Tag Archives | triathlon

Does a Triathlon Wetsuit Really Make You Faster?

I’m not a swimmer. I never had swimming lessons and I’m not sure I swam a full lap in a pool until I was 24. But I love the water, and I’ve got wetsuits galore. From thick surfing wetsuits to padded wakeboarding wetsuits to shortys, I’ve got neoprene for almost any occasion.

When I started triathlon, I cringed at the thought of buying another wetsuit. I went the first two seasons in my full-length surfing wetsuit. I’d look around at all the other triathletes in their shiny triathlon-specific wetsuits and think, “Those chumps will buy anything.”


Start of my first race ever–looking tough in a surf wetsuit.

In my second season, I started a Master’s swim class. I quickly learned I needed to unlearn everything. In races, my surfing suit felt like it was squeezing my chest, and I grew to hate swimming in a wetsuit. With only a few days before my biggest race of the year, a pro triathlete casually told me I was crazy for swimming in that. I gave in and rush ordered a triathlon wetsuit.

Needless to say, it felt fast—and I could breath freely. Or was it my imagination—a placebo effect. Was I faster with a wetsuit? Was the tri suit faster than my surf suit? Open water is deceiving: I wanted scientific proof. I went looking for answer, but when I couldn’t find it, I created my own test.

The Test

To determine if I was faster with a tri suit, I decided I would compare my 100m swim in jammers, a triathlon wetsuit, and a surf wetsuit (in that order). I’d swim in a 25m pool with substantial rest between sets. I record to the quantitative and qualitative data to find my best time, my average time, and how I felt in each circumstance. Swimming with a Masters class 2-3 times per week, I’ve acquired an acute sense for my swim.

Wetsuit Speed Results

I’m not a fast swimmer. But, I’ve done hundreds of 100m sets, so I knew my average was right about 1:30. My personal best timed was 1:24. In my test, I opened up with a 1:30, then pushed harder on my second set a new personal best at 1:23. I repeated the 1:23. It was a good strong swim day. Average: 1:25.

Next, let both wetsuits get waterlogged to represent being in water awhile. If you ever want a good way to blow 30 minutes imitating a struggling seal calf, try putting on a wet triathlon suit while you’re in the pool.

Pool 2

First set with the triathlon suit felt considerably more buyout—I had to work much less to stay afloat. I felt fast—but was it really? Finished set 1 and looked at the clock: 1:10. Wow! The next two came within seconds of the first. Average: 1:12.

Finally, the surf wetsuit. Immediately, it felt slow—like I had a drag chute attached. I couldn’t move my arms, it was hard to breath, and I started to overheat. But surely it was fast. Then, the times came in: Slower than my standard, wetsuit-less swim. I was shocked.

The Wetsuit Verdict

The results surprised me. I suspected the triathlon wetsuit would not be quite so fast. At 10-15 seconds per 100 meters, that could take off a minute or more even in a sprint. Shredding that amount of time for not additional effort is well worth the investment.

I was even more surprised that the surf wetsuit was slower on average than my standard swim. While it was only a second or two behind, it the perceived additional effort was completely ruled it out.

Bottom line: I’m sticking to my triathlon wetsuit.


Fast New Rides: Our Trek Speed Concept Tri Bikes

The spring triathlon season will soon be upon us!  As a matter of fact, our first race is in three weeks from today.  Lisa is stepping it up this year with a new tri bike and we finally had the opportunity to take it out on the road.  It was fast.

Speed Concepts

We are now both riding Trek Speed Concepts.  Lisa’s is the white one on the left.  For me, I added new aero dynamic wheels in hopes of increasing my mph average.  We’re looking forward to this upcoming race — the Desert International Triathlon — to see if speedy rides make a difference.  It should be a fast spring!


Failing Well: My Biggest Failures of the Year and What I Learned

What did you fail at this year?  Have you failed well?  Maybe going into 2012, you’ll want to fail more.

Around Bedford Industries, my grandfather is known for asking what failed.  One colleague fondly recalls a time before grandparents left for their yearly 8-month Florida hiatus, that my grandfather told him that when he returned, he didn’t want to hear about the successes, but all the things that didn’t work.  The inquiry seemed unorthodox.

ludlow markets ribbon

My grandfather with a now-defunct product line, but a product line that we learned so much from and eventually led us to some of our most exciting markets.

It’s December 30—the end of the year—and I’m cleaning up unfinished business.  I just canceled an old blog account.  The account represents a series of failed projects.  Some from this year and year’s past.  Instead of reflecting on this year’s successes, I’m reflecting on this year’s failures and, more importantly (in the spirit of my grandfather’s inquisition) what I learned from those failures.

