Iron-Lingo

5/2006

Ever wonder where some of those great Ironman triathlon words and phrases come from?

Me neither.

But, amateur etymologist that I am, I decided to do a bit of research anyway, and discovered that there is a great deal of misconception about the origins of some of the more popular terms in the sport. Here are a few examples, in no particular order:

Bonk: An unfortunate and premature cessation to a planned bike ride. The term is onomatopoetic in origin, being eerily similar to the sound made when a bike helmet hits a telephone pole.

Brick: A form of workout that, over time, maximizes volumetric uptake. From an old technique employed by Her Majesty's Middle Eastern Lancer Brigades in order to get a camel to drink 12 quarts of water prior to a desert crossing even though a camel can normally only drink 10 quarts. The technique involved inducing a gasp, and the consequent intake of the two extra quarts, by smartly bringing down on the poor beast's testicles a large brick whilst he's drinking. The effect of a "brick workout" on a triathlete is much the same.

Ali'i: Incorrectly thought to mean "Avenue of the Royals," it is in fact another bit of onomatopoeia based on the condition of athletes entering the finishing stretch. When screamed with proper emphasis, it is a fairly accurate transliteration of the sound one might hear if one tried to iron a cat.

Energy Lab: Shorthand for "Lack of Energy Lab"

Paula Newby-Fraser: Her real name is Florence Schwesterhosen, but a business partner suggested that this might not be the best moniker for selling women's athletic clothing. So Schwesterhosen hired a marketing firm (the same one that came up with "hydrate" instead of "drink") to devise a classier name. Rejected first attempts included "Tuffie McGraw," the "Wizard of Vog," and "Natascha Badmann."

DNF: Florence Schwesterhosen's sister, Dora.

Fartlek: Don't go there.

Runner's high: A myth perpetuated by a failing shoe manufacturer in a bid to boost sales. It worked for a while, but, like structured water, the giant squid, tasty health food and the benefits of fitness in general, it's a crock.

Body marking: A term borrowed from the late-1990s/early-2000s teen craze of mutilating one's body with all manner of piercing and permanent graphic decoration, "body marking" is a euphemism intended to be less intimidating than "branding."

Aerobars: Like energy bars, only lighter.

Clipless pedals: Pedals that clip to your shoes. Go figure. (See "married bachelor" or "dry water" for related oxymoronica)

Drafting: Forced servitude in the military. Adapted to also include forced servitude in  triathlon, e.g., "If you don't come to Lubbock with me I'm going to make your life a living hell."

Negative split: A grammatical error, e.g., "I ain't going to no Lubbock, no way, no how."

Crank: Synonym for "draftee."

Top tube: Australian nickname for the winner of an Ironman. "Don't bet against Florence Schwesterhosen, mate: The little sheila was top tube for six bloody years!"

The wall: An impenetrable barrier that's always located a half-mile before the finish line, regardless of the length of the race.

Entry fee: In Middle Ages England, a prisoner condemned to death was required to pay the executioner for his services. It is much the same with Ironman.

Number belt: A forensic device that enables the positive identification of bodies, obviating the necessity to match dental records following a race. Considered a backup to "body marking" (see above), which is unfortunately subject to erosion by contact with lava. (See "road rash")

Road rash: A light-hearted euphemism which, like "This might sting a little" or "Isn't it great you still have one kidney left?" is intended to cover over the fact that bare skin slamming into rough pavement at 40 mph isn't quite the same as a hot oil massage from Michelle Pfeiffer.

Clydesdale/Athena: A triathlete who has achieved oneness with gravity

Lottery: Avenue of admittance to the Ironman World Championships for those who have achieved oneness with gravity

Gu: Baby talk. Frequently heard being muttered by athletes proceeding down Ali'i Drive on all fours.

Speedo: An item of extremely intimate apparel made from dental floss and worn primarily by dominatrixes in Sweden. Legislative proposals to ban its use by Clydesdales within the U.S. have thus far been unsuccessful.

Carbo loading: Dinner at my house.

DQ: Dairy Queen. Usually follows carbo loading at my house.

Draft off me one more time and I'll kill your children: This is actually a slight mispronunciation of an ancient Hawaiian phrase meaning, "Stay right where you are and I'll be happy to pull you along for the next eighteen miles." So if you hear it while cycling out on the Queen K,  don't be alarmed: Just settle in right behind that rear wheel and don't give it another thought.

Pre-registration: Invented by state motor vehicle bureaus to alleviate excessive time spent in lines. The success of this concept in local triathlons is about the same as it has been in state motor vehicle bureaus.

Sprint distance: A measurement applicable to a race participant who is competing while ingesting foods different from those employed during training. Defined as the distance separating said athlete from the closest unoccupied Porta-Potty. In the event of the added factor of overhydration or the drinking of unfiltered local water, it is referred to as the "ultra-sprint" distance or the "Holy-Mother-of-God-everybody-get-out-of-my-way" distance.

Transition: Originally applied to werewolves, this is a rare form of human metamorphosis in which an otherwise normal weekend jogger turns into that special breed of psychopath known as a triathlete.

Wave: A relief-filled gesture thrown to an athlete by a "draftee" (see above) at the commencement of the bike leg, signifying that the draftee is now free to go get a cold one and take a nap because cars aren't allowed on the bike course.

T2: The period following the bike leg in which the draftee chases after an athlete while calling out the exact locations and physical conditions of every single person in her age group, whether they're in this particular race or not.

Chain ring: A group of bicycle thieves.

Challenged athletes: People with physical deficits who nevertheless bike, swim and run much faster than most people can, which would seem to peg the derivation of the phrase as a challenge to the rest of us who complain that training is just too hard.

On-line poker: An intense form of exercise that has been clinically proven to burn more calories, build greater muscle mass and boost volumetric uptake faster than any other physical activity known to humankind. Participants are strongly advised not to go to unhealthy extremes by the addition of swimming, biking and running. Walking is also highly discouraged, except as is absolutely necessary to service nutrition, hydration and elimination requirements while engaged in play.

Mouse potato: A highly-conditioned on-line poker player.