Saturday, 3 November 2012


That's Salford Quays at 9.30am today - Uswim Polar Training. It was awesome. A bit like the first time I ever went, actually, although this time I knew to turn my rental wetsuit the right way out!

The water was a brisk 10.3oC and the air temp was probably about 3oC - it was 1.5oC when I set out at 8.30am, but Salford's usually a little warmer than here. I reckon there were 50-60 of us, and as you can see not everyone was in wetsuits: about ten people were brave enough to go for skins. Me, I had neoprene socks and was cursing myself for not picking up gloves as well - the pain of such cold water on your hands is incredible at first. Luckily the nice chap from djB Hearing was dishing out free earplugs which really helped to keep away the ear pain that was starting to bother me at the end of the season. I must get some custom-fits for next year.

I hadn't expected the ice-cream headache - I do suffer from sinus pain a lot and I should have guessed that would happen. I need to find out how to manage it. Although I was starting to warm up fairly well after one lap, I decided not to push my luck and hopped out for a nice hot drink. Not exactly at the top of my game right now - haven't been running in ages and only sort of got back to lifting - and with five weeks of term left I can't risk another infection even though I probably could have done a couple more laps. Also I've booked onto the Swimprove course with Dave from Uswim for the next three Sundays and I really don't want to miss that! Thankfully it's indoors so I will be getting some work done whatever the weather. Really looking forward to finding out what I can fix with my stroke (and mildly scared because whilst a wetsuit is revealing it's not actually semi-naked, you know?).

In terms of actually being in the water this morning I was really happy to be able to get in fearlessly -  I'd expected I might need to do some deep breathing to get used to the shock, but it was fine and I set off with only a few minutes acclimatisation. I think I probably went too fast initially, but the joy of being back in the water with a nice easy stroke was just off the scale! After a while I felt I was breathing quite shallowly so I eased off, did some breaststroke and just enjoyed my time and the strange things around me. Things like seeing your own breath ghosting across the water, or the way the struggling sun was hardly getting below the surface - between less vision and the dampening effect of the earplugs it was harder to be aware of other people nearby. It was only a lucky pause for breath that meant I spotted the safety boat zipping past to pick up a tired skin swimmer - good job too; a wave-slap in the mouth would have had me gasping.

I feel great, if tired, now. Everyone was laughing and saying how brilliant it was; I didn't see anyone the worse for the cold afterwards (although there were a few shivering around their coffees - standing still is not the best policy, it seems). I have spent the day eating All The Things, of course. Sadly that's probably it for open water now until April at the earliest. I just can't get to any of the other polar dates because of class, but hopefully this will carry me through the winter and perhaps I can get to a different venue on a weeknight when the weather warms up. Fingers crossed.

I do get the odd "you're mad" comment. I'll admit there's an element of masochism to long-distance open water, or cold temperatures, just as there is with the extreme ends of any sport. To that I say "give it a try" - you never know what you're capable of until you have a go, and being able to conquer the internal "you can't do it" voices is...bracing. :)