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Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton

Jim's B70 Auto-Challenge

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Apologies to those of you who may have read this already in Leslie's blog. But here is an idea I have to test out the efficacy of the B70 as a putative time-enhancing swimming mechanism, that is, above and beyond existing non-LSR speed suits.

To wit, since I can get nobody who has swum PRs in a B70 to agree to swim one meet where he/she swims the same events (via time trials, or lead off relay starts, or sprinting the first half of a 100 or 200 as a way to compare to a 50 or 100 of the same event on the previous or successive day), I propose the following:

I will swim Colony Zones in a B70 that someone lends me for purposes of just this experiment.

I am not in better shape than last year; there is good reason, in fact, to suspectI am in worse shape (more on this below). I am also a year older than my glory days as a Zonesman.

If, with this borrowed B70, I swim better than last year--and I will do the exact same events--then we will have to acknowledge that, at least for me, Jim Thornton, the B70 confers an advantage over a new FS1, which is the most expensive and fastest suit I have every raced in (with the sole exception of a FastSkin Pro, which got stolen on the first day of a meet last summer, and which did not seem to give me appreciably faster times in Day 1's events than I swam on Day 2 in my backup FS1 suit.)

On the other hand, if I do the same or worse, I will publicly agree with anyone who will listen to me that the B70 makes no significant difference.

In the event I go slower in the B70, I will furthermore make no excuses, from fever to the 4-hour erectile problems I have been accused to complaining about, but in point of fact have never suffered, and simply acknowledge that I WAS WRONG!

How many people do you know willing to subject themselves to such stakes?!

What is needed for this experiment to proceed:

Someone to lend my a b70. I am 6' 1" (actually, I shrank a tiny bit due to age; I am really 5' 15/16") and weigh 183 before practice, and 180 after practice and a steam bath.

I am thinking a size 28 would probably be ideal, but in a pinch, I could probably make due with a size 30. Heather Rietz has already offered to lend me one of her women's size 26 B70s, but I think I will use this only as an absolute last option, because I don't want to be accused of suit stacking. And I am pretty sure the swimmers attending the meet do not want to be PTSD'd by an untimely suit rip.

So, please, check your drawers and attics and friends' houses for an unattended B70 that you could filch for me. Unlike the blackguard who stole my Pro, I will return the suit!

Leslie, for her part, responded to my new challenge with the following comment:

I don't think this analysis is correct, Jimby! You have showed consistent improvement in all your events during the last year and your rankings reflect that. I would expect you to keep improving, as you're on the "curve." So you could not attribute all improvement to B70 use.

BTW, I know you only had a couple swims in it, but how do you think the Pro compared with the FS I?

I would actually consider doing the 50 fly/B70 and the 50 fly/Pro at Zones. But I'm not entering the 100 fly or 200 IM to get a split. Way too painful, and not consistent with other important events I want to swim like the 50 breast.

She Puff took your challenge. 50 fly poly tank vs. 50 fly B70. There was a .5 difference. This difference would obviously be less if she had been wearing a Pro instead of a poly tank.

Plus, I do believe the suit helps some more than others. Paul Smith agrees that for someone my size (5'4", size 4), it has a smaller effect than for others. I think Wolfy really misses his B70.

I am not sure how exactly to make my experiment totally fair to all parties. The closest I can come is to print my times this year and last year at comparable moments in the season. Leslie is correct that I did pretty well at two meets this year, both last fall. The first was the Sprint Classic, where I swam the 100, 50, and 200 free, all in a good pool. The second was Colony Zones SCM at Rutgers (made most famous, I think, to readers of this vlog by the movie still atop my page and which documents Leslie's sub 30 second performance in the 50 SCM butterfly.

I didn't swim either of those meets the previous year, so I can't compare my times this year with the previous one. However, a number of other meets have been comparable both years.

For instance, this year I did 4700 yards in the hour swim; the year before I did 4825.

This year I did a 19:54 in the 1650; the previous year a 19:47.

Here are my SCY time results in all USMS sanctioned meets listed on my member area:

