Free Willy

It was my fondest wish as a child to be a dolphin trainer at Marine Land.

My family used to go maybe once a year and although I did love the dolphins and whales, I was even more fascinated by the spandex, neoprene clad girls with that little whistle around their neck and their wet ponytails. It was totally “what I wanted to be when I grew up” until my dreams were crushed by economics and my affinity for designer handbags.

Sigh. Economics ruins everything doesn’t it?


Anyways, I got to live out part of my childhood dream last weekend when Matt and I took a little road trip out to this Triathlon outlet store in Markham to look for a wet suit for my first triathlon (which is coming up in only 5 days by the way!).

To give you a bit of background, I was absolutely starving after my BodyAttack class, hadn’t had a chance to eat anything before we hit the road (bad, bad idea), and then we got totally bogged down in traffic on the way out there. Needless to say by the time we got to this little warehouse, I think Matt was considering looking for a wet suit made out of solid iron for me, but that’s neither here nor there 😉

The store (although in a very sketchy neighbourhood) was actually really great. There was this totally knowledgeable sales guy that seemed to know everything there was to know about buying a wet suit and after asking us a couple of questions about budget and experience, he sent me into the changeroom with two suits to try on: one sleeveless and one with full sleeves.

Before even getting to the store I had decided that I wanted a wetsuit that was sleeveless because the thought of swimming in open water with skin tight rubber restricting my shoulders didn’t sit well at all. Although in a lot of the “beginner triathlete” forums online, most people seem to be really anxious about the swim, I’m actually not at all afraid of the swim part of the triathlon. I’m totally comfortable in open water, don’t really care if a bunch of people are swimming around me and I’m confident in my swimming ability enough that although I may not come out of the water in first place, I know for sure that I won’t drown.

But take away my shoulder mobility, and suddenly I’m not so sure that I won’t drown!!

So into the changeroom I went, apprehensively, to try on my first triathlon wetsuit with full sleeves. All I can say is that they should seriously have a camera in those changerooms because I’m sure it’s about the funniest thing in the entire world to watch someone try to struggle into a wet suit for the first time. I managed to get into the suit through some combination of the Macarena and the Electric Slide and had Matt do up the back zipper.


Electric Slide

Full sleeve

Right away, there was an immediate concern and it had nothing to do with my shoulders. The wet suit was completely choking me at my neck. We asked the sales guys opinion and he said that this is how wet suits are actually supposed to fit (close to the neck) so that they don’t allow any water to get into the suit, creating drag and extra weight. This seriously freaked me out, because I couldn’t even stand still in the store for 5 minutes with the neck as tight as it was, let alone complete at 2km swim. I anxiously went back into the changeroom to try on the sleeveless suit, hopeful for a better outcome.

(I should have mentioned that when I first came out of the changeroom in the wet suit, Matt made all of my childhood dreams come true when he said “You look like a dolphin trainer” :))

The sales guy had told us that the sleeveless wet suits were getting to be more and more rare since most people these days prefer the extra warmth and buoyancy of the full sleeve suits. He said that the sleeveless wet suits are actually now being targeted more specifically to those triathletes with a really strong, competitive swimming background because they just couldn’t accept having their shoulders restricted at all on the swim. Because the sleeveless suits are now being targeted to this kind of elite group, the material is a higher quality then the full sleeve ones, and therefore much easier to put on.

No Macarena, hurray!

Sleeveless Wet Suit

As soon as I got into the sleeveless wet suit and had Matt do up the back, I was totally stressed out to find that the neck was once again too tight on me, although it was admittedly a little bit better than the full sleeve one had been. My shoulders were totally unaffected by the suit which I was thrilled with, and I really liked the stretchier material but the neck issue was really bothering me, and I could hardly stand there talking without having my two fingers inside the neckline pulling it away from me. It just didn’t seem that this could possibly be the way that they should fit.

The sales guy took a look at the fit and reassured me that this is how the suits are supposed to fit. Looking back, I really REALLY should have insisted that I try on a bigger size wet suit; I wonder if that may have made a difference in how the neck fit. In any case, I didn’t, and we ended up leaving the store without buying a wet suit. I was really disappointed and incredibly stressed out, with the triathlon only a week away.

I’m still not really sure what I’m going to wear for the triathlon next Sunday, but I definitely need something, its freakin’ cold in the GTA!! My mom had picked me up a “short” wet suit at Costco (possibly the only place in the world that you can go grocery shopping and end up casually picking up a wet suit in a package of 2). For a while I was thinking that I would just wear this one until I could get a “real” one, but the reviews online strongly advise against wearing a “water sports” wet suit that was really meant for water skiing and other water sports for a triathlon. The reason is that the material of these much cheaper wet suits is a more absorbent one that will tend to soak up the water like a sponge and really weigh you down while you swim, unlike the professional grade wet suits which are made of neoprene and cut through the water without soaking it up.


So our game plan as of now is to go out to Kelso on Friday evening and take a swim in the lake with the Costco wet suit to see how it handles in the water. If I’m comfortable with it, then I guess that will be the plan for Sunday morning. If not….then we need to look at either renting one or buying one on Saturday morning, and that will NOT be a pretty scene. I am so totally freaking out about this.

Go figure, the one leg of the triathlon that I had totally discounted is now the one giving me the most trouble!!

I’ll do my best to report back on Friday night with the outcome of the test swim. If you don’t hear from me, I’m at the bottom of the Kelso Lake in my toasty warm, but absorbent wet suit.

Under the Sea


6 thoughts on “Free Willy

  1. I put on my wet suit and it is tight around the neck. I will say that it’s awkward out of the water, but once your in the water and focusing on the swim you don’t or at least I don’t notice the tight feeling anymore. I would suggest trying one or two sizes up, making sure that the suit stays tight to your body(Not Baggy), to see if there is less stress on your neck. Anyway I’ve been training hard the past two weeks, I did a 50km bike last Saturday. Looking forward to Kelso!

    1. Also I think it would be hilarious to get everyone to Bike, Run, then Swim…just to see everyone try and put on their wetsuits! They are not easy!

      1. Yeah I signed up today. Jess and I wont be able to get to your place till Saturday morning, so we can go to the kit pick up together! Should be an exciting weekend!

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