Poppy day swim – what a difference two weeks makes

Today is Remembrance Day and, fittingly, I will always remember it. I think today will be a turning point in my Channel training story.

Two weeks ago I wrote about how my body and mind responded to a particularly cold swim which knocked my confidence  a bit.  Actually, A Lot.  It also gave me a reality check about how hard swimming through the winter is going to be.  However, today  I was actually looking forward to my swim.  The forecast of sun and the lack of wind for the last few days suggesting the sea would be flat certainly helped, and I’ve had a couple of less scary swims in the intervening fortnight each of which has been better than the last.  Anyway, looking forward to it made a change from getting the dreads and not sleeping properly the night before.

Today’s swim was with six others, all similarly paced but of differing experience and cold water hardness. One of the things I love about swimming with the Seals is the companionship in the water. It’s comforting to be close to someone and to stop and bob about every so often and take in the views and the occasion… and to gratifyingly watch people muffled up in hats and coats walking on the beach while we’re being heroic in the sea.

Today, once the cold water freezing feeling had subsided, we could almost pretend it was midsummer. It was wonderful to muck about a bit and just feel privileged and grateful to be able to do something that connects you with nature so intimately. I know that’s partly the endorphins speaking, but damn it was good to be in there today.  Gary and I – both the newbies in the group as far as cold water swimming goes – even did an extra 8 mins at the end swimming fairly hard between two groynes before getting out of the water.  It was wonderful to be able to swim for speed rather than for heat and survival.

Here’s a 30 second video taken of us in the sea today by Lucy Hawthorne – thank you for the video, Lucy! She filmed it from the top of the overcliff so you’ll have to concentrate to spot a clutch of tiny splashes in the middle of the frame.

So today I was in for just under 38 minutes. The sea temperature is probably around 12 degrees, possibly a smidge cooler, but we’re not really sure. But certainly the temp hasn’t dropped massively in the last couple of weeks so because of my four swims during that period, I’ve definitely been able to acclimatise to the temperature.

Two other factors have also helped enormously:  blogging about about it and research.

The blogging has meant I’ve reflected on and rationalised all the emotion and sensation which goes with doing something new and difficult. I’ve tried to unpack my feelings and memories objectively, turning them over to examine them from all angles.  The research means I understand much more about what’s happening physiologically and mentally.  I know now about the different stages of our reaction to cold water immersion so can recognise what’s going on, what stage I’m at and how I need to respond.  I’ll blog about this in the future – maybe it’ll be a 220 Triathlon blog, but I’ll definitely post it on here.  I’m a scientist and like to understand the theory behind everything I do whether it’s massage techniques, marathon training or devising WADAC training sessions.

Anyway. I’m not scared of the cold any more.  I can recognise that it’s there and that it will hurt, but I also know that I’m not in danger, the vile feeling subsides and that I always feel good afterwards. And every swim brings me closer to being able to be strong in the sea come the spring.

About the Author:Lou

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