SCY Results for 55-59 Age Group

James Thornton 2008-10-26 (20081026SPRINTY) 56 TPIT 50 Free H8 / L4 24.53 1

James Thornton 2008-04-11 (20080411PVCZONY) 55 TPIT 50 Free H11 / L3 24.69 1

James Thornton 2008-04-11 (20080411PVCZONY) 55 TPIT 100 Free H17 / L3 52.90 1

James Thornton 2008-10-26 (20081026SPRINTY) 56 TPIT 100 Free H7 / L3 53.25 1

James Thornton 2008-10-26 (20081026SPRINTY) 56 TPIT 200 Free H3 / L5 1:57.44 1

James Thornton 2008-04-11 (20080411PVCZONY) 55 TPIT 200 Free H9 / L4 1:58.14 2

James Thornton 2008-04-11 (20080411PVCZONY) 55 TPIT 500 Free H8 / L7 5:27.37 1

James Thornton 2008-04-11 (20080411PVCZONY) 55 TPIT 1000 Free H3 / L6 11:31.29 1

SCY Results for 50-54 Age Group

James Thornton 2007-04-13 (20070413PVCOLCY) 54 TPIT 50 Free H11 / L2 24.36 4

James Thornton 2005-04-21 (20050421YMCANTY) 52 AMAM 50 Free H9 / L6 24.63 3

James Thornton 2007-04-13 (20070413PVCOLCY) 54 TPIT 100 Free H13 / L1 52.69 3

James Thornton 2005-04-21 (20050421YMCANTY) 52 AMAM 100 Free H9 / L7 52.87 3

James Thornton 2005-04-21 (20050421YMCANTY) 52 AMAM 200 Free H9 / L1 1:56.41 3

James Thornton 2007-04-13 (20070413PVCOLCY) 54 TPIT 200 Free H8 / L3 1:57.09 3

James Thornton 2005-04-21 (20050421YMCANTY) 52 AMAM 500 Free H10 / L7 5:23.76 3

James Thornton 2007-04-13 (20070413PVCOLCY) 54 TPIT 500 Free H7 / L6 5:32.10 3

James Thornton 2005-04-21 (20050421YMCANTY) 52 AMAM 1000 Free H6 / L3 11:16.85 2

James Thornton 2007-04-13 (20070413PVCOLCY) 54 TPIT 1000 Free H3 / L5 11:26.04 1

James Thornton 2005-04-21 (20050421YMCANTY) 52 AMAM 200 Breast H6 / L1 2:48.48 9

I think I wore a FS1 in all these meets. If you want to factor in the pool conditions, you can look at just the Colony Zone times, which were all swum at George Mason University.

Believe me, I am not trying to "cheat" in this experiment. From year to year, there always seem to be a little fluctuation, and for me, at least, sometimes when I am in the best distance shape, I don't seem to swim the shorter distances as well, and vice versa. Who knows? The distance events are early, so if you swim a really hard 1000 on Day 1 of a meet (because you've spent time training for this and really want to do well), maybe it tires you out for the 100 or 200 the next day?

In any event, in 2007 and 2008, I manged to just squeak under 53 in the 100 free. My 200s have been closer to 1:58s, a significant departure from the 1:55s and 1:56s I swam 5-6 years ago. The longer stuff has been affected even more.

This year, I have done a 24.53, 53.25, and 1:57.44 for the 50, 100, and 200 free at GMU at the sprint classic last fall. I swam all these in a brand new $60 Tyr body suit. I am certainly in no better shape than I was then, after being sick for a month, the IRS audit, and assorted other mental stresses and financial strains.

If you can think of any codicils to add to the Jimby Challenge to make it fair, please let me know.

I honestly have a good sense of what would be a good time for me at this stage of my swimming life. If I could do the times I did last year at Zones, or the ones I did last fall at the sprint classic, I would be thrilled.

Part of me would like to believe that with a B70, I could do better, perhaps a lot better.

Final note, and this is of a somewhat philosophical nature, so please do not read on if swimming times are a major part of your identity.

In Eugene O' Neill's classic play, The Iceman Cometh, a bunch of characters hang out in Harry Hope's bar, drinking and talking about their dreams and how good their lives will soon become.

None, however, can get up the courage to actually leave the bar and put their ambitions to the test.

Only one of the characters, the anarchist, calls the others on it, eventually goading them all into tentatively creeping out just long enough to realize they've been deluding themselves with pipe dreams for years. One by one, they come back, their lives shattered, knowing they will no longer be able to comfort themselves with illusions.

To me, the competitve aspects of masters swimming can be tremendously motivating and fun. I, perhaps more than many, derive self satisfaction from doing times today in my dotage that are not too far off from my high school and college days.

But I know in the back of my mind that I am getting a great boost from even yesteryear's once "golden" speed suit, be this the aquablade, the FS1, or the heavily discounted TYR thing I wore at Rutgers.

I don't mean to serve as the anarchist at Harry Hope's bar, out to wreck other people's sense that these suits only help a little, that it is primarily just talent and hard work.

I agree that talent and hard work are the key. But lets be honest, when you're swimming reasonably fast, and a suit can make even a .5 second difference in a 50, or a second or two in the 100, that's huge. We are talking a 2-4 percent drop in times.

I think even those who don't think that the B70 represents all that much of a leap ahead of earlier suits will agree that any decent racing suit, for most swimmers, will drop times significantly.

Those who swim in B70s, in my mind, do not want to think that this gives them much advantage over those who swim in other racing suits. At this point, I think most of us who are "non purists" look over at someone in a polyester suit and no longer feel bad--that's their decision, I think. They could swim faster with an affordable discounted alternative, but if they don't choose to, it's not something that is going to make me lose sleep.

But what about racing someone you have always been more or less neck-and-neck with, a nemesis in your ballpark? You stand up in your discounted Tyr and look over and see Mr. X or Ms. Y in a dolphin-skin-neoprene-impermeable B70 you don't have the money for yourself. And you this a fair fight?

