Saturday November 6th, 2010
Air Temperature: 46 degrees
Water Temperature: 51.6 degrees
Location: Potters Cove, Rhode Island
Today I am meeting Ray, Joe and Rich for a 9 o’clock swim at Potters Cove , Potters Cove is tucked away under the Jamestown Bridge, it is scattered with empty boat moorings, and seaside houses that look like they are either closed up for the summer season or simply have the hatches battened down in preparation for the pending winter, the docks are empty and there is an eerie silence, no boats on the water, nobody playing outdoors, there is a cold wind blowing and the skies look ominous, grey and threatening.
I arrive a few minutes before 9:00am, there are two cars pulled up in front of the Cove already, it is Joe and Rich, I have not swum with them before, we quickly introduce ourselves and begin getting ready as we wait for Ray to arrive, for Joe and Rich that means pulling on wetsuits, for me it is putting in my ear plugs, cap and goggles on, and then deciding which of my 3 layers of clothing not to take off yet.
Ray arrives, we talk about the temperature of the water and where we are going to swim to, landmarks are discussed, ” we are going to head for those white buoys”, says Ray, ” sight the flag pole”, chimes in Rich, I of course can see none of the landmarks, I struggle to see details that are a distance away and use glasses for driving, a few times I have used contact lenses when I have swum Open Water but today isn’t one of them, ” is there a bigger landmark you can point out….like a house?” I ask, Rich quickly points out a big brown house with a green roof, great I am set.
We walk down the waters edge, ” we are going to stick to the shore and swim shallow today”, says Ray
” hug the shore”, he says again, Joe and Rich are already in the water, Ray and I are yet to take the plunge ” this is the hard part, we will feel much better in about 10 minutes” says Ray as he dives in to begin the swim, I follow suit and we are off. It has been 11 days since my last cold water dip, I am about to find out what my body remembers about how to function in the cold water…..or if it forgets completely, it feels like Russian Roulette as I slide into the water and wait for my brain to report back to me on how things are sizing up today.
Into the water and my arms are thrashing as I stroke like a maniac to get some warmth into my body, head down and swimming hard, not once do I sight or orientate myself to the shore or the others, not only was I swimming hard, but also in completely the wrong direction, after a few hundred strokes I sight and see Ray, Rich and Joe looking over, they are hugging the shore, I am heading straight out across the cove…..not in the game plan, I sheepishly put my head down and swim towards them in a more controlled manner, I am embarrassed.
From here on out I follow the shore, I can see the bottom as we weave in and out of the shoreline, I see shells, stones, rocks, sand, I bump into things….. and swim on, I also keep Ray’s bubbles in my sights.
We swim to the white buoys, “how are you feeling?” Ray asks, great I reply, we seem to be in a warm pockets of water and I am enjoying the few degree increase in temperature, yes 54 degrees can feel dreamy when you have just swum through 51.6 degrees I think to myself.
Before we started swimming Ray and I talked about checking on each other, he asked if my jaw locks up making it hard to talk, ” yes it can do” I tell him, I also tell him that when it is this cold I have to keep moving.
Actually today turned out to be pretty good, no jaw freeze, I was able to stop and talk a number of times and tread as we counted heads to account for everyone, it is really cool the way these guys are so in tune to looking out for one another, good safety.
Before we know it we have reached the Pier on the far side of the cove and it is time to turn around and high tail it back to the cars, we do and are there in no time at all. Now comes the hard part, navigating getting dressed. We all understand that on shore the priority is to get warm, no chit chat or dilly dallying around….car on, wet suit off, fleecy leggings on, sweater, possum hat, down jacket and then into those heated seats in the mini. I look over and Ray is also in his car all bundled up, after a while he gets out of his car and taps on the mini window, “let’s talk”, he jumps in, he is wearing what looks like a full on snow mobile suit that zips all the way down the legs and arms, I have snowmobile suit envy. I look down at his legs, they are shaking uncontrollably, I instantly feel bad for him, this poor guy, I think, that must feel miserable, then I look down and see that my legs are the same, shaking at the speed of a hummingbird’s wings, “how hard it must have been for my crew to have been watching me go through these defrostings for the last 8 weeks” I think to myself
So Ray and I chat, a defrost chat goes a little like this:” nice car”,chatters Ray ” “mmmm”, I mumble, ” this and the getting in is the hardest part”, chatters Ray “, ” mmmm” getting out is tough” I mumble through a clenched shut jaw. Next thing Ray is out of the car, that is all the conversation we managed however I found it extremely comforting to share this post swim ritual, you know you are going to have to go through it, no one can do it for you, however much you want the help, you are the one recovering, we had a kind of unspoken communication and in a weird way it was comforting having Ray there going through the stages of rising the core temperature back up with me, a defrost buddy.
Before long I was back in Middletown where I am staying, into the outdoor shower and a good serving of lunch. The day never really warmed up past 42 degrees but the sun did come out and I made the most of it with a 45 minute run along the cliff walk trail in Newport, I got to gaze at the angry surf as I ran and take in the amazing Newport Mansions. Our swim time today was 45 minutes, longest yet in this temperature, I am pleased.
Next up another ocean dip, this time at second beach, Tim is supporting me on his Stand Up Paddle Board tomorrow, my plan to hug close to his board and swim 30 minutes, the surf is heavy today, so we will need to re evaluate conditions in the morning to pick the best beach to swim and SUP
Will we get jostled around, I’ll keep you posted.