Learning a New Language: Chicago Athlete’s Dictionary


Criterium, fartlek, peloton: the world of endurance sports is full of words and phrases you aren’t likely to come across in everyday conversation. Whether you’re new to a sport or just need a refresher on what makes a bike pedal clipless, Chicago Athlete’s guide to the endurance sports language is here to help.



Bandit: A person running a race who did not pay the entry fee.

BQ: Boston Qualifier. Refers to a time standard established by the Boston Athletic Association that determines whether or not an individual is eligible to register for the Boston Marathon.

CARA: The Chicago Area Runners Association, a local advocacy group that works to expand, motivate, support and celebrate the running community in Chicagoland.

Chip timed: A race where an electronic chip attached either to the runner’s shoe or bib tracks a participant’s time.

Corral: A way of organizing the start line at a race. Generally, race directors organize corrals by time, with fastest runners in front.

CQ: Chicago Qualifier, a time that enables those interested in running the 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon to earn a guaranteed entry to the race instead of using the lottery.

Cross training: Any activity other than running that helps maintain or enhance fitness.

Dreadmill: A nickname for the treadmill, mostly used among those who would rather run anywhere but the treadmill.

Fartlek: Swedish for “speed play.” A form of speedwork that involves running faster for any length of time.

Fun Run: A race without official timing.

Iliotibial (IT) band: A band of fascia that connects the hips and knees. Used to stabilize the knee during running, a variety of conditions can easily irritate the IT band and cause iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), which often manifests itself as pain outside the knee joint.

Intervals: A form of speedwork that involves running faster for a predetermined distance or amount of time followed by a recovery period of another predetermined distance or time.

Marathon: a race that is 26.2 miles, never more, never less.

Negative split: to run later portions of a race faster than early portions.

Pace: The speed at which one completes a run, usually in terms of minutes per mile.

PR: the abbreviation for personal record, the fastest time a person has recorded in a race. Also known as a personal best.

Point-to-point: a race that starts and finishes in two different locations, unlike a loop or out-and-back course, which usually start and finish in the same general area.

Shin splints: The everyday term for medial tibial stress syndrome, a common running injury that involves pain in the lower half of the leg. Shin splints often begin as damage to the muscle tissue in the lower leg, but can progress to a stress fracture if ignored.

Taper: The last few weeks leading up to a race, during which a runner drastically reduces his or her weekly mileage in order to rest and prepare for race day.

Tempo: A training run completed at a sustained pace faster than that of an easy training run but slower than that of a fast race, such as a sprint or 5K.

Tendonitis: Pain resulting from an inflamed tendon.

Ultra: A race longer than marathon distance. Often, 50K, 50 miles or 100 miles.

USATF Certified: a racecourse that has been measured by USA Track & Field to verify that the race’s advertised distance is accurate. Any road race record or nationally ranked performance must take place on a USATF-certified course.

VO2 max: The maximum amount of oxygen a person can consume per minute during exercise. A higher VO2 max allows the heart to deliver more oxygen to the muscles.

Wall: The point at which a runner’s body runs out of carbohydrates to burn, resulting in dramatically decreased energy and significantly increased difficulty.



Bog: A situation that requires excessive pedaling force.

Cadence: The number of crank revolutions per minute.

Century: A 100-mile bike ride.

Clipless: Pedal system in which the pedals clip into the soles of special biking shoes.

Closed circuit: A racecourse closed to traffic

Criterium: A high-speed bike race on a short, closed circuit racecourse. Time usually determines the length of a criterium, though some criterium races determine length by number of laps.

Cyclocross: A criterium-style race held on dirt and trail surfaces with obstacles on the racecourse.

Echelon: A diagonal paceline, used to combat a crosswind.

No-Drop: A ride in which the group will not abandon the slower riders.

Paceline: A straight line of riders where riders take turns leading the group.

Peloton: The large main group in a road cycling race.

Time Trial: A race in which individuals or small teams ride the same route and distance separately for time.

Toe clip: A pedal system that connects feet and toes to the bike’s pedals without requiring special shoes.

UCI: Union Cycliste Internationale, an international bicycle race sanctioning organization.



Bilateral breathing: Breathing to both sides.

Bow wave: The wave created by a person’s body as he or she swims.

CSS: Critical Swim Speed. This pace can be used to estimate a swimmer’s lactate threshold pace.

Open water: A swim held in a river, ocean or lake.

Masters: Organized swimming for adults.

USA-S: USA Swimming, the governing body of swimming in the United States.



Aero-bars: Bicycle handlebar extensions that allow a rider to rest his or her elbows and improve aerodynamics.

Beach start: A triathlon that starts with athletes running from the beach into the water. The opposite of a floating start.

Brick: A workout that involves biking and running, designed to simulate the heavy legs feeling a triathlete may experience after transitioning from the bike to the run during a triathlon.

Draft: Swimming directly behind or beside another swimmer.

Floating start: A triathlon that starts with athletes in the water without their feet touching the bottom. The opposite of a beach start.

Half Ironman: A 70.3-mile race, composed of a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike and 13.1-mile run.

Ironman: A 140.6-mile race, composed of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a 26.2-mile run.

Olympic: A mid-distance triathlon, composed of a .93-mile swim, a 25-mile bike and a 6.2-mile run.

Sprint: The shortest triathlon. Distances vary, but the swim is generally .62 miles or shorter, the bike is between five and 18.6 miles and the run is between one and 3.9 miles.

T1: The transition from the swim to the bike.

T2: The transition from the bike to the run.

Transition: The part of a triathlon where an athlete completes one discipline and begins the following discipline.

USAT: USA Triathlon, the governing body for triathlon in the United States.

Wetsuit legal: A triathlon during which the water is cold enough to allow athletes to wear wetsuits. Currently, participants in a USAT sanctioned race may wear wetsuits when the water is 78 degrees Fahrenheit or less. Age group participants have the option to wear a wetsuit in temperatures between 78 and 83 degrees Fahrenheit but are ineligible for prizes and awards. The USAT prohibits wearing wetsuits when the water temperature is above 84.