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postheadericon Beginner triathlete – novice ironman and the importance of wetsuits – warmer, lighter or faster

Beginner Triathlete – Novice Ironman and the Importance of Wetsuits – Warmer, Lighter Or Faster?

It is pretty obvious to the triathlon community that triathlon wetsuits are not all created equal.

At the same time, it often feels like we have taken the importance of exactly how a triathlon wetsuit is actually constructed a bit too seriously. After all, when it comes right down to it, is really necessary to get excited about a wetsuit because it is a millimeter thicker than the one you owned the previous season?

It appears that the goal is to have a creation that is thinner and faster, but still as warm as a wetsuit with thicker construction.

IN THE EARLY DAYS

In the early days of triathlon the races were few and far between. To make matters worse, in many areas with water temperatures that hovered around 60 degrees Fahrenheit it was a challenge for many triathletes just to avoid hypothermia. There simply were no wetsuits back then except perhaps for the early “Farmer John” type that did nothing at all to keep a person warmer, which begs the question, “what exactly did they do”?

Of course a person could always buy a “dry-suit” –that would be impossibly heavy and hot– at a dive shop, but it would be years before the real triathlon “wetsuits” were available to all triathletes regardless of where they lived.

For the Canadian triathlete, it was pretty much almost a certainty that hypothermia was going to rear its head in any triathlon swim leg in Canada back in the eighties unless the race happened to be on the West Coast. The severity of the hypothermia often depended on actual swimming ability of the triathlete. The better a triathlete could swim back then, the sooner the swim leg would be over so it was a simple matter of those whoever got out of the water the soonest were less likely to suffer from the cold as much.

EFFICIENT SWIMMING IS THE KEY

If a triathlete did not have an energy-saving stroke it was often difficult to retain enough co-ordination once out of the water to be able to climb on a bike. It was not unusual for it to take ten minutes or more for a triathlete to warm up enough to be able to cycle at all. Some of the early triathletes reached the danger point of hypothermia and were often unable to carry on in the race at all.

The wetsuit was born in the mid to late eighties and began to evolve at a quick pace in the decades to follow. Every single year you could pretty much be guaranteed that a new improved wetsuit would be on the market. Often the new wetsuits came with the promise that it would make you a faster swimmer then ever before.

FASTER IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER

This philosophy of “faster is better” really sucked people in because they had yet to figure out how little importance swim time really has on the end result of an Ironman. This is especially true of age-groupers who simply want to finish the race any way they can. Still, many triathletes were sucked in over and over again and could spend a few thousand dollars on wetsuits over a career.

Unfortunately, it would take years for some triathletes to figure out that swimming faster is not the secret to a successful Ironman. Real success is realized when emphasis is placed on finishing the swim leg of an Ironman with as little energy loss as possible. In reality, success in an Ironman has very little to do with the thickness of a wetsuit, how seamless the stitching, or how stretchy the armpits are.

STAYING WARM IS THE KEY

Ultimately, the most important feature of a wetsuit for the average age-group triathlete or novice Ironman is the protection it provides from the cold. It is of paramount importance to always keep in mind that if you burn yourself out from the swim because you lack a smooth, energy-saving stroke you will most likely be part of the Ironman “death march”.

For the beginner triathlete or novice Ironman, the goal should be to get through the swim with as little discomfort as possible and with as little mental, emotional, and physical stress as possible. Any type of stress has a way of contributing to the loss energy that will without a doubt be desperately need later on in the race. This is most especially true to the Ironman because of the sheer distance of the race.

postheadericon How a solar still may save your life

How A Solar Still May Save Your Life

“Still? What’s that? Isn’t that what you use to make moonshine?” These are the types of questions you are likely to get if you tell someone that you just made a solar still in your backyard, but the fact is that these fascinating contraptions can actually be lifesavers (literally) if you ever find yourself in a tight situation with no water to drink.

