…I hope this thing is stronger than it looks…
This weekend was the first outing for my TYR Tracer Light. Overall I am very impressed with the suit and I had a great day in the pool with it. I swam 5 events and walked away with 5 best times – one by as much as 4 seconds! All told a pretty successful outing. I swam every stroke in it so I can vouch for it across all four competitive strokes. This is my second speed suit from TYR, my other one that I have been racing in is an Aqua Shift short john. So I can compare it to another speedsuit, but not another higher end suit like the Blueseventy or the LZR. I’d like to be able to, but I don’t think I want to be $1200 deep in speedsuits this season just in the name of science. (**UPDATE: I bought a blueseventy Nero Comp, check the review here)
My first impressions of the suit when I took it out of the box were: so that’s what $340 looks like, shouldn’t I get a fancier box, and I’m going to fit in that? I’m about the same weight as TYR poster boy Matt Grevers, but I’m also almost a foot shorter (he’s about 229 and 6’8″). So I bought the biggest size they had and hoped for the best. I figured that if he can get in one of these things so could I. If I were ten more pounds this would have never worked. I did a dry run of trying on of the suit when it showed up and I was really nervous about tearing it. It took a lot of work to get on but the material seems to be pretty resilient and the stitching is strong. I spent probably about 4 hours in the suit and swam 5 races with warm downs in between and I haven’t found any spots where the suit is starting give or fray. I think I’m going to get a lot of swims out of this suit. When I got to the meet this weekend it was a lot easier to get on, but still not what I would call easy. I can get all the way into the suit by myself but I can’t zip it. I need to think skinny and get a friend to help me get it closed. Thanks by the way to all the different people that helped me get zipped up!
My first race in the suit was a 50 fly. Up until I hit the water I hadn’t gotten the suit wet. Initially I could feel the difference of having my legs completely covered and I could kind of feel the suit not letting the water in. The weirdest sensation was this pocket of what was either air or water in the small of my back. I’m not sure if that is supposed to be there or if it’s a side effect of being too fat for the suit. I don’t think the bubble hurt or helped me, but it was distracting at first. Later in the day I didn’t really notice it at all. My first race was a best time in the 50 fly (which I swim at almost every meet) by about half a second.
After my race I got out and walked around a little bit and I was dry pretty much immediately. Water beads up on this thing like a freshly waxed car. I went and warmed down and I could feel the effect of the suit much more while freestyling. The compression in the core area is very precise and I felt like I rotated much better in the water.
My second race in the suit is where it really started to shine for me. I swam the 50 backstroke and as much as I suck at backstroke I have a really strong underwater dolphin kick. This suit rewards a good underwater streamline big time. I felt awesome underwater. I felt the same way in my 50 breaststroke on my pull downs, just smooth and fast. Because the suit is so tight on me I was concerned about it constricting my breaststroke kick, but I had no problems kicking at all. One thing that I did notice though is that my hips must have been a little higher than normal because my first kick after the turn was partially above water. I think the way the suit is cut kind of forces you into a better body position and I over compensated. You can see it at about 1:00 into the video I have from the race.
My last race of the day was the 100 IM and I shattered my personal best by about 4 seconds. I felt smooth and fast through the whole race, I also felt stronger than usual all the way to the end. At Irvine last month I was dying at the 50 mark. And for reference, here’s the progression of my 100 IM across the last 6 months: 1:17(SCM) in October wearing a plain jammer, 1:11 (SCY) in November in a plain jammer, 1:09 in February in a TYR Aqua Shift Short John, and 1:05 in March in a TYR Tracer Light. Every time I’ve swam the 100 IM it has been at the end of a meet so the conditions were similar for each swim. Obviously the suit didn’t do all of that time dropping, I’m still in a cycle of frequent time drops, but I think the suit helps.
Personally I think speedsuits have a small physical impact on swimmers of my caliber. However I think they have a huge impact mentally. That little added benefit I get from the suit helping my body position and making me feel faster translates into a confidence boost that makes me go faster. When I squeeze into a racing suit my body knows that it’s “go time” and I need to swim my hardest.
Overall I really like this suit and so far I’m glad I bought it. If I tear a hole in the back of it bending over to do a start I might change my mind. I hold grudges against equipment that fails on me… I’m still mad at my bike over a couple of consecutive flat tires back in February. But so far I don’t see this suit failing on me because it really does appear to be excellently constructed. $340 is a lot of dough, but it’s worth it if you really like swimming and swimming fast. The Tracer Light won’t automatically make you faster, you still need to train hard and swim fast, but it will definitely help you if you’ve prepared yourself appropriately.
If you want to try out a TYR Tracer Light SwimOutlet has them on sale here.
**UPDATE 5APR09: I have now worn this suit in 3 different swim meets in 13 different races. The suit still fits great and all the seams continue to be in one piece. The only thing that is a little off is I have a little extra space down by my ankles just above the foot opening. It’s not really a big deal but I do feel a light flutter down there occasionally. As I put in more races in this suit I will continue to update this post on how my Tracer Light holds up over time.
**UPDATE 22APR09: Wore the suit to Pacific Masters Championships and swam 6 events across 2 days. The suit continues to be very tight and the stitching is really impressive. No frays, holes, or tears. Swimming at 2 more meets this weekend in the Tracer Light.
**UPDATE 3MAY09: I wore the suit to SPMA Championships and a long course swim meet in San Luis Obispo. I’m up to 25 races and 7 days of swimming. The seams are still really impressive. I can feel the fabric has given just slightly. It’s still tight, but not quite as tight as it was when it was new. I’m planning on wearing the Tracer Light to USMS Nationals at the end of this week.
**UPDATE 26MAY09: I tried out the B70 in the name of science since it’s been so popular at masters meets. I swam in the B70 at 2 different meets and I like the Tracer Light better. You can read my B70 Nero Comp review here.
Also… FINA published its list of approved swimsuits recently and the TYR Tracer Light is approved through the rest of the year!
**UPDATE 16JUN09: I wore my tracer at the Mission Viejo LCM meet. This puts me up to 29 races in the suit. Still solid. No rips or tears, continues to fit well. I love this suit.
**UPDATE 14JUL09: I wore the Tracer at the Santa Barbara LCM meet. Now up to 35 races. Still solid, no problems.
**UPDATE 26JUL09: Wore the Tracer at the LCM USMS SW Zone meet. I swam 13 races which puts me up to 48 races in the Tracer Light! The suit is still doing good and I’m still swimming best times in it!
**UPDATE 27OCT09: I’ve worn my Tracer Light at 3 meets so far in SCM season, I’m now up to 57 races in the suit! It’s still hanging on and I’m still swimming best times in it. Of all the tech suits I’ve tried, it continues to be my favorite. The suit still doesn’t have any holes or tears, but I think in a few high stretch areas (especially the shoulder straps) I’m getting close to having some kind of fabric failure. It hasn’t happened yet, but I think another meet or two and I may have a problem.