I wanted to set aside a whole article to talk about one of the key pieces of equipment that I used while training for and competing in the Portland Triathlon as it has become an invaluable item in my kit, it’s The Swim It. When I first started thinking about the swim portion of the triathlon and in particular, the open water swimming element, there was a certain amount of trepidation. Don’t get me wrong, I have always felt strong in the water, but after several weeks of training in a pool I realized that swimming at distance continually at pace is challenging and leaves little room for error.
When you run or bike, there are plenty of potential accidents that can occur. Most result in you sitting on the side of the road with a cramp or some road rash or even some broken bones. The water however, especially open water, is a lot less forgiving. As a dad to two young boys, I wanted to be as safe as possible so I immediately went to look for something to make me feel better about this. The last thing I want is for a cramp or something even more catastrophic to happen. I looked at a number of personal flotation options, but everything seemed unwieldy and then I came across The Swim It.
My first phone conversation with their Vice President, Amanda McIntosh, was educational and eye opening, so my mind was put at ease from the get-go. It was clear to me they came from a place of true experience both athletically and in the area of product development. The concept behind The Swim It is simple. It’s a personal flotation device (PFD) stored in a location on your body that does not affect performance or increase drag (back of your leg), it can be reused multiple times simply and easily, and it can save your life. The result is something utterly simple, yet 100% effective, and really a must-have for any open water swimmer.
Swimming With It
With my first swim, I didn’t really know what to expect having this thing strapped to the back of my right quad. When I hopped in the water though, it gave me some level of instant comfort. I just felt better about being out there. The device fits snugly against your leg by two elastic straps and can be used over a wetsuit or on bare skin without a problem. The plastic ripcord piece is secured by a scrap of Velcro which makes it almost impossible for anyone to accidentally pull even when swimming near you. Internally, the Swim it holds a bright yellow inflatable flotation device. It also holds a small air canister and the release mechanism. The ingenious part here is basing the release mechanism around a simple CO2 air canister cartridge that you probably have multiple of because it’s the same one you use on your bike. This makes it reusable an infinite number of times.
One of the best pieces of advice I got from the team at The Swim It was to try it out repeatedly in the water and see how it works. Testing it out only costs you a dollar or two because all you need to do is repack and attach a new canister. Following this advice, after every swim I would deploy my Swim It and swim the last 50 or so yards using it as a kick-board. Then at night, after I got home, I would re-pack and place a new canister inside. Re-packing takes only a couple minutes after you have learned it and maybe 10 to 15 minutes the first time in order to get it down. After all that training, when it came time for the triathlon and in competition I debated whether I should wear it.
There are lots of support folks out there in competition and lots of boats in the water, but I simply felt better having it on so I decided to use it during the Portland Triathlon. It is USA Triathlon and WTC Ironman approved, so you don’t get knocked for using it. It added maybe 5 seconds of time to transition to unclip it and throw it on the ground, but the peace of mind I had was worth it. One other thing I can say is that I started feeling like an advocate for it. People continually asked me where I got it, what it was, how it worked, etc. I also now realize that most people are looking for something like this because everybody has a bit of a fear of that open water.
Wearing The Swim It has become a no-brainer for me. It’s simple to put on, it works exactly as designed, it doesn’t affect performance, and it can save your life. I give a lot of endorsements for quality products, but it’s rare that I can say that I don’t ever see myself ever using anything else except this product. Congratulations to The Swim It team on delivering a truly great product.
The Swim It is available on their website and comes in a few models. The one tested above was the Premium version in Orange which retails for $144.99.