We will be continuing the tradition of am informative article leading into each swim of the swim series which kicks off next week.
To start, here's an excellent article by Club Member Scot Reid (pictured). Scot has swum at a high competitive level in his native south africa and continues to be the man to beat in sligo and beyond. Scot has won the Warrior of the Sea 6km swim as well as the Swim Series itself.
Openwater Swimming Equipment, Scot Reid.
One of the great things with swimming is that we do not require too much equipment. However it is important that what we use works for us. Be it a borrowed hat that slips off mid race, a pair of leaking goggles or a wetsuit that chafes or is too tight, we have all experienced one or the other at some point in time. Below are a few simple guidance notes on how best to choose your swim gear.
A simple enough piece of equipment but vital in colder open water swims. First and foremost ensure that you buy the right sized hat for your head. In general, hats tend to come in ‘one size fits all’, but it is possible to get large, medium and small fits. Too small a hat puts increased pressure on your head and can cause headaches during and after your swim. The last thing you want going into transition to your bike is a throbbing headache. When fitting your cap, ensure a snug fit with as little horizontal ridges over your head as possible. If you find it difficult to push your hands up into your cap on either side of your head at the same time, the cap is too small. Ultimately, IF IT FEELS TOO TIGHT, IT IS TOO TIGHT. Caps also come in different thicknesses. Given the relatively low water temperatures we swim in, it is advisable to get a good quality, thick silicone cap. If youtend to feel the cold more than others, wear TWO hats. We loose most of our heat through our heads, so it is important that we keep it well insulated. If you find that the silicone cap does not do the job, there are also neoprene open water swimming caps available from most swimwear distributors.
Probably the most discussed piece of sporting equipment on the planet. The humble swim goggle has been blamed for many a bad swim time, DNF or lost race. Ask for three different peoples advise on what swim goggles to buy and you will get three completely different and conflicting answers. Everybody has a favorite and everybody has an opinion. The bottom line is, buy the pair that suits YOU best. Design and brand differences are so small that any one pair will NOT make you go any faster or slower.
Fitting: It is advisable not to buy your goggles on the internet unless you have been in to a shop to try the specific pair on first. Everybody has a different shaped face and different shaped eye sockets. What is more, your left eye socket is different from your right, so it is important that you try a wide spectrum of goggles before committing to
buy. Fit for a complete seal. The main objective in wearing goggles is to seal your eyes off from the water so it is important that you get the best possible fit. Try this simple test to see if a pair of goggles fits you correctly. Place the goggles over your eyes with the strap hanging loose underneath the eye pieces (i.e. do not place the strap over your head). Using your index and middle fingers, push the goggles onto your face (over your eyes) so that you push out some of the air in the eye pieces to form a slight vacuum inside the two eye pieces. Now, let go of the goggles. A
number of things may occur at this point: Firstly, one side (or both) might spring off your face quickly. If this occurs, those are not the goggles for you, the bridge between the eye pieces is too small for your nose. Second: one side might slowly come loose and fall off. If this occurs, put the goggles back, they are not for you, one
eye socket is a different shape. Third: both sides may come away from your face slowly. These goggles do not have a good seal and do not fit your
face at all. Fourth: the goggles remain in place but they hurt the bridge of your nose or one or other of your eye sockets. These are not for you, the goggles are probably too small.
Five: the goggles remain in place and feel comfortable. These goggles are for you.
Once you have a brand or make that fits correctly, you can then choose lens type and colour. It is advisable to get a pair with anti fog protection (although, I have yet to find a pair of goggles that does not fog up at some time). Lens Colour is an important factor but often overlooked. In general, we do our swims in Sligo in overcast or
moderately dull conditions. If your lens is too dark you will have problems siting. It is difficult enough at the best of times to site correctly, so wide angled, clear goggles are probably the best for our conditions. It is also important to note that on the sunnier days when you might want tinted goggles, ensure that they are polarized
and UV protected.. When you wear tinted goggles, your pupils dilate allowing in more light and UV. Increased UV over time can damage your eyes, so lenses should be UV protected and if possible polarized to help protect your eyes.
A triathlon swimming wetsuit is designed to improve your swim speed. This is proven and true. Wearing a triathlon swimming wetsuit will improve an average/beginner swimmers time by as much as 19 seconds per 400m. Thats a whopping 1 minute 15 seconds (on average) for an Olympic distance Triathlon swim, just by wearing the right wetsuit. They can be expensive, but in comparison to cycling equipment, it is only a drop in the ocean (pun intended) for the improvement you receive. Now, which wetsuit to buy. As I am sure you are all aware, this topic is about as tricky to deal with as the goggle issue. Everyone has different opinions, there are hundreds of suits to choose from, hundreds of designs, ever improving technologies and one-up-manships. As with a pair goggles, choosing a wetsuit depends entirely on personal preference. Basically a triathlon swimming wetsuit has three main function; Streamlining, buoyancy and insulation. I will discuss each briefly.
Wetsuit Streamlining: As mentioned, the tri wetsuit will improve your swim time, its what they are designed to do. All brands are relatively on par with regards to up-to-date technologies.
Wetsuit Buoyancy: As with streamlining, tri wetsuits are designed to give buoyancy in the right places. some wetsuits do however differ as to where buoyancy aids are placed. Some place it around the core and others on the legs. In general, most people require increased buoyancy in the legs, so check this out before you buy (Increased buoyancy is basically an area with thicker neoprene).
Wetsuit Insulation: Insulation is an important factor, particularly in the waters we swim in. Remember however that you do not want too much insulation, you are swimming after all and your body will heat up. If you have too much insulation you can run the risk of over heating and dehydration. As a rule of thumb, in our conditions here in
Sligo, anything greater than 5mm (in the right places) is probably too much and is the max limit allowed by triathlon regulations.
If you are new to open water swimming and triathlons, speak to the people in the tri club. They have the
experience and the knowledge to help you get started and I am sure would be more than happy to help you out. As
you become more familiar with all the equipment and a bit more ‘savvy’, start doing your own research on equipment
and stick to what works for you. Do not get swayed by the latest “high tech” swim designs or what other people say is
best if they do not suit you. Remember, on race day, it is YOU who has to complete the race