How to cope with a non-wetsuit swim in a triathlon

Panicking about a non-wetsuit swim? It can be a little daunting, but with these tips there's no need to let a lack of rubber ruin your triathlon

The recent hot weather has resulted in lake temperatures rising to something resembling a warm bath. British Triathlon Federation competition rules state that wetsuits are forbidden in water temperatures above 22°c, so it’s likely that many races over the coming weekend will be declared non-wetsuit.

Swimming without a wetsuit can be incredibly daunting when you’ve practiced all season in that protective neoprene layer. Triathletes tend to rely on their wetsuit for buoyancy and speed- a non-wetsuit race can send even the most experienced athletes into a panic. However there’s no need to let the lack of rubber ruin your race, here are some tips to bear in mind if you are faced with a non-wetsuit triathlon…

Get in some practice

If time allows, head over to your local lake for a few training laps in just your trisuit. Get used to the feeling of the water on your skin as you move through the water- it’s quite a different sensation. You will be less buoyant and may need to consider your body position in the water, remember to keep your head, hips and heels in line.

Trust in your training

Remember that you are more than capable of swimming the distance. Look back over your training and remind yourself of the miles you’ve swam in the pool all without a wetsuit- you can do it!

Control the controllables

The water temperature is a factor completely beyond your control– don’t waste vital energy worrying about it. Focus on the aspects which you can control- your nutrition, your equipment and your attitude.

Be prepared

Usually the call is made on race morning regarding the use of wetsuits, so it’s worth bringing yours incase there is a last-minute change. The weather is unpredictable and an unexpected cold spell might mean that wetsuits are an option once again.

Think of the positives

Without a wetsuit, your transition times will be quicker- no more fumbling with the zip as you come out of the water. You won’t get any chafing around your neck and you won’t have to rinse and dry your wetsuit after the race.

Relax and enjoy

Swimming is always more effortless when you relax. Tensing up will hinder your stroke and prevent you from gliding through the water. It’s rare that we get to swim non-wetsuit in the UK so make the most of the opportunity before the lakes return to icy temperatures!

Have you ever swam non-wetsuit in a race? How did you get on?

Race Re-Cap: Thorpe Park Triathlon 2017

Thorpe Park Triathlon

I’m racing quite frequently this summer. The beauty of sprint triathlons is that you can recover quickly and be ready to race again the following weekend.

Usually I prefer to never do the same race twice as I like a variety of different courses and locations. However, I really enjoyed Thorpe Park Triathlon last September so decided to go back again and see if I could improve my time.

Once again, it was an incredibly early start with a 4am alarm. I think the lack of sleep gets to me more than the racing!

Thorpe Park Triathlon

Swim- 750m- 15:47
My wave was due to begin at 7.40am, so after seeing Glen off at 7.10am I figured I had some time before I headed to the start. I put on my wetsuit and waited around the swim exit watching the earlier swimmers leave the lake. Glen was out of the water in 12 minutes, so I made my way over to the lake entrance to wait my turn.

I was surprised to see that my entire wave were already in the water 20 minutes early! I checked with a marshall that it was indeed Wave 5 and panicked realising I had almost missed the start of the race. I made a quick decision and jumped into the lake, swimming hard to catch the group as the klaxon sounded.

The swim passed in a blur. I wasn’t in the best frame of mind after a bad start to the triathlon. I was confused about why they had started much earlier than the advertised time. Or was it me? Had my watch stopped?

I later found out that due to the terrorist incident in London the night before, Thorpe Park was on high alert. Security wanted the triathlon finished and the park cleared as soon as possible, so they had taken the decision to move the times forward. I totally understand the decision, but it would have been helpful if we were informed!

Despite the panicked start, I finished the swim only 35 seconds slower than last September.

Thorpe Park Triathlon

Transition 1- 1:46
My first transition went smoothly, I found my bike on the crowded racking and headed to the bike out as quickly as possible.

Bike- 21km- 44:51
I was familiar with the course from last year, it’s pretty straightforward and on flat, mostly traffic-free roads. Being the Triathlon England National Championships, there were a lot of competitive athletes on the course. Plenty of speedy riders on TT bikes came flying past me throughout the bike course.

The early start meant that the weather was cool and mild with a slight breeze, perfect conditions for riding. I reminded myself to drink regularly on the bike as it’s pretty easy to forget when you’re focused on riding as quickly as possible.

I’m nothing if not consistent, as my bike time was only 5 seconds different from September!

