Common Triathlon Race Terms

You’ve already familiarized yourself about some common triathlon transition terms from our previous post. Today, we’ll detail the jargon veteran triathletes use to refer to the most common aspects present in a triathlon race.

Common Triathlon Race Terms:

  • Aid station – Typically every 1 mile to 1K on the run and every 10-20 miles on the bike, there will be an aid station with gels and water. Plan for these when packing your race fuel and hydration.
  • Marshall – Typically one or several individuals are on the course, ensuring that the rules are followed, and flashing penalty cards at individuals who do not follow the rules. On the bike course, they are usually on scooters or motorcycles. These vehicles are legally permitted to be on the race course and are there for your safety.
  • Pack – A group of cyclists that forms during the race. It is possible, if each cyclist is separated by 10 meters, for this to be a legal form of racing in a non-draft legal race, but in many cases “illegal” packs form.
  • Penalty – During a race, if you are caught illegally drafting, littering, cutting the course, passing on the wrong side of the road, or committing any other activity that has been banned by the race director or officiating body, you will serve a penalty, which is typically A) stopping your bike, waiting, and then starting again; B) stopping for 2-5 minutes in a penalty tent; or C) having time added to your finishing time.
  • Penalty tent – Also known as the “Sin Bin”, these are commonly seen in Half-Ironman and Ironman events, and are where you must stop to complete several minutes of penalty time if you are caught drafting, littering or committing any other banned activity.
  • Podium – Typically the first 3-5 competitors in each age group qualify for a podium finish, which typically receives some type of trophy, medal or certificate in addition to a finisher’s certificate.
  • Slot – In any races that are “qualifiers” for any type of championship, such as Hawaii Ironman World Championships, there are a limited number of allocated slots that are given to the fastest triathletes. Many times, people will wait for the “roll-down” if they did not get a “slot”, which means they may be able to take slots that qualifying athletes turned down.
  • Special needs – During an Ironman distance triathlon, there is a point about halfway through the bike and halfway through the run where you can collect a special bag that you have pre-packed with any needs you may have. The bag is given to you by volunteers.
  • Volunteer – These individuals are not paid and volunteer to do things like building transition area, handing out aid, timing the race, giving out medals, and even working in the medical tent. Smile at them and thank them!

And that’s it for our series of common triathlon terms. Hope this series helped you better understand the many unique aspects of the demanding yet very endearing sport of triathlon.

Common Triathlon Transition Terms

The most common terms utilized during the swim, bike, and run legs have already been detailed in the three prior posts. Today, we’ll talk about common triathlon transition terms, or the jargon you’ll likely hear particularly when changing over from one phase of the race to the next.

Common Triathlon Transition Terms:

  • Bike in – Coming off the bike leg of the triathlon, there is typically an arch, gate or area into which you push your bike.
  • Bike out – When you head out on the bike leg of the triathlon, there is typically an arch, gate or area out of which you push your bike.
  • Bodyglide – Various forms of lotion or lubricant materials exist, with Bodyglide being one popular brand. This can be used on arms, legs, hands and feet to enter and exit wetsuits more quickly, and also in shoes to get feet to slide into shoes more quickly.
  • Change tent – In Ironman (and some Half-Ironman) events, this is a tent to run into after the swim to change into your cycling gear.
  • Elastic laces – These are placed on running shoes to increase speed of transition and reduce the length of time it takes to tie a shoe.
  • Mat – Timing mats are placed throughout the course and in the transition areas to sense the chip on your ankle and keep track of your swim, bike, run and transition times.
  • Run out – When you head out on the run leg of the triathlon, there is typically an arch, gate or area out of which you push your bike (there is no “Run In”…that’s the finish line!)
  • Swim in – As you come out of the water and run up to the transition area, you’ll typically go through an arch, gate or area marked “Swim In”.
  • T1 – The first transition from swim-to-bike.
  • T2 – The second transition from bike-to-run.
  • Transition bags – In many events, you’ll be given separate bags in which you place things like running shoes, wetsuit and goggles, or special needs. Be sure to pay attention to what goes where!
  • Wetsuit stripper – A volunteer who is there at the end of the swim to help you out of your wetsuit.

