Let's face it, speaking triathlon is an art of its own. If you've recently tip-toed (or stomped) your way into the world of triathlon - congratulations! Throughout the triathlon journey, we encounter a lot of unfamiliar vocabulary and acronyms. Even for the seasoned triathletes, all of the alphabet soup and terminology can become muddy. Of course, it's easy to ask Siri or Google an answer within seconds, but if you're looking for a refresher or you're just curious, we've simplified and explain what all of that triathlon lingo is about.
This glossary of terms will be updated every now and then. If you have suggestions or comments, please drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org (please be nice, our editing elves are sensitive).
Short for aerodynamic. In triathlon, we want to reduce the amount of drag from air moving past so we are always trying to figure out more positions and ways to be more aero. Triathletes love anything aero and being aero.
Bars on a bike that allows one to assume a more aerodynamic position and conserve energy. Most triathlon-specific and TT bikes have stems equipped with aero bars. For a more economical solution, aero bars can also be purchased separately and attached to the handlebars of most road bikes. Aero bars allow riders to to rest their forearms on the handlebars.
A water bottle or hydration system attached to the aero bars or handle bars. An oft preferred method for hydrating and consuming calories on the bike without having to reach awkwarldy and remain aero.
BIKE THIS AND THAT
A case meant for transporting your bike to races, particularly when airplane travel is involved. Usually rather bulky and requires at least partial disassembly of the bike. The construction and weight of bike boxes range broadly from lightweight fabrics to sturdier plastic and heavy but very protective hard case. Depending on its dimensions, the flight, and the airline, there may be a surcharge (sometimes, $100+) for each leg of your journey. Call the airline in advance if you aren't sure. For bigger races involving international flight travel, it is (again) best to call the airline in advance to reserve a bike box space as space is limited (usually less than 20 bikes can be accommodated per long haul international flight).
A professional service by an individual (often a bike mechanic) with the proper training to place the rider on the bike in a way that maximizes comfort, power transfer, and handling through adjusting the riding position. It is more than adjusting the saddle height or figuring out the perfect stem length; there are many numbers involved but a proper bike fit can help one attain his/her best performance while minimizing injury. A bike fit should always be done before the purchase of a new bike but is also useful with a bike already well-ridden.
When you're about to finish the bike leg and you're pushing your bike in to transition to rack it before starting the run.
After finishing the swim leg, you will push your bike out of transition to begin the bike leg.
Unless a professional athlete, most triathlons place women and men in age group categories. Generally in five year increments, e.g. 25-29, 30-34. More seasoned triathletes often think of an individual's age as a matter of age group, rather than a number. Some triathletes can be ultra-conscious of their age group, from level of competitiveness to age group rivals and race results. Depending on the age group, some athletes mourn or celebrate their move into a new age group.
An optional female division more common among triathlon races in the United States. Women weighing 165lb or more may choose to enter and be ranked the Athena division, which is an overall category rather than an Age Group.
The aerobic foundation and capacity that triathletes should develop in order to improve athletic performance. A good base is critical before working on increasing speed, adding power, or building endurance. The pursuit of longer distance triathlons necessitate a good base - or things could get really ugly.
A small bag or container that attaches to the top tube of a bike to store nutrition, food, tools, etc. Bento boxes serve as a convenient way to carry fuel during long rides or races while allowing the rider to maintain his/her bike position. Some bento boxes are made to be aero and a number of bikes (such as Specialized's Shiv) have integrated top tube spaces.
A style of padded cycling shorts that may make your cycling outfit appear smoother and you sexier. Maybe. They look like spandex overalls with stretchy fabric straps that usually (but not always) go up and over the shoulders. Going to the bathroom can be time-consuming in bib shorts. Halter versions though rare, ease some of the bathroom challenges.
Breathing on alternating sides in a swim. A good skill for triathletes to have when considering the congested starts and unpredictable nature of open water swims.
The race numbers marked on your body, whether by permanent marker or temporary tattoo. Body markings should be visible throughout the race and depending on race day apparel, most triathletes wear their body marking on the upper arm, lower leg, or thigh. Many triathletes find themselves "branded" by their body marking after longer races under the sun - wear it with pride. However, leaving your temporary tattoo body marking on your skin for more than a couple of days after a race just makes you look like you don't wash yourself.
|Triathlon Distances (KM)|
|Olympic Distance Standard Distance Short Course 5150||1.5||40||10|
|Half Ironman 70.3||1.9||90||21.1|
|Ironman Full Ironman 140.6||3.8||180||42.2|
A back to back workout meant to simulate a triathlon transition from one sport to the next. While most bricks are bike/run, some use the term to refer to any combination of back to back workouts, such as swim/bike, or swim/run. Your legs will almost certainly feel like bricks!
