The Latest in Triathlon Transition Gear

Transition times in a triathlon, while short, can really hinder a triathlete’s mindset.  The switch from swim to bike and bike to run is really what triathlons are all about.

For my first five triathlons, I used a small backpack, a yoga mat and a canvas bag to carry around my stuff.  Maybe I over pack, but the reality is that setting up the transition area is never easy.  Seems like nothing has a home.

Well, after meeting Dominique Aris, Founder & Creative Director of Gyst Concept, at the Ventura Triathlon, my stuff has a home.  After spending the today packing and practicing transitions with the “Backpack 1-10“, I am blown away by the revolutionary design of this bag.

You literally pack the bag, unfold it, and go.  Easy as 1-2-3! Check out my video below for a personal walk through of this triathlon experience changing gear:

For more information on the Backpack 1-10 and other models, please visit the Gyst Concept store.

Consider Barefooting the Triathlon

The concept of barefoot running has been around for a while.  Interest in it increased dramatically in September 2009 when Vibram launched their new FiveFingers footwear.  Marketed as the “barefooting alternative” to more traditional shoes, they have developed a cult following.

Needless to say, I have a pair of FiveFingers, the KSO model to be specific.  I love them.  I wear them often, run in them often, and have seen the benefits of wearing them.  Yes, in the beginning I discovered I had muscles that I never knew I had as my body started adjusting to them.  My glutes and calves in particular were most bothersome.  But after a few weeks and many miles running, I discovered that barefoot running is the only way to go.

FiveFinger Issues

The reality is that I am a triathlete at heart, not a runner.  I love my FiveFingers so much, I really, really want to wear them during my next triahlon.  Sure, I can put them on after cycling, but I wonder if they would take too long to put on.  Maybe wearing them throughout the entire triathlon is best?  But what to consider?  Here is what is on my mind:

  1. How can you ride the bike in them?  Clips? Cages?
  2. Can I wear them during the swim portion of the triathlon?
  3. How long does it take to put them on?
  4. Are there any rules that preclude me from barefoot running in a triathlon?

They seem like simple questions, but let’s take a look at how the FiveFingers will look at each stage of the triathlon.

Swimming in FiveFingers?

Seems a little odd wearing an Xterra wetsuit with FiveFingers, but not really different than wearing booties and a wetsuit when you think about it. Black KSOs might blend better than the cool blue camouflage color.

The USAT rules state that one cannot wear any devices that aid in propulsion.  FiveFingers definitely do not aid in propulsion.  I would have to argue that, if anything, the FiveFingers will cause more drag since they have an open mesh top, a contrast to a solid neoprene bootie.  On the plus side, they might actually keep your feet a little warm?? hmmm…

Cycling in your FiveFingers?

Cycling presents the biggest stumbling block to this issue.  The way I am looking at it, there are two ways to do this.

1) Wear the FiveFIngers and replace my clipless, snap-in pedals with cages.   Why don’t I like this idea?  I really don’t want to replace my pedals with cages since I don’t like how they look so amatuerish.  Second, cages don’t give you the same efficiency as clipless pedals do.  Nothing like being physically attached to your bike.

2) Wear the FiveFingers inside the cycling shoes.  Seems crazy, but when you think about it, this might be the fastest solution. Coming in from the swim, you can simply slide them into the shoes.  When cycling is done, simply pull your foot out and start running.  Yes, this could actually REDUCE TRANSITION TIME.  Exciting thought.  What’s the downside?  I need to buy a much larger pair of cycling shoes, assuming they make a pair big enough.  This is going to require a trip to the cycling store and a follow-up post.

Running in the FiveFingers

This is the best part and does not require much explanation other than barefoot running is the only way to go.  Running in my FiveFingers feels natural, powerful, free, and light.  for more information on the health benefits of FiveFingers, checkout Vibrams’ Health/Wellness page.  What more is there to say?