Thorpe Park Triathlon

Transition 2- 1:58
Back into the park via the service roads, squeezed my bike onto the racking, changed my shoes and headed back out.

Run- 5km- 27:18
The run course is one of the most enjoyable aspects of this race, it’s a lot of fun being let loose in the theme park before it opens to the public. The course is on grass by the lake and pavements between the roller-coasters. As it’s two laps, I saw Glen and my friends Trevor and Cristina around the finish line which always gives a much-needed boost.

Again, I was being passed by a lot of fast runners. I try not to become disheartened and keep pushing as hard as I can without worrying about others. Determined to beat my previous time, I kept checking my Garmin as I ran. I realised it was going to be tight to come in sub 1.30, as my swim and bike times were similar to my last Thorpe Park Triathlon. On my second lap, I knew it would not be a PB so I just focused on enjoying the course.

I finished in 1:31:43 which is a little slower than last year. I was initially a little disappointed as I really felt like I was riding and running stronger than last time, but ultimately I’m not going to get upset over 90 seconds! Thorpe Park was still an amazing event, despite the miscommunication around the swim start. I’d really recommend this race to both beginners and more advanced athletes.

Thorpe Park Triathlon

Have you ever almost missed the start of a race? What’s your favourite theme park? 

Race Re-Cap: Southend Triathlon

Southend Triathlon

Yesterday I took part in the inaugural Southend Triathlon. I’m going for shorter, smaller, local races this year, so when it was announced there would be a sprint triathlon in Southend, I signed up straight away.

Southend is seaside town where I spent a lot of time as a child in the arcades and amusement park. The beaches in this area have always been muddy, pebbly and not particularly clean. I was questioning my sanity about actually swimming in the Thames Estuary!

Arriving at the venue, we saw that the tide was still way out with small boats lodged in the thick mud. I imagined this turning into a mud run rather than a triathlon!

The weather was beautiful and there was a great atmosphere around the registration area. I saw my coach Jon in transition, plus several clubmates who were racing. Being a local event meant that plenty of friends and family came down to support.

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Swim- 500m- 9:38
By the time my wave was due to start at 12pm, there was just enough water to submerge ourselves in. Underfoot was very sharp and rough, I hobbled out to the buoys marking the starting line. We were able to leave our flip-flops in numbered bags on the beach to collect after the race, which was a nice touch.

The water temperature was fairly warm but it didn’t smell great! I was a little late to hit start on my Garmin as we were set off quicker than I expected.

Turning to breathe, I could see a drone buzzing above my head and crowds of people lining the beach. The water was a grey/green colour and tasted as bad as I expected. It was very easy to sight as I just followed the shore line, occasionally looking forward to check I wasn’t going to collide with a boat.

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There had been some confusion over whether we would be swimming with the tide or against it. I couldn’t really feel the water pushing or pulling me, so I’m still not exactly sure.

Being just a 500m swim, it was over very quickly. Soon I was staggering out onto the purple carpet and handing back my swimming cap, so the marshals could count us back in. I wore my new HUUB wetsuit which slid off easily- no more wrestling the sleeves off my arms!

As usual, I felt totally dazed and confused after the swim. I could hear friends and family calling my name, but I couldn’t recognise their faces.

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Transition 1- 2:30
The first time I’ve ever managed to lose my bike in transition! I ran straight past it then backtracked trying to spot my zebra print towel. My friend Lee helped from the sidelines and eventually I found number 36 on the racking.

I wiped my mouth incase I had a beard of mud…

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Bike- 20km- 45:06

The course began on a bike path before heading out on country lanes to Great Wakering and Barling. There were marshals controlling the traffic at this junction, so I didn’t need to stop when joining the main road. I cycled the bike route a few weeks ago so I was familiar with the course. It’s dead flat, but there are quite a few twists and turns- not ideal for me as I’m rubbish at cornering.

Southend always seems to be very windy, but fortunately it was very calm on race day with just a slight breeze.
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I was unlucky and got held at a red light in Shoeburyness on the way out and then again on the way back in, I’m sure this added at least 5 minutes to my time!

I got into a game of ‘cat and mouse’ with a lady in a neon yellow and blue trisuit. She would overtake me then a mile or so later, I would pass her again. It was great fun and we helped push each other along, briefly chatting as we passed. Turns out she is a member of my coach’s triathlon club.

Plenty of men overtook me on the bike course, but I was quite pleased that no females passed me except for elite triathlete Alice Hector who eventually won the race!

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Transition 2- 1:35
My second transition went smoother than the first. I found my place on the racking fairly easily, changed my shoes and headed out on the run.

