transition, check out our post : What Is Transition in Triathlon? Everything You Need To Know!
Keep in mind that there are often rules for when you can actually mount your bike, so you’ll have to run with it for at least some distance. This is something you’ll want to figure out before you’re hobbling along with your bike, so always arrive at the race early. If there aren’t clear signs or markings for where you can mount your bike, be sure to ask any race officials. Mounting your bike too early can result in penalties, undoing any time you gained by your speedy transition.
Factors that Impact Triathlon Transition Time
There are a lot of factors that can impact your transition time, including distance, terrain, and the staging area itself. By getting to the race early, you can scope out all of these factors and come up with a solid plan.
The first factor to consider is the distance. You’ll want to figure out how much ground you have to cover between the swim and the staging area because this is often when you’ll be removing your wetsuit. If there are obstacles (like a bunch of weird corners and turns), you may have trouble running and taking off your suit at the same time. This may be a time when standing still ends up being faster than trying – and failing – to multitask. As the saying goes, slow is smooth and smooth is fast.
You’ll also want to pay attention to the distance between the staging area and when you’re allowed to get on your bike. Always make sure you’re exiting and entering the staging area in the right direction. You don’t want to end up colliding with another racer!
The terrain of your transition area can make a big difference. Staging in the grass can be more comfortable on your feet but may make getting shoes on and off a bit more challenging. Concrete provides a smooth, fairly consistent surface, but can get really hot under the sun. Gravel can make for a messy transition and can even mess with your bike tires.
Once you know the terrain, you can set up your equipment accordingly. It helps to have a bag that you can hang from an object – that way everything can stay in its place and you’ll avoid some of the pitfalls of less ideal terrain.
Of course, the staging area itself will vary greatly from race to race. A lot of local races will operate on a first-come, first-serve basis, meaning the earlier you arrive, the better spot you can get. Arriving early also gives you ample time to set up your things the way you’d like and avoid the chaos of trying to squeeze in between racers who already have their stations ready to go.
What Not to Do in Triathlon Transition Area
Now that we’ve gone over ways to have a successful transition, it’s also important to review what not to do. Here are some things to avoid:
- Do not mount your bike sooner than allowed
- Do not take someone else’s space
- Do not leave a mess – not only will a mess impact your transition efficiency, it can cause dangerous tripping hazards
- Do not take up more space than you actually need
- Do not bring back any guests – it’s crowded enough as it is
Treat other athletes the way you’d like to be treated. This means not taking up unnecessary amounts of space and being kind if you have to move. Tensions may be running high pre-race, so a little kindness can go a long way.
How Can I Dress for Success in Triathlon?
Having the right clothing is key for any triathlon. The fewer items you have to change during the transition, the more time you save. The best attire is multi-use, which is why a lot of athletes opt for a tri-suit that can be worn for all three disciplines without changing (and fits easily under a wetsuit, if needed).
Do You Wear Socks in A Triathlon?
Choosing whether or not to wear socks during a triathlon ultimately comes down to personal preference. Not wearing socks can save valuable time during the transition, but it may not be an option for longer distances. The Global Triathlon Network put together this great video going over the pros and cons of each option.
The biggest hurdle with putting on socks happens during T1. There are few things worse than trying to put socks on wet feet. You can either choose to wear cycling shoes that don’t require socks, or you can use helpful tricks to make putting them on a little easier (like putting baby powder in them).
Running without socks can be a bit trickier, though, especially on longer distances. Some athletes will wear cycling shoes without socks and put them on when they switch to their running shoes, while others opt to put them on before the bike ride. If you’re doing a shorter distance triathlon, like a sprint, it is likely fine to just wear your running shoes without socks.
Regardless of what method you choose, you’ll want to practice your system multiple times. If you choose not to wear socks for the bike and run, make sure you incorporate that into some of your training sessions to get used to how it feels and to make sure the shoes are properly broken in.
Where Do Transition Wetsuits Go?
Depending on the race, some triathlons will have volunteers to help remove wetsuits after the swim portion. In other races, it’ll be up to you. Wetsuits aren’t always allowed, so be sure to check your race details. It doesn’t hurt to always bring it with, though – you never know when there might be a last minute change!
If you’re responsible for removing your own wetsuit, you can do a few things to help make the transition a bit easier. You can put baby powder or cornstarch on your body before putting the wetsuit on. Putting vaseline at the hand and foot holes can also make removal easier. Try a few different methods at home to figure out what works best for you and your suit.
You’ll likely need to carry your wetsuit to the staging area, so it helps to have a designated space set up for it before you begin your race.