In the next post, we’ll list some very common triathlon race terms to help get you better acquainted with this grueling yet very engaging three-disciplined sport.

Common Triathlon Run Terms

We’ve already detailed the common triathlon bike terms you’ll likely hear get thrown around during the second leg of a triathlon race. This third installment, meanwhile, lists some very common triathlon run terms.

Every triathlon enthusiast knows that the third part of this grueling endurance race is the run leg. If you’re new to triathlon, expect to encounter these terms, especially prior to and during the last phase of the competition.

Common Triathlon Run Terms:

  • 5K – A 3.1-mile run or race. Generally the distance in a Sprint triathlon.
  • 10K – A 6.2-mile run or race. Generally the distance in an Olympic triathlon.
  • Aerobic – This term is used to define the intensity of a run that is primarily at a slow, easy pace. Generally, you burn more fat as a fuel and produce less “painful” lactic acid.
  • Anaerobic – High intensity pace that allows lactic acid to build-up, and can generally not be sustained much longer than a 10K.
  • Chip – A device worn above the ankle or on the shoe that allows timing during a race or event.
  • Elastic laces – The “stretchy” laces many triathletes have on their shoes to allow easy and fast entry into the shoe without having to tie a knot.
  • Fartlek – A style of running that is “random” or variably paced. For example, a Fartlek run might involve running 5 miles on a trail, and sprinting at various intervals throughout the run. Also known as “speedplay”.
  • Hitting the wall – Generally happens about mile 20 of a marathon – depletion of carbohydrate and drop in blood sugar leads to immediate fatigue and loss of energy.
  • Intervals – Short, fast repeats of generally 30 seconds to 5 minutes, interspersed with easy walking or jogging in between each effort.
  • Marathon – 26.2 miles. Generally the distance in an Ironman triathlon (and a Half-Marathon is the distance in a Half-Ironman, or 70.3 triathlon)
  • Pick-ups – Short accelerations performed during the run, generally to stretch out the legs and prepare them for speedwork or a run. Usually 10-30 seconds long.
  • Plyometrics – Jumping, bounding, hopping or other explosive movements designed to train the body for reducing ground contact time.
  • Pronation – The inward roll of the foot as the arch collapses after the foot strikes the ground. Overpronation is excessive inward rolling due to weak support, which can cause many running injuries.
  • Runner’s high – An intense feeling of exhilaration or being “in the zone” that can occur during a run, usually due to the release of endorphins.
  • Strides – Similar to pick-ups, but usually performed as intervals (i.e. a set of 8 strides to warm-up prior to a race).
  • Supination – Opposite of pronation. Outward rolling of foot after foot strike. Less common, but also a cause of running injuries.

This culminates our discussion of the common triathlon terms you’ll probably hear, specifically during the swim, bike, and run phases of the race. Tune in for the next post as it will detail the common terms used during transitions in triathlon.

Common Triathlon Bike Terms

You’ve learned about common triathlon swim terms from our previous post. Now, let’s discuss some of the common triathlon bike terms.

As you probably already know, the bike leg comes immediately after the swim. If you’re quite new to the triathlon circuit, then expect to hear these common triathlon bike terms during this specific phase of the race.

Common Triathlon Bike Terms:

