I’m excited. Giddy, almost-Christmas excited. Why? Because the open water swimming season is upon us!
Ok, stripping down in a flapping tent, in close quarters to a load of panting women, squeezing themselves into wetsuits that have definitely lost some of the give over the winter; then plunging oneself into icy cold water that makes your bits burn, isn’t everyone’s idea of fun; but, for some of us, it’s a long-awaited pleasure.
Open water swimming sounds scary and many people are intimidated at the prospect; I compare it to running on a treadmill vs running outdoors. Yes, it has crossed my mind that a dead body might float up from the gloom beneath me, but, really, I’ll take the risk to escape the lane battles down the local pool. (There is nothing more soul-destroying than the tiled blue line on the bottom of the local baths; no wonder people dislike swimming.)
Early season swimming is freeze-yer-knackers-off cold; (a technical term) it’s for the hardy. The trick is to cover yourself head to toe in the thickest layer of blubbery neoprene available, wetsuit, gloves, socks and an odd bonnet thingy as the cold will bite at your extremes and creep to your core. Think walrus is a good mantra.
As usual with these kind of things, there’s always some loonies who are more bonkers/hardcore than the rest. As I tremulously make my way down the ramp, gingerly inching the waterline groinwards, buxom ladies in brightly coloured cossies will stride past me and plunge themselves and all their exposed skin into the water with aplomb. When I am sploshing coffee with manically trembling hands later, post-dip, these same ladies will offer to help me off with my wetsuit and swaddle me in a dryrobe. Open water swimmers are without exception uninhibited and kind.
This year will be different though. This year I have managed to swim through the winter! What this actually means, (for me at least,) is that once a month I’ve tottered into a lake and managed to balance the aren’t-I-epic/have-my-lips-gone-blue? scales. 5 minutes is decent, 10 minutes worthy, 15 or above you are likely to die (possibly accurate.)
My rule of thumb is long enough for an Instagram/Facebook picture but not long enough that my eyes freeze shut. This year I’ve swum in water that was around 2 degrees and in falling snow. When I hit the frigid waters this year, I will be more acclimatised to the cold and will have impressive thermoregulation capacities that will enable me to swim comfortably for mile upon mile, (or at least stay in the water long enough to justify the hour’s drive to get there.)
Open water swimming is soul-enhancing stuff. I’m hooked. I could wait for the balmy summer’s evening swims but I cannot wait. So I’ll be squeezing myself into my wetsuit, double capping and squealing my way into somewhere cold and wet very soon. Being warm is for wimps. (And a cup o soup sitting on the steps in your bobble hat soon warms your cockles. Simple pleasures.)