I submitted this to the Triathlon Nova Scotia (TNS) newsletter a month or so back but I don't think it made the cut. Still, I think (IMHO) it has an important message. Feel free to repost etc etc.
This esrtwhile part of the TA has been lucky enough to take a bit of a cross-country triathlon trip recently and work events in three provinces, two languages and interact with both Olympic-bound athletes and officials as well as with the sport's grass-roots. None of these races has been wet-suit legal. What was of interest to us was the response to these wetsuit calls (in three provinces and two languages).
The title is, verbatim, a direct question asked to us by an age-grouper, together with “why don't you guys just follow the rules?”. Let's look at these statements.
“Let's Talk About This Wetsuit Business”. We weren't sure here if the competitor was trying to negotiate the no wet-suit ruling or cut us a deal. There is no room to negotiate. We (the officials) don't make this up you know. Instead, the wetsuit calls are regulated by the International Triathlon Union (ITU) Competition Rules,which TNS has adopted. These rules are here for your safety. If the water is too cold, you may get hypothermic, if it is too warm, you may overheat. Just try using your wetsuit in a swimming pool! In between these extremes lies the “wetsuits optional” butter-zone we're mostly familiar with. Outside of these comfort zones, there be monsters for some people. These rules are not kept secret by some triple-headed guardian and available only to the initiated after repeating some shibboleth. Rather they are available to download by all at the ITU or Triathlon Canada websites.
As for cut a deal, sure, we'll cut you a deal. Fifty bucks gets you into the Competition Jury. To protest a wetsuit ruling is going to cost you 30 minutes of form-filling as well as the aforementioned $50, both of which you will likely loose, with the $50 going to enrich the Junior Development Team.
“why don't you guys just follow the rules?” This made us laugh. We do follow the rules, those same rules we just talked about. Those rules govern all triathlons from the highest to the lowest. For example. the same rookie transition helmet mistake penalty Paula Findlay made in London was the same rookie transition helmet mistake penalty one of our own got in Guysborough and the penalty was was managed in the same way. Here's the thing though. There are two governing bodies for triathlon. The ITU and the World Triathlon Corporation, or WTC, aka the Ironman people. They, WTC, have their own rules. Mostly they are the same rules but with some differences. These differences are mainly of the “you say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to” variety. But some are more significant. Such as the wetsuit rules. Confusingly, many WTC events in North America are sanctioned by TriCan or USAT and so follow the ITU rules. So, on race-morning before you start harassing some poor, be-vested dude with a radio in their ear in the language of your choice, check the logo on their vest. They are following the rules, but they may not be the rules you think they're following.
A quick word about those temperature maxima and minima. There are tables and tables in the rules; a far cry from the days of the Race Director just sticking his finger in the lake and thinking about it. These max and min are different for long course and short course, for able-bodied and and parathletes, for age-groupers and elites. So just because you get to race-site for the Sprint and see long-course or parathletes in 'suits doesn't mean you can wear one.
As an athlete you should always be prepared for the eventuality of a non-wetsuit swim. Check the history of the event. Historically, are there wetsuits? As well as the obvious, no wetsuits, there are other considerations. Can you swim in that T-shirt? What about your dossard? Don't be in a panic twenty minutes before the start because you just realized not only can you not wear your wetsuit but you can't swim with your number safety-pinned to your cycling-jersey. Invest in a number belt, bring a piece of string. Both will work! Just like disc-wheels, which the TD can rule on depending on the prevailing environmental conditions, the TD will make the wetsuit call an hour before the event when you're pumping your wheels, not when you're packing the car the day before. So be ready. You wouldn't go to the Hypothermic Half with only shorts and a singlet and be surprised to find it too cold to use either, so don't come to a triathlon with a rear-disc and a wetsuit and be totally unprepared to not be able to use neither.
The British Army has a saying called the Seven P's; Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Painfully Poor Performance. Except Painfully is usually replaced with something earthier. Same thing in triathlon. You train long enough for it, don't let your day be upset by a legitimate ruling that none-the-less puts a spanner in your works. Plan ahead. Your training wheels and a piece of string should do it, and the right mental attitude to make the switch and get your mind back in the game.