Sunday, March 24, 2019

Triathlon distances vernacular

As you continue to move forward in your training, you're going to start running into more triathletes.  I wanted to clarify some terminology you will be hearing.  It's important to understand the differences between IRONMAN, IRONMAN 70.3, Olympic, Sprint, Super Sprints, and Relays.

IRONMAN - The most common one you'll hear is IRONMAN.  The term IRONMAN is used 3 different ways:  as a race distance, a title, or as a brand.
  • RACE - The IRONMAN race is a 140.6 mile *ultra endurance race consisting of 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run. Some people will call this the long course triathlon.  Anytime someone refers to a race as an IRONMAN, it should be assumed to mean the FULL iron distance; a reference to any shorter distance in this way would be incorrect (like people running a 5k marathon). That means if you’re not training for a 140.6 you should not say you’re training for an IRONMAN. The proper wording for half that would be either an IRONMAN 70.3 (the brand’s preferred terminology) or a half IRONMAN. For anything under that, a triathlon.
  • Title - Anyone who completes an IRONMAN distance race earns the title IRONMAN for life.  At the very first IRONMAN race the organizer said that whoever won that race would be referred to as the IRONMAN.  Since then, for anyone who completes the distance the title is theirs to earn and theirs to keep.  The organizer wrote on each entry, "Swim 2.4 miles.  Bike 112 miles.  Run 26.2 miles. Brag for the rest of your life."  It is quite an accomplishment and a LOT of work.  Those who complete this distance race (and nothing less) have EARNED the coveted title of IRONMAN.  The time it takes to finish one of these races ranges from about 8 hours (professionals) to the cutoff time of 17 hours.  Matt is an IRONMAN athlete and Nick is training for IRONMAN Canada!
  • Brand - IRONMAN brand is used to describe the foundation, their company, their clothing line, and to identify sanctioned races (IRONMAN Canada, IRONMAN Arizona, IRONMAN Brazil, etc).  There are other races that use the iron distance, but may not be sponsored/sanctioned by the IRONMAN company. Those races are just as good, just not sponsored by the brand.
Matt becoming an IRONMAN in Kona 2018

- This is the nickname for the IRONMAN World Championship (IMWC) which is held each year in Kona, HI.  Entry to this race is by INVITATION ONLY.  In other words, there is no registration open to the general public.  Different ways to get an invitation are by qualifying, by the IRONMAN Legacy program, the IRONMAN Foundation entry, or through a handful of drawings.  When using the term "Kona" it always refers to the championship race.  This is the only race held in Kona and if you hear someone stating they are training for Kona, congratulate them as this is a VERY special opportunity! If you’re not training for (& have been invited to) this particular race, you are most assuredly not training for Kona so don’t tell people that!

70.3 - The next shorter distance is the ultra endurance IRONMAN 70.3 or as some call it the Half IRONMAN.  The IRONMAN company's preferred term to use is IRONMAN 70.3. Alternative brand races of this distance can be called short course.  A couple of important notes: 
  • When abbreviating the IRONMAN 70.3, it is referred to as a 70.3, NOT an IRONMAN.  In this case, "IRONMAN" identifies the race as being sanctioned by IRONMAN company (there are many 70.3 races that are not sponsored/sanctioned by IRONMAN company; you can call them half IRONMANS or more specifically short course. However that may confuse non triathletes therefore most people stick to 70.3).
  • The distance for a 70.3 is exactly half an IRONMAN:  1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run.
  • When a triathlete completes this race, it is still a huge accomplishment, but it does NOT earn the title IRONMAN, even though "IRONMAN" is in the race title (it's the brand name here).
  • There is an IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship and the race location changes each year.
Honu - This is the nickname for the IRONMAN 70.3 Hawaii.  It is held on Big Island each year in June, about 30 miles north of Kona on the Kohala Coast.  It's the race our Honu athletes are training for and is special in that it gives triathletes the opportunity to ride half of the IRONMAN World Championship bike course. It’s not to be called Kona.
Our team at Honu 2018

Olympic - This is the next shorter triathlon distance, an endurance sport (or if longer than 4hrs, an ultra endurance).  There's not a hard set distance but typically consists of a 1500 meter swim, a 24 mile (40k) bike and a 6.2 mile (10k) run.  Half of the triathletes in our beginner group are actually training for the olympic distance of the Honolulu Triathlon in May!

Sprint - This is probably the most popular race distance & is also an endurance sport.  The distance typically ranges between 400-800 meter swim, 10-12 mile (20k) bike and a 3.1 mile (5k) run.  This is NOT a race only for beginners, nor is it a "baby" triathlon.  It's great for beginners because the distances are shorter and ideal for those getting into multisport.  It's called a "sprint" because those that are competitive will do each leg of the race as fast as they can. If anyone questions you or tries to make you feel bad about “only” doing a sprint you have two options: 1) educating them on the facts because maybe they’re ignorant or 2) if they’re not ignorant, but instead stupid or elitist, tell them to buzz off & go about your business without another thought to them. J

Super Sprint - Usually half the distance of a sprint triathlon. These are an endurance sport and can be REALLY fun.

Relay - There are two different types of relays:  Relay and Triathlon Mixed Relay.  
  • Relay - each athlete does a leg of the triathlon (swim, bike or run).  2 person teams are allowed and the athletes can divide the race in any combination.
  • Triathlon Mixed Relay - Four athletes each complete a super sprint triathlon (300m swim, 6.6k bike, 1k run) then tag the next athlete.  The order is always female-male-female-male).  
So now you know! Probably know way more than you ever thought you would. But there it is, and whichever event you choose is perfectly fine. It should be your decision what you do, never allow someone to try to discredit or belittle your goals. Some people prefer shorter races, some longer and some like them all. They’re all great & can present ongoing challenges to performance.

I’m an endurance coach, a triathlon coach & an IRONMAN Certified Coach so whatever you choose, I’m prepared to help you reach your goals!

*Endurance sports are defined as sports or activities lasting 30 minutes or more. Ultra endurance is a subset of endurance sports & defined as an activity lasting 4 hours or more.