It's an age old dilemma for everyone who's ever joined the LA Tri Club or updated their profile:

What is my "Training Level"? Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced?

Pick one and let the tri world know where you stand and how you rate. It's a bit unfair, really, having just three buckets into which we group thousands of athletes whose ability and experience range from brand new to professional.

Sadly, we get reports of new members breaking out in hives trying to determine just what each level means. Woe be to the newbie who dares claim "intermediate" status or the expert guilty of horribly false modest in purporting be a "beginner" because they only joined the club a month ago.

In the interest of club-wide alignment and to save countless members the shame of an incorrect training level, we offer this first-time-ever attempt at defining just what it means to be a Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced level LATC member.

Training Level
First, let's define "training level". This is widely understood to mean more than "training". It's about your ability and experience. If you were a former NCAA Division 1 runner but only train once a week and have only done one triathlon, your training level might be low but no one in their right mind thinks you are a beginner. Think of the three levels as encompassing a mixture of experience, knowledge, and ability in both training and racing triathlons.

Beginner can be defined by both your physical ability and your knowledge of the sport. To be a real Beginner, you need to be not only slow (an important pre-requisite of Beginner-hood) but you need to have very little experience and knowledge in triathlon training and racing. It isn't hard to be a beginner but it's hard to stay one. Let's face it, even if you stay slow it is hard to avoid getting more experience and knowledge even if simply by osmosis. So let's put it to the test.:

You are a beginner if…
+ If you think carbon fiber is something you add to your cereal to improve digestion
+ You think Body Glide is something best left for the bedroom.
+ A trip to the kitchen is considered a "long run".
+ You still aren't sure: Do we swim, bike and run ALL IN THE SAME DAY???
+ You time your races with a calendar or sun dial.

You are NOT a beginner if…
+ You haven't done a triathlon but you competed in swimming, biking, running, or any other sport in college.
+ You can complete the following sentence: "My half-ironman PR is…"
+ You have a strong opinion on bike brands, shoe brands or wetsuit brands.
+ You've traveled overnight for a race.
+ You have race results from two different years.

Here's where it gets tricky. You KNOW you aren't a newbie anymore but you aren't super fast. You are really knowledgeable but haven't cracked the Top-10 in your age-group in a race. You know all the routes through the Santa Monica mountains but get dropped going up Latigo. You know the difference between a Cervelo P3C and R3 but still haven't broken 12 hours at an Ironman. What's a Clubber to do? Help!

Never fear. Intermediate is a great place to be. This is the place where speed doesn't matter but experience makes the difference. Triathlon knowledge can help the Beginner be an Intermediate. But speed definitely is also part of the mix. Here's the rule of thumb:
" If you aren't experienced or knowledgeable but you are fast, you are an Intermediate.
" If you aren't fast, but you've been in the sport for a while and are knowledgeable about the sport, you are an Intermediate.

However, if you are both experienced AND fast, it's time to face facts: You are Advanced. Step up to the plate and be proud. Let's put it to the test:

You are an Intermediate if…
" You can complete the following sentence: "I thought Wildflower was faster this year than any years since…"
" You *know* what Body Glide is but still make jokes about its extracurricular uses.
" You've ever sent an email to the club to lead out a ride longer than 30 miles.
" You own a tri bike and a road bike and know what each one is for and why.
" You've done VO2 max testing or blood lactate testing …and enjoy talking about it with your teammates during long rides.

You are NOT an Intermediate if…
" Your Ironman PR starts with an "11" or less -or- your time got you in the Top-10 in your age group (Congratulations, you are now Advanced.)
" You're still trying to figure out the "Body Glide" jokes from above (sorry, you're a Beginner.)
" You are running out of room on your office wall for podium pictures (Congrats, you are now Advanced.)
" You get offended when someone uses the term "Newbie" to affectionately describe newbies. (Sorry, you are a Beginner. Plus, you need to lighten up.)
" You look around the transition area to see who is racked near you so you know who you need to keep track of in order to get a Top-10 (Congrats, you are Advanced.)
" You can't figure out why people spend so much time talking about bicycle gearing. And you find it amazing that we actually eat pills full of SALT! (Sorry, you're a Beginner.)
This one is actually pretty easy. It's the place where speed meets experience. Not absolute speed: If you are a 60 year-old who qualifies for Kona, you might not be faster than a 30 year-old who doesn't…but you are still Advanced! If you've been doing the sport for a few years, know quite a lot about bikes, can speak with authority on how to deal with an IT band injury and have gone through more than two wetsuits, and have a stack of old race numbers lying around in a drawer, you are probably advanced.

Let's put it to the test:

You are Advanced if…
" Your LA Tri Club membership number has one or two digits.
" The term "Tri Fed" means something to you.
" You actually *use* Body Glide in an extracurricular manner (bonus points for your Advanced status if you also use your Heart Rate Monitor for extracurricular activities.)
" You own a medal or plaque from a race in a year that starts with "19..."
" Two words: Kona qualifier
+ You get unsolicited emails from people asking your opinion on compact cranks for races like Wildflower.
+ You've never looked at someone's calf as they pass you on the run and seen the number of someone in your age-group.

You are NOT Advanced if…
+ You're in your first year of triathlon, didn't do collegiate or high level club athletics and aren't sure which of the three sports you do first.
+ You race road triathlons on a mountain bike
+ You still don't know where to get a wetsuit repaired or how to ride to Santa Barbara/San Diego (or at least where to find those things out on the LATC website)
+ You are doing an Ironman but still haven't done an Olympic.
+ You bought the 404's but still aren't sure why.
+ You need to ask if you're advanced.

Hopefully this helps you make this all-important decision with confidence. And never fear, even if you get it wrong, no one will hold it against you. Until you get dropped going up Latigo.

Good luck, train safe and race hard!