As you might imagine, one of the most difficult parts of swimming the English Channel (other than the CRAZY distance) is the water temperature. For a Channel attempt to be official, the only things I am permitted to wear are: (1) A swim “costume” (bathing suit); (2) a swim cap; and (3) a pair of goggles. Of course, “Channel Grease” is also a well-known option, it does not, however, provide much warmth. In order to “beat the cold” it is required for Channel swimmers to become “acclimatized” to cold water. One of the ways to get acclimatized is to…you guessed it…get in cold water and deal with it. That is just what I did.
In 2010, when my Channel Swim was still in the initial “oh my gosh what have I gotten myself into” phase, I did my first cold-water dunk on May 13, 2010. The water temperature last year was 54 degrees. This year, I was determined to “beat” that feat. I succeeded!
My first cold-water dip was yesterday, April 12, 2011. The air temperature was a relatively balmy 62 degrees in Boise, Idaho. The water temperature at Clocktower Pond was a-not-so-balmy 51 degrees. Because I had been checking the temperature for a little more than a week, I was well aware what I was in for.
My lovely wife (and #1 supporter for this epic adventure) Michelle came to the Pond with me for safety purposes. Now, mind you, when I suggested Michelle paddle around in the water in a safety vessel, she politely declined the invitation. She remained on shore in street clothes. My question to her before I got in the water was: “If I get in trouble, will you actually come in the water and rescue me?” Her response: “We’ll just have to see how much trouble you get into!” (Actually, I have no doubt she’d jump in and rescue me…right Michelle??!!)
To call my adventure yesterday a “swim” would be incorrect, that is why I labeled it a “dunk.” I simply got into the water till I was waist deep. My legs went from the “hurt-to-numb” condition in about 90 seconds. I put my hands in the water; they never got to the numb phase. They simply ached. After 4 minutes and 30 seconds, I turned my back to the shore and dove under the water. I came up and took some strokes away from the shore. I swam back to the shore.
Trust me, it wasn’t a pretty sight!!! Form?? What’s form?? Breathing?? What’s that?? No matter, though. What acclimatization is all about at this point is getting my body into cold water. It ain’t about form!
I plan on getting into the open water for a “dunk” at least 3 times a week for the time being. We’ll see how long it takes for me to say: “It’s not that bad!” I’ll keep you informed on my progress.
Until next time…stay focused on your goals and do everything in your power to achieve them! Remember, even the smallest step forward is a step closer to your goal.