An optional male division more common among triathlon races in the United States. Men weighing 220lb or more may choose to enter and be ranked in the Clydesdale division, which is an overall category rather than Age Group.
The act of swimming or riding closely behind another individual to decrease aerodynamic drag or water resistance and move forward with less effort. In triathlon, drafting in cycling is illegal but an art to perfect in swimming. By drafting, one expends less energy to maintain the same speed as the individual they are trailing, creating an unfair advantage. Very few triathlons are draft legal; the enforcement of penalties and disqualifications associated with drafting vary across races.
Swim-specific exercises designed for swimmers to improve technique and feel for the water. Can be mildly uncomfortable as you are often forcing your body to do new things, or go against what may be habitual. Triathletes beware...drills are not about speed or the distance covered!
Stretchy shoelaces often used by triathletes to allow easy and fast entry into running shoes without having to bumble around tying knots. Saves you precious time at T2.
DFL ::: Dead F'n Last
DNF ::: Did Not Finish
DNS ::: Did Not Start
DQ ::: Disqualified
FOP ::: Front of (the) Pack(er)
MOP ::: Middle of (the) Pack(er)
BOP ::: Back of (the) Pack(er)
HC ::: Hand Cycle. A bicycle or tricycle powered by the arms. Often used by paratriathletes during the bike leg.
OWS ::: Open Water Swim. A swim in open water, e.g. a river, lake, ocean, bay. Feels very different from doing laps in the pool and should be practiced regularly, or whenever possible (especially those with new wetsuits!).
PC ::: Physically Challenged. A category of triathlon for athletes with physical impairments. Paratriathlon is governed by the International Triathlon Union (ITU) and became an Olympic sport in 2016.
T1 ::: Transition 1. The transition from the swim to the bike.
T2 ::: Transition 2. The transition from the bike to the run.
Rubber "flippers" used for swimming. Fins come in a variety of fin lengths and widths. Depending on size, fins can change the focus of the kick, make swimming easier, and/or provide additional propulsion for drill work.
Running the second half of a run faster than the first half.
Plastic swim tools worn on hands meant to increase resistance in the water and develop upper-body strength. Paddles can also help to correct hand entry and stroke positioning. Though less effective, cloth paddles are also available; these can be used in pools that do not permit plastic paddles.
A floating swim tool placed between the legs; depending on its shape, a kickboard between the legs serve the same purpose. Pull buoys help the legs float better and help swimmers work on upper-body strength. If you're faster with a pull buoy, your legs are sinking and you should ditch the pull buoy until you master proper position.
Usually used during races, many triathletes opt to attach a race bib to a race belt that can be clipped around the waist at T1 after the swim. The race bib should face the back on the bike, then rotated to the front for the run.
Quite simply, it is the pace that you plan to complete race. It's a reasonable pace that you can sustain throughout a race without fading. An overly enthusiastic start may mean the difference between crossing the finish line and not.
|Swimrun||Swim||Run||Repeated multiple times|
|Other variations||SUP (Stand Up Paddling)||Mountain Bike||Trail Run|
An open water swim technique where the swimmer lifts their head briefly to "sight" or see. It's important to see where you are, locate buoys, watch for other swimmers, aim for dry land, etc.
A window of time for triathletes to rest and recover before a race. The goal of tapering is to optimize fitness and feel sharp for the race by reducing the frequency and intensity of workouts. The longer the race, the longer the taper.
A stationary cycling training machine that comes in various types, sizes, and price points. Simulates riding and can be set up almost anywhere - think of it as a treadmill for cycling. Trainers may be magnetic, fluid, and direct drive. Smart trainers can be paired by Bluetooth and/or Ant+ to enable virtual riding, precise measurements, and remote control of resistance. Also called indoor trainer, trainer, or instrument of torture. Indoor trainers allow you to focus on your training (rather than oncoming traffic) and can be especially useful for high interval training or those living in places with long, cold winters.
The amount of power an athlete is generating on a bike measured in watts by a power meter.
Beach Start / Run In
When you start on the shore and run towards the water to begin the swim. For beach starts, you should run into the water as though you're clearing hurdles. Run until the water is about knee high, then dolphin dive until your fingertips can't touch the sand before you start swimming. Practice your dolphin dives!
When you start on a platform and dive in head first. If you aren't used to diving, feel uncertain, or simply don't know how, just jump in feet first and start swimming! It's a good idea to practice dive starts in the pool - be streamlined and keep your head down so your goggles don't slide off.
Floating / Water Start
Starting the race from a treading water position in deep water.
When all athletes begin the swim together in one mass start, after the pros.
Groups start at different times according to a predefined heat or wave, usually by gender and age group.
Time Trial Start
Individuals line up (usually by race number) and are flagged off to start in quick intervals - usually every few seconds.