What can I say, I made it to London and back without turning into a Human icicle.!
Most of us travelled early on Friday Morning from Cork to London, and one of the first things that struck me in London was how much colder it was there than at home. Woolly hat, scarf and gloves were all needed to keep the biting chilly air away, I was doubting I had enough clothes in my bag that would keep me warm and dry for the weekend.
When we got to our B&B which was a few minutes walk from the Tooting Bec Lido, we decided to pack our gear bags and take a walk to check out the Pool. I say ‘we’ packed our bags, I didn’t, as I was already cold, but when Lisa appeared with gear bag I couldn’t let her be the only girl going for a swim, so I reluctantly went and got my bag and we trudged off to the Lido a few minutes away. When we got there, my heart sank. I may have been to many pools and open water events, but staring at snowmen around the pool deck was a new visual effect!. This was definitely going to be a new experience.
As we met with some of the organisers and a few other swimmers, something caught my eye as I was taking in the surroundings, a thermometer bobbing in the water reading 1.2deg! I walked past it, ignorance is bliss I thought! In my head it was going to be 12deg (Balmy!). As the lads decided it was time to change and to do a test swim, Lisa and I got changed too, the talk was to try for 400yards, that’s 4 lengths of the pool. A few people expressed surprise that I was willing to give the 400yards a go, do they not know me… put me near water and I will swim, and more importantly I wanted to show that I could be as tough as the rest of them..
So to the steps we went, we were to swim in pairs of similar speed for safety, as usual I had Ned for Company. No turning back now, I remember thinking, just swim, you know how to do that. There was no point in shouting or screaming, it was my choice to be in here, Just swim. Starting my stopwatch as we left the wall, the numbness is something I am having trouble describing in words. Within about 5secs of starting my skin was crawling with the cold, but it did not get any worse. I do remember having difficulty turning at the wall, I think I took about 5secs to make my turn, I had to talk myself through it, hold the rail, bring legs onto wall, leave go the rail, push off, these seem so normal in a 28deg pool, yet in 1.2deg, it seemed difficult to master the art of a turn. By the third turn I felt like a pro, my turns were only about 3sec! On the last length the competitor came out in me, could I be the first to finish? would that show that I’m tough?, but Really I was thinking If I finish first and head straight to sauna I’ll get a good spot near the heat.! When I finished I looked at my watch, 5min30sec!. woo hoo, I was very happy with that, next challenge was to take my goggles off – hmmm not so easy when you don’t think your hands are attached to your arms any longer, on the third attempt I got them off.
I swam over to the steps where Maeve was thankfully waiting for me with my towel and woolly hat. I made my way over to the sauna, quiet chuffed with myself for doing the 400yards and looked back to see 2 swimmers still going, I wasn’t at all surprised to see that Finbarr did 600 and Rob did 800yards, – they are serious cold water swimmers, tough out! As each of the swimmers piled into the little sauna, it was good to hear we all had the same stories, the stinging of the skin, the hands that felt like they were no longer attached, but most of all, extremely pleased that we did it. Go Sandycove Swimmers 🙂 About 20mins later, with the feeling finally back in my hands (finger tips were still tingling though) I was able to get myself dressed, I had thought I may need help, but the Sauna made a huge difference. Many Layers of clothes later and a hot cup of Tea and I was all set (for some food and sleep), the cold water takes a lot out of you. A Huge thank you the members of South London Swimming Club for allowing us to ‘test’ the water the day before the big event. I was now heading into Saturday knowing that 30yards is swimable in 1.2deg.
Tough times never last, but tough people do.