Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Needo for Speedo

As many of you know, my lovely wife and I will soon be competing in a grueling "sprint" triathlon. That is sort of an inappropriate name in my view because there will certainly not be much sprinting going on during the race. Just so you know what we are up against it goes like this: 1/4 mile swim, 15 mile bike, 3 mile run. Easy enough, right?

As part of our training efforts we have found ourselves in a pool, trying to propel our bodies forward through the water, endlessly pushing against the relentless pull of aerodynamic drag (in the water). As a man, society has forced me to wear a "baggy" swimming suit to conform to a standard of modern-day hipness (i.e. it is disgusting for men to show their legs above the knee, apparently).

Well, speaking of aerodynamic drag and men's swimming suits, I was experiencing a lot of it, but it just felt normal to me. I have lived with it my whole life. Well, all of my life except for a few years when I was on the swim team, but those memories are dim to me now...

As we have been gearing up for the triathlon, I was trying to get ready for the idea of wearing a speedo (brief style) for the race. I just couldn't get excited about it. I pictured myself as Ben Stiller in "Meet the Parents", timidly approaching the starting line, unable to relax because I would basically be out in public in essentially "nothing but my skivvies."

Basically, I knew nothing about the incredible array of men's swimming products Speedo manufactures. I knew nothing of the concept of the "jammer."

As you have probably guessed, I purchased a jammer for myself. Dana and I also both purchased $2 swim caps. I am now confident in my swim attire. I am lightning fast.

Last week was the first time we went swimming with my new suit. It was like a new door had been opened. It was like a heavy load had been lifted. I felt my body slicing through the water at incredible speeds that until recently had been unattainable. In engineering terms, I had significantly reduced my drag coefficient. In triathlon terms, I was flying through the water!

Drag in the study of fluid flow is one of those things that lives completely up to it's name: it is nothing but a drain on the system; a severe hit to efficient use of your body's precious energy resources. While you can never eliminate drag completely, these days legions of engineers and scientists devote tremendous amounts of time, money and effort to eke out incremental reductions in drag for everything from swimming attire to automobiles to bridge supports.

Whoever designed my "jammer" did a heck of a job!