Run- 5km- 29:36
The run was a straight out and back along the seafront. On a sunny bank holiday weekend, the promenade was crowded with people so there was a lot of weaving and dodging involved.

I grabbed a bottle of water at the start of the run and poured it over my arms and chest. By this point in the day, it was very warm and there was no shade for respite. Running is always my weakest area in triathlon, I felt like I was moving at a snail’s pace. I started feeling quite sick, there was a smell of greasy chips mixed with paint from one of the beach huts. I could feel my skin burning, despite having put on SPF30 before the race started.

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I saw Glen and a clubmate Paul flying past on their way back to the finish line. Eventually, I reached another water station and then the turn-around point. Only 2.5km then I’m done!

Around 500m to the finish, my brother Sean ran past me. No way was he overtaking me at this stage! I tried to keep up with him, but after about 5 steps I gave up and let him run on!

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I finished in 1:28:26, I was aiming for sub 1:30 so I was pleased with my overall time. I wish there had been age-group prizes as I actually came 3rd female 30-34, but a small event like this would only tend to award overall prizes.

The marshalling at this event was quite poor in certain areas. Some of my friends who came to support ended up helping near the finish line as people were wandering onto the course in front of people still running. Other than this, I was pleasantly surprised with the Southend Triathlon. It was a fantastic day and made even better by the support on the course.

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Thank you to Lee, Nick, Andy Kenyon and Sundried for the photos.

Did you race this weekend? Do you prefer shorter or longer distance races?

4 Unique Triathlons to Challenge Yourself

Looking for a triathlon with a unique and challenging format? These races include SUP, trail running tandems and night time racing

Triathlon is booming as a sport with a huge variety of races, distances and locations on the calendar each season. But what if you are bored of the traditional format and fancy something more challenging?

These four races put a unique twist on the swim, bike run concept…

The Starman Night Triathlon

New for 2017, The Starman is night-time middle-distance set in the Caingorms, Scotland. The race begins at midnight with a 1.2 mile swim in Loch Morlich, followed by a 56 mile cycle on dark, silent Speyside roads before a wild mountain half marathon.

Aimed at experienced triathletes looking for a new challenge, The Starman is said to be one of the UK’s toughest triathlons. Participants must have experience of open-water swimming, navigation, off-road running and hill climbing of at least 2500ft. The Starman takes place on 19th/20th August and costs £125 for individual entries of £145 as a relay team.

Looking for a triathlon with a unique and challenging format? These races include SUP, trail running tandems and night time racing

Tandem Triathlon

The Tandem Triathlon is possibly the only challenge of it’s type in the world and is fantastic for all abilities. Competing as a team of two, one team member will complete a 1km pool swim and then both team members cycle 30km on a road tandem bike. After that, the second team member completes a challenging 10km woodland run. A 5km tandem sprint finish completes the team’s race.

Inclusivity and community spirit is at the heart of this event with fancy dress encouraged. The Tandem Triathlon is suitable for both able-bodied and visually impaired athletes as the tandem can assist participation.

Entry is £60 for the team and the event takes place on 1st July in Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire.

The Isoman Triathlon

In most triathlon events, the bike is the longest portion with less time spent on the swim and run. Iron distance pros for example will spend only 10% of the total time swimming, 54% of the time cycling and 36% of the time running. The Isoman is a new format which addresses the imbalance and creates a event in which you are tested to the limit in all three disciplines.

The Isoman consists of a 7 mile swim (11.2km), 61.3 mile bike (98.6km) and 26.2 mile run (42.2km). There is also a half and quarter distance on offer. Each distance can be undertaken as a team- for the first time in triathlon, all legs of the relay will have an equal bearing on the result!

The Isoman takes place on 1st July in Redditch. Prices start at £150 for the full-distance and increase closer to the date of the event.

Looking for a triathlon with a unique and challenging format? These races include SUP, trail running tandems and night time racing

#SUPBIKERUN

#supbikerun have replaced the swim with SUP (Stand Up Paddle boarding) and both the bike and run are set on off-road trails and tracks. Perfect if you’d like to experience a multi-sport event but you are not a confident swimmer.

There’s two locations to choose from- Llandegfedd, Wales on 20th/21st May and Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire on 2nd/3rd September. Both have two distances on offer and SUP board hire is available. Both venues come complete with on-site camping, catering, SUP demos from the leading brands and a chillout zone.

Prices start at £39 for the Warrior Distance and increase closer to the date of the event.

Have you heard of any other triathlons with a different format? Do you fancy trying any of these?