Manhattan is over and the Boston Light Marathon swim is coming up this weekend. What did I do with my down time? Well there wasn’t much down time. I think I have taken 1 or 2 days off from training, but definitely not on the weekends.
The weekend of July 19-20 Tim and I just hit our old stomping ground of Hagg Lake. Neither of us really felt like making the trek down to the Oregon Coast to hit Nehalem Bay. Saturday’s swim was warm and beautiful. Now we try to get out to the lake early so that we aren’t out when all the boat and fishermen come out. Saturday was no exception. We were out at the lake at 6:30am. There was a beautiful fog over the late and the water was steaming as the air temperature was high 50’s – low 60’s. We got started in this sort of dream land state. Again it was the normal loop with a pier to pier. As we were coming back past from the “pier to pier” we noticed some fishermen near “The Kids”. Tim and I sort of stopped and bobbed and talked about superheros. Had we been in Dover, I’m sure that someone would have told us to get on with the swimming task at hand, but we were enjoying the sunshine and determining the best path around the fishermen. It appeared to us that they were moving more towards the middle of the lake, so Tim and I took the shoreline. And when I say we took the shoreline…we were super close to the shoreline, perhaps 4 feet of water. As we got by the fishermen, we (OK I) stopped for some more bobbing. As we were about 100 feet away we hear “HEY BUDDY Nice going, way to swim right where we were fishing! THERE IS A WHOLE LAKE TO SWIM IN!” Now being that I’m a very delicate flower, this upset me. Of course my immediate reply was to turn around and state that “Yes and there is a whole lake to fish in too.” And then I proceeded to laugh. Some might not think this the best reaction to 3 arrogant A-holes in a boat while Tim and I are just swimming, but again this delicate flower perhaps wasn’t thinking straight. The rest of my swim was spent planning alternate rebuttals to this fisherman.
Option 2 – was to swim over to their tin can of a fishing boat and do a quick manuever to tip it over sending them, their gear and beer into the lake…somehow I managed to hold back.
Option 3 – was to swim over and introduce myself. “Hi I’m Michelle and I’ve been swimming out here since 6:30am. I was curious if you were a safety person, where would you advise two swimmers who have been in the water for 2 hours to stay…close to shore and an exit path or in the middle of the lake where our tiny yellow caps may or may not been seen by the likes of fishermen who have started drinking at 8:30am in the morning?” Somehow this didn’t seem like a good plan either.
For the record for all those fisherman/boaters/etc that may read this blog, without a safety boat, safety people on shore, or dragging a safety buoy/balloon swimmers will stay close to shore. Now I thought this would be for obvious reasons, but apparently not.
Sunday Tim and I just did another quick pier to pier swim and called it a day.
This past weekend (July 26-27) my good friends allowed Tim and I the use of their little house down in Manzanita Oregon. Without the dreaded drive back from the coast on Saturday, Tim and I headed to Nehalem for training. (Note: It is about a 2 hour drive to the coast, so you can see why a round trip in a day would be difficult). We left early per my usual insane need to be in the water first thing in the morning. Now I thought for sure that Nehalem Bay would be back at its “regular” 60 degree temp which would be a nice change from Hagg’s sweltering 76. As we arrived at the State park, I decided perhaps in bad judgement to check the water temperature before we actually got in. In the words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman “Big Mistake…Huge!” From the boat launch the water registered 50. Which I have found that non-cold water swimmers don’t understand. They usually look at me and say “Well that’s not so bad.” Somehow I believe that they are judging it from a 50 degree day. 50 degree water does not feel like a 50 degree sunny day. It grips your lungs and squeezes them like the Incredible Hulk and in your head you are crying out “Uncle”, but your jaws are tensed shut and locked because of the cold. And when they aren’t locked shut, you are chattering like those wind up teeth. In fact, it is so bad sometimes that you think that all your teeth will break and fall out of your mouth. Plus you have the mother of all ice cream headaches that no amount of grabbing your head and screaming will alleviate. Not to mention all your bits that hang off your body have decided to go “Turtle” on you and try to grow back inside your body. Now imagine this for men and their little friends. (Special Assignment: For the really daring, take your bathtub and only turn on the cold water. Fill bathtub. Strip down to your skiives and jump in. No not just your feet, your whole body. Now if your cold water is anything like mine, that is 74 or maybe 72 degrees. Dang cold right?)
