How gorgeous is that! That's Tynemouth Beach, on the North-East coast. And I was swimming in there this morning!
I'd more or less planned a swim this weekend whilst we're visiting but I was nervous about going alone, even with a watcher, at temperatures like these. Thanks to joining the Outdoor Swimming Society, though, I came across the Tynemouth Outdoor Swimmers who'd posted an open invite to join them this morning. They very graciously let a total sea-novice tag along and looked after me very well. I had an amazing time!
Proof! That's me on the far right with the red cap and the big bum.
Thanks to Tony Greener and Paddy Lavery for the pic.
Don't let the photo fool you. It looks beautiful; it's about 7oC air temp and quite warm if you're out of the wind - it's a bit cutting if you're in the breeze, though. Official sea temp was measured at 5.1oC just off those rocks to the right; they reckoned it was more like 3oC further out where we swam. So definitely a personal record for me in terms of temperature. I must say that it was nowhere near as cold as I was expecting and I haven't figured out why - when I swam at Salford in November it was incredibly painful at 10oC, and the pain in my hands made me get out after 15mins/400m. Possibly the dank air was a factor then - the sunshine makes a big difference! This time I did have gloves, admittedly, but I'd forgotten earplugs and so was expecting sinus pain at the very least. I think I had done more mental prep for the cold - I could probably recite Lone Swimmer's Golden Rules of Cold Water Swimming in my sleep now - and so it wasn't a shock beyond the first three minutes. By six minutes I was quite comfortable with the temperature.
What I wasn't prepared for was the waves. It looks pretty calm from that picture, but further out the swell was more than I was expecting and I didn't learn the trick of diving through the waves until I'd been thoroughly ducked a few times (and thank you to the person who taught me to do that!). I did find it frightening and am thoroughly grateful Dave put us through so much hypoxic training this winter. After my first couple of scary waves I was able to have faith that my lungs wouldn't explode and I would surface, but it's a lot to deal with all at once and the back of my nose is a bit raw! The taste, too, was something I hadn't considered - it is such a huge difference from freshwater, although the local swimmers say you get used to that and don't notice after a while.
In terms of swimming I didn't really manage a great deal of distance - this was all about learning to deal with cold and waves and I don't think I got far enough out to have a proper go. By the time I was getting to grips with the waves quite a few people were turning back so I thought it wise to join them, and even the hard-core swimmers were coming up the beach before I'd got more than half my wetsuit off.
All in all, I'm pleased, though - I did fine with the cold, didn't panic (much), and managed 13mins in. My kit all works fine (and I found a new red cap that fits!), so I'm more than ready to hit the Quays in a few weeks even if it's not warmed up that much. And as ever, the people I met were awesome and I'm looking forward to more sea-swimming in the future.