The Barefoot Triathlon

Whether or not my next triathlon is my first barefoot triathlon, the thought is exciting.  Worse case scenario, I can put the FiverFIngers on after cycling, but wearing them for the WHOLE triathlon means a lot more than, “I wore my FiveFingers for the run portion of triathlon.” Why not?

Have you considered barefooting your next triathlon?

Triathlon Results and Their Story

As an analyst, I love numbers and what they can tell you.  It isn’t necessarily the numbers themselves that are so fascinating, but their relationship to one another.  Be it a trend or a comparison of categories.

After completing the Carpinteria Triathlon sprint course and my trainer pointing out the interesting fact that I was just 19 seconds away from a top five finish on the bike course in my division, I got really curious about how I compared on the other sports and transitions.  After some work and lots of ETL, I produced the graph below:

Carp Tri Short Course, Men 30 to 34 Results
Carp Tri Short Course, Men 30 to 34 Results

As you can see, I placed 20th overall in my division, despite the above average finish on the bike course.  Here are some interesting tidbits:

1) If you notice that I am the only one with a run time slower than my bike time (orange triangle below green dot).

2) I was dead last on the run.

3) My triathlon transition times, T1 and T2 are more inline with the top 10 finishers than others finishing at the back of the pack. In fact, I had a better T1 time than the winner.

4) For the top 10 finishers, the swim times were close, likely within a minute of each other.

5) As well, for the top finishers, their bike times were about five minutes greater than their run times.

6) What is up with place 8 & 9, with such long bike times?  Given their very competitive swim times, I would say these were probably really good swimmers that recently started triathlons, so they haven’t developed their cycling muscles yet.

7) Notice how consistent the top 8 places are and how inconsistent the bottom 16 are.  I would be interested in reviewing their nutrition and training plans to see how the top compares to the bottom.  Do the top places have a triathlon coach, where the bottom half do not?  Would be interesting to dig more here.

So what does all of this mean?  It means that I can be a very competitive triathlete.  My approach going into the run course at was slow and finish steady, when it really should have been give it my all and finish mid-pack.   Going forward, these results influence my 2010 training plan.  Here is what I need to do:

1) Learn to swim efficiently.  Side stroke is slow and requires a lot of energy from the legs, putting me at a disadvantage.

2) Improve my run time by building better endurance.  Completing #1 above, will already help me here, but more long distance endurance training and speed work is a must.

Now you know why, as an analyst, why I am so fascinated by numbers.  They tend to tell you a story.  Are you listening?

The Challenging, Beautiful, and Fun Triathlon

The 2009 Carpinteria Triathlon is in the history books.  The sprint course was my third triathlon this year.

If there are three words that I can use to describe the experience, they are challenging, beautiful fun.

The Swim

The morning of the triathlon, Carpinteria was fogged in.  There were rumors that the start was to be delayed.  However, I still took the opportunity to get in a practice swim and I got a surprise.  The water was cooler than expected, the swell impressive, the surf a little scary, and the fog disorienting.  Swimming back toward shore during my practice swim, something happened and I got turned around.  When I looked up to sight shore, all I saw was buoy.  I panicked momentarily was I swung a 360 to figure out where I was. The fog and swell hid the shore, testing my ability to stay calm. Luckily, I got back on track, but then realized how strong the current was carrying me toward the start line.  The swim portion was going to be interesting.

Lining up at the start line, I met a gentleman that I raced with at the Santa Barbara Triathlon, a person that had overcome extensive back problems to compete.  Meeting him was reassuring.   What wasn’t reassuring was when the race official pointed to the barely visible, narrow, red cylindrical buoy that represented our turn along shore.  Yep, this was going to be a challenge.  As my triathlon friend pointed out, just follow the caps in front of you and don’t worry.

The horn blew and we were off.  I walked a bit far through the surf and started a relaxing side stroke only to get tangled up in someone’s legs.  The buoy was more visible but seemed so far away.  But I kept a nice rthym of stoke, relax, breathe, stroke, relax breathe.  While progress seemed so slow, I kept up with and even passed some of the slower swimmers.   Getting out of the water, I almost fell over my vertigo was so bad, but I was happy to be on land again.

