Swimskins, Wetsuits, and Tri Suits

Swimskins are fairly new to the sport of triathlon, but are they worth the price tag? Before we dive into what swimskins are and what they can do, let’s review the basic gear for a triathlete when it comes to swimming.

The most basic of gear is a tri suit, which is a one or two piece kit that you can wear comfortably for all three disciplines without adding more layers. Tri suits can be sleeveless or have sleeves like a bike jersey. If the water temperature is at 78 degrees F or above, you’ll need to wear a tri suit if you want to be considered for age-group awards. Tri suits range in price from $80-$250 each, depending on the brand, style, and materials used in making the kit. In reality, a tri suit is not necessary to compete–you can always wear a training swimsuit, throw on a pair of running or cycling shorts and t-shirt for the bike and run. No tri suit needed and no money wasted when you’re getting involved in a new sport; save your cash for the bike because it’s a machine that you throw money at anyway.

Next up in a triathlete’s swimming stash is a wetsuit. Wetsuits come in a variety of shapes and sizes from full legs and sleeves to a shorti wetsuit. If the water is cooler, you would wear your wetsuit over your tri suit for the swim. Wetsuits are fairly easy to put on and take off with practice and have a drawstring attached to the zipper to close the suit and to unzip it as you run towards transition. Wetsuits range in price from $80-$500 and up, so it can be an expensive addition.

The advantage of wearing a wetsuit is the added buoyancy neoprene provides, helping to correct dropped legs and other types of poor swim form and body positioning. Many triathletes swim a few minutes faster for the entire swim segment of the race, but if you’re already a fast swimmer with good form, you might not notice much of a difference. From a personal standpoint, I’m about the same speed with or without a wetsuit, but a wetsuit will keep me warm when the water temps are in the low 60s or upper 50s F.

Now enter the swimskin. A swimskin compresses your body with hydrophobic material to make you cut through the water faster. Swimskins are also worn over the tri suit like a wetsuit and can be worn when the water temp is at 78 degrees F or above. Fast swimmers and pros who swim at 1:20 per 100 meters or faster, save an average of 2-6 seconds per 100 meters, which adds up quickly for an Ironman distance swim of 2.4 miles or 4,224 yards. However, the swimskin offers no extra buoyancy like the wetsuit and does little in the way of correcting poor form. It will reduce drag caused by form and your body line, but if you are an average swimmer, or if swimming is the weaker of the three sports, then it won’t help much in the way of decreasing fatigue caused by form and body position in the water.

So, should you get a swimskin? I wouldn’t. Most age-group athletes won’t actually benefit from wearing one on race day. Sorry, I wouldn’t spend the extra $200-$400 for one. Instead, I would spend more time in the pool since swimming is the neglected sport of most triathletes. If you do spend money on swimming, spend it on joining a masters team, get some new fins, a snorkel, pull buoy, new practice suits, open water goggles, fun swim caps, or a workout book for swimming. The point is: get better at swimming first before making another big gear investment in a swimskin that you’ll use a handful of times in practice and possibly for the wetsuit illegal race. And for the love of all that is holy, do an actual swim workout in the pool, learn how to do flip turns or efficient open turns, do all of the competitive strokes, and use the clock provided because you don’t need a watch for swimming, but that’s another blog post entirely.

Visualization and the Athlete

Lake Erie from Edgewater Park in Cleveland, OH during USAT Nationals on August 9, 2018

Lake Erie in Cleveland is known for its fickle ways, changing from smooth as glass to a washing machine of waves in a short amount of time, bringing with it sudden changes in weather. Any local will tell you to watch out for its rip currents. So, how do you prepare for something like that as an athlete?

USAT Nationals will be held in Cleveland, OH again this year at Edgewater Park, and, yes, you do have to prepare for the unexpected. Last year, I watched the Lake go from smooth to choppy, with waves over three feet high, in the course of thirty minutes, making it difficult for athletes to sight. Many of them swam for 1.2 miles instead of the 1500 meters of an Olympic distance event.

As an athlete, you practice the swim, bike, and run often in your training, eat the right things (mostly), and carve out time for rest in your busy day, but if you’re not practicing visualization and positive self-talk, you’re missing out.

Here’s why.

