My good friend and fellow type-1 triathlete Céline recently wrote about how she is too stubborn to wear a wetsuit during triathlon. I started to write a response on her site, but it quickly became a post all of its own, so here it is.
I think about wetsuits this way:
- Am I faster with a wetsuit? Yes. I’m more buoyant, streamlined, slippery, and compressed. My core muscles are getting stronger, but I still tend to drop my legs at the pool; it’s a lot harder to do that with a wetsuit. Considering all of the different factors, I estimate that I’m about 0:15/100 faster with one.
- Does it hurt my feel for the water? No. Not at all.
- Does it make it hard to breathe? Nope.
- Am I comfortable in a wetsuit? Yes… comfortable enough. A well-fitting, sleeveless wetsuit is pretty much something I forget that I’m wearing when I’m in the water.
- Does it make it possible for me to race in the early and late months? Yes, and in the ocean, too. The water temps this season at my races varied between 55° and 82°F (12-28°C), and I wore a wetsuit for all of them.
- Does it take longer to remove than the time I save swimming? No. Not by a long shot. With enough practice, I can remove it in less than 15 seconds. It’s definitely not the slowest part of my swim-to-bike transition. Plus, my last event had “strippers,” and that was the best thing ever!
- Do I look super-attractive while I’m wearing it? Um… probably not. But as Lisa says, triathlon takes all shapes. I’ve learned to be okay with having not much to hide behind and with seeing interesting bulges (my own and others) while I’m standing around waiting to race. It’s a lot like bike riding; at some point you get beyond the fact that everyone you’re with is pretty revealed.
- Does it give me a very convenient place to stash gels when I swim? Yes. I just put ‘em down by my ankle.
- Does it help keep my diabetes paraphernalia attached? Yes. My CGM or infusion set has never come loose while wearing one. This is very different from the pool, where about once per month, my CGM or set comes unstuck.
- Is it a question of safety? Initially, yes, but not now. Putting aside the fact that even a dead body floats, a wetsuit makes a swimmer extra buoyant. If you’re at all uncomfortable, a wetsuit can be a bit like a safety blankie. While I initially freaked the hell out the one time that I went swimming in open water without one, those days have passed, and I wear one all the time now for the other reasons listed above.