I am doing my first sprint tri in two weeks up in Northeast Maryland.
The swim distance is 750 meters, is in a lake and wetsuits are allowed.
Swim is definitely my weakest sport. I am a really inefficient swimmer doing 750 meters in my pool in about 20 minutes and don't have the time to overhaul my stroke in the next two weeks
One friend of mine who has done a number of sprints told me I should wear a wetsuit not necessarily for the cold (the lake probably won't be that cold) but because it will help my bouyancy. But my friend who I am training with told me I don't need a wetsuit and that it will just slow down my transition.
I will preface this by saying I was in NTP this year and am by NO MEANS an expert (but have gone through the process of asking this question many times in the last few months)...
However, I found the wetsuit to be very helpful. I used one for the ITU sprint in June and for the Olympic in NJ last weekend. With some minimal practice, I didn't find that it slowed down my transition but it did help a lot with adding buoyancy on the swim. I was a competitive swimmer and swimming is probably my strongest sport of the three, but I still found that the additional buoyancy allowed me to conserve energy (especially in kicking) that I needed for the bike and run.
That being said, necessary--absolutely not. Nice, I think so.
The one thing I did notice with the wetsuit is that you do expend more energy in your upper body as you're now swimming against the suit. If you're going to use one, make sure to get into open water with it to get used to the difference and make sure you get one that fits, especially around the neck or else you may feel like you're having a tough time breathing. Very different sensation.
It's all personal preference, but I think the key is figuring out if you need more help/greater level of comfort or will really stress about a couple extra seconds in transition. There are sure to be other people who will swear against wetsuits here too- I think you just need to do whatever gives you the greatest confidence in finishing your race.
Good luck at NE!
Wear the wetsuit. It will not only provide you with buoyancy but will also the security knowing that if you get into trouble and panic that one quick flip on your back without moving a single limb will allow you to float like a raft. Don't underestimate the panic/hyperventilating factor during your first OWS race. If you don't have a wetsuit on, you are going to wish you did once you are standing there in the water waiting for the gun to go off or once you start to swim and panic a little bit.
It's your first tri. By your own admission, you won't be winning anything with your swim time. What does it matter that it takes you an extra 30 seconds in T-1 to take off your wetsuit ? If you start peeling the top of your wetsuit off as soon as you get out of the water (like most people do) and during your run from the water to the transition area, you will minimize the amount of time that you spend in T-1. The only other recommendation is to get some open water swim in with your wetsuit.
Wetsuits help poor swimmers a lot more than it does great swimmers. It will allow you to expend less energy in the water than without one. Wear the wetsuit!
I would agree with the posts above. The wetsuit makes everything easier. Not necessary but a really nice luxury. To compare, swim in a pool with your wetsuit and time yourself - see how much faster you are with less effort.
A wetsuit should not make your transition that much slower. As mentioned above, it should be half off by the time you get to your bike, then rip it down your legs, stomp stomp, thumb hook it over your heel, and then rip the other leg off. about 10-15 seconds. I think the extra time is exaggerated, and folks focus on the one time they got stuck - yeah that happens. But actually take a stop watch and practice for real data and it won't take as long as some say.
Now as us swimmers say - triathlon should eliminate wetsuits and make the swims twice as long so that swimming matters and tiny runners don't dominate the sport. But since they are here - use em.
I read this post and thought about chiming in, but you don't want to hear my opinion. Listen to Tuan and Simon, they know what they are talking about. I'm not a wetsuit guy unless it's under 62 degrees and/or it's an IM race. I just can't get that thing off. I would be a terrible volunteer as a wetsuit peeler. Thank goodness for them in IM races.
Simon I am all for making the swim twice as long....maybe then it will take a little longer for all those people to blow past me on the bike!!
Great post, Simon! Either that, or do like horse racing and require runners to carry sand bags so we're all competing at the weight!
Here's my idea to give swimmers the advantage.... reverse the order of the triathlon. Run, then bike, then swim. :)
I'll agree that runners have the advantage when I'm 15 minutes faster than all of you in a 5K to make up for the fact that you get out of the water 15 minutes faster than me.
As someone who is not the best swimmer, I agree with the posts above. If you are a good swimmer and the water isn't so cold that you are going to catch hypothermia, there is no need for a wetsuit. If you are an uncomfortable, insecure, or inefficient swimmer, the benefit that you gain from a wetsuit offsets the time you might lose in transition. The benefit may not be in having any faster of a swim but in feeling more relaxed physically and mentally during the swim.
I would use a wetsuit. I agree with Tuan on the panic/hyperventilating factor during your first OWS race. I was NTP last year and a non-swimmer who had to learn how to swim. The 2008 NJ Tri was my first real OWS and not wetsuit legal. I had those panic/hyperventilating issues both before the race and after being swam over and colliding with others in the swim portion of the program. In response I rolled over and did the majority of the 1500ms on my back in about 1:17mins, I think this is the course record that will stand for a very longtime. When I got out I was very winded and embarrassed but kept going. After some practice, help from other club members and use of the wetsuit those fears have abated and this year's NJ Tri swim went much better. With the suit I felt safe in the water. Even with all that was going on around me, I could focus on me and my stroke and swim a bit straighter and better then before and not let other issues come to mind. I have not found the suit slows down the transition. You can start taking it off so as you are out of the water and on your way up to your station. If you do not already have a suit get one and practice swimming and taking it off a few times before the race and the swim will go much easier for you.
Actually, Bryan, in the late 70s when triathlons first got started, the run was first and the swim was last. The sport was dominated mostly by swimmers. I forget why they reverse it and put the swim first. Maybe it had something to do with preventing people from drowning because they are too exhausted to swim.
sorry for hijacking your wetsuit post. I put the swimming equality discussion here:
if its wetsuit legal and wetsuits give you free speed why not use it?
you don't get extra point for time off for not taking advantage of a legal piece of equipment that makes you faster.
Thank you guys all so much for the advice! I was undecided on whether a wetsuit was worth it for NE/Nation's, but I think I'm going to look into renting one. I'm a horrible swimmer.
finnegen: I was dead last in my first race on the swim, but I just looked at is as making destroying those people on the bike that much more fun :)