Owning the 4 stages of your first triathlon swim exit

triathlon swim exit

Well done, you’ve finished your first triathlon swim! Now all you need to do is get out and you need to be aware of the effect that swimming will have on your legs when you get out and have the presence of mind to find your bike.

Standing up after 30 mins lying down makes the blood rush to your legs and away from your brain which can make the triathlon swim exit tricky if you are not prepared.

If you are in a sea swim, with a good sloping beach, you’ll exit along the seashore, but if it’s a lake or river, chances are, the organisers will either have created a ramp or pontoon to help you get out, manned by helpful marshals to get you over the initial transition safely.

The triathlon swim exit has four key phases:

Preparing for your triathlon swim exit

As you approach the end of the race you need to make sure that you are lined up with the exit, so continuing to sight for a specific point on the shore is a good idea, and make sure that you are aware of other competitors as it can get a little congested at the exit. If it’s a beach exit, be aware that the water is getting shallower so rock or increased amounts of weed may make a full stroke difficult.

It is also worth changing your kick for the last 50m or so, as a quicker, lighter kick will help you with the next phase.

Getting out of the water

When you exit the water you’ll are likely to be a little dizzy and have wobbly legs, so you need to be careful, and if marshalls offer you help, take it! This is a function of the transition from the horizontal to vertical coupled with the reliance on upper body muscles for the last 15-30 mins depending on the length of the swim.

Your body prioritises blood flow to the muscles that need them most, which for the swim are the chest, arms, and back, rather than the legs, which are fluttering away lightly at the back. When you leave the water, the priorities change and blood rushes down to the legs, where the sudden increase in blood flow makes them feel wobbly and you become unsteady.

At the same time, you become lightheaded as blood to your brain succumbs to the forces of gravity as you stand up.

This is going to make you feel temporarily weak as you rely on legs that have pretty much been asleep and are now waking up and being asked to work a bit harder, so care must be taken as you stand and walk up the ramp.

Similar to the later Bike to Run “brick” training, it’s worth doing a little bit of training to acclimatise your self to this, perhaps by doing a talking lap of the pool at the end of a hard set, rather than just cooling down in the water.

Heading to transition

The triathlon swim exit will be near to transition, but you’ll still need to either run or walk to get to your bike.

Be careful here, don’t forget you are likely to be a little uncertain on your legs and the ground may be slippery.

Assuming you are feeling OK, this is a good time to start preparing to move your wetsuit, and you should be able to pull it down all the way to your waste before you get to your bike. So, pull down the zip, and remove your arms.

A good trick to keep your stuff together is to remove one arm, and then take off your swimming hat and goggles, keeping them in the arm still in the wetsuit. you’ll then find that, as you pull the wetsuit off this arm, you’ll be able to leave the hat and goggle in the wetsuit.

Removing your wetsuit

Removing your wetsuit when you are tired, excited, wet and cold can be daunting, but with a bit of practice, you can make it easy.

Assuming you’ve followed the tips on the triathlon swim exit above, you should have the zip down and the wetsuit around your waist with your hat and goggles safely tucked in your sleeve before you get to your rack.

When you get to your rack, you can finish removing your wetsuit, and it’s best to turn it inside out as you do so, it’s easier and make sure you don’t rip the neoprene, so pull down from the top, rather than trying to pull the wetsuit off by the ankles.

You’ll find that spraying a little lubricant on the outside of the suit ankles will help you here, as the feet will just slip out, Trislide or Bodyglide are both good for this

Just be careful here as you can unbalance easily and fall over when you are removing your wetsuit, so feel free to lean on your bike rack ( not your bike!) and as you have pulled the wetsuit inside out, it’s Ok to stand on it to make it easier to pull your legs out.

Place your wetsuit tidily near your bike ( remember there are other competitors), then prepare yourself for your bike leg. At this stage, you may want to make sure your number is on straight which is much easier if you are using a race belt.

One last tip, just because you have been exercising in water, doesn’t mean you don’t sweat, so make sure that you have a drink here. This is especially true after a sea swim as the salt can dry out your mouth and lead to dehydration.