2 In swimming

What doesn’t kill you makes you feel alive

If you had told me 20 years ago that at the age of 41 I would put on a skin tight wetsuit and swim in a public pool, in 11.5°C water, freestyle with my head in the water – I would have called you crazy.

At 21 I thought I knew who I was (didn’t we all? ;). A swimmer was not one of those things. Neither was having much body confidence.

I learned to swim freestyle/front crawl a couple of years ago and last summer tried swimming in open water for the first time. It was cold and since I swam in a river, the zero visibility freaked me out. Like literally did not let me breathe as slow as I normally breathe when swimming.

For this birthday I got a wetsuit and today I christened it in Tooting Bec Lido. The pool there is 100 yards, which is 91.4m, and it’s totally unheated. Today’s water temperature was 11.5°C.

Now – I hate the cold. I hate cold weather, cold drinks, cold water, you name it.

So why am I doing this?

I think it sort of started when I did The Toughest obstacle race last year. We had to wade through a river neck deep. It was cold. Paralysingly cold. But I came through that river and I didn’t die. And I thought “Awesome. If I am ever in an emergency situation where I fall into a cold body of water, I will probably not die!”

So how did this swim go?

Getting the wet suit on was fine. It did not take me 3 hours and I did not require any assistance. My feet felt the cold when I stepped into the pool and when I started swimming, it was a bit of a shock when the cold water hit my face. In freezing water the temptation is to swim FAST so you don’t spend a lot of time with your head under water but dudes – slow is smooth and smooth is fast, so I slowed myself down, just embraced the freezing of the face, kept steady breathing and got the first lap done.

The next 7 laps were good, only when I stood up at the end of each lap I could feel that there was a bit of water inside the wet suit. My feet were numb but rest of my body was warm so I was ok.

By the time lap 9 came around my body was starting to get cold and by the end of lap 10 I was ready to call it a day. I got out of the pool and whoah – I was so unsteady and dizzy, like I’d been spinning really fast! So weird, I didn’t expect that. I think I can blame the large shallow wavy pool for that.

My feet took forever to thaw but I had really enjoyed a long pool and swimming in a wet suit is so nice and cozy. I think in water that is a little bit warmer it’ll be awesome.

Tooting Bec Lido from mind over matter on Vimeo.

Just like I used to say that I can’t run, I used do say I can’t swim.

But I can.

And that’s kind of fun.

Let’s now hope that the weather will finally warm up and that the water temperature is a little bit higher next weekend, I’d like to swim a bit more than 10 laps.

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  • Reply
    Zoe Tribe
    May 10, 2017 at 11:54 am

    Hi – the dizzy thing is due to the super cold water in your inner ear, it happened to my partner after open water swimming a few times. He looked it up on the internet and apparently can be an issue – the fix is swimmers earplugs. I’m too chicken for cold water and open water swimming so I can’t personally vouch for the earplugs but he says they worked for him!

    • Reply
      May 15, 2017 at 3:24 pm

      Thank you for the tip! I got some ear plugs and the dizziness was definitely less this weekend! I might try different pairs so see which ones fit me the best, the ones I got let in a tiny bit of water.

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