Last week I decided to embark on my first sea swim of the year with two colleagues. We had been planning the swim for about two weeks and were desperately hoping for some lovely sunshine and warm weather. Of course, as the day crept nearer and my obsession with refreshing the BBC Weather website grew, I knew that sunshine would unfortunately not be happening and that the air temperature would be rather cold. I had already tested the water temperature earlier that week though and was pleasantly surprised to find it fairly comfortable.
I woke up to really grey and drizzly skies on the morning of sea swim day and ventured into work in thick tights and a jumper. I should also add that I hadn’t been well the two days previous and was still feeling pretty drained. As soon as I got to work I put on my extra heater that transforms my office into the tropics and treated myself to a hot chocolate at lunch time for a much needed sugar boost. I felt determined to swim, no matter what (even the Daily Mail’s horror stories couldn’t put me off). It was just 11’C outside and we were committed.
We met at my house after work to get changed into our wetsuits and then walked down to the beach – it was only a two minute journey and actually felt very pleasant at this point – it’s amazing how much warmer you feel in neoprene. After leaving our towels in a pile on the beach we took a quick pre-swim selfie where we all looked warm, happy and raring to go, and then walked into the water. Again, none of us were overly shocked by the water temperature when we first started to walk in. In fact, up to my knees it really was quite refreshing…but then you know the dreaded dunk is about to happen. Usually I’m the type of person that will dither around for ages trying to acclimatise to the water temperature – but we were all rather excited and buzzing off the adrenaline, plus peer-pressure took over and there was no way that I would let the team down. Within 20 seconds, we were all in and fully submerged…and still not feeling particularly cold.
When I organised the swim I said it would be more of a splash to get used to swimming in our wetsuits, but once we were in the water I felt like we should make the most of it so pointed out a sign further along the coast (which no one else could actually see…probably not great for morale!) and off we swam. The tide worked to our advantage on the way there although we all took to swimming breast stroke rather than front crawl, which I think is completely fine given the fact it was our first swim. We also swam at a pace where we could talk to each other…it was really quite leisurely and enjoyable. About half way into the swim we all started asking each other if we were feeling cold, and whilst we weren’t necessarily feeling the effects of the cold at that point, our hands were starting to turn odd shades of white and blue.
We soon reached the sign and then turned around to swim back…this was when the challenge really began. The tide was against us which made the swim back so much more difficult – we also couldn’t spot which part of the beach we had left our stuff on…okay, so perhaps I made us swim a bit further than we should have. But I always like to push myself as far as possible. We were beginning to feel the cold by this point too – you know when you get one of those really big shivers running through your body? I had that probably ever minute or so which incentivised me to swim faster, but swimming faster when the tide is pulling you backwards means you don’t actually get anywhere quicker. It felt like we were swimming for ages on the way back, but eventually we were back on the beach we started at and took our post-swim selfie.
We had swam for about an hour which I’m amazed by as I only ever intended it to be a 30 minute swim (we guessed that we had swam approximately 500m but when I went back to Strava the distance during my run the following day it turned out to be 900m!). Despite the swim back feeling tough, we had made it and it was definitely one of those moments where you felt so proud of yourself. Of course then we had to climb back up to the house…this was where the challenge really began for me. After getting out of the water I started to get very cold but couldn’t bring myself to take my wetsuit off as I thought it might keep me a bit warmer on the walk home. Half way up the steps of doom I had to stop and just huddle myself into my knees to try and muster up some strength to continue the climb – my lips were a bit blue at this point and I wasn’t sure if it was the cold or just generally not being well that was affecting me. Eventually we made it back up to the house and after waiting a few minutes to allow my body to adjust to the indoor temperature I enjoyed the longest shower known to mankind which was incredibly restorative.
I’m already looking forward to the next sea swim…I just hope it’s sunny next time!