If you’re new to the sport of triathlon, it’s important that you get up to speed on all the terminology that will help people to quickly recognize you as a tri geek!

Tri Geek (tr) (gk) n. A unique sub-species of the broader homo sapien tribe known as “Triathletes.” Distinguished from general triathletes by their propensity to consistently increase their expenditures on any and all equipment, nutrition, and technology to aid in the elusive goal of improving performance while generall avoiding a commensurate increase in time spent training.

Age Group / Age Grouper – Refers to non-professional participants in races. So called because participants officially compete against other racers in the same age bracket (Men 30-34, for example).

Aluminum – Light-weight metal used in bike frame construction. Generally lighter than steel, but not as strong. Thus, “oversized” tubing is used to create strong yet light-weight bike frames.

Aero/Aerodynamic– A description usually applied to bikes, but is applicable to any design or modification that reduces wind-drag and results in an object traveling faster through air using the same amount of energy.

Aero Bars – Handle bars that stretch the rider out over the wheel and lowers the body closer to the bike frame, resulting in less surface area and, thus, less wind-drag.

Aero Wheels – Generally, any wheel design that eliminates spoke count, presents a more narrow surface contact (i.e. the internal edges of the wheel are sharper, the blades are flatter) and creates less wind drag.

Aerobic– Exercising where the muscle cells have sufficient oxygen.

Anaerobic– Exercising (or performing any physical activity) where the muscle cells lack sufficient oxygen. Example: sprints.

AT- Anaerobic Threshold. This is the physical point in exercise where oxygen consumption results in lactic acid production exceeding lactic acid removal.

Biathlon – A dual-sport event, commonly existing of a bike and run race. Can be any two sports.

Bi-Lateral Breathing – The act of taking breathes from alternate sides of the body while swimming. Most swimmers have a predominate side from which they take their breathes, but bi-lateral breathing helps increase balance in the water and is useful if waves are “breaking” over one side.

Bonk – Running out of energy during racing or training due to insufficient energy consumptions. “Bonking”…also “Hitting the Wall.”

BPM – Beats Per Minute, referring to heart rate.

Brick– The combination of a Bike and Run work-out. Used to simulate race conditions, allows racers to acclimate to the feelings of moving rapidly from a cycling motion to a running motion.

Cadence – The measurement of a certain revolution. Generally applied to pedal rotations per minute, or in running, strides per minute.

Carbohydrate – simple sugars and starches that provide a quick source of muscle energy.  Carbos are plentiful in fruits, grains, potatoes, breads, bagels, pasta, etc.

Carbon/Carbon Fiber – A very light and very strong material “adopted” by the cycling community to help create equipment while shaving weight. Used in manufacturing various pieces of equipment from bike frames, to cranks, to handlebars, to soles of cycling shoes, to wheels, etc.

Chainrings – The discs with teeth on the bike that are turned by the pedals. The chain wraps around the rings, locked in place by the teeth. Rotation of the rings causing the chain to revolve which, in turn, rotates the rear wheel.

Clincher – A type of bike tire which has a u-shape on a cross-section. The tube is inserted into the tire, and the tire is then mounted onto the wheel and held in place by hooking the beads (the ends of the “u”) under lips going around the outside edges of the wheel.

Cool Down – The period after a work-out where the person is still exercising, but at a slow and relaxed pace so as to allow the muscles to pump out some of the lactic acid.

Cranks – These bike components are the “arms” between the pedals and the chainrings which transfer the pedal motion to the chainrings.

Derailleur – A bike component that rests over the chainrings (front derailleur) and over the gear cluster (rear derailleur). the purpose is to lift and lower the chain onto a new gear ring.

Disc Wheels – A wheel that has no spokes, but is instead has a disc “face”. This design eliminates wind drag created by spokes – but it also catches cross-winds.

DNF – Did Not Finish. Refers to someone who officially started a race but does not finish it.

DNS – Did Not Start.

Drafting – The act of following very close behind the person in front. In cycling this reduces wind resistance, thus making cycling easier and faster – it is also banned in most events (except the Olympics and draft-legal I.T.U. events). In swimming, the act of swimming right behind the toes of another swimmer – cuts down on water drag. Generally, this is legal in all races. In running, following right behind another runner – also helps cut down on wind drag and is very helpful when running into headwinds.

DQ – Abbreviation For “Disqualified.”

Duathlon – A dual sport event generally consisting of three stages. Most common structure is a run-bike-run format.

