This post is rated Olympians and Ironman.
A couple weeks ago I wrote a post announcing my intention of providing practical tips for training and racing equipment. A few of my ideas included “hats vs. visors” “skins suits vs. 2 piece racing kits” and “socks vs. no socks.” I have picked up some incredibly valuable information over the last 7 years of racing and I would like to share some of this with you. After all, there is no such thing as original knowledge. Everything I now know was taught to me and now its my turn to pay it forward!
Today’s post is related to wetsuits. First and foremost, a wetsuit is permitted for use in water temperatures below 78 degrees. It has been my experience that water temperatures between 75 and 78 degrees are too warm for a wetsuit. The last thing you want to do is overheat in the water before you get out into the heat of the sun. You will generate enough body heat in water temperature above 75 degrees to go without. With this conclusion in mind, lets shift our focus to water temperatures between 60 degrees and 74 degrees.
Your two options at this point are full body wetsuits and those that are sleeveless. There are advantages and disadvantages with each. All wetsuits are made from neoprene and range in thickness from 2mm to 6mm. The colder the water the thicker the suit you desire. A full body suit is going to keep you warmer and more buoyant but will leave you slightly more restricted in motion. A sleeveless suit provides the same lower body protection but lacks support in the upper torso and shoulders. This could be a good thing if the water is not too cold and if the distance is Olympic or Half Ironman. A sleeveless suit has much greater flexibility and allows for a much more natural swim stroke. A sleeveless suit will also be much easier to remove in transition saving you precious seconds on your overall time.
In water temperatures of less than 60 degrees, you are absolutely crazy if you go with anything other than a maximum thickness full body wetsuit. 60 degrees is cold, VERY COLD and you cannot afford to go hypothermic. I remember one of my very first races was a sprint triathlon just north of Los Angeles. The swim took place in the Pacific Ocean and I was the only competitor (out of 500) without a wetsuit. I learned afterward that the water temperature was below 60 degrees. I finished the 800 meter swim and upon exiting the ocean fell over without having any sense of equilibrium. That was a bad day, please don’t make the same mistake…
I would also point you to this article for further validation and even more information!