The Debate: To Wetsuit or Not To Wetsuit.
Author: Sara Gimmy
Many triathletes are nervous about the swim portion of a triathlon, and many rely on their wetsuit to feel a sense of ease going into the first leg of the race. Here at The Nation’s Triathlon, we constantly get questioned about whether the race will be wetsuit legal.
USA Triathlon rules state that each age group participant shall be permitted to wear a wet suit without penalty in any event sanctioned by USA Triathlon up to and including a water temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit. When the water temperature is greater than 78 degrees, but less than 84 degrees Fahrenheit, age group participants may wear a wet suit at their own discretion, provided however that participants who wear a wet suit within this temperature range shall not be eligible for prizes or awards. Age group participants shall not wear wet suits in water temperatures equal to or greater than 84 degrees Fahrenheit.
Last year it was a close call, and the day before the race gave us a comfortable feeling of wetsuit legal… thought not everyone wore theirs. The question still stands: Wetsuit or No Wetsuit? For this week’s blog, we’re getting the pro-wetsuit angle from DC Triathlete Sara Gimmy. Next swim blog we’ll look into the mind of non-wetsuit-wearing triathlete, Kristen Avioli.
Sara Gimmy: Pro-Wetsuit
Wetsuits are super advantageous to a triathlete, especially to a triathlete like myself who feels less than confident in the water. It acts like a safety blanket, in more ways than one. Now, I will be the first to say no one should be dependent on a wetsuit for a race, but it’s always comforting when I know I can wear it. Why?
It’s efficient / I’m a lazy kicker – Wetsuits are made out of the thickest neoprene, which helps keep me, and especially my hips, buoyant. What does this really mean? The wetsuit naturally keeps my body closer to the surface of the water. Why else is buoyancy excellent? When I’m swimming without a wet suit, I’m kicking to keep my hips up. Being a lazy kicker sans wet suit, my hips drag and slow me down (I’ve got a lot of hips). So, my wetsuit is doing a lot of that drag-eliminating work for me.
It alleviates my stress – In my experience in the Mid-Atlantic region, there are few beach start triathlons. This means instead of running into the water, athletes spend the first two, sometimes three, minutes of the race treading water at the swim start. For me, this is the most anxiety inducing part of a triathlon. Wearing a buoyant wetsuit reduces the stress of treading water at the start of the race. And let’s be real, it helps me save energy for what really matters: the race!
The cold ain’t so cold – My wetsuit keeps me warmer than I would be in a tri suit and the water that comes into the wetsuit warms up quickly because it stays close to my body. I warm up fast and stay warm, even in less comfortable colder temperatures.
Rugby player turned triathlete, I finished my first spring triathlon in October 2007. Exhausted, I crossed the finish line and wanted more. Three years later, I've finished more sprint and olympic distance triathlons than I can remember, half-marathons, three half-ironman races, and a marathon. I love the sport and I love to see more people getting involved. If I can do it, anyone can!
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