After doing an Olympic Distance triathlon two times, the first in a pair of lined running shorts and the second in a tech swim suit, it was time to make the jump to a wetsuit.
The decision to move to a wetsuit was based on two factors. First was the race moving two months (June to April) which meant that temperatures for the race would be in the mid 60s, and also meant any open water training for the race would be even cooler. Second, at the third go around it was clear this hobby has some sticking power so the cost of buying a wetsuit would be more justified.
When looking for suits the goal was to find a true triathlon wetsuit that could be used across temperatures and distances even if I moved to a sprint or up to Ironman and 70.3 distances.
How is the Fit on a blueSeventy Sprint Wetsuit
Picking the right fit for a wetsuit that is supposed to be form fitting can be tough. If possible, borrowing from a friend or trying on in person is highly recommended.
Personally, I am 6 foot 2.5″ and (when buying the suit) weighed in at 198lbs. The trend of weight had been dropping and I anticipated my weight would trend down 5-6 lbs by race day, and 10lbs by any future races.
This put me slightly in between sizes (ML vs. L). Annoyingly the L was sold out at the time and in the interest of getting a wetsuit I could train in I choose the ML since I would be within that range on both metrics within a few weeks (and I was). At 6’2″ and 194 pounds during my last training swim, I still would have preferred a L instead of ML suit.
All the recommendations from Blue Seventy say that if you are in between you should size up. This is advice that I wish I could go back and take.
It is worth considering what things can NOT change. Height is locked in, while weight is variable. A suit that fits a 5’9″ man is not going to fit a 6’3″ man the same. In practice this means that my suit pulls down on my shoulders unless I put it on in precisely the right way.
I need to pull the suit up very far in the legs, exposing my lower ankle and making it tight in the crotch in order to avoid pulling at the shoulders and neck. Without doing this my neck will have some soreness from the suit pulling down so hard.
In colder water this short suit just further leads to cold feet. While over longer distances it puts more strain on the shoulders than needed. Having a larger suit would fix both of these, and the risk of weighing 190 lbs in a suit made for someone 192 pounds is not going to impact form or comfort in nearly the same way.
Is A Wetsuit Faster or Better for Training?
Yes, even with the fit issues mentioned above being in a wetsuit is significantly faster. It is also more enjoyable and makes training more accessible.
On a recent open water swim the water temperatures were a mere 57 degrees. Normally this would have blocked me from doing any sort of workout. With the suit on though, after a 3 minute swim out and getting started, other than some slightly cold feet it was possible to get in a strong workout to practice open water swimming.
As for speed, this can not be over stated. A wetsuit is so much faster than a normal swim suit that it is almost a cheat code. In a sample workout session it was possible to drop 8s-10s per 100 yards (from 1:44/100 yards down to 1:34/100) with a wetsuit. Over the course of an Olympic distance race that means the blue Seventy suit is slated to save me 2-3 minutes of time. Even with the added 15-30 seconds to peel a suit off in transition that is still significant savings.
Benefits of A Wetsuit For An Olympic Distance or Sprint Triathlon
All of the personal decisions to move to a suit vs. a swim suit should be taken into considerations. Here are a few of the more common benefits of a wetsuit which you should consider. Each of these is dependent on what you want to get out of a suit, where you typically swim, and how confident you are already in the water.
1. Improved Warmth and Comfort: Wetsuits help keep your body warm in cold water, which can help reduce fatigue and improve performance, not to mention it is simply more enjoyable. In longer open water swims they’ll also provide a base level of sun protection. For most racers an Olympic distance swim will take between 30min-45min or more, this is plenty of time to reap the benefits of being comfortable.
2. Increased Buoyancy: Wetsuits provide buoyancy, which can make it easier to swim in open water and help you stay on top of the water, which translates into speed. Over longer distances it also reduces the amount of core strength needed to keep your body in a streamline position.
3. Reduced Drag: The surface of a wetsuit is built to reduce drag, making it easier to move through the water. Most triathlon kits and swimsuits are already fairly streamlined but a good wetsuit takes this to another level. For racers who are considering shaving to gain a little bit of additional benefit, pulling on a suit has the same effect (although shaving still cuts down drag on the ride).
4. Improved Safety: By helping with the buoyancy and comfort there is a safety factor to wearing a wetsuit. Things like hypothermia, sunburn, and stinging jellyfish all get less problematic with a full body suit on. A thicker suit will even help protect you from a mass start that includes hands and feet from other racers accidentally landing a blow. Finally, a wetsuit can even serve as a handy knee pad if you happen to slip on rocks or a slippery boat ramp on exit of the swim.
5. Enhanced Speed: All of the above winds up translating into a faster swim. The caveat here is that a wetsuit will undoubtably slow down a transition compared to a racer who only has on a tri kit. Still, with a bit of practice pulling off a wetsuit will add less than a minute to your transition. Make sure to practice this as it is a bit of a skill, and