June mailbag questions. To have your questions answered by one of the coaches, email us at email@example.com.
1. I want to buy a wetsuit but I am not sure if I should get a sleeveless or full sleeve. Advice?
Either wetsuit will help you keep warm and also make you faster in the water. A full-sleeve will be faster than a sleeveless, but the trade-off is that you may find the sleeveless suit tires your shoulders. Some people prefer the better range of shoulder motion in a sleeveless suit while others want the speed advantage of a full suit. If you live in a northern climate, your open water swim temps may never get higher than the 70s, which means you could be using your wetsuit all season and could learn to adapt to the shoulder restriction of a full sleeve wetsuit. If you live in the South and can only use your wetsuit for your early and very late season races, a sleeveless suit might work better.
2. I just came back from Ironman Texas and I am hooked. I want to do an Ironman next year. Which one should I do as my first??
There are more and more Iron distance races popping up around the country lately. We just published a blog on this topic that you can read here that explores the various factors to consider to help you make an informed decision. If you are thinking about doing an Ironman next year, NOW is the time to make a plan! Keep in mind that the Ironman branded races sell out quickly. However, the non-Ironman branded races (still 140.6 miles) won’t sell out as quick and offer all the same amenities.
3. I recently completed a race with an open water swim. I know that I am a better swimmer than my results indicate. Why am I always slower in open water?
You certainly are not alone in this area. An overwhelming majority of triathletes find themselves slower in open water than in the pool. It can be contributed to a number of reasons: lack of open water experience, swimming off course, currents, long swim exits, timing mat locations. I most commonly attribute my swim times to two of those–swimming off course and long swim exits. In a pool you are constantly readjusting the direction you swim–it is easy to follow the black line. In open water, there is no line to follow. In fact, you visibility is often limited to a couple feet. Therefore, you may not swim as efficiently as you do in the pool. Secondly, many open water swims have long water exits whereby you may walk the final 10 feet. In the pool, you probably hit the wall then look at your watch. Keep these thoughts in mind as you begin swimming more and more in open water. With a little more experience, you can likely align your times to that of the pool.
4. I am horrified when I approach bottle exchanges during races. Is there a trick to grabbing a bottle and not wrecking?
You don’t see water bottle exchanges very frequently until you get into the half-iron distance and beyond, but you may also see them in some of your Olympic distance races. Being able to exchange water bottles allows you to race with only one bottle on your bike (usually an aerobottle). Be sure you know exactly what they will be passing out on the course. You don’t want to be relying on Gatorade only to discover during your race that they are only passing out water.
Practice slowing down and reaching for a bottle at table height in your neighborhood. You can place a bottle on or in your mailbox or ask a friend to help you practice by passing you a bottle. Developing this skill requires confidence and the ability to relax in a tense situation. Have a relaxed grip and don’t tense your shoulders.
Don’t feel like you need to break a speed record. Keep yourself, the other racers, and the generous volunteers safe by slowing enough to make the pass comfortably. If you need to stop instead of slowing, please make sure you pull to the side of the road so others do not get held up behind you. If you use an aerobottle, quickly pour the contents of your new bottle into the aerobottle and discard the now-empty new bottle in the drop zone.