Most triathletes have one thing in common - they are competitive. The elitists in the sport have their eyes on a podium position. At the same time, the majority strive mightily to beat their personal best (PB). Each time an event comes around, you get that adrenalin rush to test your DNA limits and extend your triathlon capacity. Sound familiar?
Between the three stages - swimming, cycling, and running - the contestants change gear and clothing. It is part and parcel of the race, and the clock does not wait for you to do it. So, the quicker you can get in and out of the transition area ready to tackle the challenges before you, the better. Indeed, it is frequently the make or break of achieving your goal. The top triathletes get through the swim cycle transition in less than sixty seconds, while the average competitor takes close to three times longer. Against this backdrop, the difference between first and second or missing your PB is probably a matter of only a few seconds.
You can propel your performance forward by mega-leaps simply by matching the pros' quick-change speed. This article is all about getting your wetsuit on and off seamlessly and speedily. It is critical if you want your swim to kick off the event with a bang.
Getting the wetsuit on
Here is the thing - your wetsuit is constructed from synthetic fibers called neoprene (or similar). Serrated fingernails can tear it easily, sometimes so severely only professional repair will restore it to race-ready condition. So arrive at the start with trimmed nails and erase that potential obstruction from your mind. Now, this may sound strange to you, but so much about what you do when putting the suit on circles back to the ease or difficulty of taking it off. Your lower legs hold things up the most when peeling the wetsuit off. Spraying vegetable-based cooking oil on them before donning the suit essentially removes that obstacle. Also, Applying a non-petroleum lubricant is critical to wetsuit comfort. The last thing you need out in the water is chafing on your skin that restricts movement and swimming rhythm. Slather it on your neck and in your armpits.
The rest of the putting-on maneuver involves a series of steps that create flexibility and maximum warmth, even in the coldest temperatures.
Make sure the suit is the right way round with the zipper at the back. With a sock on each foot, one leg at a time, slide them into the suit and pull it up to knee height. Remove the socks, and you should discover that the bottom of the leg material is at least above the ankles. The “socks technique” described here cuts out a lot of the friction getting to this point. However, if your wetsuit is the Sumarpo Vanguard, it removes socks from the process. Check if that’s your brand or one of the others on the market with the unique Super Slipskin lining for a frictionless slide.
The next trick is to grab the suit at the skin contact point (mind, not at the suit top) and gradually inch it above the knees. Then, stand up (if you are sitting) and continue with the “inching action” until the suit is over your thighs up to your hips.
We’ve arrived at a pivotal point in the process - let’s call it “crotch comfort.” Once the suit is at hip level, the crotch compartment should feel like a good fit. The best way to describe it is “snug.” If not, jiggle the suit up from its bottom point (i.e., above the anklebones) until the material and the crotch are flush (i.e., no creases).
Now we’re ready to engage the suit with your upper body. Again, at the point of body contact, shift the suit up to your lower chest. Fit a sock over each hand and, similar to the leg-fitting actions (i.e., one hand at a time), push them into the sleeves until the suit covers your shoulders. The bottom of the sleeves should be at your wrist level or higher. Remove the socks. Again, if the suit is SUMARPO VANGUARD (or one of the other brands with Super Slipskin lining), skip the sock routine.
The armpit should align snuggly with the material. If not, play with the sleeve at the wrist. Do this until the suit feels like a second skin.
Reach back and pull the zipper up, ensuring it's "down-locked." Also, secure the Velcro neck-strap. It's something you must do yourself, so the first time around, double-check with a veteran co-competitor to confirm you did it correctly. After that, it should be a cinch.
Now that you've done the hard yards, test for comfort and flexibility. Circle your arms in a swimming motion, squat down to second-test the crotch area, and confirm that it's not too loose on the shoulders. If any of these exercises overly restrict or expose bodily irritation, return to the relevant wetsuit extremity (i.e., leg or sleeve bottom) and inch up or down until it all feels right.
Finally, add one more application of cooking spray to the outside of the lower legs and arms of the suit; this aids in wetsuit removal. Now you're ready to hit the water.
How to Take Off a Wetsuit
As you're coming out of the water, feel for the zip cord and yank it down. Moving toward the transition area, wiggle out of the sleeves and pull the suit down to waist height. Remove your goggles and cap and stuff them into one of the empty sleeves.
You've reached the transition enclosure. Now's where your vegetable-based oil preparation pays off. When you're at your spot, put both hands on the wetsuit at your waist. Push it down to your ankles. TIP - before the race starts, make sure you scout the enclosure thoroughly. It's likely to be chaos with others doing the same thing you are. Simply put, don't lose time trying to locate your gear for the next stage.
Planting your foot on the wetsuit as it lies on the ground, kick a leg out. Similarly, kick/stand the other leg out. If you need a little more help disconnecting, use your hands. Be sure to pack it away in your allotted space to avoid unnecessary penalties.
Suppose you are a novice; we recommend practicing this process a few times before the big day. Don't be shy to ask the "old-hands" for tips on all or any aspect—there's nothing like experience to smooth out the rough edges.