My first swim with the Seabrook Seals was on a warm day with a flat, clear sea. We did two hours. Although being in the water for two hours would be my longest ever swim, I wasn’t really concerned about coping with the swim. I was more concerned about the cold. I wore two hats, a rash vest and a wetsuit. How I blush now. Everyone else apart from one other was just in a swim suit.
But the swim was heaven. We went along the coast, under Boscombe Pier and out the other side, against a slight current. Then we turned round and wooshed home. Fabulous. The post-swim coffee and cakes on the beach were fabulous, too.
The following week was boiling hot so I did a couple of shorter swims without my wetsuit. Then followed another wetsuit swim for two hours, with a stronger current, but no rash vest this time.
Since then I’ve been building up my non-wetsuit swim time and am up to 1 hour 6 mins with – drum roll please – only one swim hat. It’s frustrating because I’m fit enough to swim for longer, but my cold tolerance (or lack of ) won’t let me stay in too much longer.
I start to feel cold after about 30 mins when we stop for a bob about to regroup. Others get cold at the same time but either they don’t go downhill as fast as me or they’re just able to put up with it better. So far I haven’t let myself get really cold in the water, but god knows what it would be like if I did, because as it is, 5 mins after getting out, I’m shivering so much it’s hard to get a cup of hot coffee to my mouth. My hands are white and it doesn’t matter how many layers I put on, I don’t warm up for about an hour.
But as I said in the last post, the Seals are tough and they swim all winter. They take hotwater bottles and all sorts down to the beach for post-swim warming and it seems shivering is just something you learn to put up with.
I’m not complaining. Swimming in company has proved really sociable, even though you’re not really in a position to chat much. But it’s great to have a look around while you take a breath and see other white Seals swimming caps nearby. And when it’s really wavy and you’re not sure what you’re doing, it’s hugely reassuring to see someone else making headway. Being thrown around in the waves is really invigorating… I haven’t had anything scary happen to me yet, thank goodness, although perhaps it’s only a matter of time.
Watch this space!