COACH AND USAT 70.3 ATHENA AG CHAMP CC ROWE OF WTF ENDURANCE GIVES US SOME TIPS ON HOW TO GET OUT OF OUR WETSUITS FASTER AND SAVE TIME IN T1.
Picture this: you have just finished your swim, emerging from the water like the neoprene-clad triathlon goddess that you are, ready to head into transition. You realize with horror that you somehow have to deftly disentangle yourself from the triathlon equivalent of a straight jacket, while attempting to not moon innocent bystanders or falling down and breaking your nose. I hear you. I’ve been there. Thankfully, with a couple of simple techniques, you can mitigate time lost in T1 to needless flailing and wrestling and focus on what’s really important: getting to the bike so that you can FLYYYYYYY!
“Even though you might want to get to your bike to use the rack to steady yourself during this balancing act, resist the temptation. The longer you wait to get out of the wetsuit after exiting the water, the more it sticks to you and the harder it is to peel off.”
WATER INTO THE WETSUIT.
This brings me to the first step to extracting oneself from a wetsuit: using water to detach the neoprene from your skin. Wetsuits work by trapping a small layer of water between the skin and the suit, thus creating a small thermal barrier that traps body heat. As soon as you exit the water, that thin barrier dissipates and the inside layer sticks to your skin like glue. To prevent this, make sure to get MORE water into the suit as you’re exiting. Just as you find your feet and stand up, before doing ANYTHING else, grab the neck of your wetsuit, pull it down as far as you can, and scoop up a neckful of water.
Yeah, I know that “neckful” isn’t REALLY a measurement, but you want to get as much water in there as you can, especially if you are using a long-sleeved suit.
If using a long-sleeved suit, just after scooping up the water, put your arms down for a split second so that some of the water can seep down the armholes.
As you exit, unzip the wetsuit, and you will feel the water gush through the suit,
separating its neoprene loveliness from your skin. Grab one side of the neck with your opposite hand, and pull it over your shoulder while at the same time bringing your arm up and through the neck hole. Your sleevewill end up inside out, and that’s just fine. By the end of this process, your whole wetsuit will be inside out, so your sleeve won’t feel excluded. Repeat with the other arm and pull the wetsuit to your waist. Make sure to make strange faces while in this process to be memorialized forever by the photographer.
The absolute easiest way to shed a wetsuit is with the help of another person. Some races have volunteers called “peelers” or “strippers” whose sole job is to help you out of your wetsuit. (Side note: even when there are strippers, make sure to scoop water into the suit! It makes everything slide off more smoothly!)
If your race has strippers, your job is simple. Using the method outlined above, get your
wetsuit down to your waist – half inside out – by the time you reach the volunteers. Then, lie down on your back and stick your legs in the air toward the volunteer. (Think “baby getting its diaper changed,” only there’s hopefully less poop.) The volunteer will grab your wetsuit while you lift your butt up off the ground, and striiiiiiip it off your body, pulling it completely inside out. You stand up, they throw your suit at you, and you’re on your way!
Alas, alack, some races, however, do not provide strippers. If this is the case, then follow the same method to get your suit to your waist.
From here, it gets a wee bit trickier, and requires a wee bit more balance and dexterity than having a stripper’s help. (That’s a sentence I never thought I’d write, and probably one you never thought you’d read in a multisport magazine! But I digress.)
Even though you might want to get to your bike to use the rack to steady yourself during this balancing act, resist the temptation. The longer you wait to get out of the wetsuit after exiting the water, the more it sticks to you and the harder it is to peel off. Here’s the breakdown of the balancing act. Get your wetsuit to your waist, as described above – water
scooping and all – but then continue pulling it down, working it inside out, so that you have the entire suit down as close to your feet as possible.
You have now created a neoprene ankle restraint; any attempt at running should be completely avoided because you WILL fall over. Now, use your left foot to pin the wetsuit down, while you lift your right leg so that it slides out of the wetsuit, reaching down to pull the suit over your right foot at the very end.
Your right leg is now completely free of its shackles and your wetsuit pant leg is entirely inside out. Step on your wetsuit with your right foot (close to your left foot, but not impeding the movement of it). Keeping your balance, lift your left leg out through the wetsuit, grabbing the wetsuit at the end and guiding it off your left foot, just like you did with your right foot.
I know. You are thinking to yourself, “How in the world am I going to do THIS without falling over???” The answer is, “PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE!” This takes practice and balance. One thing to keep in mind is that you will be a little tired and possibly disoriented after the swim, so if you feel like you’re going to fall over, it’s best to pull the wetsuit down to your ankles, and sit down to get it off your feet. (Not so great for your transition times, but either is falling over and breaking your nose.)
EXITING COLD WATER
If you are swimming in VERY cold water, it might be ill advised to scoop water into your wetsuit. Instead, follow the steps above minus the water-scooping part, bearing in mind that it won’t be nearly as quick and painless without the added benefit of the water separating your skin from the wetsuit. How cold is too cold? I would venture to say below 59°F/15°C. Take note, though, I am from Texas and I DIE if the water is below 70°F/21°C. So I miiiiight not be the best person to ask.
PRO TIP: I reached out to Amy Dixon, parathriathlete and member of Team USA to see what her favorite tricks are. She uses Tri Slide spray on her neck, wrist, and calves to assist with getting the wetsuit off. Also, she cuts her wetsuit pant legs short, so they hit her midcalf. This prevents the suit from catching on the timing chip during removal. Thanks, Amy!
So there you have it. The “1 crazy trick to get out of your wetsuit quickly!” The real test, however, isn’t getting OUT of a wetsuit. The real test is getting INTO the sucker! Happy racing, y’all!