XTERRA Couch to Trail – Transition Tips – Part 1

Photo by Georgia Schofield

By Mimi Stockton of Next Level Endurance, 5x Age Group XTERRA World Champ

It’s the day before the race. You’ve done all the training and eaten your fruits and veggies. You’re feeling strong. You’re ready to roll. Now it’s time to pack your triathlon bag and think about the transition area. 

Below is the check list I use to make sure I have everything I need on race day:

The Bag

The best way to show up at a race with everything you need is to use a dedicated triathlon transition bag. They really do make a difference, with pockets and partitions for everything from your wetsuit and shoes to keys and phone (so after your epic day you can tell the world about it). There’s a place for everything and everything’s in its place.


Make sure you have a clean and scratch-free pair of goggles for the swim.  It’s always a good idea to have a pair with clear lenses (for overcast days) and ones with darker lenses (for bright, sunny days).

Bring your wetsuit.  Always.  Even if you know you won’t need it. Pack your skin suit (if you have one). If wetsuits aren’t allowed, you can always wear your skin suit. 


As is good practice before any bike ride, do a quick maintenance check the day before the race.  You do not want to show up on race day with a broken derailleur.

Some races have tents from local bike stores set up on site to help with mechanical problems.  They are there to help you, but you should never rely on them to fix something big 30 minutes before the race start.       

Bike Maintenance Check List:

  • Inspect the tires for wear and trail debris, and inflate the tires to your preference (tire pressure will depend a lot on the trail conditions).
  • Check that the front and rear suspensions are properly tuned.
  • Lubricate the chain.
  • Check that the wheels are true, spinning freely, and that there is no play in the hubs, also check for even spoke tension.
  • Check the brake pads for excessive wear and check your brake power.
  • Shift through your entire gear range to make sure the shifter cables are working properly and front and rear derailleur are properly adjusted.
  • Make sure all bolts are properly tightened and there is no play in the crankset.

If you don’t already have a tubeless setup, making the switch may be the biggest performance enhancement you can make to your current bike. Riding with tubeless tires eliminates the risk of pinch flats and allows you to ride with lower air pressure, which greatly improves traction and control. 

For the race, make sure you’re prepared for a flat.  You’ll almost always see a novice racer walking his or her bike back to the transition area.  Don’t let that be you.  The last thing you want is to be stuck 6 miles from transition with a flat tire.  Carrying your bike over obstacles is fun but carrying or pushing your bike for miles on end is not.

Consider carrying tools like a CO2 cartridge and tire levels. You can easily stick a tube in a saddle bag or tape it to the seat post.  Alternatively, you can store tools in a hydration pack or empty water bottle. 

Pack your helmet

Clean and pack your sunglasses

Pack your gloves

If you are riding with clipless pedals, check the cleats on your bike shoes 

Clean out your hydration tube and pack so you aren’t drinking out of a gross, moldy straw


Don’t run in brand new running shoes the day of the race. But do make sure your shoes are clean and dry.

You never know what the weather will be like, so it’s always good to have a hat or visor.

Pack the race belt you train with so you can easily access your nutrition and avoid chafing.

Photo by Georgia Schofield


Nutrition – Pack lots of it!  It’s better to have more than you need than not enough.  The night before, tape your gel packs to the bike frame.  It’s one less thing you’ll have to worry about on race day.  Remember to race with what you train with.

Water bottles

Sunscreen and lip balm

Towels – Bring several.  Use one to lay your gear on next to your bike; others can be used to dry off after a warm-up swim or to wipe your feet after the swim and before you put on your bike shoes. 

Bike Pump – Don’t rely on the guy next to you.  Be self-sufficient and bring your own to top off the air in your tires on race morning. 

Photo ID and USAT card

Baby Powder -to keep your feet dry in your bike and running shoes

Dry socks, shoes and clothes for after the race – don’t over look this.  You will love having something that is “not” your running shoes to wear when you are finished. 

Toilet Paper – There’s more than enough stress on race morning than to have to deal with finding no TP in the porta-potty. 

This may seem like a lot to pack, but if you use a dedicated transition bag, you will simply have to update and refill your bag for each race. And there is nothing like the feeling of being prepared and ready for anything.

The XTERRA Couch to XTERRA training series is presented by SheriAnne Little and five-time XTERRA age group world champion Mimi Stockton of PRS Fit.  Their new 12-week “Couch-to-XTERRA” training program is designed to do just that, get aspiring athletes off the couch, into training, and to the start line of an XTERRA.