  1. See it: Practice visualizing how the race will unfold. Look up photos of the area where you’ll be racing so it will be familiar to you. Think of how you’ll set up transition, practice your race day plan and working with your gear in a mock transition to further reinforce your daily visualizations, and see yourself moving through the different segments of the race. Most of all, see yourself crossing that finish line, one step at a time.
  2. Plan it: Because you’ve spent time thinking about how your race will go, there is nothing new. However, if something new does come up, you can think about how you’ll work through those difficulties with a plan of action–dropping a bottle on the bike, getting a flat, dealing with a crowded swim field, handling heat or cold on the bike or run. Besides having a plan for the unexpected, have an overall race day plan of what you’ll eat and drink and when. Know how you will pace the race based on the course and terrain. All of this will help with your anxiety levels.
  3. Practice it: In addition to thinking through the unknown, develop a ritual before the race, practice your transition with all of you gear, and then visualize how it will all happen. A good ritual to have is: set up your gear, eat the same thing you normally do right before the swim, and find a quiet area or sit for a moment in transition to focus on your breathing (maybe even listen to music or headphones). When you’re ready to get in line for the swim start, focus on being calm in the crowd by breathing and visualizing your swim. In addition, practice the skills you’ll need such as changing your tire, setting up transition, eating and drinking on the bike and run, etc. It’s also a good idea to train for the swim, bike, and run in places with terrain that resembles your goal race.
  4. Win: No, everything won’t go according to plan all the time, but more often than not, you’ll be successful. Looking on the positive side will also help you learn from your mistakes so you can move on and become a better athlete.

See. Plan. Practice. Win.

Why Using “Sherpa” is Cultural Appropriation

Ever since I got into the sport of triathlon, I’ve heard other athletes ask me if I plan to have a “Sherpa” for my first Ironman, and if so what that “Sherpa” would do. This has always rattled me because it reeks of cultural appropriation. How can I possibly call my husband and family my “Sherpas”? It’s insensitive and inappropriate.

If someone is a Sherpa, they are part of an ethnic group of people, mainly from Nepal, and in addition to being their own distinct cultural group, they have helped many climbers summit the highest peaks of the Himalayan Mountains. But what they are first is an ethnic group of people–not a brand name for sports clothing and certainly not a name you give your support crew–they are people.

To me, calling your support crew “Sherpas” is just wrong. It’s no different than naming sports teams after Native Americans, donning feathers, and attending a baseball game while beating a drum and mimicking Native American Dances. It’s like calling your support crew your “slaves” for the day. Would you do that? I don’t think so.

Why not go with simply: crew? Or race crew? Race support? When Phil assisted me with all of my gear at the end of Ironman Maryland, he told me he would like to be called “Iron Mule” (wait here, hold my gear) because of the play on words. I motion that race support for endurance triathlon events be called “crew” or “IronMule”, depending on your support crew’s sense of humor.

IronMule (noun): person who waits all day long while their athlete does an Ironman, tries to track and find them on course to cheer for them for a matter of seconds, and then collects all of the gear at the end of the day while the athlete tries to eat normal food for the first time. It’s a thankless job, really, being someone’s crew, but the athlete wouldn’t be anywhere without all of the support of family and friends and especially the IronMule.

On Recovery and Rest

A chill hangs in the morning air like the cherry trees heavy with blossoms. I still have my puffy winter coat zipped up to my chin, hands buried in my pockets, and my swimming backpack, laden with wet towels and gear, rides low on my back. My hair is still wet from the swim, but it won’t freeze on my way to the car.

To prepare for the upcoming triathlon season, I’ve gradually increased my workout load and was consistent until I received a call that no parent ever wants to get from the gym: “Your daughter fell off the beam, and we think her arm is broken.” After I hung up the phone, I put my cycling bag down and quickly changed back into regular clothes to go and pick her up from the gym and head straight to urgent care for x-rays.

X-rays clearly showed a broken radial bone, close to the elbow. The nurses splinted her arm, gave her some Motrin, and we left with instructions to make an appointment for orthopedics to have her arm placed in a cast. I called first thing in the morning, but no appointments were available until a few days later, so a trip to the hospital was our only option. I packed for a full day of waiting in the ER, thinking we were going to be there for about four to six hours before she got a cast and we could go home.

We didn’t go home that day.

The orthopedic doctor requested a CT scan. Hours went by where she couldn’t eat due to talk of surgery in the evening. I didn’t eat either because I couldn’t eat in front of her, nor did I want to leave her alone in the ER. Once the CT scan was analyzed, six hours later, surgery was in scheduled to fix her elbow and radial bone that broke in two places near the growth plate.

Surgery is just the beginning of her long recovery with no gymnastics until October, so my big kid will swim laps and run with me this summer to start getting her strength back once her cast if off. I’m happy to have her as a workout buddy, and I’ll go a little bit slower until she catches up and passes me, which she already does on the run. Stinker.

Because of her injury, I took a whole week off from training, which never happens. I mean NEVER. But it’s all worth it. I spent some time with her doing puzzles, watching movie marathons, and supervising our renovation project. I also found time to take my bike to the shop for a tune-up and organized all of my gear. Now, she’s back at school with her giant full arm cast, and I’m back to training after a short break.

