Sunday, today we are swimming in the snow!
Air Temperature 30 Degrees F
Wind Chill Brutal
Water Temperature 48.5 Degrees
The first thing I notice when I wake up this morning is that the rain is no longer pounding on the roof as it was last night, ” hmmm, that means either it’s stopped raining or the rain has turned to quiet peacefully falling snow flakes”, I think as I lean over to peer out the window, outside it looks like a big white comforter has been draped over the hillside, ” that sure looks cozy from here, but how about stripping off and inching my way into the water?”, I ponder my own question, ” well I’ve already declared that I am swimming today, so onwards, regardless of the snow, if anything it will make the hot chocolate feel even better after the swim”
So with that I go about packing up my gear, today I have 3 layers of clothes on top of my suit and I am armed with hot feeds and blankets, ” now how about some foot wear to hike down to the canoe launch in and back up to the car after my swim”, I settle on my white Nike snow boots with white pom poms on the laces, “Bye” I shout to my family at the door, my daughter Heidi replies ” You’re going out there aren’t you Mum?”, ” Yes I am”, I reply with a sly grin, ” WHO could possibly kayak for you in the snow today, it’s going to be very cold in a Kayak with the snow and the wind”, she announces, ” Deb is kayaking”, I reply, ” Wow, she is tough, that will be miserable”, Heidi declares and with that she pulls the blanket up closer to her chin and snuggles into the corner of the couch.
I meet Deb, Paula and Paula’s sister Valerie at gate of the Green River Reservoir, in a flash the kayak is off the car and we begin to hike down to the canoe launch, it is a short walk but feels like a long slow walk to the gallows for me, I am walking especially slow.
We arrive at the canoe launch, it looks very deserted, there are no kayakers getting ready to explore the inlets, there are no kids paddling in the shallow water, no eager fishermen heading out ready to land the big fish of the day, just a piercingly cold wind biting into the skin on my face, I am cold. ” Definitely putting that turtle thermometer in before I go in”, I think to myself, ” Turtle looks quite alarmed as I plop him in the water”, after a few minutes I haul him out, 48.5 degrees he declares, ” Turtle says 48.5, I announce to Paula, let’s do this”.
My hands are already white and rendered useless as I start to remove layers of clothes, as soon as the wind hits any exposed skin it burns, Paula is already in her wet suit and heading towards the water, ” don’t think my goggles will fog today….they’ll frost”, she shouts as she wades in…
Deb slops baby oil on my neck, shoulders, back and arms, it won’t keep the cold out but mentally it helps, the smell is soothing. I walk to the waters edge, take off my snow boots and wade in.
I stand waist deep for a few minutes, ” do you mind if I keep a bit further away from you today? Your splashing wont get me as wet?” shouts Deb from the Kayak, ” No worries” , I shout back, hoping the words will reach her through the noisy head wind blowing into the canoe inlet. I take one last look at the stark beauty of my surroundings, the previously grim looking trees stripped of their bright colored fall leaves are now covered in bright white snow, a sharp contrast to the blue water, it looks beautiful. With that final thought in I plunge.
The Water is cold but not alarmingly so, I go about powering my way out the canoe launch, time to generate some heat in my core, I swim strong, my heart rate rises, my body recognises what is needed and shunts warm blood to my midsection, I feel toasty and warm in my core, all that is under the surface of the water feels comfortable, now my exposed arms and upper back that is another story, the cold air, combined with the wind chill bites into my skin, it feels bitterly cold.
I dive my head down to submerge it as much as possible, warmer down there in that 48 degree water than leaving it riding high and vulnerable to that cold air, 18F with the windchill this morning, brrrrrr….
I search for Deb and spy her paddling along side the shoreline, as promised she is paddling further away today, I miss her not being close by my side, but I have Paula swimming with me, she is in her wetsuit and on my left, we swim towards Blueberry Island, we are close, like whales in a pod, closer than usual, we bounce of each other a few times, it makes me smile, it is almost like we agreed to swim close for body warmth today……but there is no body warmth from two people next to each other, so close they are touching, just the comfort of knowing she is right there with me, what a strong bond it forms when 2 people endure a physical and mental challenge together, I feel fortunate that Paula is swimming with me today, very fortunate indeed.
