A list of tips and strategies regarding the triathlon wetsuit for the triathlete on race day
The following is a list of tips and strategies regarding the wetsuit that I have learned over the years that may be of some help to you as you approach your upcoming triathlon racing season.
1. Swim training with your wetsuit
By all means, give your wetsuit a “sea trial”. In fact, I encourage it. Go ahead and take a dip in the pool, lake or ocean with your wetsuit on and swim a few strokes. It will help you develop a feel for swimming while wearing this new rubber contraption. It will probably feel funky for some of you, but fear not. Even when you think you are dragging in the water, you will actually be swimming faster.
I do not suggest you wear it during your swim training on a consistent basis. Once is enough. In fact, wearing your wetsuit during a normal swim workout could be dangerous. As we approach the summer month’s water temperatures will rise and the possibility of dehydration and even overheating is very real. Besides, you will always have time before the start of a race to hop in the water and get in an easy warm-up.
2. Be very careful pulling on your wetsuit
Typically, the wetsuit rubber is very “tender” and can tear very easily. If you pull too hard on the wetsuit with your fingers, you could wind up pulling out small pieces of the rubber.
How do I know this? I have done it. I usually do the traditional “gather from the bottom and slowly pull” routine similar to putting on a pair of long socks.
3. Attempting to put on your wetsuit when wet or sweaty
Attempting to put on your wetsuit when wet or sweaty can be very difficult. And such situations usually occur the morning of the race. Often times, folks will take a dip in the water before the race and warm-up without the wetsuit. If you do you will need to towel dry before attempting to put your wetsuit on.
When would you possibly put a wetsuit on when you are sweaty? Again, just before a race and after your “pre-race” warm-up. Most of us warm-up before a race with a jog, or a spin on the bicycle. Inevitably, as our body temperature rises, so does our level of perspiration.
This will make it extremely difficult to slip the wetsuit on and could lead to excessive pulling on the suit and possible tearing. If you do insist on warming up with a jog or bike spin, take a quick dip in the water to cool you off then towel dry. As we approach the summer months, certain areas of the country typically experience high humidity and the early mornings can become very damp. Even normal walking can cause you to perspire.
The reason being, the air is so full of moisture, evaporation is minimal and you perspiration basically has no place to go. In these situations you will find it difficult to pull the wetsuit on. Again, towel dry as best you can prior to slipping the wetsuit on. But keep an eye on the situation. If the race is a larger event, with the transition area located in a hotel parking lot, grab your wetsuit and head on inside the air-conditioned hotel lobby. When you cool off…pull her on. Again, I have done this! It may be a good idea to pack an extra towel in your diddy bag as well.
4. Go to the bathroom before you put on a wetsuit
AND IF YOU CAN’T…MAKE YOURSELF! I am not kidding here folks. I have almost missed the start of a race because of this. Even if you typically go to the bathroom first thing in the morning, you will have to go again. And if luck prevails, it will be right before the start of the race. Therefore, use the port-a-potty at the race and do so BEFORE you put on your wetsuit!
5. Chafing caused by the wetsuit
Perhaps the most susceptible spot on the body for wetsuit chafing is the neck area. Other areas may include those where the wetsuit trim is in contact with the skin, such as under the arms on a sleeveless suit. And the best way to prevent chafing is by applying a salve or ointment to these areas of contact after putting on the wetsuit.
However, and at the risk of sounding redundant, do not use a petroleum-based jelly. It could eat through your wetsuit. I use KY Jelly…it is water based. You can pick it up at any drug store. Some folks will also apply a small amount of salve around the ankles to help when slipping the suit. I have even heard of individuals who spray PAM around the foot, ankle and calf area for the same reasons. This step is up to you. Do what works for you!
6. Pulling off the wetsuit after the swim
Upon exiting the water during the swim portion of the triathlon, pull off your goggles and cap, and then immediately grab your zipper chord from behind and unzip your wetsuit.
While running towards your bicycle, begin pulling your arms out of the sleeves so by the time you reach your bike, the upper portion of your wetsuit is gathered at the waist.
Once at your bike, pull the wetsuit down around your ankles and step out of it as best you can. This is where the salve or PAM may help.
7. Post-race wetsuit care
Finally, hose off your wetsuit after the race especially if the swim was in salt water. However, even if the swim is in fresh water, it won’t hurt to hose her down. Then hang her up in the shower. She will drip dry.
And that is all folks! If you have some tips that I have left out, please let me know so we can add them to the list. Until then, Good luck at the races!