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Why T2 Can Be The Cure For A Bad Race

BY John Post, MD

Use T2 as a place to regroup—not just save time—and you just might have your best race ever.

How often, say before a race, are you just sitting in transition waiting, and you see another athlete with different tires, or a funny transition area set up and you ask her, “Say, why do you do that?”

People are very willing to share this information with you. In fact, they consider it a true compliment that you might wish to emulate them. By and large pre-race transition areas are fantastic places to meet new people and to learn new things to take with you to your next race.

T2: a place to regroup

I’ve always thought that both T1 and T2 serve different functions in longer races. In a sprint, my goal is to have the absolute fastest transitions, both of them, in my age group.

In fact, giving away time in transition is just plain dumb for the serious triathlete. I enter the race thinking, “How close to one minute can I make each of these discipline changes?” And just like practicing flat tire changing, rehearsing transitions before ever race is just plain smart racing.

But, in an IRONMAN or IRONMAN 70.3 race, the field is frequently larger and fewer athletes may be aiming for the podium. The remainder just want to finish with a respectable performance and the ability to maintain a near normal gait pattern the next day.

How to Prepare Your T2

If you are a highly competitive triathlete, looking to get onto that run as fast as possible, check out this article on how to perfect your bike dismount, streamline your transition area and become a better runner off the bike.

If, however, your goals are simply to finish respectively and perhaps have a more enjoyable run leg than you have in the past, then follow these simple three tips for a more successful T2.

Focus on the present

Maybe you had a flat at mile 10 of the race. Maybe you had two. We’ve all been there, and it stinks, but what happened is over, and dwelling on it will do nothing but cost you even more time.

If you roll into T2 with a less-than-stellar attitude, take a moment to compose yourself. Maybe sit down as you put on your running shoes, take some deep breaths and remember why you do triathlon in the first place—to have fun!

Really focus on each transition task to clear your mind and stay focused on the present. Set out your hat and sunglasses, take some extra seconds to breathe deeply while you adjust them on your face. Then, when you head toward the transition exit, set yourself some positive intentions for the run.

Whatever you do, don’t let whatever happened in the swim or on the bike enter your mind. Strike it away each time the memory enters your mind and instead focus on the road in front of you.

Start out slowly

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone in my age group dart out of transition at an insane pace—only to get passed by me halfway through the run because they’ve burnt all their matches and are walking.

Whatever your run pace should be is something you should practice in training, but the act of slowing down a bit can begin before you’ve even left T2. Don’t feel like you have to sprint to the exit, especially if you have a cramp or you’re going at a pace that is hardly maintainable.

The minute or so of walking you do toward the T2 exit won’t delay your finish time by that much (again, as long as this isn’t a qualifying event for you), and by taking those few extra seconds to take everything in, stretch that darn calf that always seizes up at mile 2, or take in some much-needed hydration or fuel might even help you reach the finish line faster.

Put on sunscreen

As a doctor I feel it is my duty to remind you just how silly it is to head out of transition (either one) without a fresh layer of sunscreen on, sunglasses and a hat or visor. Not only are you risking your health, but you might even be slowing yourself down! Becoming sunburned, depending on the length of your event, can dehydrate you, leading to a whole host of other problems.

Not only that, but if your race is extremely hot and/or long, not protecting your skin (the largest organ in your body!) can put you at risk of heatstroke as well. Yes, it may take a while to make sure that one spot you just can’t seem to reach is covered, but that’s what those fantastic race volunteers are for.

Full Distance Triathlon Training Guide Thumbnail

The Ultimate Full-Distance Training Guide

Training Guide

This guide is designed to be used as you train for a full-distance triathlon, with in-depth information on every part of the process. Each chapter is packed with tips, workouts, and insights from triathlon coaches, to give you all the tools you need to succeed.

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About John Post, MD

Dr. Post has a long history with triathlon including 6 Kona finishes and an Orthopedic Surgery practice in Virginia caring for, among others, injured triathletes. He now enjoys giving back to the sport by being a World Championship Transitions volunteer every October. If you find yourself on the pier in Kona, please stop and say hi to “the man in the red hat.”