Triathlon training can be a long and arduous process to establish a level of proficiency at three different sports. It is daunting, but also fun. You will not get bored because there is always some level of improvement in any one of the sports. There are many areas in triathlon beyond the actual sports though that you need to practice. You need to practice transitions, brick workouts, and nutrition.
In each triathlon race, there are two transitions that you will need to practice. Each transition time counts toward your overall time and is a part of the race. You will want to practice these transitions to become as quick as possible while not damaging your equipment or forgetting important pieces of equipment like sunglasses.
The transition called T1 is from your swim to your bike. The transition called T2 is from your bike to the run. The transition from the swim to the bike begins the moment you exit the swim course. You may have a watch like the Garmin 910XT where you depress the lap button to signal your completion of the swim and your focus on the transition. You will need to practice removing your wetsuit, putting on your bike shoes and socks if you need them. While this may seem mundane and ordinary, you will need to practice to make this as efficient as possible.
The transition from bike to run is a little easier as you just have to get on your running shoes, race belt, and running hat. This transition usually is the faster of the two. You will want to make sure you have the correct nutrition during the transition to propel you into the next discipline.
You will want to lay out your items for each transition in order so that you will not be scrambling for any item. I left my sunglasses in T1 one time because they simply were not put in a place that I would have to pick them up. I had to suffer through 56 miles of wind in my eyes of which I have contacts. This was not a good choice.
A good way to practice these transitions is to do brick workouts which we will discuss next.
Brick workouts combine two sports together in one workout. Commonly the brick workout combines biking and running, however, you can easily do this with the swim to bike transition. In each day that you have a brick workout, try to incorporate some practice of your transitions. You can place all of your items just as you would in a normal race. Then when you finish one of the disciplines, run to the transition and change. Getting faster at transitions will help your overall time, but will also help you not to panic.
Brick workouts will help your legs and body adjust between the two different sports as well. As you transition your body is learning how to shift the blood supply from one area of your body to the other. For example, in the swim, you are mostly using your upper body to propel yourself through the water. When you get out of the water your legs have to kick in (literally) so you will need to feel that adjustment. The big transition from being on the bike where you have been using certain leg muscles to running can be hard on your body. Practicing this transition through brick workouts will enable your race day to be a success.
Your body needs to be ready for the nutrition you plan to use on race day. You cannot introduce a new piece of nutrition on race day and guarantee you won't have difficulty. Your use of gels, nutrition bars, certain foods, Gatorade, or any other nutritional item will need to be practiced and tested throughout your training to ensure your success. Too often when someone tries to incorporate something new on race day they will have massive Gastro-intestinal problems that can cripple their race success. Don't let this happen to you. Practice your nutrition on long training days to make sure your body is ready to digest all of what you plan to introduce.
Practice in triathlon training is vitally important to your success, but don't overlook these major components of a successful race day plan.