Thursday, 10 May 2018

Let the 2018 open water swimming season begin!

What could be better than your first open water swim of 2018 coinciding with it being the hottest May Day Bank Holiday on record (except perhaps for my first open water swim of 2018 being somewhere very tropical with very white sands)?

The only downside to this weekend’s swimming was that swim buddy was away celebrating her birthday with family, and no, not a big birthday -that’s next year! (I am going to be in so much trouble for sharing this), but Shark likes a large celebration every year, regardless of age, hence the weekend away. Historically the water temperatures aren’t usually as favourable as they are this year, and our first dip back in the lake after the winter is usually the week after the Bank Holiday. Despite her being away I didn’t want to miss the fact that the water temperature was likely to be higher than usual, and so making the most of the opportunity, and so in the absence of Shark, and for safety reasons, I recruited a fellow squad member, Richard, to come with me (well actually in truth, he was going anyway). I just told him that it was just for a bit of encouragement on the way round etc., and I bribed him with the promise of coffee after as a thank you. To be honest I was expecting him to counter with the suggestion of cake thrown in, but he didn’t. He is a far cheaper swim buddy than Shark!

What I didn’t tell him (I was worried he’d say no if he knew in advance) was that I hadn’t tried on my wetsuit yet and that there may be a struggle to get my very inflexible self into it, requiring his (and possibly others) support (as in physical, not just standing near me cheering and offering words of encouragement!), brute strength and possibly some kind of implement (whatever works: shoe horn, wrench, crowbar) to get me in.

The lake looked glorious, and at 13.8oc, which compared to this time last year when I got in (10.1oc), was pretty much considered warm in my mind, and if wetsuits weren’t compulsory I may have considered getting in without, but they are, and so back to the difficult job in hand, which turned out to be less traumatic than I thought, that was until I was reminded that in order for it to be fully functioning I needed it to be not only on, but on and zipped up… Knew it was too good to be true! Step in my new, temporary swim buddy, who I might add made such a song and dance before he had even got hold of the zip, muttering he may “need the strength of an ox” but I was optimistic that all would be well, and it was, with what I would consider a bit of overacting from him, it was on, done up and with the added bonus that I could not only still move, but I could also breath (provided I didn’t do it too deeply).

Reunited once more with my Swimzi coat and my nemesis swans!

Getting myself acclimatized to the water was fine; it was the foggy goggle issue that I had that was not fine. It was not fine because I couldn’t see that swim buddy had set off and was swimming, very fast, off into the blue yonder (without a backwards glance). I also couldn’t also see the fellow swimmer next to me that I took a swipe out of (accidentally), and nor could I see the buoy that I think I was swimming towards.

In previous swim seasons I would have been delighted with foggy goggles, after all if you can’t see it, then it simply isn’t there as far a aquatic livestock go, however this year I am determined to overcome my fear of anything in the water, moving or non-moving - this includes my own limbs and that of those around me, ropes attached to buoys, the bottom, plants, twigs and so on, and so to rid myself of my fear I need to actually be able to see what was in the water, however today it took several frustrating stops to de-mist them whilst trying to stay afloat before they were fit for purpose again, by which time I noticed that a couple of the safety crew were circling me with their radios at the ready. I gave them a thumbs up, because as much as I do love ride on a jet ski (well I went on one once twenty years ago and loved it), I don’t fancy them getting it out in a rescue attempt because of my goggle issues. Shark would never let me live it down.

All this faffing about with my goggles had taken quite some time. And by the time I was organized and fog-free my temporary swim buddy was nowhere to be seen (even in the absence of fog). I would like to point out in the interest of honesty, that I didn’t actually have a cat in hells chance of keeping up with him, and so set off at my own pace knowing that he was probably going to lap me at some point.

My first lap round I would have had the biggest grin on my face if it weren’t for the fact that I know that smiling dislodges my goggles. It felt great being back in, AND I feel I’d made a small improvement in my progress as I was only startle three times (believe me when I say this is progress) thanks to unexpectedly seeing the bottom of the lake, a fellow swimmer and a ray of sunlight, which I feel deserves a pat on the back, or at the very least some celebratory cake afterwards.

On my second lap round as I approached the first buoy I was asked by the safety crew to stop as the jet ski was out on the lake taking a fellow swimmer back to the shoreline (he was fine, had got cold and had asked the safety crew for help). During this time I was forced to tread water (well it was that or drown!?!) and whilst we were being corralled into one area for safety, I decided to use the opportunity to actually look under the water, and I mean really look to see what was there, so I positioned myself in the middle of a few other swimmers (just in case…) and put my head under the water. Only for a few seconds, but enough to convince me that there were no man-eating minnows, in fact there were nothing more than some plants dappled with sunlight to be honest, looked quite pretty and not dangerous at all.

Several brave minutes of observing the subaquatic terrain without incident I was feeling very pleased with myself and more relaxed and wondering what all the fuss I was making for nothing, when out of the corner of my eye I spotted a thin black creature right next to me. How had I not seen a lake snake coming? There was quite a few swimmers waiting by the buoy by now, and if I made a fuss I was either going to scaremonger everyone from fleeing the area, and possible into the path of the jet ski or look a complete idiot if I made a fuss meaning the safety crew may think I was in trouble (not sure I’d live down having to be rescued due to being a scaredy cat either), especially when after the initial shock I realized that it was not a lake snake after all, but was the cord from the back of my own wetsuit that had come away from the Velcro (my temporary swim buddy is so responsible for this). Confirming that there is still work to do in the bravery department.

The final lap was thankfully uneventful, and I even managed to get out without breaking my neck, only to find no sign of my temporary swim buddy. I didn’t remember over taking him, but I must have done, as unbelievable as this sounds, as he wasn’t out on the shoreline. I was very surprised, and actually delighted if this was the case. I got changed (carefully and with a lot of effort) only to find that he was still not out, I would have been worried had someone not spotted him going round the starter buoy again, for what I now know to be the start of his fifth lap. I was sure we had said three, but as I had already taken off my wetsuit, wild horses would get me back in it again, and so I made myself useful by going to get us some coffee. I might add that the sneaky slice of cake I had whilst he was busy swimming his extra two lengths was delicious too, and probably the best cake I’ve ever had!

After I had devoured my well deserved slice of cake I though my swim buddy would probably like some too, after all, despite leaving me, and who could blame him, after all he was probably traumatised after having to zip me in my wetsuit, and I did faff about for an age trying to de-fog my goggles, and he’ll be thanking his lucky stars he wasn’t there to witness me wrestling a lake snake, he did come with me in the first place so I wasn’t on my own, for which I am very grateful. Unfortunately for him it seems that it wasn’t just me that thought it was enjoying the cake, but every other swimmer getting out sooner than my swim buddy did too, and by the time I got to the front of the food queue to get him a slice, there was none left, and so sadly he had to make do instead with a pre-wrapped flapjack to go with his coffee, and bless him, he even offered to share the flapjack with me. I declined, telling him he needed the extra calories after all he had swam an extra two laps of the lake. I decided not to tell him was that I had eaten a large slice of cake already, and really I should have got him one too at the same time. No, I decided that my best option, just in case I may need to ask him again to be my temporary swim buddy, would be to keep my mouth shut. And that's exactly what I did!

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