Here’s how I failed this year and what I learned from it… Continue Reading →


Podium Finish at Nautica Malibu Triathlon!

The Nautica Malibu Triathlon is our most important race of the year and by far the largest races.  3,200 people come out to race the classic distance, including pros.  We trained hard and focused on tapering and nutrition this week.

Jay podium

I had one primary goal: Take 10 minutes off last year’s time.  This was within reach based on results throughout the season so far, but no easy task.  I also had two dream goals: Get to podium and finish in the top 100 overall.  Clinching a top three podium finish was a season goal for any race this year.  And it had so far eluded me–I finished 4th place in nearly every race.  To get to the podium and into the top 100, I’d need to take off at least 12 minutes and have a perfect race. Continue Reading →


Lisa’s First Triathlon: Will it be her next quest?

Long before she arrived in California, I convinced Lisa that she would love doing triathlons with me.  This was not a difficult challenge given her collegiate running career, affection for cycling, and growing enjoyment of swimming.  So, we planned two major (still upcoming) triathlons.

On Friday night, I remembered that the Castaic Lake Triathlon Series had its second race on Saturday morning.  You may recall that I spontaneously decided to compete in the first race late the night before.  With our first major triathlon (the Hansen Dam Tri) coming up next week, Lisa wanted some practice at a low key race.  I still felt sore from a hard workout earlier this week, but we decided to give it a go anyway.

Lisa in the transition area

Up at 5 a.m., we drove up to beautiful Castaic Lake.  At 8 a.m., the first gun went off.  I had a mixed swim–lost some ground due to poor sighting, but bested my previous time by almost 15 seconds.  My bike was about average and my run was strong, but not all-out given our bigger race next week.  For me, it was a train-through triathlon.

Lisa felt like she had a great swim.  She had to ride my second road bike since her’s is not here yet, but did well with it.  Then she felt the completely new sensation of trying to run after you bike.  The first time you try this, especially if you haven’t trained for it, your legs feel like they might collapse.

When all was said and done, Lisa got SECOND PLACE in her 20-24 age division!  Incredible for her first tri.

Lisa getting her medal

A few minutes later I asked her the burning question: “So, is triathlon your next windsurfing?”  For those who don’t know, Lisa traveled all over the world training as a competitive windsurfer and her “Quest” was a bid for single U.S. olympic spot.

“I don’t know,” she responded.  “I really liked it.”

After a short pause, she continued, “And I hated windsurfing for the first year.”


This Weekend’s Triathlon – And Why I Almost Didn’t Do It

In 2005, I bought out all my formula windsurfing gear to California.  I had a huge board and a 10-foot long sail.  Not to mention a boom, harness, and others parts.  I stuffed everything into my dorm room.  Why?  Because I wanted to race.  Or, at least I did in theory.

There were a number of windsurfing races in San Diego.  The year before, I made plans to race at every possible opportunity.  It sounded great in the abstract.  I remember the night before a race, I sat up debating whether I wanted to go.  I had many excuses: It was a long drive, I'd have to get up early, and it might make me too tired for studying later.  I didn't go.  And, after I didn't go that first time, it was easy not to go again.  In sum, I never went and my gear sat in the dorm room.

I had a flashback to that moment on Friday night.  I sat and debated whether I wanted do a triathlon on Saturday morning.  In the abstract, I wanted to do it.  But, it was easy to make the same excuses and talk myself down.

A friend and I talked awhile back about what it takes to climb mountains.  He had done Denali (McKinley) and told me how when things got tough, most other climbers would suddenly become overwhelmingly self-righteous.  They'd say, "You know, I've got a family," or "I've got responsibilities," and then talk themselves into turning around on moralistic grounds.

It's easy to find moralistic excuses in the face of adversity.

Trek Speed Concept 9.5

I was going to go, then I wasn't going to go, then I was going to go.  Finally, at 11 p.m., I decided I'd throw in the towel.  Out of curiosity, I Google-mapped the destination: Castaic Lake.  I thought it would be an hour-and-a-half drive from me.  To my surprise, only 40 minutes–practically in my backyard.  Now I had to go–it was settled.

And now, I'm so glad I did go.  It was a beautiful morning with a swim in warm, clear water.  The bike ride was fast through the mountains and the run tip-toed around the resevoir.  I had my personal best on the swim, my personal best for average speed on the bike, and a solid run.  To top it all off, I came in fourth in my age group, which secured a medal for me!

It made me with I would have gone to those windsurfing races a few years ago.  No doubt, I would have be so glad that I did.


