My First Transition Clinic and Open Water Swim

My First Transition Clinic and Open Water Swim

Early in my first triathlon season back in 2008, I attended a transition clinic to learn about how triathlon transitions work. For those of you not in the know, a triathlon has two transitions, one from the swim to the bike and one from the bike to the run. The transition area is where you run into when you emerge from the swim and store items like your wetsuit, bike, bike gear, running shoes, extra water bottles, a large pepperoni pizza, one of those “Hang in there” inspirational posters, etc. Since I didn’t know anything about transitions (or triathlons, for that matter), I went to the clinic to learn how to ease from one sport into the next without looking like a complete asstard.

The clinic was held at a park, and Teresa would time us from our simulated swim to bike transition, and again from swim to run. She’d shout out our times with much excitement and encouragement, and I’d feel like a freakin’ champ because I was flying out of the fake water and to my little transition spot so speedily. “I so got this,” I thought. “I’mma be so gee dee fast in transition.” I even took notes and photos of the whole process so I could study it diligently and be the fastest mofo in T1 and 2:

A tidy transition setup

That same week, I had my first ever open water swim. Before the workout, I envisioned myself exiting the water like a total pro and expertly stripping off my wetsuit like I learned in the transition clinic. Then, of course, I actually got in the water and everything I learned flew out the window. It was May and Lake Washington was like 50 degrees, so our group didn’t so much swim as flop around in the water and screech due to the hardcore zipper sting (which is when the water seeps into your wetsuit from various entrances, usually the zipper, and chills you the eff out). My workout turned into a 15 minute flail fest as I dully punched the water with frozen fists and heavily plunked my feet in instead of exhibiting anything remotely resembling decent form.

Finally, when my icy torture was over, I trudged out of the water and attempted to do my “speedy” transition.” Unfortunately, the freezing temperatures + Madison beach stairs equaled me sporting windmill arms and rubber legs as I attempted to exit. I MC Skat Katted two steps forward, one step back, threatening to fall into the water more times than I’d care to admit. It was most definitely a sad sight to behold — I think Teresa trained me in 2008 thinking I was physically and mentally handicapped.

At last I managed to creep over to a safe distance away from the beach, where I tiredly pawed at my zipper pull, twirling around like an idiot until I had the strap in my tundra clutches. I yanked my suit down and promptly keeled over when trying to pull it off my legs. By the time I wrestled myself free from my waterproof sausage casing, it had been several minutes and I was pathetically tired from the effort. I had really put my transition clinic knowledge to good use.

Thankfully, practice makes less embarrassing (which is how the saying goes for me), and after enough races I can safely say I’m pretty decent at transitioning. The only thing I don’t do is start out with my cycling shoes on the bike — I tried it at another clinic and was pretty sucktastic at it, so I haven’t bothered to try it out during an actual race. I have considered slipping out of my cycling shoes as I roll into transition instead of running through T2 in them because my Speedplay cleats are clunky mother effers and virtually impossible to “run” in without rolling an ankle. Maybe it’s something I’ll work on this coming season…Teresa would just love it if I bugged her for another clinic so she can watch me zig zag around the park looking like a total spaz.

3 Responses to “ “My First Transition Clinic and Open Water Swim”

  1. Teresa says:

    I want you to be a speedy t1and t2 mofo! 2011 here we come!

  2. Cathleen K says:

    I was 3 for 4 in falling during Ironman transitions in 2010- once in CdA, completely covering myself in sand, and twice in Kona. Oh yeah. And man, that concrete pier is hard! Happy New Year, Rebecca. Practice will definitely make less embarassing.

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