I must have got a dozen people email me asking me if we were going to cancel LOST Swimming on Saturday because there were thunderstorms forecast for the area. I told them my usual line, we’ll wait and see on the morning of, and if it is unsafe… we’ll cancel… but in 11 years I’ve never cancelled a swim.
It is important to learn how to swim in various conditions though too. Just because the conditions aren’t ideal, doesn’t mean you can’t go for a swim, you just have to know how to swim in “other” conditions. Note that I said you have to “know”, not “think you know”, how to swim in tough conditions. A lot of people “think” they know, but that’s when accidents happen. You need practice. Just like hill repeats on the bike or track workouts for a marathon. It might be hard to see the big picture, but it makes you a better all round swimmer.
And Saturday was a “practice” swim… practicing how to swim in cold water!
I also said “it is usually the temperature and water conditions” that determine if we swim… and for how long, not the weather. It was cold… 50F/10C! I don’t care who you are or how acclimatized you are… that’s cold. Just bordering on “stupid cold”.
So how do you swim in water that cold? Well you set up a buoy about 75 m out (parallel to the shore, not straight out, so you are still close to shore, if you want to make a quick exit!). If you are familiar with that temp then just go swimming. But if you aren’t, a good way is to get your hands, feet and face a bit wet… let your body know what’s coming! Fall in on your back, do a little backstroke, then head up front crawl, then put your face in… then swim! Naturally your body is not going to be happy with you, but once you get going, slow it down… slow your sprint stroke down. Slow your breathing down. Take the panic situation out of your mind and relax. Easier said than done. Which is why the “relax” part has to be a conscious thought that you have to remember to do.
The thing about cold water at some point, probably in the low 50’s, is that it changes from “cold” to just plain “painful”… on Saturday it was “painful”. Cold hands, cold feet, ice-cream headache. The crappy thing is that you don’t even get sympathy from onlookers because it “looked” like a beautiful sunny day for a nice dip in the Lake! People understand hot… if we were walking on hot coals people would have been shocked! You need to throw them in the Lake to have them appreciate how cold it was!
But society and certain laws tend to frown on that.
So now that I’ve said everything bad there is to say about swimming in cold water, would it be weird to say we had “fun”? Because we did! Laughing and screaming (yes, I’m lookin’ at you, Duane! haha!)… and acting like little kids having a real adventure. There were 73 LOSTies out swimming in 50F water… and we had fun!
I told people that it was going to be cold. But that they should try and do 2 loops. Swim one, come out and get themselves “collected”… and then do another. It is still just as cold and painful… but oddly somehow easier. This is the part I was talking about earlier… practice. And you get better with practice.
The thing I didn’t count on was that people did 3, 4, 5… even 6 loops! Amazing. That is also how you practice it. If each loop was 150m, it would not have been safe to have done 600m straight (4x150m), but to break it up and use your head, it is safe.
And guess what? You do end up as a better swimmer because of it. Now I realize that this might not have been a big cardio workout that you require for your upcoming triathlon… but it wasn’t meant to be. You can do that anytime. If you think there is nothing to be gained from a quick, cold dip in the Lake, then you still don’t get it. It was the workout that prepared you for cold water… and for practicing for the unexpected. Because that’s what you get with open water swimming.
The example I like to use is when Claudia went to ITU World Champs in Budapest a number of years ago. She, like everyone when they first start swimming with LOST in the spring, didn’t like, and wasn’t good at, swimming in cold water. But she became a LOSTie, learned how to do what we just did… and she went to Budapest and guess what?… the water was very cold. People were freaking out. Dozens didn’t start. Lots didn’t finish. And she was fine. And she doesn’t like cold water (honestly, nobody does!). Because she knew how to swim in cold water… she had practiced! (PS. she killed the bike and the run too!). But somehow, swimming with other people having fun, seems to make it much easier… or at least more enjoyable!
Besides… you know all those stupid, little, cliche meme’s that you (and I) click “like” on Facebook?… like “Live the adventure, baby!”, but you know that closest most people get to doing it is just that… clicking “like”. Well, turns out you aren’t a hypocrite afterall… you might not have gotten your 3.8k swim in holding 1:30’s per hundred in… but you just did “Live the adventure, baby!”
That’s all I’ve got… see you on Saturday!