On cold mornings like this with the cherry blossoms near full bloom, I’m grateful that she got the best care, we all got a short break from our routine, and can now come back stronger than before. Because rest and recovery are all part of training, no matter what sport you’re in.

Speed Swim Workout

If you have a need for speed in the pool, then this workout is for you. When I swam competitively, my favorite events included the 50 and 100 free after suffering through the 500 free at swim meets during my entire first season. Unlike my swimming buddies, I’m still learning to love distance and am getting better at it. Here’s the sprint workout, so let me know how it goes for you:

Warm Up:

400 as swim 75/drill 25

6×50 kick–choice (with or without fins)

200 IM (Individual Medley)

300 pull 3/5/3/2

200 stroke (NO FREE)

Main Set: 

12x25s variable sprints on :25/:30/:35 REPEAT PATTERN 3x

  1. slow/fast
  2. fast/slow
  3. tempo
  4. FAP (fast as possible)

12x50s on :50/1:00/1:10 REPEAT PATTERN 3x

  1. DPS (distance per stroke)
  2. Build
  3. Tempo
  4. FAP

200 @ Race Pace with 1 min rest

4×50 DESD on 1:00

2x100s ALL OUT!  Rest 40s after each

Cool Down: 

100 Easy–choice

3000 yards total

 

What are you waiting for? Go and swim! Comment below with your favorite strokes, places to swim, or what you love about swimming.

Be Kind

My shoes did get muddy from the trail…

I planned on going for a solitary run around my favorite trail. With the recent rains, I thought it would be muddy and considered taking another route when I noticed a guy running down my street towards me. “He’s a runner,” I thought. I’ll ask him about the trail.

“Hey, how are you? Did you just come from the loop?” I said to the random running stranger in the gray sweatshirt. I talk to everybody. All. The. Time. In reality, I’m introverted, so I need a break from all the people sometimes. Still, I talk to everyone.

“Actually, I’m heading there now.” He smiled. Good thing he’s a talker too and doesn’t think I’m some weirdo waiting for strangers to go running with on the street corner.

“Well, are you going to the main road? Because there’s a way with less traffic that’s safer to get to the trail.”

“Yeah, I was heading there. I didn’t know there was a different way to get to the trail.”

“I’ll show you, especially since you live around here. You don’t want to run on that busy road; you’ll get hit by a car.”

The first thing he said was that he was a slow runner, but I reassured him that I would run his pace to the trail. After all, I’m warming up, and I can pick up the pace later on if I feel like it. I already swam and lifted, so my legs weren’t exactly fresh.

Turns out, he can keep a conversation going in addition to running faster with me than he would have alone since he’s just getting back into running. Plus, I also met one of my neighbors who’s a runner. Bonus! I know I’ll see him at one of my Meet Ups or on the trail soon. Keep running!

Team Store Coming Soon!

Are you excited? Because I’m super excited! Own Way Apparel is in the process of designing triathlon kits for V Formation Multisport that will be ready to go in the spring and just in time for triathlon season.

The store will have the following triathlon gear:

  • Sleeveless Tri Kits in one and two pieces
  • Sleeved Tri Kits in one and two pieces
  • Cycling Kits
  • Running Shirts

Here’s a sneak peak of the one-piece sleeved tri kit:

If you’re interested, I already have hats and t-shirts ready to go! Soon, there will be visors added to the mix too. Here’s what they look like:

Comment below or send me a PM if you’re interested in any gear before the store goes live!

What Motivates You?

It’s 4:30am, and my alarm is going off for the third time. I set it for three different times in case I accidentally turn one of the alarms off. 4:03am. 4:20am (because it’s funny for this former high school teacher who’s students got a kick out of this particular number and begged to write the date on the board). 4:27am. I choose weird times so my brain doesn’t know when to expect the early wake up.

It doesn’t matter. I’m up at 3:50am.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I love to stay up way past midnight and get up no earlier than 8:00am. That’s all changed with trying to fit in triathlon training around family and work schedules. Getting up early ensures that I get at least one of my two to three workouts for the day completed.

So, how do I motivate myself? Lots of ways! Please add some comments below and tell me how you motivate yourself to workout early in the morning, after work, or even late at night:

  1. I lie to myself. “It’s not that early.”
  2. New gear helps: “I get to wear my new swimsuit today!” Woohoo! Or, “I get to test out my new shoes, watch, tights, shirt, hat…”
  3. I joined US Masters Swimming, so my coach and teammates will wonder where I am if I miss a practice.
  4. I organize a 5am Meet Up run, so I know my running buddy is waiting for me on the corner at 4:45am in order to run up to the meet up location. No kidding. I used to think 6am was early.
  5. I get to show off my race gear. Yeah, I like to silently brag while wearing my Ironman Maryland cap.
  6. Strava will show that I didn’t train today.
  7. My friends on Garmin will rack up more miles than I did.
  8. I can go to Starbucks later and get a mocha and not feel that bad about it.
  9. I have a race or event to train for, and if I don’t workout, I won’t be ready.
  10. I can watch the sun rise while I run.
  11. I can run or bike through a new neighborhood or check out a new trail.
  12. I overcome my fears and know that anything is possible, especially in the open water.
  13. I meet the best people through triathlon and running.
  14. I can post another swim, bike, or run post on Facebook because that’s what I do all the time besides writing, reading, gardening, doing crafts, drinking decaf coffee, eating chocolate, or driving the kiddo to gymnastics.
  15. I am going to realize my dream of kicking butt into my 90s. Keep moving!