  • Aerobars – Because it is more comfortable and more aerodynamic for triathlon racing, most triathlon bikes are equipped with these types of bars, which attach to the handlebars or stem of a bicycle and allow you to ride in the aero position. These can also be placed on a road bike.
  • Aero bottle – Many triathletes attach a water bottle to the aerobars rather than to the down tube or seat tube, which makes drinking in the aero position an easier task.
  • Aero position – Also known as the time trial position, the aero position involves riding in a “hunched over” position with the elbows resting on the aerobar pads. This saves your running muscles and helps keep you aerodynamic, especially on the relatively flat bike courses that most triathlons have.
  • Bonk – Because you cover long distances while cycling, it’s easy to get stuck during a ride or race without food or fuel. When this happens, your blood sugar can drop so low that your brain goes into a fog and your muscles quit firing. This is called a bonk. The fix? Eat fast and eat lots.
  • Brick – A “Bike-Run” workout, in which you run immediately after finishing the bike leg of a triathlon or a bike workout.
  • Cadence – The speed of pedaling while bicycling, also known as RPM, or Revolutions per Minute.
  • Disc – A solid wheel that is very aerodynamic and often used as a rear wheel in triathlons.
  • Down tube – The tube of the bike that runs from the handlebars and diagonally slopes down towards your back wheel.
  • Drafting – Riding close enough behind the cyclist(s) in front of you that your pedaling becomes less difficult due to that rider stopping some of the wind resistance. This is illegal in most triathlons, and you must typically maintain 3 to 4 bike lengths behind the person in front of you.
  • Dropped – When you’re riding with a group of cyclists who are drafting, and you eventually get too far behind to be in the draft, you’ll find that the gap increases between you and the group, pedaling becomes harder, and you can’t catch up. You’ve been dropped.
  • Hammer – To pedal very hard, typically for an extended period of time (i.e. “That ride was a Hammer-fest!”).
  • Seat post – The tube on the bike that attaches to your saddle, and is typically adjustable up and down. On some triathlon bikes, it can be cut.
  • Spin – To ride easy, in recovery mode, or pedal with very low resistance. The opposite of hammer.
  • Time trial – Typically a 20K to 180K ride at the maximum sustainable pace, usually performed in the aero position. The bike leg of most triathlons is defined as a time trial.
  • Top tube – The tube that extends from the handlebars, between your legs, and horizontally back towards the back wheel.

For our next post, we will detail some very common triathlon run terms to further deepen your vocabulary, so stay tuned!


Common Triathlon Swim Terms

Ever wish you had a quick resource to pick up some common triathlon terms that are frequently thrown around by veterans, but sometimes confuse newbies? Look no further – here are some common triathlon swim terms to add to your vocabulary…

The swim phase of course comes first at every triathlon competition. Below are the common triathlon swim terms you’ll surely frequently hear.

Common Triathlon Swim Terms:

  • Beach start – Starting from the beach and running into the water to begin a triathlon.
  • Buoy – The floating markers used on a triathlon swim course to indicate course layout, distance and turns.
  • Deck – The hard surface around the pool.
  • Draft – To swim directly behind or beside the swimmer in front of you, which makes it easier to swim.
  • Floating start – Starting from the water without the feet touching to begin a triathlon.
  • Freestyle – The common front stroke style swimming usually used in triathlon.
  • Kickboard – A floating piece of Styrofoam used for kicking drills.
  • Lane – A sectioned area of the pool for lap swimming. Typically, a pool is divided into 3 or more lanes.
  • Lane lines – The floating markers that separate the lanes.
  • Lap – From one end of the pool to the other and back.
  • Length– From one end of the pool to the other. Also called a “half” lap.
  • Flags – Small triangular pennants hung over the pool to indicate that the end of the lane is near.
  • Master’s – A swim class, group or club for adult swimmers.
  • Open water – Outdoors swimming in a lake, river or ocean.
  • Pull buoy – A floating piece of Styrofoam that goes between the legs so that a swimmer doesn’t need to kick.
  • Transition – Transitioning from the water to the bike portion of a triathlon.
  • Wall – Vertical part of the pool that is typically touched between lengths.
  • Wetsuit legal – A triathlon in which the water is cold enough to allow a wetsuit.

Stay tuned for the next post. We’ll talk about common triathlon bike terms to help you further enrich your triathlon vocabulary.

T1 and T2

The change over between each discipline is called Transition as you ‘transition’ from Swimming to Riding or Riding to Running.

Transitions are referenced in the order in which they occur and are commonly shortened to ‘T’

Whilst T1 is generally the swim to bike transition it is literally the 1st Transition therefore can also be the run-bike Transition in a Duathlon.

Generally T1 and T2 are in the same location however this is not always the case and can be several miles apart.