The Wetsuit Adjustment Factor

I had 3 new swimming conditions today- cool water and cool, open air, a funky pool length (32 meters), and a wetsuit.

I swam 2176m (yes, 2176), starting at 16:15. The outdoor pool was 23 degrees C (73 F).

512m- came in at 8:38 with SPL at 20*, a 1:40 pace

384m- 6:22, and 20 SPL, a 1:35 pace

2x 256m- 4:08 and 4:12 and 20 SPL, a 1:36 pace

4x 128m- 2:02, 2:00, 1:56, 1:54 (1:32 pace), all at 19 SPL

256m- 3:57 and 19 SPL, a 1:32 pace

*Since this is a 32m pool I have estimated the conversions of my 25m times and rates. 19-20 SPL on this 32m pool is about 14-15 SPL on the 25m pool, which is about 1.3m per stroke.

COMMENTARY

They opened the outdoor 32m pool at the gated community where I give swim instruction. They shut down the little 10m indoor pool I was using for introductory lessons. I’ve canceled lessons for a few weeks because my students (and myself) were already getting chilled in the indoor pool at 29 degree, after only 30 minutes, even with warm air all around. The outdoor pool is not likely going to breach 27 degrees even at the peak of August- and so we need it to get hot enough outside to keep us all from freezing during practice. I have summer school and a growing waiting list of students to schedule in. So it had better warm up soon!

But I’m gearing up to brave the sea next month (which is currently only 20 degrees), so I figured I could handle the pool, especially if I put my quick-john on. I am glad I took it today ‘just in case’. The outdoor pool was only 23 degrees C (about 73 F). It felt ok to my hand, but the thunder clouds were rolling in, the wind was picking up and there were rain drops sprinkling the surface. So I squeezed into the suit just to try it out and figured I could take it off when I started to get too warm in it.

But that never happened. I swam hard, and the cool water prevented me from feeling much fatigue, but even so, after 30 minutes I was feeling my core temp going down, and at 45 minutes I had had enough. My body is still fighting off the ear and sinus infection and I didn’t need to lower my defenses any more- so maybe I was more vulnerable to the chill than usual. I was wearing a silicon cap, but I needed something heavier, like the neoprene hood I used to wear while surfing in the Pacific off the Oregon Coast, where the water doesn’t get above 60 F. I was ok when I stopped at the wall between repeats, but when I plunged back in I felt the heat being sucked out of my skull- it was incentive to keep swimming strong. Although I was cold it was a nice contrast from the university pool which is sometimes bath-water warm and faint-inducing.

Now I’ve never really trained in a wetsuit before. It’s a bit strange- I prefer nearly naked. I basically only used this 18 year old quickjohn for a few open-water races back in my college days. Since then I’ve either been in the pool or in luke-warm seas. Now I need this thing! But it messes with my balance and my data. I’ll need to develop a ‘wetsuit adjustment’ factor in comparing my wetsuited workout performance to my ‘nearly naked’ performance.

The wetsuit lifted my whole body so I was notably shallower. Since I already have a carefully developed balanced between my head and legs so that I hardly need to kick, the wetsuit nearly lifted my heals right out of the water! I had to make myself kick and initiate the hip thrust, and to adjust my balance so my feet were not catching air and making nasty turbulance. My normal ‘downhill’ swimming position was too downhill in a wetsuit, so it took a little adjustment. On one hand it was fun to feel extra slippery in the water, but on the other hand I don’t like the idea of something artificially making my swimming easier during training. It distorts the picture of my progress.

It definitely made me feel faster in the water. I felt like I could glide further on less effort and that would explain why I was holding 14-15 (adjusted) SPL so easily. But the wetsuit deprives me of the sensation of how the water is flowing along my body line. I felt like one of my senses was impaired- one of my gauges was taken off the dashboard, so that I could not so easily feel the water and detect drag-inducing changes in my body position. One might argue that it doesn’t matter since the wetsuit bouyancy compensates in extra glide, but the point is that I am training for swimming without a wetsuit so I don’t want to be blindly ingraining habits in a wetsuit that will hinder me when I swim without one.

Anyhow, I’d better get used to it since I am a skinny wimp in cold water.

So how to go about finding my wetsuit adjustment factor…

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