What motivates you? Leave a comment below!

Almost 2019

Darkness arrives unannounced just as I begin to make dinner. I didn’t ask darkness to come over or darkness’ friend, freezing cold weather, but they sat down at the table anyway so I set extra places because what could I do? Shortly after dinner I fall asleep on the sofa under a blanket because it seems like it’s been midnight since six o’clock this evening even though I know it’s not, yet I don’t want to go to bed before 7pm or do the strength workout I had planned. And, on top of all of this, my 5am morning swim seems to have happened yesterday because it seems so long ago.

All motivation disappears after dinner under that blanket. I want to eat mac and cheese and chocolate chip cookies all day with a mocha to drink.

If many of you are feeling like this, please give yourself a break and peek out from under your blanket, especially as New Year’s approaches with resolutions that seem to negate all the things you’ve done in 2018 in the hopes that you will be a better you in 2019. Remember, you are perfect as you are right now. Always. Even if you are like me on the sofa and not at the gym right now.

In fact, if you’re going to make any resolutions, I suggest changing the way you talk to yourself during training:

Instead of: I’m trying to survive the swim and not drown.

Say: I am learning how to swim more efficiently.

Instead of: I am terrified of riding my bike.

Say: I am practicing my bike handling skills often. 

Instead of: I’m a slow runner. (one of my own that my coach told me to never say)

Say: I am working to improve my speed in running.

Besides changing the way you talk to yourself, start planning out your race year with family and work in mind. I cut way back on what I normally do because I’ve been feeling burnt out lately. I decided that this year is the year that I will do at least one distance swim of 2.8 miles (maybe a 5K swim), improve my times in the sprint and Olympic distance triathlon, and maybe do a 70.3 near the end of the season with the goal of a possible PR. The swim is my big goal, and if I don’t PR in the other distances, I’m OK with that. I train for one thing at a time. I’m committed to three races, but I might do five events, and I chose local races to save on travel costs (2018 was an expensive year with the Ironman, hotels, and travel).

*1. Fort Ritchie Swim Fest-2.8 mile swim or 4500 meters in a lake, May 2019, splitting an Air B and B with my BFF from high school who’s also swimming!

*2. Philly Women’s Tri-sprint distance, July 2019–near me, no hotel needed.

3. Tri AC-Olympic distance, August 2019??? I might do this with my swimming friend…

*4. Waterman’s Triathlon Festival 70.3, September 2019, staying at my triathlon friend’s house three hours away.

5. Richmond Marathon–not a definite…yet., November 2019–Phil and I LOVE this marathon and have run it three times.

All of this takes into account time to visit family and friends, our family’s work schedule, my daughter’s camps, and family time at home.

If you’re short on funds, organize a fun swim, bike, or run with your friends with a plan to meet at a restaurant so that it has the same feeling as a race without the cost or travel. Plan within your budget and look for off-brand races, choose one big goal, and change the way you talk to yourself. Now, when darkness comes over for dinner, you’ll be focused on where you are now and looking to the light of summer. You will see improvement. No resolutions necessary.

Holiday Swim Workouts

12 Days of Christmas Workout

1×300 swim
2×50 drill
3x100s Individual Medley
4x100s as swim, kick, pull, swim
5x50s sprints on 1:00
6x75s IMO (no free) kick, drill, swim by 25s
7x100s on 2:00 FAP
8x25s as streamline kick and swim on :35
10x kicks for 3 strokes for 1×100
11x25s IMO with free
12x 10 seconds Vertical Kicking in deep end

Merry Christmas!

I’m late with Chanukah already over, but my athletes did do an 8 Days of Chanukah workout as well as a 12 Days of Christmas Workout. There are more holidays on the way, so why not do some of these fun workouts? I am already writing a New Year’s Workout! Happy Holidays!

8 Days of Chanukah Swim Workout

8x75s as kick/drill/swim by 25s

8x50s IMO as drill

8x25s as streamline kick/FAP free

8x150s as free/back/free by 50s on 2:30

8x75s free-build on 1:30

100 cool down

3100 yards total

Happy Holidays to all during the month of December!