Wednesday was my first official wetsuit practice.
With water temperatures pretty darn cold, it doesn't look like I'll get any open water swimming in before the June 8th triathlon. But I needed to practice swimming a bit in my wetsuit and more importantly how to get out of it.
Getting into the wetsuit is actually the hardest part, but luckily you do that before the race so I can make the 10 or so family and friends gathered to watch me give me assistance.
First, you grease yourself up. You can use a product called Body Glide, which is really made to help with chaffing issues, or you can use cooking spray. Yes, cooking spray. Think of yourself as one big muffin tin and spray. It helps you get the suit on and, more importantly, slide off in transition.
So at the pool Wednesday night I brought my suit and wiggled my way into it. Swim master Greg zipped up the back and in the water I went.
I know that everyone told me I would float but I didn't think I would feel so spongy. I felt much lighter in the suit (even as it was a bit constrictive in my chest). I went for the full body suit, although several people urged me to get a sleeveless suit. While I appreciate their stories and input I went with the full body wet suit because (a) I am ALWAYS cold and value warmth and (b) I need all the extra buoyancy I can get.
Surprisingly I didn't feel all that restricted in my arm movements. I pretty much felt like I could do a full stroke and swam probably about 800 yards or so in the suit.
Then we practiced getting out.
At first, I did a fast 50 yards then hopped out of the pool.
"How did you feel?" Greg asked me.
"Considering it took me three minutes to climb out of the pool and finally stand, a little dizzy."
"You were disoriented, right?" Greg asked. "Get back in, do another 50 and this time, kick like hell the last 25 yards."
I did that and it made a huge difference. My legs were kicking like crazy and when I jumped on to the deck I didn't feel so lightheaded.
One more time, only this time I was going to actually get out of my suit.
I kicked like crazy, got out of the pool and thought about what I was doing. I opened the Velcro enclosure around my neck with my left hand then grabbed the zipper cord with my right and pulled up.
The top half of my wetsuit easily came down. I then worked it down over my hips. Once it was below my knees I stepped on the suit to get my feet out.
The whole process took only about 90 seconds. Getting out was pretty easy.
Ah, but then I had to get back in the pool without the wetsuit and swim some more. And that was a challenge. I didn't float as easily. I didn't glide as easily. In fact, I spent the rest of practice concentrating only on the first part of my stroke -- the glide and the catch. The more efficient I can become with my stroke, the less energy I'll expend, which will be key since not only do I have to survive the 750 meter swim but bike and run afterward.
Still, that wetsuit will go a long ways to making me feel more comfortable in the water. I already feel a bit like a superheroine in it.