July 20, 2017

Wetsuits

Ron Saetermoe

Occasionally someone will ask me about wetsuits. You know, what type, what brand, whether to wear one for a particular race, etc. Having done over 100 triathlons I certainly have an opinion on the subject.

First, I strongly believe that everyone should wear a wetsuit if the race is wetsuit legal. The USAT guidelines state that everyone may wear a wetsuit if the water temperature is 78 degrees or below. You are welcome to wear a wetsuit if the temperature is 79 degrees to 84 degrees but you won’t be eligible for awards. Anything 85 degrees or over, no wetsuits are allowed.

Therefore, if the water is 78 or below I’m going to wear a wetsuit – even a short sprint. The reason is that you are so much quicker in a wetsuit. Wetsuits help keep you “on top” of the water more which will make you faster. Of course, you also have to deal with taking it off in T-1, but if you’re well practiced, you’ll more than make up for the additional time in transition.

For those that aren’t strong swimmers, wetsuits can (and should) give you more confidence. Have you ever tried swimming underwater in your wetsuit? If not, try it sometime. You’ll pop back up like a cork!

Second, make sure you have a triathlon wetsuit. It’s quite amusing to see people wearing their body boarding, surfing or even their SCUBA wetsuits. These aren’t made for our sport and restrict your arm movement.

Third, it really doesn’t matter what brand you get. The main concern is whether it fits or not. It should be snug but shouldn’t limit your breathing or choke you around the neck. Too loose and water will get in and slow you down. If you try one brand and it doesn’t fit just right, try another. With so many choices you’ll find one that fits.

Fourth, I like the full-arms style of wetsuits. I used to have a long-john style, which means it had full-length legs but no sleeves. I thought the long sleeves would limit by stroke but they don’t. In fact, according to the manufacturer (Quintana Roo), the long sleeves actually help you go faster because it increases the water your arm “catches” as you pull through.

Finally, triathlon is a very mental sport. If that carbon fiber frame makes you think you’re going faster, you do. If your new running shoes make you think you’re going faster, you do. And if your wetsuit makes you think you’re going faster, you do.

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