Posted by Bryan Hamann on Monday, November 4, 2013
When I first signed up for Ironman, the thing that scared the crap out of me and really created a lot of doubt was the swim. I have worked really hard on my swimming over the last couple of months and have gone from barely being able to do 100m to now relatively comfortably being able to do 2500m without stopping.
But, to get back to the question posed as the title of this post, is a wetsuit really necessary? I would say yes, well at least for most of us mere mortals. Firstly, a wetsuit makes you a lot more buoyant, it helps your legs float, which for me is a big deal, because I have heavy, muscular legs that like to sink. This forces me to have to kick a lot more, just to keep "flat" in the water, and it wastes a lot of energy. With a wetsuit, I hardly have to kick at all, this is great because it keeps my heart rate down and I don't tire nearly as quickly.
Secondly, and the what most people associate the purpose of a wetsuit with, is warmth. Being warmer, just adds to your overall comfort, and staying calm and comfortable is crucial to keeping your heart rate and energy expenditure down, especially in the beginning of the swim when things get crazy.
Before I recently completed my first Olympic Distance Traithlon, I was stressing about the water temperature in the weeks leading up to it. Luckily, about a week before the time I decided to take the plunge and buy a wetsuit. I am extremely glad I did. On the morning of the race, the weather was miserable, and if I hadn't had that wetsuit, I'm certain the swim would have been a rather unpleasant experience, but the wetsuit just gives you that extra bit of confidence in knowing that a) you will be warm and b) you will float - plus it has the added benefit of making you about 10% faster.