Your race will go smoother if you work on Common sense Ironman triathlon transitions.

Oh my God! I forgot my running shoes!

Yes, that’s happened before. A sleepy triathlete walks to the swim start area and gets all his numbering done and he’s wearing his favorite flip-flops. He forgot that he was going to put on his racing runners and wear them down to the check-in.

The plan was to put them in his bike/run transition bag once he had his wetsuit on. Imagine his surprise when he only had flip-flops to throw in the bag.

Here are three key components to Common sense Ironman triathlon transitions.

  • PREPARING YOUR RACE BAGS

    The night before the race spread everything you will need out on the floor or bed, whichever works best for you. When you get your race package you will normally have five bags. This may be different for some Ironman races around the world, but usually there are five.

    You will most likely have a swim to bike transition bag, a bike to run transition bag, dry strip bag, and two special needs bags.

    Whatever clothes you wear down to check-in will normally go into the dry strip bag. You can take your wetsuit, swim goggles, and cap down to the race start in the dry strip bag. When it’s time to put your wetsuit on take out your wetsuit, swim goggles, and cap and put your clothes in that bag.

    It will have your number on it and there will be a big pile of them some where near the swim start. Throw your bag there. You will get it back along with your swim and bike gear after the race.

    Common sense ironman triathlon transitions

    Know what row your gear is in.


    So basically, when you spread your gear out the night before the race you should have five piles. A swim/bike transition pile, bike/run pile, a bike special needs pile, a run special needs pile, and your swim gear pile that will go in your dry strip bag. Once you have that figure out, put the gear in the appropriate bag.

    Being super organized the night before will is a great start to Common sense Ironman triathlon transitions.

  • SPECIAL NEEDS BAGS

    So what the heck do you put in these bags? Remember that you want to keep things as simple as possible. Your heart will be racing and you will be super-charged with adrenaline by the time you reach special needs and you want things to go smoothly.

    Unless you’re trying to qualify for Kona or set a personal best, stop your bike in order to deal with your bike special needs bag. Grabbing it on the fly can lead to disaster, especially when you find that a volunteer has tied a knot in the top of the bag. It happens…

    [bctt tweet=”How much food do you really need in your ironman triathlon bike transition bag?.
    via Ironstruck”]

    You might put special food or replacement drinks in that bag. Keep in mind that when you get that bag on the bike course you are getting very near the point where you should already have taken on the majority of your solid food. The best time to take on complex carbohydrates is in the first half of the race.

    This way your body has time to assimilate them and they will provide your fuel for late in the bike and for the run. Eating too late on the bike often does little good. You body does not have enough time to convert it to fuel. Besides that, you might end up with digestion problems on the run course.

    My point is, don’t stuff that bag with food. An electrolyte replacement drink you used all through your training would be a better choice as you may have used up what you started with. Weather can also be a factor and you might decide to put arm warmers in their if there is a chance of temperatures turning cold or if rain is in the forecast.

    You may also want to put a jacket in there. Keep in mind that you should be prepared to lose whatever is in that bag. In many races they just get lost in the shuffle. Be sure to use an old jacket and not the sleek one you just payed $150 for.

    common sense ironman triathlon transitions

    Don’t put that new cycling jacket in the special needs bag.


    Cut the toes of off long sport socks and they make perfect throw-away arm-warmers. They are also great at the beginning of the bike when mornings can be cool. When you don’t need they just throw them when you pass an aid station.

    The run special needs bag is much the same. Except for the run you might want to include a hat in the event you don’t start the race with one and the sun is really blazing down. You might also want sunblock.

    There will be plenty of food on the course and it’s not really necessary to pack much food in the run special needs. The run is best managed on very little food and regular intake of water and replacement drinks. Don’t forget an old sweater or jacket in the event it really cools off once the sun goes down.

    When you go to check in you will be carrying all your bags. There will be drop-off points for the bike special needs and another one for run special needs. Now you are down to three bags.

    There will be a bike and run transition spot(according to your race number usually)and that’s where you put those two bags. Now you just have one. It has swim gear and will substitute for your dry strip that you wore to start area.

  • TRANSITION REFERENCE POINTS

    Things can get very hectic inside the transition area. When you get out of the water you will be disorientated.

    Before the race starts, pick out landmarks(like a tree or post or sign or tent)that will lead you to your transition bag area. Better yet, find out from someone that knows where you come out of the water and the path you will take to enter the swim/bike transition area. All you really have to do is count the rows beforehand and you will know exactly where your gear is.

    The first row you come to once you enter the area will be row one. That’s your reference point. Memorize it beforehand. It doesn’t matter if your gear is to the right or left, just count from the first row to your row. You could be five rows away or 12 rows away, but this way you will know.

    Often the volunteers will try and find your bag for you, but when there are 40 people there all at the same time they get swamped. Know where you gear is in case you have to get it yourself.

    common sense ironman transitions

    I know my bike bag is down there somewhere.


    Once you get your bike gear, head to the change tent. Put your swim gear into your bike gear bag, make sure it’s tightly closed and leave it in the tent if there is not a pile of them nearby. Either way you will get it back after the race.

    When you get off your bike you will most likely be told to take your helmet with you as opposed to leaving it with your bike. Some people like to take there feet out of their cycling shoes and leave the shoes locked into the pedals when the volunteers catch them.

    [bctt tweet=”Hey! Where’s my other Ironman bike cycling shoe? Via IronStruck”]

    I’m not a big fan of this because those shoes are so expensive and can easily get knocked off and lost in the flurry of activity. If you don’t want to walk or run in cycling shoes to the change tent, take them off, carry them, and go in bare feet.

    If found out before the race start where you will be getting off your bike, you will have your transition point and you would use the same process to find your run gear as you did your bike gear.

    When you change into your run gear, but your helmet and cycling shoes in the empty run gear bag. Remember, all the bags have your race number on them and will by magic(with a little help from the volunteers)end up together when you go to get them after the race.

RELATED: Ironman bike transition
RELATED: Ironman run transition

Hopefully these few tips for Common sense Ironman triathlon transitions will be helpful to you.

Looking for your next race? Check out Ironman.com for upcoming races.

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