In mid-September, the Gear Junkie is signed up to compete in Ironman Wisconsin, a full-scale Ironman triathlon event that includes a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a 26.2-mile marathon run. In addition to some serious training and mental commitment, several key pieces of gear will help me swim, pedal and limp my way through the course.
Since the swim leg is the most intimidating portion of the race for me, I’ve forced myself to train hard five to six days a week in the pool. Three key products I’ve been using for training come from Speedo. The Air Seal goggle ($17, www.speedousa.com) has an air-filled gasket system to provide a fit that is tight and comfortable enough for long pool sessions where I’ve swan up to a mile back and forth through the chlorine-tainted water.
My swim cap of choice is Speedo’s Solid Silicone ($8), which is softer and less grabby than rubber swim caps I’ve used in the past. It feels comfortable on the head and does not pull my hair out when removed after a swim.
For time training, I wear Speedo’s top-end FSII Jammer suit ($150), which is part of the company’s Fastskin swimwear line. Fastskin technology employs a micro texture on the nylon/Lycra fabric that the company says mimics the pattern found on the skin of a shark. The effect noticeably reduces drag as you slide through the water trying to maximize efficiency and preserve every possible bit of forward momentum.
On race day, I will wear the T1 First Wave triathlon wetsuit from De Soto Clothing Inc. This two-piece wetsuit is designed to put your body in what the company calls the “swimming downhill” position, which essentially means that your head is down, your torso is optimally submerged and horizontal in the water and your legs are up near the surface floating behind you.
In addition to positioning your body in the water, the First Wave wetsuit decreases drag and makes you more buoyant. The 5mm-thick legs are so buoyant that kicking is barely necessary with this wetsuit, which is key in a triathlon where you need to save your leg muscles for the bike and run segments.
De Soto (www.desotosport.com) sells the T1 First Wave Pullover top ($198) and accompanying Bibjohn bottoms ($226) separately to let you customize the fit to your body. The company says the two-piece design eliminates shoulder restriction and fatigue that occurs on some one-piece wetsuit models.
Testing it out on a couple long open-water swims, I was seriously impressed with the First Wave wetsuit. The suit’s buoyancy, combined with its good range of motion and hydrodynamic qualities, made me feel like I was cheating. (The suit is approved by the International Triathlon Union and U.S.A. Triathlon, the sport’s main governing bodies.)
Indeed, the First Wave wetsuit has inspired a lot of confidence for me. Swimming 2.4 miles on race day is an undoubtedly daunting feat, but with this suit and my intensive swim training over the last four months I know I’ll get the job done on time.