Time: 17:04 @ 0.5km and run up beach; 381st place


Going into T1, I noticed that my bike was the only bike still there.  oh well, start the mental checklist. Kick off the wetsuit, change heart rate monitors, put the socks on, shoes, gloves, helmet, etc.  It was leisurely. The sprint toward the bike out exit was long, running the entire length of the transition area.  Exiting the area, was a very happy moment.

Time: 04:45 includes a 60 second run through the transition area

The Bike

Some of you might recall my earlier post about the bike course and my apprehension.  Well, challenging fun describes it well.

Oh how fun it was to finally mount and get moving.  The power of my legs, the wind over my saltwater covered body, and the sound of the tires on asphalt.  Just after mounting, I uttered “Let’s go for a nice bike ride through the hills.”  A nice bike ride it was.  The legs was still recovering from the swim (the con of side stroke) so climbing up the shallow inclines along Carpinteria Ave. were a little painful.  Staying on the road proved a little challenging as the bike wanted to head toward the curb and loose gravel due to the crown of the road.

The 9-Mile Bike Course: Challenging, Beatiful, Fun
The 9-Mile Bike Course: Challenging, Beatiful, Fun

Flying down Route 150 toward 192, I had the opportunity to open it up and truly enjoy the wind in my face and enjoy the open, foggy farmland above Carpinteria.  Turning up Route 192, I had the pleasure of dodging slow riders.  Hearing a volunteer shout “go get ’em 688,” made me push harder up the hill, passing most riders in a heart beat.

Cresting the top of the tree lined road, it was all downhill.  Then I got a reality check. At 28mph, I went left to pass another, slow cyclist.  As I started to pass, she drifted left until my hip made contact with her handlebars.  The brief contact was enough to make me realize how dangerous the sport is.  But it was a mere brush and she was more panicked about it than me.  I accelerated and she braked, preventing further contact.   I hunkered down, shifted to high gear and cranked it down to the finish.

I was amazed to see Linden Ave so empty.  Here I was, 27mph down Linden Ave and not a soul in front of me; Felt great as I had left them in the dust.

Dismounting was hairy.  The volunteers didn’t trust my ability to stop on a dime and so they toyed with my head, reaching out to stop me well ahead of the dismount line.  Thanks, but no thanks!  Then it was time to sprint with the bike, again back to timbuktu.

Time 29:50 @ 9-miles, beat my goal of 30minutes by 10 seconds; 131st place.


Again the walk from the transition area entrance to my spot was long.  I ended up walking about half the way, no need to wear myself out running just yet.   Arriving at the station, it was just a matter of switching shoes, shedding unneeded bike gear and filling up on Perpetuem before walking 15 feet to the run out exit. Seemed to go by faster than what I was clocked at.

Time 03:21 includes a really long walk along the transition area.

The Run

The run has always been my weakest, most painful, and psychologically debilitating sport. While swimming leaves a lot to be desired, running after swimming and biking just isn’t my forte.   Starting out, I decided to keep it smooth and slow.  Going north of Palm Ave., I quickly realized that it was a long uphill jog to Carpinteria Ave. I made it, but then my hip started hurting and kept getting worse and worse. I believe the uneven road surface was causing my right leg to travel further than my left leg, causing the hip muscle abnormal stress.

Run Course: 5k through the quiet neighborhoods
Run Course: 5k through the quiet neighborhoods

At this point, I was averaging about 10:30 pace and I kept telling myself to just keep moving!  Keep moving!  Unfortunately, the pace slowed down nearing the halfway mark to about 12:00.  One thing that really kept me going were the local residents sitting in their lawn chairs routing for those going by.  Carpinteria is a great town and it was even greater to see resident’s enjoying the show.

Rounding the turnaround, I knew it was all downhill, but I kept my pace slow, letting my strategy of slow and steady prevail over spontaneous speed.   Entering the finish chute, I finally picked up the pace… it was almost over… and then it was over. The third triathlon was history.

