I swam as part of a relay in this past weekend's Wool Capital olympic distace triathlon (1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run). Two guys from Goodfellow Air Force Base did the other legs, which was nice, since that means I only needed to show up with goggles and swim suit. I also opted to bring shorts and a shirt, mostly because I didn't want to scare any children after I finished my leg ("Why is that man walking around in his underwear?").
We handidly won, although things might have been different had one of the other teams actually had their mid-30s 10k runner instead of a substitute.
The relays go off with the sub-35 age group racers, so the majority of the fastest athletes are in this bunch. Since I didn't have to worry about the bike or run, I decided to open it up and see what I could do in the swim.
Incidentally, there's not much difference between me going all out and just putting in a steady effort. While the course probably isn't exactly the same (buoys move, etc.), I swam about a minute faster than last year, when I did the entire race and swam with a moderate effort. While I wasn't surprised at that outcome, it's still enlightening to experience first-hand.
Also of note: This is the first time I've raced that a bunch of people were wearing the various "swimskins" that have become all the rage since the last Olympics. The overall winner didn't wear one (he went the Speedo route the whole time, chafing be damned), but the top three fastest swimmers did. I don't know if I would have been as fast as those guys had they not been wearing those suits, but I don't think it would have required as much effort on my part to hang on their feet (which I lost when we started swimming through the earlier waves). They definitely are a device that improves speed in the water. In any event, I'm glad FINA is going to ban themfor pure swimming events. I don't think triathlon will follow FINA's example, but I'm not really bothered about that. If there's one thing triathletes love to do, it's spend money on "free" speed... or, to be more accurate, "expensive" speed.
I wouldn't have been able to hang with the top swimmers for the duration of the entire race, so the fact that they get a minute or so on me in the swim (as opposed to 30 seconds sans-speedsuit) doesn't really matter. And I can still beat the folks that are slower than me, swimskin or not. It just creates more of a margin between the fastest guys and me. Besides, I'm saving my $300+ for something that will improve my bike splits... like a motor.