Rosetta Stone: Triathlon


I’ve been getting a lot of questions about triathlons and some of the terminology I’ve been using on my blog, so I decided to take a stab at explaining some terms that I have used or may use in the future. Keep in mind that I’m still learning myself and I have yet to compete in a triathlon – concepts are much easier to grasp when you have experience!

Brick- A combination workout that is swim/bike or bike/run, and is generally pretty intense. I got my first taste of these during the CRP skills camp a few weeks ago.

Collegiate Recruitment Program (CRP) – A program established in 2009 designed to recruit collegiate runners/swimmers who meet certain standards with a background in the other sport or in cycling into triathlon. This is the program that I am currently affiliated with. This program is headed by 2004 Olympian Barb Lindquist. Even though the program has only been around for a few years many triathletes that have come through the program have experienced great success, most notably 2012 Olympian Gwen Jorgensen who swam and ran at Wisconsin. If you are interested in learning more about the program, click here:

Programs like this are important to the development of USA Triathlon partly because triathlon is a fairly new sport – it has only been in the Olympics since 2000 and many athletes choose to pursue one sport through their youth/college years but have the potential to excel in multisport and may not even realize it yet.

Clipping in/out – cyclists and triathletes use something called “clipless” (a misnomer) pedals as opposed to the standard flat pedals that come on most bicycles. Clipless pedals are more efficient than flat pedals. These pedals come with matching cleats that are installed on the bottom of shoes specially made for cycling, and when a rider mounts the bike they place the cleat on top of the pedal, and when the two are attached it creates a clipping sound. When stopping, the rider needs to unclip from the pedal by twisting the foot (a motion initiated with the knee) in order to put a foot on the ground. 

Draft Legal vs. Non-Draft Legal – During draft legal races triathletes are permitted to form packs during the bike and draft off other riders, which reduces drag and energy reduction significantly. Draft legal races benefit athletes who are strong swimmers and runners because those athletes can get out of the water with the front group and then close strong on the run. Draft legal races are done on road bikes as opposed to non-draft legal racing which is done on tt bikes, which have aerobars. If you are caught drafting in a non-draft race you are assessed a two minute penalty. ITU and Olympic racing are draft legal. The CRP recruits athletes for draft legal triathlon, which is what I am looking to specialize in – although I’m sure I will do some non-draft racing during my career.

Elite Development Race (EDR) – Draft legal amateur races designed to provide amateurs with draft legal experience. These races offer athletes the opportunity to earn their elite cards. While this is purely speculation, I expect I will be doing one of these at some point next year.

Elite Card – A license issued by USAT after meeting certain qualification criteria (such as placing in the top three in certain events). This license permits athletes to compete in pro races and compete for prize purses.

Race distance – There are four commonly held race distances. They are: Sprint Distance (750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run), Olympic Distance (1500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run), 70.3/Half Ironman (1.2 mi swim, 56 mi bike, 13.1 mi run), Ironman (2.4 mi swim, 112 mi bike, 26.2 mi run). Draft legal/ITU races are primarily Sprint or Olympic Distance.

Finally, I’ve been getting asked a lot when my first race will be, and the answer is… I don’t know. I’m a bit of a developmental experiment for USAT/CRP and our focus for this summer is to develop my bike skills in hopes of accelerating the process of becoming elite after I finish school. They are interested to see how much it helps an athlete to teach them the skills to succeed the summer before they complete their collegiate eligibility. My first triathlon will most likely be next summer, but I will probably do a stroke and stride race (1500m swim, 5k run) race in August before returning to school. While I was hoping to race a triathlon this summer, this plan benefits me in a lot of ways. I will have more time to develop bike strength and skills – which is critical because I had barely been on a bike since elementary school before this summer. I will also have another year to develop my running – the leg of triathlons in which races are won and lost. I’ve only been running competitively for a little over two years and consistently for one year, so we think it will be hugely advantageous to wait… and see how things pan out. Stay tuned 🙂

If you have any questions about other terms I’ve used feel free to ask me in the comments section!