Triathlon Terms & Lingo

Useful Triathlon Terms Beginner Triathletes Must Know


Adult Onset Swimmer is someone who didn't learn to swim as a child.


Amateur athletes are called age-group athletes, competing with others in 5-year age and gender groups. Race age is determined by one’s age on Dec. 31 of the race year.


Between The Arms refers to a location where you can mount hydration storage on the bike.

Body Glide

Body Glide: Lubrication product to help prevent rubbing that causes irritation, rash, chafing, blisters and raw skin. Places near the neck for wetsuit and near private sensitive areas are general places applied.


Combination workouts that include two disciplines back-to-back with minimal or no interruption, such as a bike followed by a run.


Physical activity done after a workout or competition to loosen muscles and rid the body of lactic acid.


To engage in various sports or exercises especially for well-rounded health and muscular development.


Draft Legal is a multisport event in which competitors are permitted to ride behind one another, just like a cycling race.


Swimming behind a slightly faster person can save your energy, and is allowed.


When pool swimming, the action one performs when reaching the end wall: tuck, forward flip and push-off in streamline position, followed by a rotation, so that your face is pointing down. Also known as a tumble turn.


Triathlon long-distance race covering 70.3 miles. 1.2 miles swim, 56 mile bike ride followed by a 13.1 half marathon.

Indoor Smart Trainer

An upright frame that holds your bike in place as you pedal. Has Bluetooth technology that makes it smart and connects with your computer and phone for online riding and coaching programs. Great for winter cycling training.

Lactate Threshold

The exercise intensity at which the blood concentration of lactate and/or lactic acid begins to exponentially increase. When exercising at or below the LT, any lactate produced by the muscles is removed by the body without it building up (see also aerobic threshold).


Non Draft Legal; multisport events that do not permit competitors to closely follow—draft—each other during the cycling leg of the event.


Off The Bike is usually used in the context of running after cycling (ex. I just ran a sub-20-minute 5K OTB).


Personal record and personal best. Good for you!

Racking Your Bike

Placing your bike in the transition area on provided racks.


Follow the swim course by lifting your eyes out of the water every stroke or two to see where you are in relation to the course buoys.

Swim Waves

Based on gender, age and/or speed, you’ll start the swim with a subset of people, with your own starting horn. This is to space out athletes on the course.

TT bike/tri bike:

Special road bikes made for triathlon racing, with flat handlebars and a set of aerobars.

Transition (T1 + T2)

Areas where your bike and gear are stored throughout the race. You’ll have an assigned spot. After each leg of the race, athletes return to transition to swap equipment before heading back onto the race course.


An endurance race done by ridiculously cool people who like to swim, then bike and then finish their race with a run and a smile.


World Triathlon Corporation is the company that hosts IRONMAN brand multisport events.

Winter Triathlon

Swimming is replaced by running, followed by mountain biking and cross-country skiing round out the third leg in lieu of running


These special handlebars extend out from your bike and give you a place to rest your elbows. They offer a more aerodynamic, tucked position than can help you achieve faster bike times.


A multisport event where participants swim and cycle but don't run (also known as swim-bike-done).


Behind The Saddle refers to a location where you can mount hydration storage on the bike.

Body Mark

Race number on arm and age on calf with temporary tattoo or black marker.


When cycling or running, this is the number of repetitions per minute.

Critical Power

The highest average effort you can maintain for a specific period of time. Usually referred to as CPn, where n may be an interval of five, 10, 30 or 60 minutes. CP60 is essentially the same thing as Functional Threshold Power.

Cycling Shoes

Special shoes designed for road or mountain bike riding where the shoe attaches to the pedal with a special attached cleat. Used to increase speed, power and pedal efficiency


Did Not Start and Did Not Finish.


Abbreviation for a duathlon multisport event, which typically indicates a run and a bike leg with no swim. Sometimes due to weather, triathlons are shortened to duathlons when the swim is cancelled.

Floating Start

A multiport event in which the swimming portion begins in the water.


Refers to liquid you take in, usually an electrolyte and/or carbohydrate solution, to fuel before, during or after a race or training session.


Triathlon distance race covering 140.6 miles. 2.4 mile swim, 112 bike ride completed with a 26.2 mile marathon run leg. Also referred to name of Branded Events and Merchandise produced by

Mount Line

You can’t get on your bike until you cross this line.

Negative Split

When referring to pacing, a tactic where you get faster as the race progresses.


Open Water Swim; any non-pool swimming—taking place in a lake, river or the ocean, for example.


Special category, or entire special events, for athletes with disabilities and/or assistive devices.


These allow a team of two or three to compete in a multisport space

Speed Laces

Elastic/bungee laces for your running shoes to save time tying them.


Transition One refers to completing the swimming portion and beginning the cycling portion of a multisport event.

Timing Chip

You’ll wear a chip, attached to an ankle strap, through the whole race to track your time.

Transition Mat

Towel or mat where you setup/place your gear and bike at your transition spot. Also serves as a visual marker of where your bike is located.


USA Triathlon; the governing body of multisport in the United States. Athletes purchase an annual membership for racing benefits and supplemental insurance.


To engage in activity before a race or workout. Warming up has a wide range of physiological and psychological benefits.


Categories of training based on the intensity of training in relation to your maximum heart rate or power output.

Aerobic Threshold

The exercise intensity at which the blood concentration of lactate and/or lactic acid begins to exponentially increase; when exercising at or below AT, any lactate produced by the muscles is removed by the body without it building up (see also lactate threshold).


A multisport event where participants swim and run but don't cycle.

Beach Start

A multiport event where the swimming portion begins out of the water, on the beach or edge of the water.


A condition in endurance sports where depletion of glycogen stores results in sudden and severe fatigue.


Race categories for men over 220 pounds and women over 165 pounds.

Critical Speed

The theoretical swimming speed that can be maintained continuously without exhaustion. This number is usually expressed as a function of distance, usually over 50, 100, 200 or 400 meters.


Dead Freaking Last, a.k.a. the last competitor to complete an event.


When you closely follow another athlete to reduce wind resistance — is only allowed in draft-legal races. In non-drafting races, participants must keep at least 3 bike lengths between themselves and the cyclist in front of them. When passing in a race, do so within 15 seconds.


Functional Threshold Power refers to the maximum average power output, measured and expressed in watts that you can sustain for 60 minutes at a given point in time (see also Critical Power).


Heart Rate Monitor refers to a wearable device, like a watch or a strap that you can wear around your chest, that measures heart rate.


International Triathlon Union is the international governing body of multisport events.


Long Steady Distance; when cycling, a training mode where you cover a relatively long distance at a relatively low level of exertion.


A sport consisting of more than one discipline, including triathlon, duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, off-road triathlon and winter triathlon.


Refers to solid and liquid food you consume while training or racing.

Off-Road Race

Think mountain biking and trail running instead of paved roads.


Revolutions Per Minute (see also cadence).


A type of static bicycle trainer consisting of three drums, or "rollers"—two under the rear wheel, and one for the front—on top of which the bicycle rides. A belt connects the middle roller to the front roller, causing the front wheel of the bicycle to spin when the bike is pedaled.


Fitness tracking app and social network built for triathletes, cyclists and runners


Transition Two refers to completing the cycling portion and beginning the running portion of a multisport event.


A device that fixes a bicycle in place to allow the user to cycle without going anywhere.


These are shorts and a top, or a one-piece style, that you wear through the entire race.

VO2 Max:

The measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen a person can utilize during intense exercise.


A close-fitting suit made of rubber and worn by swimmers when they are in cold water to keep their bodies warm. Wetsuits also make you more buoyant and faster.

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