Fartlek – Means “speed play” and is a form of speed workouts in running similar to interval training.

Glucose – a sugar, energy-producing fuel of the cells.

Glycogen – a sequence of glucose molecules that forms the principal carbohydrate storage material in the body and muscles preferred fuel for endurance exercise.

Granny Gear – smallest bike chainring combined with largest cog, used mainly for climbing.

Half-Ironman Distance – Refers to a race with the following events: 1.2 mile swim; 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run. Popular local races of this distance include Wildflower and the Half-Vineman.

HRM / Heart Rate Monitor – A device that, as the name implies, monitors the heart rate of the person wearing it during exercise. Gaining fast popularity in both training and racing.

Intervals – A speed workout that is composed of running faster paces mixed with slower paces.

Ironman Distance – The race distance named (and trademarked) after the original Hawaii Ironman. Owned by the WTC, the name refers to a triathlon consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run (marathon).

Ironman Qualifier – Designates a race which offers qualifying spots to the Hawaii Ironman World Championship. These qualifying spots are generally handed out to age-group winners and top finishers.

IT Band – Ilio-Tibial Band. This is a long tendon band that stretches from the buttocks, down the outer length of the leg. Since the band stretches across the outside of the knee, tension along the band may cause it to rub against the knee, resulting in inflammation – a painful condition called ITB Syndrome.

ITU – The International Triathlon Union. This is a governing body that oversees and regulates races across the world. Generally, I.T.U. points are used to determine world champions.

Kick Board – A floatation device used in swim training. Generally held in front of the body to keep the torso afloat so as to allow the swimmer to concentrate on kicking exercises.

Lactic Acid – A by-product of muscles burning ATP for fuel. Causes the burning feelings in muscles and results in fatigue.

LSD – Long Slow Distances – used to describe longer runs art a slower pace. Helpful in building a distance base.

Maximum Heart Rate – Literally the highest heart rate that a person’s heart can beat. Gradually decreases with age.

Negative Split – The measurement where the second half of an event is completed faster than the first half (e.g. in a marathon, the first 13.1 miles at 1:45, while the second 13.1 miles are run at 1:42:30.)

Olympic Distance – A race consisting of the following events: a 1.5 km swim, a 40 km bike and a 10 km run. Named after the distances of the actual Olympic triathlon.

Over Distance – a training concept of going longer than the anticipated distance of an event.

Overpronation – the excessive inward roll of the foot before toe-off. Overpronation is believed to be the cause of many running injuries.

Overtraining – declining performance and deep-seated fatigue, both physical and mental, caused by excessive training loads, high stress levels and carbohydrate consumption insufficient to fuel continious performance.

PB – Personal Best. A term used to designate one’s best time for a given race. Example: “I just “PB’d” at the Outlaw, finishing in just under 12 hours!”

Pull Buoy – A swim training device. Generally a figure-8 shaped floating material that is held between the swimmers thighs. This allows the legs to be kept afloat without any kicking action, allowing the swimmer to concentrate on arm exercises.

Segment – Strava speak – anyone who uses Strava regularly will know all about Segments.  They are sections of road, path any thing where you might swim, bike or run.  The KOM is the current leader of the segment.

Sprint – Anerobic running, generally on track. Can be maintained for short distances. 

Sprint Distance – Generally, any race with distances that are shorter than an Olympic Distance.

T1 – Swim-to-bike transition

T2 – Bike-to-run transition

T3 – The Best Tri Club in the World

Tempo Runs – sustained effort training runs, usually 20 to 30 minutes in length, at 10 to 15 seconds per mile slower than 10k race pace. Another way to gauge the pace of tempo runs – a pace about midway between short-interval training speed and your easy running pace.

Titanium – A light metal being used in bike manufacturing.

Tubulars – A type of tyre which has the tube encased in the tire which is then “sewn” shut. The whole tri/tube is then glued onto a tubular wheel set.

Turbo Trainer – An indoor training device for bicycles. Generally, the rear wheel is locked into place onto a cylinder. The front wheel can be left on or removed and the forks mounted to a clamp (depending upon make and model). As the rider pedals, the wheel causes the cylinder to rotate. Sometimes fans or magnets are connected to the cylinder to provide a means of resistance, thus making the work-out more challenging.

V02 Max – the maximum amount of oxygen an athlete can take in to produce work, usually measured in of oxygen per kilogram of body weight. Elite athletes can record scores of 80 ml/kg or above.


Anyone got any more???

Categories: Tips


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