I am up to my mid-shins in what is, in theory, a full body wetsuit. The experience I’m having bears little resemblance to that of the woman who cheerfully pulled on her wetsuit in a couple of minutes in the video I just watched called “How to put it on,” helpfully created by the company that rented me this ridiculous contraption.
The wetsuit has been a point of quite a bit of stress. We couldn’t find a triathlon wetsuit in my size. Going without is not an option since, according to the IRONMAN website the water temperature will likely be in the “low to mid 60’s” for my full. They don’t have the course info posted yet for the 70.3 this October, but according to the triathlon forums that I read it looks like the average temperature in mid-October is a little less than 70 degrees. (Wetsuits are permitted without restriction up to 76.1 degrees.) There are companies that make custom wetsuits but they are just ridiculously expensive.
I was looking around at rental companies and I found wetsuitrental.com, which promised that it could fit people from 95 pounds to 300+. Excellent, I’m definitely included in that spread. I entered my size information, thanked them for having body descriptions that were funny and not body shaming, and they shipped a wetsuit. An Akona 3xl 3mm wetsuit arrived very promptly today.
Since before I even ordered the suit I had been getting advice from triathlon friends. The most common, from triathletes of all sizes, was “Try this on with your air conditioning as low as it can go and give yourself plenty of time.” The information that I got from wetsuitrental.com said “get ready for a workout.” Tales abound in forums about the cardio and strength workout that is putting on a wetsuit for the first time. I cranked up the AC, unfolded the wetsuit and thought “Let’s get this party started!”
What followed was an ungodly combination of what felt like pilates, yoga, resistance band strength training, and putting on dance tights that are two sizes too small. There was pulling, there was tugging, there was simultaneous pulling and tugging. There may or may not have been praying to the gods of no perspiration that I not start sweating because that would be the icing on a “never getting into this suit” cake (thankfully, the gods of no perspiration smiled upon me.)
“Try pulling from the inside” the directions had suggested. Alrighty then, let’s give that a try. As I finally pulled the wetsuit up over my ass (the legs are too long so I just let it bunch at my knees for now) I had two terrifying realizations. First, the thing was only half on and, second, I was somehow going to have to get this off at some point. Then I realized that I could just give in and accept one of these reality TV offers – they would get more than they bargained for with the show about the fat girl who lives her life in a wetsuit.
Luckily the second half was easier than the first and I got it on and realized that the good news is that the wetsuit is likely to cure my tendency to make too big of an arc with my arm on the recovery motion (or, as my swim coach likes to call it, my “dancer arm.”) since that kind of motion was, if not impossible, dramatically more difficult.
I mentioned earlier that they don’t make triathlon suits in my size, or at least, I haven’t found any. This suit is no exception, it’s not a proper triathlon suit but rather a scuba suit that’s made for warm water diving that meets all of the requirements of the IM. I found a review of the suit for use in triathlon that does call into question whether it would be warm enough for a long swim in very cold water. I’m waiting to hear back from both coaches on their thoughts about the suit but at least now I know that there are possibilities. And now I can add to the swim achievements of my first mile swim, my first mile in under an hour, and my first mile in under 45 minutes, getting myself into a wetsuit without injury and in under 30 minutes (and getting back out of it as well, so I guess the reality show will have to wait.) The next challenge is imminent – I’m signed up for an open water course next month where I can practice a mob start and swimming in open water in a wetsuit. Can’t wait!
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