Since I was there to train, I stripped down to my swim suit and got ready to start. Tim didn’t seem as enthusiastic and I believe he was using stall tactics. Finally after the last stall, I told Tim I would meet him in the water or he could just wait on the beach. Personally I would have been happy with whatever his decision. Again somehow I think the cold water might overshadow his love for swimming outdoors.
I was planning on a 4 hour swim. However, with that temperature I would really have to be concerned with adverse affects. Tim and I decided to assess the situation after one lap which usually takes just over an hour. Like last year, I swim between the green buoys and the shoreline, passing the buoys first with 11, then 11 again, then 5, then 3. At 3, I turn around and head back. The water was especially clear this day and we saw plenty of dancing crabs. At buoy 3, I stopped and got ready to turn around way before this Tim had decided to jump in and swim and had caught up to me. We did the quick cold water assessments, which equals “Are you ok? Yeah are you? Yeah.” Yes it is very scientific and took years of research to learn. We headed back to the boat ramp. Honestly the swim back was tough as we were against the current and the cold was beginning to take its toll.
We made it back though and it took just over one hour. Tim decided to call it good and I don’t blame him. I managed to make it back out to buoy 5 and back in (which back in seems more important sometimes). Another 40 minutes to the tally. 1 hour and 40 minutes didn’t seem all that bad in 50 degree water. I was happy and called it good.
Tim and I spent the day relaxing and lounging around Manzanita, which was so nice rather than the 2 hour drive back to Portland. YEA FRIENDS and their generosity! The next morning I was so relieved not to have to get up early and get in the car. I finally was able to sleep in a little and finally got out of bed at 8:30am. I can’t remember the last time I slept that late. Then it was back out to the bay.
This time I didn’t check the water temp and Tim didn’t stall. I was only planning for one “lap” of the bay. On our way back we picked up some spectators. I stopped and said good morning. And then came the question “What are you doing?” Now being that Tim and I are in swimsuits, caps and goggles and happen to be swimming I thought it was pretty obvious…so I replied “We’re out for a run.” Now some of the people in the group thought that was a little amusing. She however did not. So I quickly adjusted and said “Well we’re swimming.” The next question “How cold is it?” I had been checking the temperature at every buoy and like a good training partner had not been telling Tim. So I pulled the thermometer out of it’s super secret hiding spot and read it “50 degrees” (Note: I’m too cheap to buy a watch that tells me the water temp, so I carry a water thermometer with me. Plus I don’t like wearing a watch while I swim. Some might argue that it is more comfortable than a water thermometer shoved down the front of your suit. Dang it there went my super secret hiding spot 🙂 ) “Isn’t that cold?” “Yes it is. Have a great morning.”
Swim 2 finished and we jetted over to the campground to take our normal warm up shower. Overall a great weekend.
Until Monday morning. I noticed on Saturday afternoon that I was getting some sores on my finger joints. And then on Sunday afternoon, I had even more. And then Monday these sores were especially p***d off and frankly were double in size and seemed to be taking on their own personalities. Now I’ve had these before and the doctor years ago told me to come back when they were bad. Well I never considered them “Bad” enough to ever go back to the doctor…that’s right you guessed it “Until now”. I called up the doctor and went in. She took one look and said “Those are chilblains.” I was relieved that she actually knew what they were, as I think my last doc just thought I was crazy. She mentioned that it is caused by getting too cold. Hmm, 50 degree water wouldn’t have anything to do with that. Unfortunately there really isn’t anything to do, but to keep the extremities warm. I think the Channel rules would frown on warm woolen mittens.
According to MedicineNet.com a Chilblain is “A cold injury which, while painful, causes little or no permanent impairment. It appears as red, swollen skin which is tender, hot to the touch, and may itch. This can worsen to an aching, prickly (“pins and needles”) sensation, and then numbness. It can develop in only a few hours in skin exposed to cold.
The first aid treatment of chilblains is to stop exposure to cold, remove any wet or constrictive clothing, gently wash and dry the injured area, elevate it, cover it with layers of loose warm clothes and allow to rewarm. ”
According to some websites, they apparently can become worse from rapid re-warming, which I can confirm I did in the shower after the swims.
Good news is that my fingers will be fine. Bad news is these things hurt while they are here. I will just be more careful in my warming procedures from now on. Can’t really do much about the cold. My doctor assures me that it is all ok and my cold water swimming career is safe. Whew, that’s a relief!