The recent posts related to swimming times and wetsuits have my gears going. There's at least one thing that is always good to remind ourselves: Everyday is Different. With that profound thought, I'd like to [I]dive[/I] into a topic that is probably beyond the scope of my education. Aquatic physics.
Currents. Pool walls. And Mr and Mrs High and Low Tides. Compared to the pool you train in, the outside world is at a harsh contrast. No one's maintaining that water temp at the desired 86° F. There's all this wildlife... And where are all the lane lines?
Let's compare having pool walls, to... not having pool walls. Every time you make a lap, whether by flip-kick or otherwise, you get a boost. You have something to push off of. And while some may argue that the flip-turn is a loss in net speed, depending how you do it, you'll be cutting some time off your average 100 m time with that little push. (in comparison to the open water swim)
Currents. These can either make you a really fast swimmer, or they can take you a long ways off from where you want to be. If you have a bad day with currents, these will really slow down your time. And you don't have to be in the ocean to feel this. Wind will generate some fun times for you as well. Just cross your fingers that either you've made the right decision on how to compensate for the current, or that the current is really helping you and isn't it neat I can swim so fast?
Tides. Same as currents, except that it should balance out in that if you swim out on a high tide, you get the added benefit of having the tide help carry you in. If you're really having a bad swim day, it's possible that the swim event could straddle the tide change, and you could swim against the current both ways. That's not desireable.
Wetsuits. There is a difference between Jacque Cousteau's dive suit and the modern day tri-suit. It's not just cost. The outside material of a tri-suit is smooth, and somewhat water-repellant. It's speed enhancing. I would dare to say it's a 3rd of the way toward a very tight dry suit. Also, built into these tri-suits are an array of flexibility features. Mostly engineered for having the arm cabable of extending in a full circular motion around the shoulder joint. This is not a traditional diving manuever, although it would be odd to see, but dive suit manufacturers don't need to build their suits for speed or flexibility. They just need to work, and provide some padding for the diver carrying all that gear on their back.
Hope that helps some trains of thought out there. This conversation is very much like the one about using mountain bikes on a road tri. It's up to you and what you want out of the race. If this is a race on a budget, as mine usually are, then you'll opt for what works over what you don't necessarily need but know would make you faster. And let's not forget sentimental attachment. Sometimes it really is hard to switch gear because you've used it so much.
"[i]Oh green diamond back, will you ever forgive me for sending you to good will?[/i]"
Happy training and racing!
(edits made for annoying grammatical errors)