I had never swum in properly cold water until recently. The coldest I had ever experienced before this autumn was 13.3C in Jesus Green Lido in May this year.
Swims at a lower temperature have steadily become more the norm: 11C in the Cam on a couple of occasions, 12C in the Sea at Sandycove, 13C in Boston.
I was full of trepidation approaching the River Great Ouse at Coneygeare, St Neots on Sunday. I had been away for a week in San Diego, enjoying some beautiful swimming in the Pacific at a balmy 16C, so was concerned that no cold swimming for 10 days was not going to be enough to maintain any form of acclimatisation.
I met the Helens (Gibbs and Liddle) and Julie at 1 PM. There was a distinct lack of enthusiasm from me and Julie, but the Helens jollied us along, and soon enough we were on the riverbank in togs, with the river in reasonable flow.
Passing dog walkers had asked incredulously what it was we were planning on doing. ‘Swimming’ was the reply. ‘Where?’, they rejoindered. ‘In the river’.
In we got, in our different ways. My favoured option is always the dive. There is that short, delicious, period while airborne when you are still warm, but know you are about to become very cold.
Very cold was the truth. The feeling wasn’t much different on splashdown, but the feeling on my skin as I swam upstream WAS different. It was bordering on the painful, and the ice-cream headache persisted longer than I was used to.
After a 15 minute or so dip, I emerged tangerine-pink onto the riverbank with the others, and raced to the car to get dried off and changed before the shivers set in. Once the layers were all on, I went back to the bank to check on the thermometer Helen (G) had dangled in the river. 8.7C! Wow – over 2C lower than my previous low.
Roast dinner at a local pub was good though.
Back in the river Cam this week on Wednesday. I have no idea what the temperature will be, but with the air temperature getting down close to freezing almost every night at the moment, I don’t imagine it will be warmer than 8.7……