I am not talking about fair in the greater scheme of things, like poor countries vs. rich countries, or swimmers who get subsidized with the latest form fitting suits, etc.

I mean me vs. X, in some otherwise meaningless contest.

Or, perhaps, me vs. me--in my pursuit to keep swimming fast as long as possible, and not surrender to the passing years, would such a suit provide another year or two postponement in the inevitable slowing?

And if I get one, swim great, and it becomes illegal, is it really going to hit me hard when reality comes back?

It is for these reasons I would like to borrow a size 28 B70 and try my experiment.

Please help!

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Updated March 23rd, 2009 at 12:13 AM by jim thornton



  1. The Fortress's Avatar
    I don't think anyone thinks the B70 helps "just a little," Jim. Everyone thinks it helps, and some (like the suit stacking Karen Dugan) thinks it helps a ton. It helps some more than others.

    I'm sure it gives me a second per 100. I think I said on my blog that I'm willing to go 50/50 suit/improvement. That means I don't think either one is "primarily" responsible for my time drops. I just don't think it's "all" B70. I don't think that rather unremarkable position means I am in denial.

    I doubt that someone is going to give up their B70 for 5 swims or so. Try to get a Renegade from AquaZone on loan, trading publicity for the loaner. I've noticed that ads for the Renegade seem to be on all the swim websites now.
  2. BillS's Avatar
    Colonies Zones are April 24-26, right? I can drop my 30 in the mail on Monday April 20 after our Oregon Association champs. I just need it back before Clovis. You pay shipping (and you may want to pay extra to make sure it gets there) and promise to buy me a beer some day, and I'll do it. It's my warranty replacement courtesy of B70, so I feel good about sharing the love.

  3. jim thornton's Avatar
    Bill, you are a SENSATIONAL fellow! You are correct: zones are friday, sat, and sunday April 24th-26th. Would it fit in a UPS or Fedex box with a tracking number? I am about to go to practice, but my email address is

    Drop me a line, and I will send you my cell phone number and we can get this figured out!

    Thanks sincerely for you assistance in the cause of (only slightly junk) science.

    I only hope that B70's more evangelical boosters, fearing huge drops in my times at Zones, might put something nasty in my food.
  4. The Fortress's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by BillS
    Colonies Zones are April 24-26, right? I can drop my 30 in the mail on Monday April 20 after our Oregon Association champs. I just need it back before Clovis. You pay shipping (and you may want to pay extra to make sure it gets there) and promise to buy me a beer some day, and I'll do it. It's my warranty replacement courtesy of B70, so I feel good about sharing the love.

    You are awesome, Bill! LOVE that you would do this for a fellow swimmer.

    You will no doubt have your competitors running scared, Jim. Just remember that, like the enthusiastic Karen Duggan, you will have skipped a generation of tech suits before launching B70 use.
    Updated March 23rd, 2009 at 05:54 PM by The Fortress
  5. 's Avatar
    Jim, I predict you will better your times from Zones.

    As I pointed out to Leslie in her blog, my 0.5 time drop in the 50 SCY fly was in comparing a poly swim to a FSII swim. I have yet to wear a B70 in a 50 fly SCY. I didn't even realize this until I read her comment and thought, "Hey! I can't believe that I never swam the 50 Fly SCY in a B70!" I mentioned to her that I did swim a 50 LCM fly in a B70 and the conversion would be 25.9 to SCY which would be 1.0 seconds faster than in my poly 50 SCY Fly. I would have to give credit to the suit for the time drops b/c I don't train sprint at all. In fact, I train distance which is to the detriment of my sprinting. Anyway, great experiment and good luck! Thanks to Bill for spreading the love!

  6. jim thornton's Avatar
    K-Cream (TM): Any chance we can talk you into coming to Colony Zones this year to help me adjust my suit?
  7. 's Avatar
    Jim, I'm hoping to perhaps make a LCM Colonies meet if there ends up being one for 2009. Can't make SCY. Need to check your calendar for SCM. I DO want to make one at some point in the near future; however, the MAIN purpose will not be to adjust your suit. I hope I don't offend you but your suit adjustment would be ancillary to swimming fast.
  8. jim thornton's Avatar
    Ancillary? As in an "afterthought"? As opposed to a Jimtropic magnetism that you cannot resist and which draws you to my sphere like monarch butterflies to Zituacuaro?

    No offense taken! Only a certain element of "methinks she protests waaaaaaay too much."

    By the way, nice to see you back outside the hermetic world. Good topic on the 500. I would pay you a modest stipend if you would take the trouble to slap down Aquageek publicly for his declaration that one of my postings thereupon was "unnecessary."

    For example, feel free to use this one:

    Aquageek, your Puritanism and holier than thou attitudes on this forum, disguised as they may be in a faux macho curmudgeonly quality, do nothing but disgust me and pity you and make me want to vomit upon you.

    Just put it in your own words.

  9. 's Avatar
    I love Geek - would never slap him down.
  10. jim thornton's Avatar
    Is this our first disagreement?