Today’s mission: Cold Water Acclimatization
Goal: 2 Hours Ocean Swim
Yesterday was a recovery day with a 2400 meter swim with our local Masters team, later in the day the car was packed, I scooped my kids up from school and we were on our way to Rhode Island to tackle the weekend’s EC training goal of getting in some cold water ocean swimming. The focus today not distance but time enduring the cold water.
We battle through the Boston Tunnel traffic, 5 hours after our departure from the Green Mountains we arrive at our friends beach house in Rhode Island, just a few minutes drive to the beach and a killer outdoor hot shower to warm up after a training swim, perfect!
We have come down to visit each year for the last 8 years, normally earlier in the summer to catch some beach time and hang with our friends, new focus still hanging with our friends but with the added spice of some English Channel training.
Tomorrow’ s swim buddy is Tim who I met during an early morning ocean swim last August at 2nd beach in Middletown , RI, at that time he had his sights set on the Lake Placid Iron man 2010 which he achieved this year.
We plan to meet at 2nd beach at 8:00am, he is racing a Half Iron man on Sunday, the plan of attack for the training swim Saturday is a down and back course, a 2.4 mile lap, he will swim the first lap and on the second paddle next to me on his stand up paddle board or SUP as they are called ( I am told surfers refer to SUP guys as sweepers because it looks like they are sweeping with their paddle ) Tim’s board is 10 foot long, tomorrow he can paddle along side me for lap 2 allowing him to take it easy in preparation for his Sunday race.
Friday night I turn in at 10:30pm with thoughts of what tomorrow’s ocean adventure might bring? Jelly Fish, Swells, waves, Cold, will I freak out in the ocean or feel comfortable? I haven’t swum in the ocean since last August, I remind myself that I grew up by the ocean and spent plenty of time in the sea as a kid.
I grew up in New Zealand just a few miles from the beach, the light house used to sweep light into my bedroom window at night, calling me to the ocean. I loved spending time in the ocean playing, diving like a dolphin, swimming out to rocks and prying off mussels, bringing them back to the shore where we had a knife and vinegar stashed to split open the mussels, dip them in vinegar and eat them raw, they were big plump New Zealand Green Shell Mussels and delicious!
New Zealand Green Shell Mussels are very tender and sweet in flavor, the mussel meats can be of several colors, a cream to light flesh representing a male and an orange to apricot color representing a female, there is no taste difference between the male and female mussels.
Saturday 6:00am, the sun begins to rise, the day of the ocean swim is here, clear blue skies and a fresh 60 degrees, I pull on my suit, dose on a thick layer of factor 85 sun lotion, shorts, T Shirt , cup of tea, banana on toast and I am off.
I arrive at the beach early with my friends and start the ritual, cap, goggles, down plenty of water and then down to the shoreline with my Thermometer for a temperature check……67 degrees, I put it in again, it drops to 66 degrees, I put it in a third time, has it dropped again? I decide it’s better not to know, yank it from the water and head up the beach to meet Tim.
He arrives, suits up in a wetsuit and we head to the ocean, water on my ankles, then knees, waist, we are still talking, I want to hear about his latest race in Lake Placid but I have to say ” Mate I have to get swimming to get warm”. He is off like a rocket, it’s a perfect pace for me we head straight out and then turn left and swim down the length of the beach parallel to the shore. The water is cold, I do a body scan, I can feel my hands, my feet, my head is cold and also my arms as they recovery over the water with each stroke. I have my conservative ” I am checking it out stroke” working, unsure of how this is going to pan out, we agreed two laps, 2.4 miles each, as I head down on lap number one I am cold, another body scan, right foot from the ankle down has no feeling, darn this is not a good sign so soon I think, I tell myself to find my rhythm , we break at the turnaround of lap one, it is a beautiful setting, glistening water, sunshine and white rock walls lining the beach of all shapes and sizes.
Heading back my mind is still focused on the cold, we are nearly there, I have to pick it up, stroke harder to get the blood shunting around my body, I picture my muscles demanding more oxygen and my heart having to crank that oxygen rich blood out to my working muscles. I drop back from Tim, then spin my arms fast sprinting to pick him back up, I do this a number of times, I can feel my right foot again!
Aghh waiting this could get ugly, I am worried about getting colder while I wait in the water, I decide to swim some short sprints, 50 meters out, 50 meters back, I do it again and again. Tim arrives back navigating his SUP like a pro and something amazing happened, I warmed up!
We set off for another lap, I felt relaxed back into my 70-72 stroke per minute pace it was great. Then I started thinking how disappointing it would be not to encounter a Jelly Fish today. My friends tell me it is unlikely I will see one because they are hang out when the water is warmer. Then I feel a sting on my hand, small and fleeting, by the end of the swim it has vanished, was it a Jelly Fish? I guess I’ll never know!
2 Hours 26 minutes was the total water time with a total distance 4.8 miles plus some sprints between laps, I am pleased.
I farewell Tim, refuel then relax on the beach, some Yoga on the beach that afternoon followed by a 66 degree 100m swim for good measure to get a double cold exposure today, two dips in one day, I’ll take it!
Did I really think I would bail out after 1 lap today, not a chance, I stated the goal to myself, once it was in my head, I had to do it!