Ok, you know those days where you are going along doing something you do repetitively and then that ONE day it might as well be like you are Sisyphus rolling the stone up the hill (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisyphus ). No matter how hard you try either your mind or body is just not having it. For example: you can always run a 9 minute mile (FYI – no idea if this is a good or bad time or even reasonable mile time), you do it every day as part of your workout. And then you get up one day for your regular run and you can’t break 9:30. No real reason that you can think of. You feel fine. You had a normal day, week, month. In theory there should be no reason why you can’t run your 9 minute mile. However, you can’t and no matter how hard you try you are not going to get 9 minutes.
Well this happens in cold water swimming too. There are some days where unexpectedly my body is just not going to tolerate the cold. Now most often this occurs during a training day and doesn’t cause to much of an issue. Unfortunately, my body decided that during my North Channel attempt it was the day to roll the stone. Sure I could roll that stone all I wanted but I wasn’t going to get to the other side as my body was revolting against the temperature. Ok I realize that my metaphor sort of fell apart there because a stone isn’t water temperature, but nobody said I was Mark Twain so go with me here.
The North Channel gave up a good day to do some swimming. The winds had calmed down from the bluster of the previous days. The weather prediction was swimmable. All I had to do was swim. I jumped into the water at stupid o’clock am and got to the business of swimming. Now for the first hour my crew just leave me alone to settle into my rhythm, release butterflies, and generally get over any bad mental vibes about what I’m about to do. Oh yeah, I do get the feelings of “What the heck am I doing? We could be back home in bed.” Usually if I’m left alone for the hour, I can settle in and remember that I do love this crazy sport.
All was going well…sort of. My stroke rate was good. I felt strong. The sunrise was starting to turn the sky which was lovely. But at the surface, I kept thinking “Man this feels pretty fresh.” I had been acclimatizing for the last week. I felt good in the water. Not so much during this day. I figured it would just take me a bit of time to adjust and all would go back to normal working order.
3 hours in though, I knew it wasn’t the case. I couldn’t adjust and my body was not participating. I knew from past experience that either I called the swim and remained safe or continue forward and get pulled out in potential emergency situation causing issues for the crew and pilot. My mantra is always first and foremost a safe swim, so that is what I decided. I had a frank conversation with the crew and pilot and basically said that my body was not tolerating the cold. I had lost all feeling in my extremities. I had started retching as my body didn’t want to waste energy digesting food, and there were some internal tremors. Now if we were 2 hours from the end, I probably would have pushed on. We were at the beginning with a long way to go.
I know that ultimately I made the right call, but I’m not happy about it. Plenty have asked if there was the opportunity to go again during this tide. The answer is yes, but then the next question is should I? I think no. There is something going on with my body that isn’t readily apparent. Since the swim, I’ve been sleeping like the dead and sleeping a lot. (OK I know it has only been really a day and a half, but seriously lots of sleeping.) Additionally, I had a small whoopsies in trying to get back on the boat after calling the swim. Minor detail when you don’t have control of hands or feet…climbing a ladder back into a boat is VERY difficult, impossible even. I may have fell off the ladder creating some pretty spectacular bruises on my arms and legs, which on a positive note I couldn’t feel until much later, but it does still affect my body’s performance for another attempt so soon.
Other positives from this swim is that my stroke was there. In 3 hours, I had traveled 7 miles (2.3 miles per hour), which in running is 28 miles in 3 hours. Not a bad marathon time I’m told. So when my internal body gets reset, I know my swimming will be there to get me across the next channel. My back and shoulders in the past few days feel pretty good which is HUGE considering I couldn’t stand upright at all 10 months ago. Plus, I was having a good time mentally in the water. I still love this sport and want to compete in it AND it looks like I can.
There it is. I had a bad cold acclimatization day on a good swimming day in the North Channel. (SIDE NOTE: My head crew does want me to point out that it was 54 degree water + air temp never above 58 + a wind which creates wind chill, so it wasn’t tropical out there and it WAS a COLD DAY. She even had on ski pants. While I know all this to be true, I’m still upset and sad about the outcome.)
Thank you all for your continued support and encouragement. Onto the next swim…planned for November 🙂
I’ve already gone back in the water for a little swimmy swim to start training. What, me rest?Tags: irish sea, marathon swimming, North Channel, open water swimming