Ventura Triathlon Today: One Spot Shy of the Podium


This morning was an early morning for the Breadth of Life Triathlon in Ventura.  For me, it was a major success–maybe even turning point–in part of my abilities.

Since I've been traveling so much, I was underprepared this triathlon.  No matter, I wanted to run it as a training event–my fitness is not peaking, nor did I taper for it.  My swim was exellent (we'll get to that momentarily), my bike improved, and my run lacked significantly.  The run came as no surprse as that's the event I lose most quickly if I'm not running enough.  My cardio strength wasn't up there.  Yet, I was surprised when I saw the results.  In my age (25-29)–a very competitive age group–I came in 4th!  Unfortunately, this meant I was just shy of the podium.  However, getting to the podium was never my goal for this race and, as to those goals, it was a success.

The turning point today was the swim.  I may have told you that I'm not a swimmer, so it's the part that makes me most concerned.  My goal is to simply do a confident swim.  In my first tri, I hit the water and my body went into shock.  I hyperventilated and swam almost the entire race as a breast stroke with my head above water.  It felt something like what I imagine drowning would be like.  Those kind of memories are hard to dismiss.  It still haunts me that paralysis could strike again.

But today, I hit the water–a longer race of 750 meters–with not even a glimmer of inconfidence.  My swim was strong from the beginning, through the rush at the start, and all the way to the finish.  I was actually catching people.  And I didn't have to stop my freestyle stroke at all.  It felt good.  My time also showed it–I kept a pace of 1:40 per 100 meters, which is considerably faster than I do in the pool.  This was my breakthrough.  I think I can still gain a lot of easy time through increased confidence, and when I finally give in and buy a real triathlon wetsuit (still using my surfing wetsuit!).

Overally, my highest recommendations for the Breadth of Life Triathlon in Ventura.  The ocean swim is in a protected harbor and the bike ride winds through Oxnard's picturesque fields.  I'm looking forward to the event next year–and maybe another chance at that podium.


Speed Testing my Triathlon Bike

Photos from the weekend, speed testing my Trek Speed Concept triathlon bike.  Fast?  Confirmed.  The bike will be out on the course next week at the Breath of Life Triathlon in Ventura.






Arnold Schwarzenegger, Triathlon, and Worship

Two human rights lawyers walk into a coffee shop…  This is how my Saturday began.  I picked up Gary Haugen, President and CEO of the International Justice Mission, for his first class session at Pepperdine.  He's with us for a week to teach an intensive course on human rights and the rule of law.

It was early, so we went straight for Starbucks.  I did a double-take as we entered.  In good Malibu form, Arnold Schwarzenegger–the Governator–was sitting right there by the door, apprently stopping by Malibu on a morning  group motorcycle ride.

I asked Gary if he had met Schwarzenegger before.  He had.  Gary spoke at a governor's prayer breakfast a number of years ago.  He told me that part of his usual talk was to discuss "body builders" and ask why body builders do all this work to build muscle simply to pose.  They're aren't actually using the muscle!  Good point.  The thrust of the example was an analogy to faith that we can build it up, but we need to use it and not just pose.  As he prepared for his talk, Gary debated whether he should use his usual body building example with the Governator there in the room.  Ultimately, he decided it was the perfect opportunity TO use the illustration.

The next morning, Sunday morning, I got up at 4 a.m. for a triathlon.  It always seems like a great idea when I sign up for these things… I think, "Sure, I'll do this!"  Then 4 a.m. rolls around and I've got to get up and drive an hour to work really hard and I begin to feel a good bit of buyer's remorse.  Nonetheless, I'd been training hard for the past few months it was the first triathlon of the year.  As I started getting ready, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 came to mind, a verse that often popped into my head on long runs:

"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies."

In many ways, the triathlon felt more like church.  I've been building the temple for over a year–training for triathlons–and on Sunday morning I got to worship in it.  The swim felt fluid.  The bike was wonderfully fast (I hit 41 miles per hour!).   And the run, though painful, had an almost masochistic pleasure to it.

I recalled this famous quote from the movie Chariots of Fire: "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure."  That line resonated with me yesterday.  I felt His pleasure.  I got to push my body–the temple–to the limits of what it's made to do.  I didn't know anybody at the race.  No one came to watch me.  It was just me and the limits of what I could do.  It felt like worship.

Posing is defined as taking a position with the hope of impressing others or presenting oneself insincerely.  Posing seems figuratively and practically contrary to one's purpose.  It feels really good to find a purpose–even if it is a small one, like racing a triathlon.  Triathlon gives me a purpose for which to build the temple.  And, when you exercise your purpose–big or small–it's an act of worship. 


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