Kit review: Swim Run ORCA RS1 wetsuit
A friend Alan Mackie has become a keen competitor of swim-run events. He has been testing the Swim Run ORCA RS1 wetsuit.
What is swim-run?
Swim-run is fairly new to the Scotland and an import from Sweden, where the first swim-run event, the Otillo, was staged in 2006. In recent years there has been a surge in swim-run races across the UK.
Swim-run sees participants doing just that: Swimming and running. The format is different for each event but essentially there will be multiple open water swims joined together by running sections.
Participants, who compete in pairs, swim and run in a wetsuit and trainers.
Alan, who is a member of Glasgow Triathlon Club, says: “A key difference to many other events that I have taken part in is the competing as a pair. It’s for safety reasons, with a rule that states you can be no more than 10m to 20m distant from your ‘buddy’. This really changes the dynamic and training in a race and, for me, it makes it extra enjoyable.
“Last year, my buddy, Paul, and I, trained for the Short Course Loch Lomond SwimRun. We knew we couldn’t run in our full-length wetsuits so we bought cheap ‘shortie’ wetsuits. It wasn’t really adequate and we came out of one training session with early signs of hypothermia.
“Because we enjoyed the event last year we decided to enter again this year, but do the longer race, and that’s when we decided to improve our gear. I came across the ORCA RS1 shortie wetsuit and I have been wearing it this summer for training and races.”
Features of Swim Run ORCA RS1 wetsuit
Orca states: “The new RS1 SwimRun wetsuit provides the ultimate solution for swim-run adventures. It has improved buoyancy and flexibility, as well as removable arms to allow you to adopt your suit to the event temperature. There is additional storage, which means there is less bulky equipment floating about.”
- Removable neoprene arms.
- Front zip
- 1.5mm thick neoprene shoulders, 2mm arm and crotch panels to create a flexible suit for both swimming and running.
- 9mm front leg panels offer buoyancy for the best swimming position in the water
- 3mm front and back panel for additional buoyancy and warmth.
- Anti-abrasion DuraSkin butt panel to protect the suit
- Inner back pocket for storage of race compulsories such as GPS
- Extra storage in the lower back for other race items.
Price £329. see Orca
On test: Alan’s thoughts on Swim Run ORCA RS1
These are some of the things that Alan likes about the wetsuit:
- The amount of buoyancy in the legs is fantastic. I first tried it at a swimming pool session and I was rocketing ahead of those who normally swim faster.
- The wetsuit comes with separate arms, which give you more protection, should it be cold. My buddy preferred to swim with them. I prefer not to wear the arms but when I tried the out in the chilly North Atlantic they worked well.
- The zip at the front opens in both directions. In swim-run events I always find myself overheating while running so it is great to have a zip that I can undo to allow me to cool down. Opening it up from the bottom allows for a quick toilet stop (for men!).
- It has a rear pocket big enough for a map or a gel, although I didn’t find it easy to access while running and it had a tendency to open by itself.
- The wetsuit comes with a tiny built-in whistle, which is a mandatory piece of kit for the events. So that was one less thing to carry or worry about.
There were some things he is not so keen on:
- It is vital to get the size right and this is not easy. Although there are nine different sizes I ended up with the wrong size to start with. If the wetsuit is too tight it restricts your breathing and if it’s too loose the water comes in at the neck. The only way to really tell is to wear it in a training session but you will struggle to send it back afterwards as it will show signs of wear.
- The extra thick neoprene around the thighs is great for the swim but gets in the way in the run. Another competitor asked me why I was applying Body Glide on the outside of my suit around the crotch area. This is why!
- The crotch area of the neoprene already shows wear and I would guess this area will fail first.
- The neck opening area needs some improvement. Both of us experienced times when the suit filled with water when swimming. I suspect we didn’t pull the zip up fully or the velcro didn’t close enough but that is easily done in the heat of a race. There needs to be a more foolproof seal.
- The wetsuit is surprisingly difficult to remove. It’s much harder than a rear zip suit in my experience. It would not be a good suit to use for any races, such as aquathlon, where you need to quickly remove the wetsuit in transition.
Alan says: “Not surprisingly this wetsuit is much better than a cheap ‘shortie’ wetsuit and probably better than a cut-down full length wetsuit but there is room for improvement.
“I have been thinking about whether the wetsuit helped in a recent swim-run event. Last year, we were third at Loch Lomond, this year we won, and by six minutes. Neither of us are great runners, so we won in the swim. We managed to beat people we know are faster swimmers and faster runners. So maybe it was down the suit!”