Thursday October 14th, 2010
Location: The Lap Pond
Air Temperature: 35 degrees
Water Temperature: 51.5 degrees
Today is my last scheduled visit to ” the lap pond” for 2010, I woke up both excited and nervous about what the water temperature will be, “if it is below 55 degrees I won’t swim” I tell myself unconvincingly, I’ll just hop back in the mini and buzz over to the indoor lap pool and knock out 6000m, it will be OK…..”it won’t be OK”, I secretly think to myself, it will be predictable, a forgone conclusion and I will never know what that water felt like and how I felt swimming in it, I already know I’ll take the dip, but who knows how long.
I scoop up all my bags for work for the day, one for my food, one for my laptop and one for my clothes, I already have on my suit, my daughter Heidi slopped baby oil on my arms, back and shoulders for me before she left for school.
|The “Down Jacket” with furry hood
It was cold last night and the air temperature at my house reads 34 degrees,” boy I am going to need some heavier duty clothing today”. I dig out my big thick grey down jacket, it is the one I wear if it is below zero during the Vermont winter, it has a furry hood that is made of down too, perfect for today’s conditions I think as I heave it onto my shoulders, it is no light weight and feels not only cozy but also heavy to wear. Now I’m ready, armed with my possum fur hat, down jacket with furry hood, fleece pants and slip on shoes with a woolly liner, 7:30am and I’m into the mini and off to the pond.
I am tempted to crank up the heated seats and blast the heat but this is a ritual I reserve for after my swim, ” If I toast my butt up now I will need a shoe horn to pry myself out of the car when I arrive at the pond, I’d be better to avoid the temptation and leave the heated seats off for now”.
My hands are cold gripping the steering wheel as I drive, when I arrive at the pond it looks frigid, ” now or never” , I think as I turn off the car, earplugs in, cap on, possum hat on, furry hood up and I am off down to the pond by foot, the turtle goes in first and checks out the water temperature stats as I dash back up to the car to get my camera,” I have to get a photo of the pond today”, I take a picture then fish out the turtle and check out the temperature reading, 51.5 degrees, OK that is an all time low for me and below the 55 degree cut off mark, I had told myself less than one hour before that I would not swim in the pond today below 55 degrees, but I am already here, my ear plugs are in and I am curious to know what 51.5 degrees will feel like. I tried to swim in 52 degrees this spring, on May 16th, 2010 the water was 52 degrees and the air temperature was 60 degrees, I put on a 5mm wetsuit and was only able to swim a mere 42 minutes, my notes from that swim include:
- when the water hit my face it hurt and took my breath away
- my chest felt like it was caving in
- my chest felt tight, my breaths were short and shallow
- my teeth ached
- my hands were like claws
I start to strip off my clothes, first the shoes, then fleece pants, off with the jacket and lastly the possum hat, ” looks like I am going to swim” I say to myself, “just 5 laps, yes a 1000 yard swim would be a terrific accomplishment today, I know I can do it”. I walk in the water and stand there for 30 seconds taking deep relaxing breaths, breathe, relax, warm blanket….who am I kidding warm blanket my ass it’s 51.5 degrees! Then I am off and a strange thing happens, it is cold as you can imagine, I spin my arms fast and they work, I am pulling with strong strokes, but when my face hits the water it does not give me a fright or take my breath away as it did on the May 16th swim AND my torso feels warm, in fact it feels toasty! I swam the first 200 yard lap knowing I would comfortably be able to achieve the 5 laps this morning, my only concern was that one of the toy boats has floated into the middle of the pond since my last swim, it is the size of park bench and I am worried about swimming into it, “Oh well suck it up and take the hit”, I laugh as I say it.
Lap number 3, I have a thought, “it’s only 5 laps, you are going to rock it”, ” you will get out after 5 and be happy that you swam your 5 laps, your 1000 yards in 51.5 degree water”…..no I won’t I think ,I will not be satisfied if I don’t swim the full 10 laps that I’ve been doing every other Thursday, 30 minutes of swimming, I know I can swim 10 laps today and that’s what I am going to do.
10 laps, 2000 yards, I will be thrilled if I swim this.
I continued on lap 5, lap 6, then I notice something else amazing…” I am enjoying this, I don’t want it to whizz by too fast, I want to savor the experience”, and I do, but by lap 9 my hands start to experience ” Channel cramp”, they feel like claws and are not pulling me through the water as strongly as they did earlier in the swim, none the less I finish lap 10 and pull up short of the shore, I stop swimming and let myself relax and sink under the surface, ” OK brain take this in, you are in 51.5 degree water, you are able to function, to swim and hang out under water and look around without snuffing it, remember this for next time”, then I resurface and paddle to the shore, time to get out, my brain knows what to do but my feet are not responding, they are like blocks of ice and it is hard to step onto the grass, I look down at my hands, WOW that is horrible, I have a Halloween look straight out of a Halloween catalog, my hands are red and swollen, they look puffy. Now the hard work really starts, when I am swimming my heart rate is up and keeping my midsection warm, now that I have stopped swimming it lowers, that combined with the 35 degree air temperature and I start to get cold fast, I know I have limited time to get my stuff together before things get really hard, wet suit down, warm under layer and down jacket on, hood up….that helps, I wrap a towel around my waist, I should get the wet suit off but decide not too, not a good call but now I just want to get to the car and home into a hot shower, less than 5 minutes drive away. I struggle with my right shoe, it is a size 10, usually easy to slip on but like my hands my feet appear to be swollen, I get the right foot in and look at the left that is next up….too hard, I scoop up the left shoe in my hand, ” enough of that”, one shoe on, one shoe off, I scamper up to the car, engine on, heater blasting and heated seats cranked on high, I can feel heat from none of them,” if I can just sustain the drive home I will be OK”, I tell myself repeatedly, the 5 minute drive takes forever, it feels like hours, like I am stuck in rush hour traffic in the Boston Tunnel. What if I am pulled over? I ask myself, there is no way I can sit in the car waiting for the traffic officer to check my licence, registration and insurance, besides he will probably think I’m drunk if I slur my words when I answer his questions, I make a plan of action if needed, I will keep driving to my house, he or she will have to follow me with their lights flashing and wait until I am out of the hot shower, I look at my speedometer, I am barely hitting 25 miles per hour, not much chance of a speeding violation here.
I pull into the drive way and manage to grab all my swim gear and dash into the house, the front door is left wide open and I am dropping my bags, towel, down jacket and finally the possum hat in a big trail to the bathroom, shower on and I am in, Oh that’s what I’m talking about, bring it on, now that is the ticket right there, I soak it up, wonderful, I glance at my watch 9:01, I stay in the shower for 20 minutes, the transition from the hot shower to getting dressed seems near impossible, I am fully recovered now, I can feel both hands, feet, no teeth chattering and no body shakes, now I am just being a big baby, ” I don’t want to get out of the shower, I’ll get cold”, what a skirt, I laugh to myself.
Shower off and I make a break for it, wow I didn’t even manage to pull the shower curtain properly, the bathroom floor looks like a little kids paddling pool.
Into to bedroom and before you know it I am snuggled up in warm leggings, fleece pullover, sweater on top and matching hat, little black ballet shoes and I am ready to go, off to work.
I am thrilled to pieces with today’s swim, a fitting end to 2010’s lap pond adventures, I am so pleased I choose the pond over the pool today. Three more Vermont Open Water Swims left in 2010, they are all in the Green River Reservoir, the next one is on Sunday, will I take the plunge on Sunday? What do you think? I’ll keep you posted.
|” The Lap Pond” 51.5 degrees quietly waiting for me to enter it’s waters