>> Saturday, August 27, 2011
Here's what we all hold to be true: you can swim faster in a wetsuit than without.
My issue is that it takes me a long time to get out of my wetsuit in T1 during a race. Just before a race 2 years ago, I actually hurt myself getting out of my wetsuit. Here's what I posted on my blog back then as I described the incident:
I was taking off my wet suit, and I had it around my ankles. I had my left foot in the air as I was trying to get the suit off my left leg. I started to lose my balance, so I thought I’d quick pull the suit off so I could catch my balance. Well, I DIDN’T get the suit off, but I DID manage to bend my thumb all the way backwards and sprain it pretty bad as I quickly tried to pull off my wetsuit. It HURT! Right after I did it, the ball of my hand under my thumb swelled up HUGE.
Within a week of having that little wetsuit mishap, my hand looked like this:
So, anyway, back to the "swimming faster in a wetsuit" thing....
I've always said that I (personally) should NOT wear a wetsuit in a sprint triathlon. Sure, I might have a faster swim split than without the wetsuit, but that time would be negated by having to struggle to get out of the wetsuit in T1. I'm always dizzy and fumbling in T1, so trying to work my way out of a wetsuit would take too long in a sprint.
But I never tested this theory.
Until last weekend.
At the Waseca Sprint Triathlon a few weeks ago, I raced against a BT buddy who goes by Scuff. Here's Scuff and I pre-race
Remember all the mosquito bites I talked about in my race report?
Well, you can see them all over the left side of my body. Nasty.
Scuff and I starting the swim together to the far left
Then, a few weeks later (which was last weekend), we did the Lake Marion Sprint Triathlon. Scuff did it again WITHOUT a wetsuit (in the same tri-top as Waseca), but this time I did it WITH a wetsuit. We both did better at Lake Marion - we both felt like we sighted better and swam better.
Me, Matt, and Justin - note that I'm wearing a wetsuit
(I didn't get a photo with Scuff at this race)
HERE'S WHAT I FOUND:
Swim: 9:52 (592 seconds)
T1: 0:58 (58 seconds)
Swim: 10:52 (652 seconds)
T1: 1:14 (74 seconds)
Lake Marion Tri:
Swim: 6:49 (409 seconds)
T1: 2:16 (136 seconds)
Swim: 8:19 (499 seconds)
T1: 2:24 (144 seconds)
To calculate the percent change, I used this formula:
The percent change is given by "(A-B) / B x 100," where A is Scuff's time and B is my time.
Using that formula:
- I was 10.14% faster in the swim at Waseca
- I was 27.59% faster in T1 at Waseca
- I was 22.00% faster in the swim at Lake Marion
- I was 5.88% faster in T1 at Lake Marion
The percent difference in the times should be the same from race to race - it doesn't matter if one race is a "longer" or "shorter" 400 meters. If I was faster by XX% at one, then I should be faster by XX% at the other, and the difference between the 2 should be 0%. BUT, with the wetsuit at Lake Marion, my time was 11.86% faster than the difference between our times at Waseca.
At a speed of 1:40 / 100 yards (100 seconds / 100 yards), a difference of 11.86% is a difference of 11.9 seconds, dropping the time down to 1:28 / 100 yards. Over a 440 yard (400 meter) swim, that's a difference of 52.4 seconds overall.
However, being I had to take off a wetsuit in T1 at the Lake Marion Tri (where my swim time was better), my T1 time suffered. I was 21.71% slower than the difference between mine and Scuff's T1 time at Waseca. But, being that T1 is a shorter amount of time than the swim, that difference of 21.71% is only about 31 seconds.
Even in a sprint triathlon with a short swim, the benefit of wearing a wetsuit during the swim is NOT erased by having to take extra time to get out of the wetsuit in T1. I gained 52.4 seconds in the swim, but lost 31 seconds in T1. Overall, this "study" showed a gain of roughly 21.4 seconds being taken off my finishing time.
(OK, I understand this is far from scientific. I did the math all correctly based on that formula, but I don't know that I did everything perfectly with regards to the percentages. STILL, I feel that it shows me that it WAS worth wearing a wetsuit in the sprint! And that I need to learn to get out of my wetsuit quicker....)