I’ve mentioned before about my latest addiction. I’m so thrilled to be back in the water that I felt it needed a whole blog post to itself! I’ve always loved swimming in the sea and as a teenager had no qualms about swimming across the fast-flowing Dordogne river whilst on a family holiday. I’m a very inefficient swimmer which is perhaps a good thing as I generate lots of heat when I swim! I’ve never been a fan of swimming pools as I hate chlorine, getting stuck behind someone swimming too slowly in the fast lane, or having the faster swimmer behind me nipping at my heels! I was 7 years old before I learned to swim, unlike my baby sister who learned aged 2 and swims like a fish. I am a strong swimmer though, and will brave just about anything.
The top right photo was this afternoon at Gurnal Dubs, just under 300m altitude, a leg-punishing run up to it, followed by a 500m ((ish), that was funny my autocorrect wanted to amend that to fish!!) swim and a happy, galumphing dash back down (I neither run nor swim elegantly). I’m still not back to full fitness after my surgery so the run up tested both legs and lungs and my heart rate peaked at 181 bpm, (which at my age is more than my max should be), but it feels so good to be alive!
I am slightly wedded to my Fitbit, which also happens to be waterproof, so I have found that my heart rate when swimming never gets anywhere near what it does when running. It’s weird because I swim as hard as I can and I’m out of breath, but it seems to sit at around 110-120 bpm, and only reaches above 130 when I’m really pushing it. It’s been a while since I’ve experienced the gasping, heart racing shock of first contact with cold water. I think the last time was when I immersed myself in an icy pool half way up a mountain waterfall. You know, that moment when you can’t help shrieking with both cold and delight. I’ve not yet tried swimming with goggles in open water as I prefer it to be an experience rather than a race, and if I swim breast stroke I can keep my head above the water. I have never been a fan of front crawl – my stroke is a total mess and I feel like I’m about to expire after about 10 strokes! I could swim breast stroke all day.
My favourite swimming spot in the river Kent is unswimmable at the moment due to all the rain we’ve had. The last few times I’ve attempted to swim against the current there, I’ve ended up unintentionally swimming backwards, in spite of powering away with my arms and kicking like billy-oh. Steve thought the sight was hilarious but also rather alarming as he had visions of me ending up in Morecambe Bay, a few miles downstream. Necessity has made me spread my net wider (and higher) for my “jog-swim” to the nearest tarns, Potter Tarn and Gurnal Dubs. The water today was a leeeeetle chilly and in spite of running down, my hands still feel like blocks of ice…
I was very well behaved and didn’t venture into the water until I was sure that my wound was fully watertight. The fully clothed pictures are me champing at the bit to get in the water before that happy occurrence. I have to say that my favourite thing to wear when swimming is nothing at all. I hope the photos which demonstrate this are too small to be too revealing and anyway, the parts of anatomy which are bared are common to all human beings! Mountain tarns are amongst my favourite places to swim, especially when there’s no one around, as I can enjoy the water as nature intended. The bottom right picture is Loch Avon (Cairngorms) in February 2019 when the air temperature was 20 degrees. The water temperature certainly wasn’t, but it was completely magical.
The benefits of cold water swimming are well known, but for me I find that it gives me a massive zing, puts me on a high and leaves me gasping for more. I have to be feeling warm before I go in though, as otherwise I find that I get too chilled and am unable to recover. I don’t want to risk hypothermia. I have yet to swim in water colder than about 10 degrees but come winter I may manage to build up the stamina to do so. I joined the outdoor swimming society on Facebook, which is great for inspiration from others’ posts and for tips on cold water swimming. It was also very touching to receive so many good wishes when I posted my first post-cancer surgery swim picture. Wild swimming is such a tonic for body and soul!