Last weekend was the much anticipated December Dip (See previous post – December Dipping – https://swimsequence.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/december-dipping/). 600 People showed up at Parliament Hill Lido to get briefly cold, and generally have a good old British giggle.
A group of us had arranged to meet for a pre-event warm-up session at one of London’s other year-round outdoor pools, at London Fields in Hackney. The pool was lovely, maintained at a constant 25C throughout the year, and a full 50 metres long. There was lots of catching up between old friends, and intros between new ones, and a little bit of swimming. In my case, just a cheeky mile to loosen the shoulders, especially as I still recovering from a rather annoyingly timed cold that had set me back for a couple of days.
After this, there was a dash across London to Parliament Hill Lido, in the back of Tom’s very kindly provided car. I hadn’t felt like breakfast earlier on that day, so was getting really hungry, so after registering at Parliament Hill, we wandered up the hill to the local farmer’s market for a very large late breakfast: a large burger, an onion pakora, and a pint of organic buffalo milk (a little reminder that we were in Hampstead!).
Then the swim itself. The swimmers went off in a total of 5 waves, 3 waves of 2 widths, and 2 waves of 2 lengths.
I was in the first of the 2 length waves, and positively looking forward to it, confident that I had done more than enough acclimatisation earlier on in the season to enjoy the experience. Off we went, diving into the cold water, which was hovering somewhere around the 6C mark. One of the col things about Parliament Hill is that it is lined entirely with stainless steel. This, in combination with the crystal clarity of the water, created a unique swimming experience.
There had been talk of stopping on in the pool to do the 900 m qualification distance/temperature combination for the Windermere Chillswim in February. Though that event is ‘only’ 450 m, it requires that you do a 900 m distance swim in water at less than 6C, to demonstrate that you are ‘good for it’. In the end I opted not to do it, to let the cold have another day to recover, and have a go at that the following day, in a river somewhere. Some of the gang extended their swim a little though, (Tom, Bryn, Helen L). Here is some amusing footage of Helen with a good shiver on after her 10 lengths – 620 m. Respect to the longer distance swimmers……
The next day was different in many ways. It was pleasantly warm for the time of year, though there was a good breeze. The key difference was that that the sun was shining beautifully over the southern UK, and a dip was planned, this time in a new destination on the River Nene, at the outrageously picturesque village of Tansor. A good gang of people met up at 11.30, for a visitor from out of town, Brian Lanahan was in town. After some nattering, comparing of comedy headgear, and general banter, people started to get in……
Brian is from Florida, and not much used to cold water. The gang had told him that the water temperature was at 8, rather than the 5.7C (42F) it was actually at, for fear that he might not actually get in. Everyone did though in the end. Tom’s beautiful photo taken from in the water of people getting back out on to the jetty, and me in mid dive, really captures the day. If it weren’t for the total lack of leaves on the trees, you could be forgiven for thinking that this photo was taken in the carefree days of summer, rather than the 8th of December.
I had a great swim, upriver first, then back down, past the jetty, then back, making sure on my GPS watch that I had covered > 900 m in the process so I could ‘qualify’ for the Windermere swim. The stroke felt great, though the water certainly was on the chilly side, and I lost contact with various extremities in the second half. In the end I covered 943 in 19 minutes and change, certainly rather slower than in a swimming pool, but I was happy.
There was some massive shivering afterwards mind, once I had got changed, and the afterdrop kicked in, and it took a little while to go away. I REALLY enjoyed my chicken soup and cups of tea afterwards.
Many thanks to the assembled crew for the lovely company (Helen G, Helen H, Wendy, Jessica, Sarah, Anil, Tom, Bryn, Andrew, and Brian).