Leib Dodell is a former team member that now lives in San Francisco. He is an attorney and freelance writer and often writes articles for INSIDE TRIATHLON.

Pythagorus was a mathematician from the 6th century BC who was obsessed with the triangle. Pythagorus’s catchy theorem for calculating the hypotenuse of a right triangle – a2 + b2 = c2 – is one of the few things most people remember from high school. Using the Pythagorean theorem, if you know the length of any two legs of a right triangle, you can very easily calculate the length of the third leg while at the same time writing out the lyrics to entire Pink Floyd songs on the back cover of your math notebook.

So what does this have to do with triathlon? Well, what doesn’t usually make it into the high school textbooks is that Pythagorus was not only obsessed with the triangle, he was also interested in the triathlon. In fact, Pythagorus’s famous theorem was originally devised to calculate the optimal location to rack your bike within a transition area. If Pythagorus knew the length and width of the transition area, he could calculate the exact rack location that would give him a leg up on all the other 6 century B.C. triathletes. It was centuries before the theory was found to have broader applications.

Unfortunately, some of Pythagorus’s other triathlon theories never saw the light of day. They were discovered recently by a team of archeologists, along with a 2700-year-old half-eaten Powerbar, which they promptly finished off. For example, one of Pythagorus’s lesser-known formulas was the following:

The implications of this theory are profound. For example, if you were to improve your conditioning for a given season in any two legs of the triathlon, let’s say the swim and the bike, this would mean that mathematically your conditioning in the run would have to decrease proportionally. In other words, it is mathematically impossible to achieve optimal conditioning in all three legs of a triathlon simultaneously. Although Pythagorus got a lot of abuse from other triathlon mathematicians when this theory was first introduced, centuries of anecdotal evidence suggest that he was exactly correct.

But perhaps my all-time favorite of the Lost Triathlon Theorems is this one:

I’ve always chalked this up to general lameness on my part . . . the whole race I’m suffering, and then once my brain realizes there’s nothing I can do about it, all of a sudden it starts telling me I feel great and I should crank it up. But Pythagorus proved that it’s all mathematics. Under his theory, the optimum moment during any event (o) is mathematically bound to occur at the distance of the event (d) minus one over infinity – in other words, just an instant before the finish.

There are many more great tri theorems to pass along, but I’m also mindful of the fundamental mathematical theory of writing: f = btd – 1. In other words, finish the darn thing (f) at least one word before the reader gets bored to death (btd). Hopefully I’m not too late, I never was much good at math.