Monday, 4 December 2017

"Not feeling it" swim...

There’s one thing that’s stuck with me since day one of the cold water swimming course I attended, and that was the words of one of the instructors. He said “you will probably have an off day, and if you do, even if you’ve only got as far as one toe in the water, if you’re not feeling it, get out.” Well, I’ve just had one of those days…

In hindsight I shouldn’t have swam really, I’d had a late (non-alcoholic) night the night before along with not much food (out at a bash where the best thing to eat was some olives that I managed to persuade from the waiter (and I hate olives). The food was truly terrible – AND I’m not easily put off). I’m also nursing the back end of a cold (nothing too debilitating, two paracetamol were consumed at its height along with necessary chocolate (being a medical emergency and all that), and that’s about it). I wasn’t feeling a hundred percent but thought I felt okay to swim (I didn’t want to miss a week either). I’d made my usual breakfast, I also found myself making a full English for my kids too as I was reminded, “it is Sunday, and you always do breakfast on a Sunday… you make the best…” And as my usual swim day is Saturday, and I’m a sucker for a complement, and a complete push over as far as they are concerned, and I felt the guilt, and yes, I’m sure they are perfectly capable of rustling up their own breakfast, but made it for them regardless, I then filled and packed my hot water bottle and hot drink, and set off on the hours drive to the reservoire.

The water temperature was 6.1oc, so just shy of a full degree colder than last week. I began my usual pre-swim routine, however I just couldn’t get myself as warm as usual, and started putting off getting in. I began faffing about with my stuff, re-folding my warm clothes round my hot water bottle and rechecking my already checked goggles, before Shark took the lot off me (she actually snatched), put them back in my bag and led me to the waters edge, where a welcome party of swans was there to greet me (Yay! - and if this wasn’t the sign I needed not to get in, I ignored it – not them though, no I didn’t let them out of my sight).

Nemesis and I keeping a close eye on each other.
I'd have preferred the distance to be larger, as in different lakes larger, but it didn't seem one bit bothered by the lack of personal space that I was.

Thryberg reservoir

One place I don’t faff about is at the getting in bit; I get in and get on with it. No point in prolonging the agony longer than necessary (this also refers to getting in the lake with the swans – honestly, I’m beginning to think I am Dr. Doolittle of the swan world…). It took me much longer to get into my stroke, and by the end of the first 300 metres I was still to find my rhythm, it felt like I had needles being stuck all over me (this is new?), my hands and feet were already feeling numb (not usually feeling this until near the end, however this is colder than usual…) and I was feeling really tense having my very own escort swan all the way round sizing me up. I should have got out after that first one, however decided that I needed to swim another torturous lap… Just in case things were to improve. They didn’t.

I got out quickly, or as quickly as a stony walkway, frozen feet and jelly legs allow and Shark had me dressed and in the cafĂ© drinking coffee in no time, (not like me at all) I declined the offer of cake. I put it down to self-pity, and feeling that I didn’t deserve it after a poor and frustrating swim. I felt miserable, like I’d failed. It’s not like me to feel so deflated. Something was most definitely amiss, and I found out what on the way home. Driving on the motorway I began with the symptoms of a migraine. I’ve not had one for probably ten years, so felt a bit stunned and scared. The zigzag aura, that’s usually a pre warning of an inevitable nasty headache, was getting worse. I immediately called Shark, who fortunately was driving in front of me. She told me to stop driving immediately (yep, only me…hard shoulder of one of England’s busiest motorways). We pulled over, and she administered tablets, water, sugar and advice whilst checking my vital signs and waited for the aura to go. If she’d have pulled a stethoscope out of her rucksack I would not have been surprised (whole new level of gratitude for my swim buddy). It was almost comedy (if I weren’t so panicked) when she reminded me that I’d had a full medical the day before and been given a clean bill of health, and asked me what the hell I’d been doing in the twenty four hours since I’d had it to cause this! When the aura had gone the headache I expected didn’t arrive (I’ve read since that this (a silent migraine) is more common in older sufferers, although I must fall into the rarer instance of it happening to the younger, in the prime of their life, only slightly over the hill sufferer), and so drove, again in convoy and slowly, home, where I had a long shower and an even longer Nanna Nap.  

Here’s the thing, I don’t know what caused the migraine. It could have been a number of things: not eating the night before, feeling a bit ill, swimming tense (thanks to my Nemesis), I could even probably find a way to blame the Super Moon and my decision not to have cake for it, however I’ve also read that the warnings of an imminent migraine (prodromal stage) are very similar to all the things I’d been feeling before and during my swim: irritability, feeling tired, tingling and numbness. It’s been so long since I’d had a migraine I’d not even considered it as a possibility, and if that is the case, then the timing was just awful… and so there is a lesson here, and (as always) a silver lining. I have had a stark reminder that cold water is not forgiving just because I’m having an off day. Swimming in it at these low temperatures can be dangerous and brutal and is already punishing on the body, and that’s on a good day, and if I’m “not feeling it” again before I get in, there’s no way on Earth I’m getting in. It's just not worth it. I will sit it out along with a hot water bottle, my body weight in tissues and some Berocca (and cake and emergency chocolate) if necessary.

Oh, and the silver lining? Whilst my kids seemed unable/unwilling/like their routine too much to cook breakfast, it seems they can pull a delicious Sunday dinner out of the bag without being asked and without help. Well, to be fair, I think they realized there was no hope of getting fed by me once the duvet arrived on the sofa. I'm still not sure whether the "hope this is a one off" was referring to me being a bit under the weather or them actually cooking, but anyway, who knew they could? Not me, that’s for sure!  

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


  1. Every time I'm gong for a swim I ask myself . Do you feel like it. If the answer is I'm not sure or no. then I don't go. That's for OWS anyway. Anna

  2. Every time I find it hard to get into the water, I ask myself, have you ever regretted getting in? I never have. But I now have to accept that it's possible that I could!