Language of Triathlon

Language of Triathlon

Triathlon can be an intimidating sport for newbies. Not only do you have to learn three disciplines (often from scratch), it’s got its own jargon that can leave you confused. Here’s our tip sheet on the terms you should know as you navigate your way through tri.



Training method that involves high-intensity efforts followed by low-intensity (recovery) periods.


One length of the pool (e.g. 50 meters or 25 meters).

Mass start

Participants are gathered and released together in a single go. Involves running into the ocean for open water swimming.

It is often accompanied by the dreaded washing machine (see “Washing Machine”).

Praying the Rosary

Holding on to the buoy line to propel oneself forward. Considered illegal and is grounds for disqualification in most races including non-ITU or Ironman events.

Rolling start

A controlled or staggered release of participants into the swim course. Often done in groups of 5 to 10. This is done in races like Ironman 70.3 Cebu or Ironman Arizona to prevent swim panic and the dreaded washing machine.


Process in which a swimmer navigates by slightly tilting a part of his/her head above the water. Often used in open water swimming.

Speed suit

A swim garment made out of slippery textile used to reduce an athlete’s friction drag in the water. Each brand has its own special fabric.

Treading Start

Unlike mass or rolling starts, athletes begin the swim course in the deep part of the water. Participants stay afloat through proper arm and leg movement. (Not to be confused with “Threading” which is a process of facial hair removal or slipping thread through the eye of a needle.)

Washing Machine

The ensuing mayhem that often occurs in mass starts where the sheer number of participants causes chaos in the first hundred meters of a swim course.



Attachments to bicycle handlebars to allow for a more compact riding position. Used to reduce drag.


The most common type of tire technology. In this standard, the tire is separate from the inner tube, thereby allowing the user to replace a punctured tube without replacing the actual tire.

Clipless Pedals

Despite its name, it’s a type of pedal that allows an athlete to clip in using his cycling shoes (with cleats attached). It’s deemed clipless since it no longer uses toe clips.

Cleats /kleets

Attachment on the soles of cycling shoes which latch on to Clipless Pedals. (Note: There is no alternative pronunciation or spelling to “Cleats”.)


Reducing wind resistance by tailing another athlete. Completely legal in swimming but usually illegal during the bike leg.

Granny Gear

(a.k.a. small chainring) Smallest gear on your crank.  A smaller gear up front makes climbing easier since the effective gear ratio becomes smaller (i.e. work is spread over a greater distance)


Overlapping wheels with the rider next to you or riding slightly ahead/behind another cyclist. This is usually done in response to someone who is trying to push the pace in a group ride. It is dangerous as contact between cyclists’ wheels may result in a crash.


means one complete cycle.

Used in races such as criteriums (bike) or track meets (run). An example of a venue for training is the cycling loop in SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City.



A formation of cyclists that draft off one another to conserve energy. Usually illegal in most triathlon races.


A large group of cyclists in a race.

Toe The Line

(a.k.a. Take a Pull) Go to the front of the paceline and lead the group.


(a.k.a. Bicycle Trainer) A piece of equipment that allows you to ride your bicycle while stationary. It has a magnetic, fluid, or electronic mechanism to provide resistance. (Plural “Trainers” should only be used if you’re using more than one.)


(Not to be confused with “Tubulars”) Tubeless tires are clincher-style tires which don’t need inner tubes. The tire and rim remain airtight with the help of sealants.


Type of tire which needs glue to attach the actual tire to the rim. This standard has the inner tube sewn into the tire.

Wheel Sucker

Someone who drafts off another rider (or group of riders) without taking his turn in front.



Type of workout where a run immediately follows a bike workout. It aims to mimic the stress you experience during the run leg of a triathlon. It’s called as such because of the heavy feeling you feel off the bike (i.e. “My legs feel like bricks.”). Swim-bike workouts have also been referred to as bricks (for lack of a proper term).

Kona Shuffle

Running at a low cadence with compromised form due to fatigue.


Rolling inward of the foot upon contact with the ground.


Rolling outward of the foot upon contact with the ground.


An exercise machine that allows one to run or walk in place. (Not to be misspelled as “Threadmill”)



Metabolic process that requires oxygen. Predominantly aerobic efforts are easy to moderate in intensity, such as a long run or a marathon.


Metabolic process that breaks down muscle glycogen in the absence of oxygen. Efforts that are mainly anaerobic are very intense in nature, such as a 100-meter sprint to the finish line.


(a.k.a. “Hitting the Wall”) Onset of fatigue due to the depletion of carbohydrate stores.

Go To The Well

To Dig Deep. To give it all you’ve got.

Lactate Testing

Fitness test used to evaluate how much lactate the body produces at different intensities. It is done through blood sampling (similar to blood glucose testing for diabetics). One of its goals is to determine one’s lactate threshold. (Not to be confused with Lactate Threshold Testing which gives a rough estimate of the lactate threshold through non-invasive means).

Lactate Threshold

One’s lactate threshold is the point where the amount of lactate produced by the body exceeds the rate at which it neutralizes it. This coincides with the sudden onset of fatigue during hard efforts.


Systematic planning of training. Often involves progressive durations focusing on different aspects (e.g. strength, speed, endurance etc.)

Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

A subjective gauge of one’s physical exertion/effort.

Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)

Amount of calories burned at rest.


To intentionally understate one’s strength or conditioning level.


Phase in the race where athletes switch from one discipline to another. Transition 1 (T1) is the switch from swim to bike. Transition 2 (T2) refers to the bike to run transition.



DNF Did Not Finish

DNS Did Not Start

DOMS Delayed Onset of   Muscle Soreness

DQ Disqualified

HRM Heart Rate Monitor

HTFU Harden The F— Up

LSD Long Slow/Steady Distance (not to be confused with the drug)

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