A solar still works on the principle that leaves and other vegetation contain moisture, as does the ground in many cases. The only problem is how to get the moisture in a drinkable form; we’re not all koala bears, so just eating the leaves is out of the question. The answer, it turns out, is to harness the power of the sun to extract the moisture from the source by evaporating it and then using a plastic bag or plastic sheet to collect it. As you can probably guess, the one drawback to the solar still methods is that if you don’t have a plastic bag or sheet, you can’t use them. However, it is amazing how many strange substances can be made to function as a sheet of plastic when you’re desperate, so with a little bit of the spirit of MacGyver, you will probably be all right.

To construct a simple above ground still, take a plastic bag, preferably one that can seal and that is made of clear plastic, and fill it half to three-quarters full with vegetation: leaves, grass, stems and stalks, any type of green plant matter. Make sure that it is a sunny day, and find a hillside or other sloped surface to place the bag on. The idea is to make sure that when the water evaporates from the plants, it drains to one location in the bag so that you can collect it. To ensure this, place a small rock in one corner of the bag. The water will tend to pool around the rock.

You can also make a below ground still, although it is a little more involved. For this, you need a digging tool, a clear plastic sheet, and some sort of container. Dig a hole in the ground somewhere where you think the soil will have some moisture in it. Dig another hole at the bottom of this hole and place your container in it. Put some vegetation along the sides of the hole for extra moisture, and put the sheet on top. Weight it down, and then put a rock in the center of the tarp so that the tarp dips down and the part with the rock is the lowest point. As the sun strikes the tarp, the hole will heat up, and the moisture will evaporate and collect on the tarp. It will run down to the lowest point, where the rock is, and drip down into your container.

postheadericon Grip, footwork, and strokes in tennis

Grip, Footwork, and Strokes in Tennis

Footwork is weight control. It is correct body position for strokes, and out of it all strokes should grow. In explaining the various forms of stroke and footwork I am writing as a right-hand player. Left-handers should simply reverse the feet. Racquet grip is a very essential part of stroke, because a faulty grip will ruin the finest serving. It is a natural grip for a top forehand drive. It is inherently weak for the backhand, as the only natural shot is a chop stroke.

To acquire the forehand grip, hold the racquet with the edge of the frame towards the ground and the face perpendicular, the handle towards the body, and “shake hands” with it, just as if you were greeting a friend. The handle settled comfortably and naturally into the hand, the line of the arm, hand, and racquet are one. The swing brings the racquet head on a line with the arm, and the whole racquet is merely an extension of it.

The backhand grip is a quarter circle turn of hand on the handle, bringing the hand on top of the handle and the knuckles directly up. The shot travels ACROSS the wrist. This is the best basis for a grip. I do not advocate learning this grip exactly, but model your natural grip as closely as possible on these lines without sacrificing your own comfort or individuality. Having once settled the racquet in the hand, the next question is the position of the body and the order of developing strokes.

All tennis strokes, should be made with the body’ at right angles to the net, with the shoulders lined up parallel to the line of flight of the ball. The weight should always travel forward. It should pass from the back foot to the front foot at the moment of striking the ball. Never allow the weight to be going away from the stroke. It is weight that determines the “pace” of a stroke; swing that, decides the “speed.”

Let me explain the definitions of “speed” and “pace.” “Speed” is the actual rate with which a ball travels through the air. “Pace” is the momentum with which it comes off the ground. Pace is weight. It is the “sting” the ball carries when it comes off the ground, giving the inexperienced or unsuspecting player a shock of force which the stroke in no way showed. A great many players have both “speed” and “pace.” Some shots may carry both.

The order of learning strokes should be:

1. The Drive. Fore and backhand. This is the foundation of all tennis, for you cannot build up a net attack unless you have the ground stroke to open the way. Nor can you meet a net attack successfully unless you can drive, as that is the only successful passing shot.

2. The Service.

3. The Volley and Overhead Smash.

4. The Chop or Half Volley and other incidental and ornamental strokes.