I am not a fan of swimming and I suspect it has more to do with not liking the pool and constantly turning around and swimming back and forth than it has to do with the actual act of swimming. I can say this with some authority because when it finally comes time that I can do some open water swimming I don't mind it nearly as much or even not at all. No lane sharing, no flip turns, no chlorine smell or post-swim sniffles, and when I'm up at the lake I don't even have to drive anywhere. Just walk down to the dock, get in and get going.
So it goes without saying that I love to get in the open water swimming at the first available opportunity. This doesn't work for all swims, though. If I've got a workout of 20x100 (which I feel as though I've done 20 times by now) then I'm pretty much stuck in the pool. But especially perfect for open water is the recovery swims, so I love doing those in open water.
When I'm not up at Squam there are a few groups of people locally who sometimes meet to swim. And most of them are just as crazy if not crazier than I am when it comes to willingness to swim in cold water, so I can almost always count on at least a few of them to be by water's edge at 6am. They'd been swimming there for a few weeks and only yesterday did I finally head over to meet them. I had planned on it a couple of weeks ago, but that morning I woke up and saw it was 32 degrees and decided that maybe the pool was still the better choice. It's the same lesser of two evils thing I have with the trainer and riding outside in the cold. There just comes a point where the indoor, boring version is actually better if only because you're not risking hypothermia.
But yesterday I decided the time had come. So when I woke up I donned my wetsuit (I'm weird like that and on cold mornings will drive in my wetsuit and drive home in it and wear it directly into the shower!) and headed for the lake in the rain. I met three other brave souls to head into the water and we set up our little route and would stop about every 800 yards or so and regroup. As I stepped into the water my first thought was, "Oh, this isn't so bad." And my next thought, probably only about ten seconds later was, "Oh, maybe it is actually worse than I thought." And after a couple of minutes of chatting and stalling, it was time to take the plunge and submerge more than just the wetsuit-clad lower half of my body.
Holy $&%^ that's cold! My breath caught in my throat and my face burned from the icy water. I instantly regretted my decision to drive to the lake instead of the pool, but I was already there and there was no turning back now. Often times when I swim at say Oceanside or Mooseman I'll get that initial face-freeze, but eventually it subsides. Oh, this was not going away. Normally in an easy open water swim I will breathe every three strokes, but I needed to breathe every other just to get my face out of that freezing water and catch my breath as I tried to swim probably faster than ZR just so that I might warm up a bit.
I think I might have felt a bit warmer at times, but anytime we'd stop and regroup I'd have to almost immediately start swimming again so as not to let the cold set in. This was tougher since I was the fastest and therefore stopped the longest! Early on I decided that it was not quite the coldest water I'd ever swum in. I still think that title belongs to our Ironman St. George practice swim. I have decided that for a couple of reasons. First, during the race, as I swam as fast as I could starting with about halfway through my entire body started to feel cold, not just the parts exposed to the water. And I think it was actually warmer race day than on the day we did our practice swim. Second, when we swam out to some rock and then stopped to regroup, after only having been in the water for maybe five minutes, when I came up and looked around the entire world was spinning. I felt queasy and sick any time we stopped and for a few minutes after we got out of the water. I had a bit of that feeling yesterday when we stopped, but definitely not to the degree that I had it in Utah.
I do, however, think it was colder than my first time in California only because I don't remember the face freeze lasting that long there. If I had to guess, I'm thinking somewhere around 54 degrees. Definitely not the kind of water you want to be swimming in by choice. But again, already there, already in, gotta get the workout done!
We lost one of our swimmers on one pass to the exit and three of us continued on. Of course, it was the three women. As we continued on, the novelty was definitely wearing off and when we'd stop and regroup it seemed that everyone else's lips were starting to turn purple. But all in all, we survived, if only to not be able to articulate words to each other when chatting before we raced to our cars to blast the heat.
This time last year I had been swimming open water for weeks and the water was even nice. It doesn't work that way when the sun disappears for a week and the day before it topped out at 50 degrees and drizzled most of the day. Come on, warmth! I have to do some open water swimming this weekend at Squam which is likely even colder and I'd also like to not exit the swim at Mooseman without the ability to work my fingers!
Needless to say, either way, the pool is on tap until the weekend.