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This was my setup for an olympic distance race. Note my race number on my helmet. Inside the helmet I have sunglasses. I also have my bike computer on my bike and turned on. I programmed it to not auto turn off if not used for a period of time (if you rack your bike the day prior then take your bike computer OFF of your bike if possible).
I have a brightly colored mat that has my name on it to help me find it quickly. My bike shoes have a special velcro tab to hold them open...waiting for my wet feel to slide in and the bike race to begin!
Simple and uncluttered is the way to be!
I bring a headlamp to help me setup transition since it is often dark when we emerge to conquer the obstacle set before us!
LEFT: This race assigned sections of a rack for numbers. So I picked a spot next to a pole. I placed my bike close enough to the pole so another bike could not sneak in...but far enough away to set up my transition spot to the right of my front (downed) tire. This check in was also the day before so I remembered to NOT fill up my tires (it was HOT...they likely would have popped!!). I also put a waterproof bag over my saddle to help me find it the next morning and to protect it if it rained. Some people wrap their bikes in trash bags...and this is really smart. I forgot my bags on this race and so I was SOL.
RIGHT: Notice the wrap I put on the rack pole to mark my spot. You can also see the gels taped to my bike.
As a new triathlete NOTHING intimidated me more than transition setup. How could I set my gear up to get to it QUICKLY, EFFICIENTLY, and without taking up too much space? How would I find my stuff in the middle of a race with the angst of getting back on the course as quickly as possible? What did I need. How much was too much? Would someone look at my setup and chuckle, "Obvious NEWBIE!!". I was horrified. So I became obsessed and googled "Triathlon Transition Setup", tips and tricks for transitions, and how to not lose your bike in transition. To save you some heartache I am listing some of my personal tips and pictures of my transition setup below.
@EnduredGirl Tips: KEEP IT SIMPLE!!
You do not need the kitchen sink! Too much stuff will slow you down and clutter up your area. Resist the urge to bring 3 of everything you own.
1. Bike Check-in: Some races will allow you to check your bike in the night prior to the race. I personally LOVE this. It allows me to get my bike there, claim my spot, and stake out the area while I am not stressed. If you do this then do not pump your tires up the day you rack your bike. In hot climates this could cause your tires to POP...which is rather undesirable on race day. Instead bring a small bike pump on race day and pump up your tires then OR use the bike station that most races have to pump them up. I use a fluorescent wrap on the bike rack to mark my spot. This is AWESOME when I am coming back from the bike course and trying to find my spot quickly. I just look at the pole and find my bright wrap.
2. Locate YOUR spot: Some triathlons label your spot on the rack with your number while others label a row with a range of numbers. One benefit of checking your bike in ahead of time is if you get there early and the race only labeled the row...you can pick your spot on the row. I typically pick a spot next to a pole because it acts as a barrier on one side between me and the competitor next to me. It also makes it easier for me to find my bike if I remember it is next to a pole. I also select which side I put my tire down on based on what is easiest during transition. I practice taking my bike off the pole and running to the bike out spot. What is least awkward? That is the position I choose. If the race chose a spot for you then deal with it and set up your transition with your wheel DOWN on the side of the pole with your number on it (typically this will put your front tire down)
3. Setup Gear: Your gear should be on the ground next to your down wheel. Setup a small towel or mat on the right next to your tire. You do NOT need a full beach towel.
4. Helmet: Place your helmet on your handle bars, upside down, strap open, and laying so it is easy to stand in front of it, pick it up, and plop it on your head. By putting it on your handlebars it helps you remember to put your helmet on and strapped PRIOR to touching your bike. Open up your sunglasses and place them inside the helmet. Sunglasses serve to block the sun but also serve to protect your eyes from flying debris. Wear them or another eye protector.
5. Transition Mat Area: Place your bike shoes at the front of the mat closest to you. You will wear them first. If you are going to wear socks (I do not) then open them up and lay them over each shoe. If windy then tuck them into shoe or place under appropriate shoe. Place your running shoes behind the bike shoes. Place your socks on them (following same advice as bike socks). I use a race belt (I hate safety pins messing up my gear!!) and so I hook my running race number onto my belt and place it over my shoes. If windy you can tuck the straps under the shoes. I put my hat on top of all of this.
6. Back Area of Mat: I put an extra water bottle, lube, small towel, and sunscreen at the very back of my mat. You could put some extra nutrients here as well.
7. Nutrients: I stock my bike with nutrition and water bottles, snacks and salt pills (in a bento box for longer races), and GU gels (tapped to my tube with electrical tape). For the run GU gels I place them in the back of my tri top at the beginning of the race. The water doesn't bother them during the swim and it is one less thing I have to fiddle with during transition. I have tight pockets, however, so you should judge your tri kits pockets to determine if this will work for you.