Try a Triathon – Swim, Bike, Run your way to the Triathlon Finish Line – Transitions

P1050523Today, we finish our Triathlon Training Series.  I hope you now feel you have the tools to conquer your first Swim/Bike/Run event and the programming guidelines and training tips to reach a personal best for you seasoned triathletes. This column will focus on transitions and race day preparations.

Triathlon Transitions:

An often forgotten and neglected part of the triathlon training process, but if transitions are done correctly, it can shave minutes off your final time.  I had a girlfriend who took 8 minutes during one of her transitions and I asked her “What the heck were you doing for 8 minutes?” and she proceeded to tell me about all of her clothing changes, trying to find items, and even deodorant application! Had she been more organized, she would have experienced a much more seamless transition! Having a good transition time requires practice BEFORE race day!

  • Consider each event and what you will want to wear.  Ideally you want to minimize the clothing changes. Professionals will wear the same clothing from start to finish of a triathlon.  They will often wear some form of Triathlon suit that has a thin shammy to provide comfort on the bike but that they are still able to swim and run in. I will typically wear a thin cycling short and bra top or tank top throughout the whole race so no clothing change is required.  There is a fine line between comfort and speed and sometimes for a shorter event, you can sacrifice comfort to opt for speed.  But for the longer events, you will want to be comfortable so will take the time during transitions to put on items that will make the experience more enjoyable. For example, in a Half Ironman or Ironman distance, I would probably take the time to put on a cycling short with a thicker pad.
  • Organize your transition area on a thin towel (you don’t get a lot of space on the bike racks) in the sequence that makes the most sense.  For example, as you enter your first transition, you will need quick access to your helmet, glasses, cycling shoes so those items should be positioned first. Then in your second transition, you will need to access your running shoes/gear.
  • Practice each stage of your transition.  Imagine coming out of the water and then practice taking off your goggles, swim cap and wet suit.  Then practice quickly putting on your biking gear – helmet, glasses, cleats (or running shoes). Then imagine coming off your bike and practice taking helmet/cleats off….then quickly putting running shoes/gear on.


You want to arrive on race day feeling fresh and fully fueled.  So in the last 1-2 weeks before race day, you want to reduce your volume of training so you feel strong.  You should focus on quality of training vs quantity.  Short, tempo workouts will be perfect and some athletes even take 1-2 days off right before race day. You don’t want to do anything that is going to make your legs feel tired or heavy on race day so no heavy hill, long distance or aggressive workouts.

Before Event Nutrition:

In the last week leading up to the event, drink lots of water – at least 80-100 ounces. A good gauge is that your urine should be light or clear to assure you are fully hydrated.  Eat healthy making sure to consume a lot of fruits, vegetables and healthy carbs – sweet potato, yams, brown rice, whole grain pasta etc.

Day of the Event Nutrition:

Have your usual breakfast 2-3 hours before the event – ideally something easily digestible and remember to drink water.  Don’t eat anything out of the ordinary to avoid any digestion issues.

During the Event Nutrition:

If the event will be less than 2 hours, water and perhaps an energy drink with electrolytes will be sufficient.  If the event will be longer than 2 hours, replenish your Carbs by consuming power gels, banana, energy bars etc.  If you are competing in a long distance event (1/2 Ironman, Ironman), consult with a nutritionist to obtain exact nutritional requirements during the event to help avoid health concerns.

Event Day Preparations:

Get to the event with plenty of time to spare.  I like to get there at least 1 hour before the start of the event.  Remember that the later you arrive, the tougher it will be to get a good transition spot.  Once you arrive, set up your transition spot as you had practiced.  Take some time to get acquainted with the transition area so you know exactly where your spot is and learn where you exit and return on the bike and run portion.  Allow some time to get your body marked, go the restroom, and do a warm-up on your bike to make sure everything is functioning correctly.  Once the event organizer announces the starting time of your waive, get in the water a few minutes before and warmup and check to make sure your goggles are sealed and aren’t leaking.

Social Aspects:

Once you finish, drink water, energy drink and consume some fruits to refuel your muscles immediately.  Be sure to stick around and enjoy all the post event festivities. Share stories with other finishers, take photos and post your accomplishments on social media sites – you might just inspire someone else!

We are hosting the Girlfriends & Dudes Triathlon, Duathlon and Kids Triathlon THIS SUNDAY!!! July 20th as a fundraiser for the Children’s Center.  This event is perfect for new Triathletes because the ½ mile swim is in a calm section of the Columbia river at Frenchmans Bar so you get to swim with the current. Many of those fearful of the water love that if they just floated in the water, they’d get to the finish line in about 30 minutes and at any point, they can wade to the shore and touch down if they need a break.  The bike is a 12.5 mile flat ride and the 3.1 run/walk is on a flat, paved trail.  You can also donate an additional $25 to Children’s Center and get Charity VIP waive which means you get the best transition spot and get to start before everyone else. We also offer a Relay option, a Duathlon division and a Kids Race plus there will be a live band making it a really fun party!

You can register HERE.

You can find other Triathlon distances by visiting either of the following websites.

Sherri McMillan, M.Sc. has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for over 25 years and has received numerous industry awards including International Personal Trainer and Fitness Presenter of the Year. She is the author of five books including “Go For Fit – the Winning Way to Fat Loss” and “Fit over Forty” and is the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs.  She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver and can be seen running, hiking or cycling with her two children, Brianna and Jackson.  She can be reached at or

Note:  As an avid Columbian reader, you can redeem a 2 week pass at her world-class training studio to help get you started.  Contact 360.574.7292 for more details. 

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan, holds a master's degree in exercise physiology and has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for more than 33 years. She has received numerous industry awards including 2010 CanFitPro International Presenter of the Year, 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, 1998 CanFitPro Fitness Presenter of the Year and 2005/2006 ACE Fitness Educator of the Year - Runner up. She is a fitness trainer, fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals including "Go For Fit - the Winning Way to Fat Loss" and "Fit over Forty" and the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs. She has presented hundreds of workshops to thousands of fitness leaders throughout Canada, Australia, Mexico, Jamaica, New Zealand, Germany, England, Spain, South America, Asia and the U.S. She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver, the founder of WHY Racing Events & WHY Community, participates in various community fundraisers and can be found running, biking, or hiking around the community. Find more information at

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