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To Wetsuit Or Not To Wetsuit

Let’s start by saying that wetsuits are completely optional at The Rookie Tri. The water temperature is 72 which is more than comfortable to swim in without a wetsuit. So what are the advantages and disadvantages to wearing one? We created a Rookie specific why or why not list.

For all of our true Rookies out there, remember the golden rule: Nothing new on race day. Unless you have an opportunity to swim in the exact wetsuit you will wear on race day at least once before, it is advised to not try something new the day of the race. 

A Quick Overview of the Rules and Water Temps

Here are the USAT’s rule on wetsuits and water temps. (all temps refer to surface water temperatures)

Under 50 degrees: Not suitable for open water swimming, even with a wetsuit
50 to 65 degrees: Suitable for open water swim, but a wetsuit is highly advised
65 – 78 degrees: Suitable for swimming with or without a wetsuit. Sleeveless suits are popular at this temp.
78 – 84 degrees: Race directors use their judgment to allow or not allow wetsuits at this range. Usually not eligible for awards at this temperature.
Over 84 degrees: Wetsuits not allowed

Why Wear a Wetsuit

Help Swim Ability

Wetsuits provide buoyancy. This can come in handy for any open water swim “panic” as the wetsuit will give you extra lift and make it easier to float while you bring your heart rate down and your focus back to swimming.

“Free” Speed

The buoyancy of the suit allows the wearer to swim faster than without the suit. The better the swimmer the less advantage the wetsuit may show. A swimmer can expect to save anywhere from a few seconds to tens of seconds per 100. Usually the longer the distance the more the savings is noticeable.  With the less exertion in the water, you will feel less of an energy drain as you are heading up to T1.

Warmth

The wetsuit can provide warmth to the swimmer in the cold water. If you are sensitive to the cold this can be great at making your more comfortable in the water.

Why Not Wear a Wetsuit

Cost

Wetsuits can be a big investment costing anywhere from just over $100 to almost a $1000.

Constricting

If you are not very comfortable and used to wearing a wetsuit, they can be constricting. Imagine wearing a life vest that is a size too small. This tight feeling across the chest can cause panic if one finds themselves uncomfortable mid-swim.

Added Time For Taking Off

While they may save you time while swimming, you still have to get out of the suit. This can add minutes to your transition time.

So to sum it up, for a short swim like the Rookie Tri the time saving can be negligible. It is really a toss up to how you feel on race morning and what you have trained for. Pack it in your bag and if it comes time to leave transition and you don’t want to wear it, simply leave it by your bike.

What else should you wear on race day? Check here

6 Items To Check Before Race Day

Make sure and check your gear before an event. Training can put wear and tear on important items. Here is a good check list to follow

1. Goggles: Make sure you have used them recently and that the eye seals have not perished and leak water. Check that the strap and nose piece aren’t brittle and are securely attached. Make sure the lenses aren’t scratched. If your goggles have any of these issues, consider replacing them and bringing them as back-ups to your new ones.

2. Wetsuit: Check for potential tears and frayed seams. Look for holes and cuts; these can be patched and glued to prevent water entering the suit. Jack & Adam’s can help you decide if the suit can be repaired. Wetsuits aren’t required, so don’t worry if you don’t have one.

3. Bike: Make sure that the bike frame has no cracks, the wheels are not bent, and that all components are in working condition including brakes and shifters. If you do not know how to check for these things, don’t worry – just call ahead to your local bike store and ask them to safety check it. This can also be a great opportunity to learn how to check the bike yourself. On race morning, make sure tires are inflated properly.

4. Helmet: The plastic shell needs to be firmly affixed to the foam and the strap should not be frayed. There should be no cracks or dents as these will likely not pass inspection when checking into transition. It should fit snugly around your head. The general rule for the chin strap is within two fingers spaces from the chin.

5. Cycling Shoes & Pedals: Make sure that the cleat is firmly attached to the bottom of the shoe. Replace cleat if it is worn down and may inhibit safe clipping in. Check and make sure pedals are firmly attached to the crank.

6: Running Shoes: Look to see that they are not worn out of alignment or that the midsole is crushed. Cut down or replace any long or frayed shoe laces. If using elastic laces make sure that have not lost elasticity and that any plastic is still in good working condition

11 Commonly Violated USAT Rules

1. Helmets: Only helmets approved by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) may be used in USAT sanctioned events. Helmets must be worn at all times while on your bike. This means before, during, and after the event. Penalty: Disqualification

2. Chin Straps: Chin straps must be buckled at all times when on a bicycle. DO NOT unbuckle your chin strap unless you are off your bicycle.
Penalty: Disqualification on the course; Variable time penalty in transition area only.

3. Outside Assistance: No assistance other than that offered by race and medical officials may be used. Triathlons and duathlons are individual tests of fitness. Penalty: Variable time penalty

4. Transition Area: All equipment must be placed in the properly designated and individually assigned bike corral. The wheel of the bicycle must be down on the side of the assigned space. All participants must return their bicycles to an upright position in their designated bicycle corral. No person shall interfere with another participant’s equipment or impede the progress of another participant. All bar ends must be solidly plugged. No participant shall bring ANY glass containers into the transition area.
Penalty: Variable time penalty

5. Drafting: Keep at least three bike lengths of clear space between you and the cyclist in front. If you move into the zone, you must pass within 15 seconds. Position–keep to the right hand side of the lane of travel unless passing. Blocking–riding on the left side of the lane without passing anyone and interfering with other cyclists attempting to pass. Overtaken–once passed, you must immediately exit the draft zone from the rear, before attempting to pass again.
Penalty: Variable time penalty

6. Course: All competitors are required to follow the prescribed course and to stay within all coned lanes. Cutting the course is an obvious violation and going outside the course is a safety issue. Cyclists shall not cross a solid yellow center line for ANY reason. Cyclists must obey all applicable traffic laws at all times. Penalty: Referee’s discretion

7. Unsportsmanlike-Like Conduct: Foul, harsh, argumentative or abusive language or other unsportsmanlike conduct directed at race officials, USA Triathlon officials, volunteers, spectators or fellow athletes is forbidden.
Penalty: Disqualification

8. Headphones: Headphones, headsets, walkmans, iPods, mp3 players, or personal audio devices, etc. are not to be carried or worn at any time during the race. Penalty: Variable time penalty

9. Abandonment: All personal equipment and belongings taken out onto the course must stay on the athlete the entire time. No garbage, clothing, etc. shall be thrown on the course.
Penalty: Variable time penalty

10. Race numbers: All athletes are required to wear race numbers at all times during the bike and run. Numbers must face the front and be clearly visible at all times. Numbers may not be cut or folded or altered in any way. DO NOT transfer your number to any other athlete or take a number from an athlete that is not competing.
Penalty: Variable time penalty for missing or altered number. Disqualification and one year suspension from membership in USAT for transferring a number without race director permission.

11. Wetsuits: Each age group participant shall be permitted to wear a wetsuit without penalty in any event sanctioned by USA Triathlon up to and including a water temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit. When the water temperature is greater than 78 degrees but less than 84 degrees Fahrenheit, age group participants may wear a wetsuit at their own discretion, provided, however that participants who wears a wetsuit within such temperature range shall not be eligible for prizes or awards. Above 84 degrees, wetsuits are prohibited.

For a complete list of USAT rules, please refer to the most up to date version at: usatriathlon.org/events/rules.aspx