"I observed in my own life that my ability
to do handstands and somersaults didn't help much when I went
out on a date."
Dan Millman, Body Mind Mastery
Mark Allen likes to call the transitions in triathlon the "no pain free gain" zone. I liked it but there was always this hint of a tongue twister in there that kept me from running with that expression. Then I see recently that Jimmy Riccitello uses the term "free speed". Now, that I like. Jimmy defines free speed as "anything non-physical that makes you go faster".
There is a list of goodies that fall under this Free Speed heading. Some are common sense, some are preventative and some seem kinda sneaky. But in the end your finishing time can reflect whether or not you take advantage of free speed.
Simmer: Anyone who goes into a race without some kind of warm up is just plain nutty. Look at any workout that you do in training and all of them should contain some sort of warm up. When most athletes swim an hour workout, their fastest times come around the 37th minute. If an athlete racing an Olympic distance triathlon doesn't warm up, they may never reach that point or, if they do, it might be just as they exit the water.
Location, Location, Location: Knowing how to find your bike rack seems so silly, yet at every race a good half dozen people can be found wandering the transition, totally glazed, looking like a little lost lithium lamb at Bellevue. When you set up your transition, go to the swim entrance and look back to your bike. Find a land mark, count rows, do what ever it takes to mark you spot. Do the same from the bike entrance. Some folks go to elaborate measures here, but, if you must choose a handicap method, pick the sidewalk chalk over the helium balloon. Thanks.
Ignorance is No Excuse for the Law: Some rules get can get you bounced in a hurry and others can save time. Ask an official if you can ride to and from your bike rack and, if not, find the walk lines. Read the USAT rules on drafting and blocking (www.usatriathlon.org, click on rules, and then on bike position fouls 5.10A). It says that each bike has a large rectangle surrounding it. The rectangle is 2 meters wide and 7 meters long. The longer sides of the zone begin at the leading edge of the front wheel and run backward parallel to the bicycle; the front wheel divides the short side of the zone into two equal parts. If your sitting anywhere in this rectangle you deserve to get busted. But, there maybe some free speed hiding within these rules: you can enter that drafting zone as long as you overtake the leading rider within 15 seconds. As crowded as races are today, if you're a fast rider you could theoretically move from draft zone to draft zone all the way through the course and remain legal - but you'd be pushing your luck with most marshals. And, just as a courtesy, ride right and pass on the left.
All of these moments of free speed are really nickel and dime ideas. In total you might be able to save yourself 3 or 4 minutes in a race with the "non-physical" elements. But, just on a lark I checked the 30-34 males at Malibu last year - 4 minutes was the difference between 1st and 7th. Go get 'em.