Back in the early Ironman Canada days, racing “near naked” was pretty “cool”.

Unlike the triathletes of today we didn’t have anywhere near the variety of triathlon gear to choose from back in “the day” so we just kept things simple.

I guess I’m dating myself but when I was in Penticton doing book-signings during Ironman Canada one year I overheard a conversation that brought back a lot of memories of the good old Speedo Ironman days.

This one aspiring Ironman said to his buddy, “can you imagine? There were guys who used to do the entire Ironman with just a Speedo and a running top on.”

“Hey”! I thought. “That’s me you’re talking about!”

It’s completely true. Except for that little Speedo and a flimsy running top we “were” darn near racing naked.

ironman in a speedo swimsuit

The Ironman Triathlon in a Speedo


One year was particularly ugly when the temperature turned cold in the back of Richter’s Pass almost without warning and there was a driving rain and we were still hitting speeds of 50MPH(80k) going down the Yellow Lake Hill.

I can remember stopping at a roadside turn-off at the bottom of the hill because I couldn’t feel my arms or legs anymore. I wasn’t alone.

There must have been about 15 of us who had pulled off the course. Talk about biking naked. When I look back, you probably could have taken all the clothes all of us were wearing and put them in one plastic grocery bag.

I have to admit that it had it’s good points. Our wetsuits fit much better with just a swim suit underneath and believe me those transitions were lightning fast.

There is no doubt in my mind that women were fighting and kicking and biting to get to the front of the “wetsuit-stripper” volunteer line.

It was usually pretty hot on Ironman day in Penticton except for a few really bad years like the one I just mentioned where it turned brutally cold.

Actually it was great in the run to be wearing as little as possible. In later years when I switched to a tri-suit they would actually seemed hot and constricting to me.

I should also mention that those particular Speedo swimsuits were made for triathletes and had padding for the bike in the important areas. I mean not a lot, but at least it was something.

At the end of the bike there was always that same fleeting thought(and feeling or lack thereof), that you were somehow less of a man, but a few days later all was right with the world and it was like a bad dream that was soon forgotten.

Well, at least until the next Ironman.

One thing I will never forget about those years of biking and running in a Speedo on Ironman day was all the women spectators along the course who would whistle at us.

Yes sir! Those were the good old days.

It’s very strange to me how the sport has evolved and someone doing an Ironman in a Speedo these days would really be an exception and may even be viewed as a bit odd.

Every time I see an image of pro triathlete Faris Al-Sultan wearing a speedo and making the podium in yet another Ironman race I feel a certain amount of gratitude toward him.

ironman triathlete Faris al-sultan

Faris Al-Sultan knows how to dress for an Ironman Triathlon.


He is such an amazing Ironman triathlete and he is showing the whole triathlon world that maybe wearing a Speedo is not so bad after all.

You’re the man Faris! I hope you never change your ways. You are making the Ironman Speedo crowd of yesteryear very proud.

I have a dream. When I am 70 years old I will cross the finish line of the Ironman Hawaii World Championships wearing a Speedo.

Sure, go ahead and laugh……But it’s not you the chicks will be whistling at on the Queen K. Highway.

4 Responses to Ironman Triathlon In a Speedo

  1. Kevin says:

    I don’t know why there is such an aversion to the speedo. They were worn for years here in the U.S. I think the problem is American men have gained so much weight they have become weight conscious. It’s a lot easier to shame everyone wearing speedos than to loose the weight.

    • Ray says:

      Thanks for your comment Kevin.

      Actually, Speedo’s were the norm in the late 1980’s and into the 1990’s. I did most of my Ironman races in a Speedo. Sure had fast transitions. Speedo even sold padded versions to make the 112-mile bike bearable. No doubt about it though…you had to be tough to do an Ironman in a Speedo.

      I think the main reason Speed’s fell out of favor was because of the new generation of racing gear that was eventually developed……..specifically the tri-suit. Up until then, there really was no triathlon specific gear to speak of.

  2. Randy says:

    I was on the tail end of the official Speedo wearing era. I was just a normal part of tri back then. I started to see the tri-suits being worn, but resisted purchasing the suit unit after a few events. After hearing about the benefits, I broke down the purchased a suit. At first, it felt restrictive and hot on the run. The next tri event,after wearing the tri-suit the first time, I returned to the Speedo brief since the weather was hot and humid. I think I was the only one wearing the Speedo. Although, after that event, I just continued to wear the tri-suit.

    • Ray says:

      Thanks for your comment Randy…

      Strangely enough, back in the early days of the Ironman Speedo’s were the norm. Anybody wearing anything else was almost considered over-dressed for the occasion. As the year’s passed, I actually favored tri-shorts over tri-suits. They had just enough padding for the bike, but could also be worn in the swim and run. I found that with tri shorts I was able to easily change into a fresh, clean, dry, looser fitting top for the run. You can’t really do that with a tri-suit. To me, tri-shorts were a compromise between a Speedo and a tri-suit.

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