Athlete sitting on the ground changing gear during triathlon transition next to a rack of triathlon bikes.

Conquer Triathlon Transition Fear (Part 3)

If you’ve been following this 3 part series, by now you have a lovely little triathlon transition set-up near your bike. If not, see Part 1 and Part 2, and print off your Triathlon Transition Check List, then join us below for the next step along conquering that crazy few minutes that can make or break your race day.

Why practice, you ask?

If you want to reduce stressful mistakes on race day, practicing transition is a must. And NOT just in your head, either. It’s far too easy to sit on the couch, think through transition, and say, “I got this!” only to realize on race day you didn’t foresee a few potential glitches. Race day also brings the added burden on emotions, adrenaline (and sometimes panic) that can lend to confusion.

What can go wrong?

Dumb things I’ve done in transition and learned the hard way:

  • Left my headband on during the swim: this was a reverse triathlon and I didn’t think ahead about how my transition process needed to change, so I came off the run and entered the swim with a thick terry cloth sweatband still on my head. I came out of the swim with a soaked headband coated in seaweed. Yup. Mistake #1.
  • Fumbling through transition, because I was so stressed and getting bumped by other athletes, that I had to think more slowly through what to pick up next…and almost left without my helmet on (THAT would be an instant disqualification penalty).
  • Forgetting to take my run water bottle with me on a hot, sunny race day…enough said.

Things I’ve seen other athletes do:

  • In the middle of transition, stopping another athlete and pleading with them to help pin on a race number.
  • Forgetting to put on a cycling helmet before unracking the bike and getting disqualified.
  • Getting stuck in a wetsuit.
  • Forgotten gear (often missing goggles!)

(For a fun look at other things that can go wrong during a race see here.)

Time to look silly

This will go better if you just don’t fight it and are willing to look a little silly to your friends and neighbors. Heck, invite them to watch!

  • Where:
    • Your driveway or a nearby empty early morning parking lot is a good place to set up. Yes, you’ll have to lean the bike against your garage or car, but you can just pretend the bike is racked in the bike racks.
  • What:
    • See the pictures in Part 2. Set up your area.
  • How:
    • Gear check
      • This is the time to walk through the transition in slow motion and make sure you haven’t forgotten equipment or an unexpected variable.
      • Here are the basic steps:
        • Step 1: Swim check
          • Pantomime putting on your wetsuit, swim cap, and goggles. Is anything missing?
          • Assess: Is anything missing or awkward? Stop, adjust supplies, and (this is important) start all over again. If everything checks out, go to Step 2
  • Step 2: Swim to Bike transition
    • Pantomime walking to your bike in the wetsuit, removing the goggles and swim cap, pulling off the wetsuit. Towel drying your feet.
    • Pantomime strapping on the helmet (NOW! yes, before you touch anything else and forget). In many races, even unracking the bike with an unstrapped helmet is an instant disqualification (DQ). Pretend to put on the cycling shoes and grab your sunglasses.
    • Assess: Is anything missing or awkward? Stop and fix it now. Then start all over again. If everything feels ok, go to Step 3.
Triathlete running on a road with green trees behind him in Spain
  • Step 3: Bike to run transition
    • Pantomime putting the bike back (do this BEFORE taking off your helmet to avoid disqualification). Pretend to take off the helmet and cycling shoes. Pretend to pull on your running shoes (+/- socks), grabbing your race number belt and water bottle….and jogging off.
    • Assess. Is everything good? If not, fix and repeat.

Let the real practice begin!

(Pixabay, Sipa)

THIS is when it gets fun (for you and anyone watching). Reset your triathlon transition area. You are now actually going to walk through putting on and changing all the equipment for real. No more pantomiming.

Uhmmm…you mean, I’m really putting on my wetsuit where the neighbors might see me?


Triathletes are pretty used to getting stared at oddly…I mean, we run races in obnoxiously bright spandex on showy bikes, right?

  • What:
    • Go through all the steps (above).
      • Put that wetsuit, goggles, and swim cap on.
      • Go walk away from your set up by about 10-20 jog paces. Then turn around and jog to your bike.
      • Pull off the wetsuit and gear.
      • Change whatever clothes you must and get that helmet on.
      • Put on the cycling shoes and sunglasses, unrack your bike, and jog it several strides from your set-up.
      • Turn around and jog the bike back.
      • “Rack” the bike, then pull off that helmet and switch to running shoes.
      • Grab that race belt and number and jog away from the bike.
      • Assess: How’d you do?
      • This is the time to be both critical and laugh at yourself.
      • Set the area back up, and rerun the entire practice several times, until you feel it becoming much more fluid.

Ready to race!

NOW, you are ready to tackle that first triathlon transition like a pro (and without seaweed hanging from your face!).

I hope you’ve enjoyed this 3 part series and found some useful tips.

Other triathlon training resources:

Here are a few other sites to check out packed with great triathlon training tips:

Share your experience in the comments!

Have you completed a triathlon? What tips do you have for triathlon transition set-up? Did you use the practice guides here? How did it go? Drop a comment so we can all share and learn how to tackle this fun sport.

Happy Racing!


  1. Wow! Miffie! You are totally amazing! The important things I learned here are putting that helmet on–buckling it in place–then reaching for your bike. And drinking water when you run. But that one I already knew. Thank you for an interesting read.

    Love the “putting on the wetsuit while the neighbors watch.” Reminds me of walking down my suburban street wearing my son’s khaki pants and flannel shirt, my husband’s safari hat and hiking stick, binoculars and compass dangling from my waist to the woods at the end of our block to do a video for French class in college. My 14-year-old son was cameraman and my 12-year-old twins held French cue cards. I was sure the neighbors were looking out their windows wondering what the crazy Lees family was up to now. All best to you!

    1. Hi Victoria! That does paint a great picture. I hope the video turned out well. I love that it was a family, all-hand-on-deck video effort. I hope you got a good grade after all that- certainly should have for effort. Thank you for dropping by and your supportive comments.

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