Superlight bikes, slow wetsuits & salty swims down under
Updated: May 28, 2018
You know how it is. You're minding your own business, working at home at 11am on a Friday morning, looking forward to a nice swim at lunch.
Then an email comes in. The title raises your eyebrow:
"Any chance you can come to Australia next week to save the day?"
Err, yeah, why not?
In fact, the company I work for had a series of user events planned and one of the speakers had injured themselves (no sympathy, self-inflicted!) and was unable to fly. The email continued:
"...we have people who are flying in from all over Australia to attend the Wednesday one.
I know it’s a total blindside but if you can you’d be lorded [sic] as a hero"
And so some frantic calls ensued and within an hour I was booked onto a Cathay Pacific flight from London to Sydney via Hong Kong, departing at lunchtime on Sunday. Pretty much exactly not how I had expected my weekend to go, especially as Saturday was due to be taken up with a five-hour round-trip in the car to go pic up a new bike.
The bike in question was a new Giant TCR Advanced SL1, the replacement for my Giant TCR Advanced Pro 0 Disc (gotta love Giant's naming conventions). The only snag was that the bike was waiting for me at Race Hub team HQ near Leicester. A mere 120 miles away from my Wiltshire home. To make things worse (if that's the right way of putting it), the TCR SL versions have a single-piece frame and seat post, meaning that the seat post has to be cut to the exact height for the individual rider. Not the sort of job you can do at home and not really the sort of job where you trust emailed measurements.
While Race Hub bike mechanic Tim used my 'old' TCR (which had recently been fitted by the guys at Vankru, so it was pretty spot-on) as a template, I took advantage of Race Hub's on-site lake to get a swim in.
Specifically, I wanted to conduct a head-to-head test between my newly-acquired Huub Albacore 3:5 wetsuit (marketed as one of the fastest wetsuits on the market) against one of my other suits; in this case an old Archimedes I in 4:4 guise.
The reason for the test was that I had been really disappointed with my swim time at a recent race when wearing the Albacore. I wanted to see how it stacked-up against one of my other suits.
It wasn't highly scientific, but with Race Hub's lake measuring about 550m per lap, my plan was to do two laps of the lake in each suit, measuring my effort to be about what I would expect for a 1900m swim (a pace I should be able to maintain for both tests).
I started with the Archimedes I and set off around the lake. One thing I noticed about the suit was that it felt like water was collecting in the torso, sloshing around a little. I guess it makes sense that the suit would have lost some of its tightness in the five years since I bought it. Other than that, the suit felt pretty good but my time was slower than I would normally expect: 1015m in 17:24 equaled a pace of 1:42/100m.
Out of the water into the Albacore. Which was much more difficult than I had anticipated! I'd forgotten that wet skin and wetsuits don't really match. With a little help, I eventually got the suit on and got back into the water. Compared to the Archimedes I, there was no water sloshing around the torso and the arms / shoulders felt much more mobile. It's a cliche, but it really was almost like I wasn't wearing a wetsuit (compared to the Archimedes I, anyway). The Albacore is a 3:5 model, but to be honest, I didn't notice a huge difference in my leg position in the water.
The result for the Albacore: 1086m in 17:46 giving a pace of 1:38/100.
In other words, the Albacore was faster by four seconds per 100 metres. Not scientific, but that would make a noticeable difference over a 1500m or 1900m swim (up to 76 seconds, in fact).
But it's still slower than I would expect and slower than I've swum in previous races (in both an Archimedes I and II). So I'm still not sure about the Albacore. I've contacted Huub to see if they are willing to work with me on exploring the subject further, as I've not really managed to find much about choosing different wetsuit designs, buoyancy profiles etc. in other articles or blogs.
They haven't got back to me yet. Hopefully they will.
Having departed London at Sunday lunchtime, I arrived in Sydney late on Monday evening. And on Tuesday morning, I headed to my favourite Sydney pool, the North Sydney Olympic Pool, just under the Harbour Bridge. It's an open-air 50m pool filled with salt water. And I love it (even when I'm being embarrassed by some pre-pubescent 'nipper' in the next lane flying past me without even trying).
I managed to get another swim in on Wednesday morning (even earlier, there at the 5:30am opening time, pics below to prove it!) and then it was a day of work and then a three-hour flight to Auckland, landing at past-midnight.
I managed to get out for a run around Auckland's harbour and Winyard areas on Thursday, re-acquainting myself with the run course from the 2012 ITU Age Group triathlon world championships (my last time in Auckland). The weather was strikingly similar to my previous visit, wet and chilly.
Saturday saw another chance to run, this time in the early morning sun down to the Auckland Harbour Bridge (a nice run along the Westhaven Promenade, highly recommended).
And then it was time to head home. Via Hong Kong. Just the 28 hours in planes and airports then.
So that was it. Just two swims and two runs all week. Way below average and really not ideal given I'm supposed to be racing tomorrow (Bank Holiday Monday). I did at least get out on the bike this afternoon before having another short swim. I'm sure it'll all be fine!