mug Like Tri?
Raul Boca

Avoid disaster by
transitioning well
between legs of race

Editor's note: Fifth in a series of articles over eight Sundays designed to help anyone who wants to participate in the Honolulu Triathlon.

PERHAPS you can swim 1,500 meters, or bike 40 kilometers, or even run 10 kilometers, but have you ever done them all on the same day, one right after the other? Is it possible to put it all together on the same day? The answer is yes. You can do it. Read on, and you will know that you are ready. Crossing that finish line at the Honolulu Triathlon is closer than you thought.

Participating in my first triathlon in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 1987, I was like most average athletes; I could do all the distances, but a race with all three was a new experience for me. When the gun went off, there I was, a former swimmer trying to stay ahead of the pack.

The beginning of the race went well and I got out of the water with the front group of swimmers. As soon as I exited the lake, proud of my accomplishments, I started to walk to my bike. It was about a quarter of a mile from the lake to where my bike was at the transition area. Let me tell you, I have never seen so many people pass me in that short of a distance.

They were running so fast to their bikes and I found myself lost after a great swim. How could that happen? I was doing so well. I thought that the transitions were calm and relaxed. So I rushed to my bike and people were already gone. I put on my gloves, my socks, my shoes, my helmet, oops, had to take the helmet off to put the shirt on, then put the helmet on again, then the sunglasses over the helmet straps (Remember this one, sunglasses over the helmet straps). About four minutes later, and at the back of the group, I left the bike transition slowly trying to get in the groove of things.

As I approached the bike-to-run transition area, I thought to myself that this time I will be really fast. I had learned my lesson an hour ago. I racked my bike and took my helmet off quickly, sending my sunglasses flying off my head. I realized I should have put my sunglasses on before the helmet, so the helmet straps would be over the sunglasses.

I encountered another minor problem at the second transition; I could not find my running shoes. So in an effort to be fast, I left the transition area barefoot. I crossed the finish line with a happy face, but sad bloody feet.

I have learned a lot since my first triathlon and would like to share with you a few things that can make your triathlon race a successful and smooth experience, with fewer surprises than mine. First, you need to be prepared for your transition area: swim to bike, and bike to run. You need to know what to do when changing gears from one sport to the other. Secondly, in training, you need to practice biking after swimming and running after biking.

Let's start with the transition area, the place where you change gears from swimming to biking and biking to swimming.

» Choose your racing gear soon so you can practice and get familiar with it. There are many different outfits and gears out there. Make sure that you feel comfortable with your choices. Small items like a number belt (to place your race number) and a shoelace tight (to eliminate lacing your shoelaces) are essential items for a fast transition. Visiting a local triathlon shop can be a great help.

» Keep your race gear simple and organized. Try to keep your list of gear as short as possible. If there is something that you do not need, do not use it. Also, when placing your gear at the transition area, keep it organized so you can change quickly and efficiently. For example, decide ahead of time if you are putting on both socks before you put the shoes on, or if you will put on one sock, then the shoe, and then the other sock and the other shoe. Believe me, it will make a difference. Also, make sure that you put your shirt on before you put on your helmet. Remember me!

» Stay calm and relaxed as much as possible. It seems that time is going faster than it really is. Be efficient and do every task with perfection and precision. Do not leave the transition area with things half done.

» Make sure that you catch your breath before you enter each transition area. Take it a bit easier at the end of the swim, as well as at the end of the bike, to have good energy and stamina to move quickly through the transition area.

I highly recommend working these transitions into your training prior to the Honolulu Triathlon. It will put you at a big advantage to practice biking after swimming, and running after biking. Here are a few tips for the last four weeks of your training:

» Every week, practice a swim/bike and a bike/run workout. Those workouts do not need to be long, a total of one to two hours depending on your available time and experience. For example, swim for 30 minutes and follow with a one-hour bike right after. Do the same for the bike-and-run workout. Bike for one hour and then run 30 minutes right after. (It's great to use a stationary trainer for this workout.) The time and distances of this workout can vary, but don't overdo it and you will get a tremendous benefit from it.

» Two or three weeks before the race do a swim/bike/run workout. This workout will help you to build confidence and give you an opportunity to correct the details of your racing plan. Keep this workout a little shorter than the race distance, but at a good effort pace.

» Have a great tapering the week before the race so you can be rested for the big day. A week or two before the race, it is important to drop your mileage to half in order to give your body time to recover. Short and quality workouts are fine for this phase.

Now you know much more than I did for my first triathlon. However, there is one thing that I did really well for my first race in 1987. I practiced how I was going to celebrate when crossing the finish line. It did not make me any faster, but it helped me to visualize my goal and make a dream come true. Have a safe training experience and see you at the finish line on April 18.

Raul Boca is the director of Boca Hawaii LLC, a triathlon training club. He is an authority on multi-sport training in Honolulu.

Next week: Maximizing performance with equipment, nutrition and stretching. For more information on the Honolulu Triathlon, visit

Mark Fretta says preparation is the key to transitions.

Triathlon training tips

Three simple tips to an efficient triathlon transition from Mark Fretta, who finished third at the ITU World Cup in Korea in 2003:

» Know where your transition spot is. I suggest laying down a very distinctive towel under your running shoes or bike so you can clearly see your spot. (I used to use a large Darth Vader towel but now use a lime green one.)

» Write down a checklist of equipment you need for the triathlon well in advance of the event. This will make pre-race packing easy, eliminate the chance of forgetting something and allow for smooth transition setup on race day.

» Stay calm and relaxed in transition. The more you rush the slower you will go. Relax and you will avoid mistakes and wasted time.


E-mail to Sports Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --