A little while back we looked at Racing in the Heat, what's important re kit? However as it’s now autumn in AUS we thought we’d now have a look at cooler conditions. Responding to questions like: - What should I wear for a cool triathlon race? - What’s important when it comes to kit and racing triathlons in the cold?
How cold is cold?
Ok the pic above might be one step too far for most... but how much each individual feels the cold can vary significantly. Where you live and the climate you live and train in plays a big part, but equally some people just feel the cold more than others.
Exactly how cold it needs to be for you to start feeling it is only something you can determine. It also depends on your tri kit and its breathability. Go for a ride or run in it and see how it goes, ideally testing in varying temperatures and conditions. Also be aware that although the ambient temperature on any given day might sound ok on the bike, wind chill can also play a big part. When doing this type of testing remember to try and do so at an intensity as close as possible to that which you will be racing. Revving the engine a bit higher i.e. race intensity, will keep you a bit warmer and so should be factored in. You probably don’t need to race with same cold weather kit you do your Sunday social in!
When does it matter in a race?
We’re not looking at the swim in detail however if conditions are cool it will probably be a wetsuit swim. For athletes new to the sport I can’t recommended wearing one enough. It will not only keep you warm but make you more buoyant i.e. swim faster. Win, Win! Make sure the fit is right as this is key. Getting good assistance / advice is invaluable.
Bike – Most triathletes would agree this is when it is most important. It is both the longest portion of the race (usually around 50%) and given you are exposed to the wind and elements at speed you can really feel it.
Run – Like the bike you are exposed however it’s a lower speed, and often higher intensity. As such the cold tends to be less impactful, however there a couple of additional things to consider. If you get off the bike already cold it may well mean you continue to feel it on the run. Additionally if you’re racing long course triathlon e.g. Ironman, you may need to consider completing a proportion of the run in the evening when the temperature and conditions may get increasingly cooler.
How to protect?
As is the case in other cool weather sports look to layer up to protect from the cold. View your usual tri kit as your base then layer up from there. Triathlon kit tends to work well as a base layer as it is usually sleeveless or short sleeve and, if made of a quality fabric, will be highly breathable.
A couple of different layering options to consider:
Core: My personal preference is to layer up on the core, particularly on the bike. Looking protect and keep the core of the body warmer. Adding either a sleeved (e.g. Speed Top) or sleeveless second layer (Cycle Vest), means two layers on the core and potentially a single layer on the arms.
Extremities: Arms, legs and hands. Again you can go with a sleeved top option or alternatively not layer up on the core and just use either arm warmers, leg warmers and / or gloves.
The extent to which you layer up and what you choose to do re your core and extremities is a personal choice. Try to test and also consider the possibility of a race starting cold but warming up. The beauty of layering is that it is possible to remove a layer.
Two other key aspects to consider are:
Breathable Fabric – although it might be cold you will most likely still be sweating. Make sure whatever you wear is breathable. Either all the fabric, such as the Speed Top, or in part e.g. Cycle Vest: wind and water proof soft shell front and shoulders, with a mesh back for ventilation and moisture transfer.
Aerodynamics – even though it might be cold you’re still racing. You want a top which as fitted as possible i.e. not flapping around and creating additional drag.
Proven Performer - Speed Top As referenced above the Fusion Speed Top has proven a winner as second layer in cooler conditions. In Ironman Australia 2014 conditions were on the cooler side and several athletes wore the Speed Top as a second layer. These included pro Darren Jenkins (pictured above) and a Transitions Forum member who bravely volunteered to test a package of Fusion kit on race day (click here). Subsequently a second member volunteered to test at IM Cairns (click here) where it was wet and also cooler.
The Speed Top has a couple of key advantages as a second layer: - Swim: Can be worn under the wetsuit in swim (as done by pro Darren Jenkins) - Aerodynamics: Highly fitted and aerodynamic top. - Breathable: Fabric is highly breathable. - Run: While primarily designed as a cycling top it is possible to leave it on for the run. See Transitions forum review referenced above.