Swimming Faster, surviving old Water Swimming, choosing a triathlon wetsuit and more.
Every triathlon wetsuit is not created equal, but have we taken the importance of the wetsuit construction a bit too far?
Thinner, slicker, faster. Is this the new motto for the U.S. Olympic swim team? Or is this the new motto for the latest triathlon wetsuit hanging on the rack in your local triathlon store?
When I started out in triathlon the races in my part of the world were few and far between. To make matters worse, the water was seldom over 60 degrees Fahrenheit for any of those races. There was not a triathlon wetsuit to be found back then.
You could buy a “dry-suit” that weighed around 50 pounds at a dive shop, but the slick, shiny high triathlon wetsuit was still years away.
It was pretty much a given that the effects of cold water was going to rear its ugly head in any triathlon swim leg in Canada back in the very early eighties.
The impact the cold had on a person depended on the level of swimming ability the aspiring triathlete was blessed with.
THE EARLY TRIATHLON WETSUIT
The very first attempt at a wetsuit was a foamy farmer-John that was no better than swimming nude.
If you had a great, energy-saving stroke it was possible to minimize the effects of the cold water because you were simply out of the frigid water soon than most people.
The less skill a person had as a swimmer, the more they would suffer from the cold. I could barely swim back in the day and only swam out of necessity so I could get to the rest of the race.
I can think of at least three races in those early days when the triathlon wetsuit still had not been invented and I was the last one out of the water. I was so cold after one swim that it took about ten tries to get on my bike and get it moving in a forward direction.
The ambulance followed me for about half the bike because I was dead last and barely alive. As I got warmer from my biking efforts I began to catch people.
By the time I got to the run I had regained my core temperature and was back in my element. I went from dead last to winning my age-group. So much for the importance of the swim in the big scheme of things.
FASTER IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER
That fact was to play itself out many times over the years. The lesson I learned back then never really changed much 14 Ironman races later.
All you really want to do is get through the swim with as little discomfort as possible and with as little mental, emotional, and physical stress as possible, because all of those things cause you to lose energy that you will desperately need later in the day.
This is especially true for the Ironman distance and it’s especially true if you are an age-grouper like I was.
As the years passed and the triathlon wetsuit evolved, it seemed like every year featured a new wetsuit that would make you faster.
The philosophy of speed really sucked people in because they had still not figured out how little importance your swim time really has on the end result of an Ironman when it comes to age-groupers.
I know I bought into the speed mentality over and over again and spent a few thousand dollars on wetsuits over the years but only improved my swim times and over-all Ironman results when I learned how to swim smarter and more efficiently and burn less energy.
It had nothing to do with the thickness of my wetsuit rubber or how seamless the stitching was, or how stretchy the armpits were.
COLD WATER PROTECTION
To me the most important feature of a wetsuit is the protection it provides from the cold and how it can keep you on top of the water and eliminate the need for so much energy-wasting kicking and not how it will shave 45 seconds from your swim time.
After all, when you burn yourself out from the swim because you lack a smooth, energy-saving stroke you will be walking most of the marathon course anyway.
So it make sense to me to go with a wetsuit that is a bit on the thicker side and will provide more warmth and buoyancy.
Both of these factors will decrease your energy loss and even the thickest wetsuit on the market today is 50 times better than that Farmer-John I wore in the early days.
TOTAL IMMERSION is the perfect place to find out how to work on your swimming skills. Sound swimming technique and a wetsuit that will keep you as warm as possible are the keys to a successful Ironman swim.
Total Immersion is the perfect system to incorporate into your swim training as your career develops. If you are completely new to swimming, then you have the advantage of developing a great stroke from the very beginning without having to break bad swimming habits.
The Total Immersion swimming technique developed by Terry Laughlin is one of the best swimming techniques in the world today for triathletes of any level, but especially those who are new to swimming and triathlon.
Check here for some TRIATHLON WETSUITS