(Looking back, the run should have been better… I know I left some behind that day and I will remember forever!)

Time 35:36 @ 5k, about 11:20 pace, 391st place


This triathlon was not in the plan originally.  I decided to participate in it, partially due to peer pressure, and mostly because I wanted to experience the Carpinteria Triathon that everyone has been talking about all year.  While my time is respectable and I had lots of fun, I think the run portion could have been better.  Sure I could have slowed down on the bike, but I don’t think that was the answer.  The answer was changing my psychology from getting by and finishing, to enduring a bit more pain and pushing through, giving it my all.

I certainly learned during this triathlon that my future is no longer about just finishing, but finishing in a respectable, competitive time and placing higher. Going forward, it is time to ditch the “just finish” mentality and get competitive, but maintain the fun!

This triathlon was challenging, beautiful and loads of fun!

Time 1:30:34 35:36 @ 337th place overall

Note: Click for official results for all races and divisions.

Two Early Pics of Carpinteria Triathlon

Tomorrow at 8:13am, my wave leaves Carpinteria State Beach for a 500 meter swim, then a 9 mile bike and then a 5k run.  The Carpinteria Triathlon short course will be my third triathlon since I began the journey from office potato to triathlete.   Here are some pics of the transition area from earlier today:

Looking west.
Looking west.

I can’t believe how long the transition area is.  With 900 participants and a narrow parking lot, the length really should be expected.  It just means that I have to run with the bike the full length of the park before I can mount and go.

Looking East
Looking East

My transition area will be located near the east end, just near the “run out” exit and four rows down from the “swim in” entrance.  The beach run is not as long as it was at Ventura, but comparable to Santa Barbara.

Check back for more…  I will posting my results tomorrow!

First Experience with FiveFingers

I have been hearing a lot about the next generation in running gear, Vibram FiveFingers.  FiveFingers are simplified shoes that are designed to allow a runner to run “barefoot” but with protection and traction of a shoe.  Having a high arc, I need shoes that are highly flexible to allow my foot’s complexities to work properly.  My goal was to try them out for few months to help develop stronger feet… and maybe a faster 5k time!

So, I stopped by Santa Barbara Outfitters this afternoon to check them out in person.  They look a lot like my Teva Watershoes, only they have toes!   Unfortunately, all they had in my size (M_40) was the Flow model, which has more insulation and neoprene that aids in crossing streams. I really want the KSO model.

Trying the M_40 on was like sitting in a big rig for the first time.  You know how to drive, although you don’t really know how to get it moving.  The salesman suggested slipping the front over the toes and then using your fingers to guide the toes in each “socket” or else the toes curl under and you can’t walk worth beans.  So, I spent the next five minutes realizing how strange of shape my feet are compared the FiveFingers, not to mention, how fat my toes are.   I managed to wrangle the big toe and the next toe into the socket before realizing that the big toe was being deprived of blood…  there was no way I would even remotely get the pinky toe in the socket at this point.

The obvious next step was to try a larger size.  Well, not so fast their city slicker… its seems Vibram is struggling to keep up with demand (the sign of a great product!) and this particular store had sold out of the sizes I needed.  You see, the W_42 is the same size as the M_41.  I have problem with buying a woman’s FiveFinger as long as it fits and is not pink!  Anyway, the nice saleswoman (the salesman ditched me for greener pastures) tried hard to help, but we did not succeed. They will call me when they get the next shipment in, so this city slicker’s saga will continue!

So, what do I think of FiveFingers so far?  Well, they look promising. They are nice & light, well put together, and the quality of the material seemed top notch.   I worry that the grooves on the bottom of the ball area might collect dirt over time and become a hindrance, but that is just my crazy mind thinking outside the box.  Overall, I can’t wait to try on a larger size and give them a full workout.

In the meantime, I found this cool blog, My FiveFingers, that shares the experience of Daniel getting to know his FiveFingers.