The water is rougher as we approach Blueberry Island, finally I can see the rocks on the bottom, ” Yes that means we are at the island”, my spirits lift up as we round the Island and are on the way back home, I pick up my stroke rate and drive forwards through the choppy water…
Before I know it the Blueberry Island Lap is complete, Deb steers us around and we head back out towards Blueberry Island once more, our plan to swim back towards Blueberry Island, at 30 minutes stop and take a hot feed, then swim back to the canoe launch. Deb signals my pickup, time to swim harder, I put the pedal down and pull hard, it causes me to breathe heavier, I scan my body, the usual culprits, ice block feet, but other than that everything is doing great, no shivering, no clawed up hands, I feel good. I know that following my pickup will be my hot feed, 150mls on double strength Maxim with 150 mls of hot water added to it, ahhhh I can almost feel the hot liquid sliding down, ” soon”, I tell myself. Deb stops paddling and goes about getting my feed ready, the thermos is out, I watch her pour the hot water into my feed cup, each time I watch her I am impressed that she seamlessly balances in the kayak, reaches for my feeds, mixes them up, gives me my instructions all through hand signals, counts my strokes, is time keeper and still manages to dance a rubber duck along the water or some other little character from time to time to entertain me, I like it, it makes me smile, an underwater grin and sometimes a giggle. Towards the end of some of our gruelling training swims, she will take a swig of water from her camel back and shoot out a spurt of water, better than any water pistol, I in turn repsond with the biggest mouthful of water I can and without breaking stroke will fire out a water fountain of water towards the kayak, it is fun, I normally have 3 or 4 goes at creating my best impression of a fountain of water that looks like the golden arch of Mc Donalds and then settle back to the job at hand of completing the swim. Deb signals for me to stop and feed, I reach for my Feed Cup….
I pass the cup to Paula, ” here this will help”, if my jaw worked when I formed the words, this is what was I said, Paula takes a swig, passes it back to me and I tip it back, ” Wow, that is hot”, I think, I can feel it go down my throat and feel the heat in my chest. With the feed complete we swing around and head back towards the canoe launch, Paula and I both pick up the pace, we round the corner for the final sprint into shore, my tactic on this last stretch is always ” Sprint to France”, everything I’ve got until I make it to shore, I always long to see the rocks on the bottom, those are the ” you’re there rocks” and today like most days I have to earn it, I swim as hard as I can, I know this is my last “Sprint to France” this year, I last out door swim in Vermont, the frozen ice will ensure that. ” Lets make it count”, I say to myself as I pound towards the shore, I wait, I wait and I wait and then after waiting some more the rocks appears, PHEW, I made it.
I am feeling most pleased and as always circle around to find Deb and smile, I stay in the water with my eyes just about the surface, ” it’s cold out there”, I say as I glance to the shore, Paula and I give each other a congratulatory hug and then it is time to get out, this is when things get ugly, once I get my wet body out of the water the cold air and wind chill will render me useless within 2 minutes, imagine yourself walking into a walk in cooler set at 18F and hanging out.
As I wobble out of the water my hands are starting to curl up, my bent fingers are in the perfect shape to hook onto the kayak and haul it shore. Next up navigating getting dressed, everything hurts, standing is excruciating, I strip off my suit and wrestle on a fleece top and my New Zealand Wool Swandri, hat on, then Jacket, now time to deal with my lower body, I glance down my feet, they are corpse white, they are the most painful part of my body, my hands a close second, I pull on sweatpants, it takes too long but I make it, I am still standing in the snow, it is almost like my feet are frozen there. ” Deb, I can’t get anything on my feet”, I have already had a number of goes getting snow boots on,with Deb’s help steadying me the boots are finally on, it feels like they are 4 sizes to small, with a big blanket wrapped around me I turn and head up the hill to the car , ” I can do it, I can do it”, I mumble to myself as I weave up the hill, it feels like forever to reach the parking lot at the top. In a flash I am in the mini, I am all bundled up, now I wait, the hypothermia has taken over and it will take some time for my body to recalibrate, my legs and arms are shaking uncontrollably.
Paula joins me and we shake and shudder together in the front seats of the mini. After a bit Deb and Valerie return also with the Kayak, we are recovering, we chat of our swim and the excitement of swimming in the snow. Next up a toast to the final outdoor swim of 2011 with a hot chocolate and a few Jelly Babies, what an adventure.
Paula, Deb, Valerie and I say our farewells and we all head home, I am all bundled for the drive, and 30 minutes later I pull into my driveway, ” I don’t want to get out”, I think, I sit in the car for a bit in the warm comfort of my” mini cocoon”,” what a time, what a trip”, I say to myself and with that I haul myself out of the mini, scoop up all my gear and make my way into the house. Inside Heidi looks up and says ” How did your swim go Mum?”, ” Brilliant, it was brutal but I did it Heidi”, I say with a smile, ” I knew you could do it Mum, if anyone can do it, you can”, she replies matter of factly. I give her a hug.
With the Vermont outdoor season finished up what’s next? Cold Water Acclimatization in Rhode Island/ Aerobic Base Conditioning/ Beat the Tide Sets
What does that mean for me? Some long pool swims, all out sprints at the end of my sets, a weekend trip to Rhode Island for some sea swims and a Championship Swim Meet.
” Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It is not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it is when you’ve had everything to do and you’ve done it”
– Margaret Thatcher