The Transition Area

I read a post the other day from someone who, in one of their first longer distance triathlons, got to T1 and realized they had forgotten a few important items and had left them at home - HR monitor, nutrition.  I'm assuming it had to be pure oversight and a bag got left behind.  I suppose, similar to getting ready for ones first ever triathlon, that in your first long distance triathlon (a Half-Iron / 70.3 for instance), one might have their nerves a bit on edge.

My first triathlon ever had my nerves frazzled beyond belief.  The thought of just setting up my transition area was frightening.  As I recall, my wife and I went to a local triathlon a couple weeks before our race just to watch people come into T1 and T2.  It did help to see a transition area "live" and to realize that it's not rocket science.  But, I packed and re-packed my transition bag a dozen times before that first race.  And I'm pretty sure I brought waaaaay too much stuff for a sprint tri.

When I came out of the water and got to T1, I recall - not so fondly - a 'deer in the headlights' moment (or, four).  I stood there, frozen, staring at my transition area not knowing what to do first.  Looking back I'm surprised I actually found my way to my bike.  It's overwhelming the first couple of times you get into the transition area.  It's effectively a fenced in area of  controlled chaos.  People running in and out, bikes being un-racked and run to the "bike-out" area.  It can be intimidating for the first-timer - or even third-timer.  And heaven forbid you look up and see a veteran come in and out of T1. For the new triathlete, to see someone get in and out of the transition area as fast as some do can be shocking and humbling.

I've said many a time that I'm by no means an expert, but I've done this enough to know what works - for me at least - and I've found over the years that it has gotten easier to pack for my transition area on race day.  That's not a surprise, as practice does make perfect (or approaches it at least).  What I find more interesting is that it's also become more of an exercise in minimalism.  Over time you do begin to understand what you need for a race, and pack only the necessities.   The main thing that changes is the amount of nutrition that you bring based on the distance that is being raced.

The best advice I received for packing for, and practicing, transitions was simple and obvious.  When you're doing your brick workouts (bike to run, most commonly) lay out your gear in your garage or basement and simulate T2.  You'll realize if you forgot something (hat, gel, whatever) and after doing this enough times, packing your transition bag will become quite easy. 

This isn't to say that you won't forget something on race day.  My first 70.3 event a couple years ago felt intimidating.  I can pack for an Olympic distance triathlon in minutes.  But this felt different.  In the end, the biggest difference was nutrition - more to the point the amount that I had to pack was different.  But, I was thrown off none-the-less and had a few moments of pulling everything out of my transition bag and triple checking everything.

By the way, I didn't pack enough nutrition for that Half Iron race. I bonked badly on the run.  Oops.