Saturday, 25 November 2017

Swimming in cold water and the struggles with "after drop", bad camera angles and complicated clothing...

After Shark had very kindly offered to drive to the lake this weekend, and informed me that we would be leaving at 7:45am, I did manage to get my kit bag and myself to her house on time (this includes a five...ish minute leeway), despite a small lie in (not entirely planned), and no time to put on even any mascara (Don’t judge – I’m ancient and need all the external help I can get!) by the skin of my teeth. I would also have loved a coffee, having not had the time to have one before I set off, and would have suggested under normal circumstances that we stop on the way, however, being that I had already delayed us a tiny bit, decided that it probably best to not push my luck further and that I’d manage without until we got there.

Shark wasn’t swimming but had offered to come along for moral support, hold my towel, cheer me on, check I was okay when I got out, issue instructions through the changing room door and replenish hot drinks and my hot water bottle, and although the former part of the journey was spent putting the world right (half an hour of utter rubbish), the latter was spent talking about her new role as non-swimming swim buddy – or in short, and less tongue tying to say, Swim Sherpa.

The water temperature was finally under 10oc (9.8). I planned to swim five laps of the short course. A mile… or so I thought, and although I spend the best part of the first lap doing anything to avoid the almost inevitable ice cream head (although think I may have cracked this one) whilst trying to find my swimming groove, by the second lap I have settled into a rhythm and felt well. By lap four I was almost blasé about the whole swim, however this was actually short lived, as I honestly hadn’t realized how much the cold had effected my coordination, until I came upon a bit of traffic. The traffic and I approached the buoy at the same time, and I had judged it that he was slightly wide of it, and so that gave me the advantage of the racing line (of course he had no idea we were racing…). In my head I was nipping round the inside, doing a corkscrew movement around the buoy, and emerging round the corner unscathed and effortlessly continuing my swim. The reality of which was nothing like it. In brief, I lost all sense of proportion and squeezed through a gap that actually didn’t exist, hit my hand on the buoy, and then head butted it and then hit the swimmer on his ear almost dislodging his goggles (If we had have actually been racing I could well have been disqualified for this misjudgment). Other than that, all was going well until lap five when it felt like I was feebly trying to swim through treacle. I managed to up my pace in some kind of final flourish when I remembered there was the prize of chocolate goodies to be had on completion, and made a huge effort to look like this lap had been no effort whatsoever. I was nearing the end, but as I approached the shore line I heard Shark yelling to me “one more lap. One more is a mile.” I can’t tell you how cheerless I felt hearing this. I’d used up tons of energy on my last lap; I was tiring and feeling the cold. I knew I’d just about got one more in me and so began my second attempt at a final lap complaining under my breath (mouth closed of course). Having upped my speed on the last lap thinking it was just that – my last lap, to unexpectedly have to do one more felt like torture, however by the time I’d really finished I had overcome my mini meltdown and was back in my stride.

Finishing, I was surprise at how great it felt. Shark was taking photographs of me getting out (including usual theatrical exit) … when actually wasn’t she supposed to be holding my towel whilst yelling encouraging words at me rather than trying to be Annie Liebovitz? Once properly out Shark came into her own, she had me wrapped in a towel and my Swimzi, drinking hot orange (from new, shiny flask) and walking me to the changing room in no time. If last week is anything to go by I know I have approximately ten minutes to get dressed before the ‘after drop’ (In brief- The ‘After Drop’ refers to when your core temperature continues to cool down after you come out of (in this case) cold water and are beginning to rewarm again. It’s the warm blood from your core mixing with the cool blood from your peripheral. This causes your core temperature to drop).

I knew I had to get dressed quickly, however the lack of coordination that I had in the lake was also very obvious in the changing room too. I was so surprised at the difference one degree temperature drop makes. Last week I was dressed and drinking coffee in no time, before I began shaking (mildly), whereas this week, and despite being very aware that I had only a short window of time, I felt useless! My skin felt sticky as I struggled to put my top on, and after only managing to with get half of my body in (no further details required here I hope) I gave up in favour of battling with my socks instead. I knew I was taking too long, and after my toe became entangled and all hope of retrieving it were lost, I asked Shark for help. I figured with her nursing background she would have ‘seen it all’ anyway, and would not be shocked by the mess I was in with my complicated jumper and stuck toe. Shark goes into Sherpa mode (I did notice the amused look on her face) and took over my dressing. All hope of retaining any dignity were sadly lost when she announced that my jumper had to come off as it was the wrong way round, and I just sat there and allowed her to get on with it, not caring less, whilst she fussed over me (for which I am most grateful). That’s when the shivering started (In a nutshell, shivering is your body’s response to being cold. It’s your muscles contracting and expanding quickly. This produces heat, which helps to raise your body temperature), effectively making Sherpa Shark’s job more difficult and laborious (for I was neither use nor ornament). Once I am all dressed and good to go, I was ushered into the café area where a coffee (with lid and straw) was put in front of me along with one of Star Baker Chris’s rocky roads along with a refilled hot water bottle. I am instructed to do as I’m told (difficult), which included sitting, drinking something hot and walking round the room (in no particular order). I have to say that the shaking went on for far longer than last week, and there was just no way to control it, despite my best efforts – I tried!

About half an hour later and once the shaking has subsided enough, and Shark is confident enough that I won’t drop her phone she offers me her camera to have a look through some of the photos she had taken. I am shocked at how terrible I looked. I actually look grey. I hold Sherpa Shark fully responsible for this, as she should have known that soft filters, gentle lighting and flattering camera angles were required and thus should have been adopted before she took any photographs. I shall also blame the extra lap I had to do in order to complete the mile. I will not however blame myself in any way, shape to form, or the fact that I didn’t have enough time before we set off (due to unforeseen circumstances listed earlier) to put any (waterproof) make- up on, that’s evidently very much needed at such times! 😧

Finally, it's a year since I first began writing my little blog, which stared as a way of writing about my recovery, the training and the swim I did last year (Windermere one way). I have been amazed and overwhelmed at the amazing response, and lovely messages of support I have had. After I had completed the swim I was asked if I would consider putting last year’s journey into a book. Going from a blog to an e-book is something quite different, and a lot scarier, however I decided after a lot of consideration to take the plunge (no pun intended) and do it, and finally has now been published this week on Amazon. How amazing (but mostly scary) is that? I hope that for those of you that read it feel inspired to not only take on difficult challenges, but also to never underestimate how far you can push yourself to achieve what you set out to do.

Open Water Woman Swims Windermere is available on Amazon

If you have enjoyed reading my blogs also I have a "group" on Facebook. Its not really a group, as it's only me, but on it I post more regularly, and I'm also on Twitter and Instagram. You'd be very welcome. Here are the links. 😊


1 comment:

  1. Your comment about feeling almost blase at Lap 4..that was the comment that every hypothermia victim i've treated has mentioned afterwards. It's good to get out when you feel too happy/blase or at worse when you notice you are making bad decisions.