Review - Pearl Izumi Short Sleeve Triathlon Suit

Triathlon Plus magazine recently tested a range of male and female triathlon suits, narrowed them down to twelve, then reviewed these as the 'best of the best'.

I confess, I'm quietly delighted my Pearl Izumi triathlon suit did not make the top twelve, and that the sleeveless version was not one of the top picks.

In a race where every other person has a Huub, 2XU, Planet X or Zone 3 outfit, it's nice to wear something a little different.

For Pearl Izumi, it sucks.  For me, it's brilliant.  Because I love racing in this suit.

Now I admit I'm not expert.  However, I've used three other Tri Suits and three top / bottom combos.  Of them, this is by far the best all rounder.  Here's why.

Leg grippers: the shorts stay in place when you pull on your wetsuit, when on the bike and the run.  Yet they're flexible enough for me to stuff a gel wrapper up the leg once used - that's how I avoid littering the road.

Pad: when I felt this at Pearl Izumi's showroom I thought it was too flimsy.  That's exactly the same criticism of the sleeveless suit given in Triathlon Plus magazine, and I suspect the pad's the same.

I agree, it does feel flimsy.  But it's not uncomfortable.

In the past I sought out shorts for long-course, like the Zone 3 Lava, yet the pad in the Pearl Izumi Tri Suit is equally comfortable on the bike.

Frankly, I cannot explain this.  My backside hasn't suddenly got tougher.  But having a thin pad is much nicer for the swim and the run.

While we're dealing with criticisms...

Zip garage: Triathlon Plus magazine gives this as a major flaw, but I hadn't noticed.  Indeed, I had to dig out my suit to check whether or not it had one.  It doesn't, and I hadn't noticed, despite racing and training in widely varying conditions.  The 15 inch zipper is "for venting" says Pearl Izumi, perhaps not realising that in both ITU and Ironman races you can't lower your zip past the breast-bone without risking disqualification.

Now to some of the features I really like.

Sea salt, not sweat at Edinburgh
Wind-proofing:  this, combined with the next point, are the star features of the Pearl Izumi short sleeve suit.  The front panel is a fairly dense weave which cuts windchill on the bike.

I used it in training in cool conditions, and raced in both sweltering hot (Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire) and very windy conditions (Ironman 70.3 Edinburgh) where it was chilly enough to need arm warmers.  In neither the cool nor windy conditions did I feel I needed to add a gillet.

That front panel, while not officially windproof, kept me comfortable.  One awkward side effect is that the salt from the sea-swim at Edinburgh showed clearly on the black fabric.

Ventilation: the sleeves and back panel are ultra breathable, so all the heat you're generating easily dissipates.  What's more it's factor 50 SPF, so you don't have to worry about slathering sunscreen on your shoulders in transition.  That saves time.  The black-bits are made of what the company calls In-R-Cool fabric, which is meant to provide cooling and sun protection while still keeping some compression.  It seems to work.

Pockets: big enough to hold gels, bars and sunscreen, but with a flap over the top ('envelope pockets' they're called) so they don't fill and cause drag in the swim.  I could squeeze in a gillet but not a jacket.

So these are some of the reasons why I like my Pearl Izumi tri suit.  If I haven't convinced you, and you're going to buy a Huub (or other popular brand)... great.

Running Injury - Elastic Laces and Why I Ditched Them

Greepers - way better than elastic
It took me a year to realise it but elastic laces were slowing me down in transition.  

That's exactly the opposite of they way it's meant to work!  

I'll explain why, explain the best solution I've found (Greepers.com that's them alongside) and the story of how I got that pair from one of the top British female triathletes.

When training in running in trail or road shoes I always used laces in shoes.  I wear orthotics to correct over pronation, so my foot is at risk of sliding around, and I felt laces held the shoes better on my feet.  

However, for races I switched into elastic laces so I could pull them on faster.  I trained a couple of times in the elastic-lace versions, but mainly saved them for races.

Ironman 70.3 Edinburgh Race Report

Before the race I explained the four reasons why it would become a classic.

Now I'm sure of it.

Ironman 70.3 Edinburgh will earn the reputation as one of the hardest 70.3 races.  That will be both an attraction for some and for others a definite reason not to attempt it.  Not hard per se, but hard compared to others of its kind.

I spoke to an fellow competitor afterwards, one who qualified for the world championships and has raced all the UK events including full Ironman, who told me, "that was harder than any of them".  Objectively, the half-iron event could not be harder than a full Ironman.  By any objective measure, the distances involved do NOT make this a hard event compared to others in Scotland such as Celtman or the Kindrochit Quadrathlon.  However, yesterday's conditions prompted a subjective response.

Ironman 70.3 Edinburgh, A Future Classic?

I'm sure I'll look back on this race and say "I was there at the first one".

The new half-iron distance event has all the ingredients for a classic.

More people want to race this distance, so there are more events to cater for them.

That means a new event, even one with the Ironman brand, needs something special, a Unique Selling Point.

Ironman 70.3 Edinburgh has four special somethings, and the theme which connects them all is this - it's going to be a tough, tough race.

Great Lessons From My Bad Race at Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire

"If you learn more from a bad race than a good one", I wrote to my coach after finishing Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire last weekend, "then I've just had a great lesson".

It was an eight hour drive home, giving me plenty of thinking time.  I then poured over the metrics from my Garmin and know a lot more about what went on.

But there's something more basic than that.

It's all about expectations.  Another athlete, with the same coach, was jubilant about her result yet she was slower than me.

Stupidly, I expected to improve on my result at Weymouth IM70.3 last September.

I conveniently ignored the facts that I had gone into Weymouth much fitter, fortified by a year of full ironman training and competition.  Not only had I lost fitness over winter, I'd managed minimal training in March and April due to a virus.

All this I ignored.  Stupid.

First Race of 2017 This Weekend

My first race of 2017 will be the half-Ironman in Staffordshire next Sunday 18th June.  That wasn't the original plan.

My aim had been to race Loch LoMan four weeks earlier and iron out any race-related problems.

Lethargy and a persistent cough, possibly virus, put a month-long hole in my training and pushed me out of the Loch Lomond race.

I'm using a new bike, new trisuit and new nutrition products, all of which work well in training but none of which have been tested under race conditions.

Where To Carry All That Stuff On A Triathlon Bike?

That's a serious question - where do you carry it all?

Especially for middle and long course events in the UK and other parts of northern Europe.

The weather can be less than perfect and try jamming a rain jacket into a tiny Tri-suit pocket!

If you have any suggestions / thoughts / ideas please let me know in the comments.

This is my Cervelo P2 rigged for training rides of 4-5 hours in duration around the Scottish Highlands.  Actually, it has never been used for racing.  Staffordhire IM70.3 will (probably) be its first race.