Triathlon seminar: I survived the swim and then some

Participants listen as the Fleet Feet Chicago instructors demonstrate how to put on a triathlon wetsuit.

My USAT membership card came in the mail a couple of weeks ago. But I didn’t feel like a triathlete until last weekend.

On Sunday, June 27, Fleet Feet Chicago put on a women-only triathlon seminar at Ohio Street Beach called, “Surviving the Swim.” Thankfully I survived.

The point of the seminar was to learn how to be successful during the swim portion of a triathlon. I’m so glad I went, because the most important lesson I learned is that I know diddly about triathlons.

Thanks to the patience and expertise of the instructors, I now know enough to be dangerous. Muwahahaha.

Here are the top things I took away from the seminar that every newbie triathlete can benefit from:

A Fleet Feet Chicago staffer demonstrates how to put on a wetsuit inside out.

  • Don’t take a bath towel to set up in transition. Take a hand towel. Apparently everyone will make fun of you if you do it the first way.
  • Your wetsuit should be snug.
  • The wetsuit should “make contact” with your groin. There shouldn’t be a pocket of air between the wetsuit and the groin region.
  • You don’t want to use Vaseline on your wetsuit. It’ll ruin in. Use lubrication products like Suit Juice or Body Glide instead. They will help you get your wetsuit on without breaking down the neoprene.
  • You should NEVER pee in your wetsuit. A small amount of water gets in that creates a layer between your body and the wetsuit. Your body heat will warm the water and keep you warm as a result. (Plus, the pee will also break down your suit.)
  • A wetsuit should last you about a decade. Don’t use your nails to pull it on. Use the pads of your fingers.
  • Beach starts and water starts are different. For beach starts, lift your legs out of the water to run through to cut resistance and quicken your time. For water starts, tread water and then spread out to “claim your water space” before the gun goes off.

    A few of the ladies and I bonded over putting on wetsuits for the first time. Clockwise from top left: Denise, Kristen, Maggie and me.

  • People will swim right on top of you. And maybe even over you. Panicking is bad. Your suit helps you float. So just stay calm.
  • In open water there are no lanes (duh!) and there may not be a reliable way to be sure you’re going straight. To sight, look around a little every 12 strokes or so you can stay on path.
  • Breathing bilaterally will serve two great purposes: one, it will allow you to not drown when waves are coming from one side; two, it will allow you to sight better if there’s only water on one side but land on the other.
  • Goggles have different shapes for sighting. You can see more in your peripheral vision out of different types than pool racing goggles.
  • Drafting (or swimming in the bubbles of the) person in front of you makes it easier to swim through the water. You want to be almost about to touch the foot of the person in front of you. Almost.
  • Swim until your arms touch bottom.

    Dozens of women came out for the Fleet Feet Chicago women-only triathlon seminar on June 27.

  • It’s easier to take your wetsuit off in the water.
  • This one isn’t really a tip, but it was still pretty cool to learn. There are dozens of awesome athletic women in Chicago. I want them all to be my friends!


Filed under Open Water, Triathlon, Wetsuit

2 responses to “Triathlon seminar: I survived the swim and then some

  1. I was at that women’s triathlon swim seminar too! I can actually see part of my friend in the picture below. Thanks for posting this–it’s a good reminder of the things we learned. Good luck to you in your triathlons!

    • That’s so cool, Christy! Have you been back to practice open water swimming? I’ve only been once so far… so that’s two times in open water for me — ever! Good luck in your triathlons. I hope you’ll keep me posted how they go :)