Tag Archives: daily news of open water swimming

Lewis Pugh

Introducing a precise open water swimming temperature scale

Next year’s Cork Distance Week will have a record number of attendees, many from outside Ireland. Some will be coming nervous or terrified about the potential temperatures especially if they heard any of 2011’s details.

They need a scale of reference for that fear and we need a common terminology!

Steve Munatones on Daily News of Open Water Swimming had a post recently on the temperatures at which people consider water cold.

I remember Finbarr once saying to me that; “10ºC is the point at which you can start to do some proper distance”. But that’s when the temperature is going up in the late spring. What about when it is dropping in the autumn and winter?

Jack Bright might have some input into this also. :-)

I think it would be fair to say that many, if not most (but not all), of the (serious) Irish and British swimmers would fall into the 7% category, it’s getting cold under 10° C.

So here’s my purely personal swimmer’s temperature scale:

Over 18°C (65°F): This temperature is entirely theoretical and only happens on TV and in the movies. The only conclusion I can come to about the 32% who said this is cold are that they are someone’s imaginary friends. Or maybe foetuses.

16°C to 18°C (61 to 64°F): This is paradise. This is the temperature range at which Irish and British swimmers bring soap into the sea. The most common exclamation heard at this stage is “it’s a bath”!!! Sunburn is common. Swimmers float on their backs and laugh and play gaily like children. They wear shorts and t-shirts after finally emerging. They actually feel a bit guilty about swimming in such warm water. Possible exposures times are above 40 hours for us. It’s a pity we have to get out to sleep and eat.

14°C to 16°C (57° to 61°F): Aaahhh, summerAll is well with the world, the sea and the swimmers. Exposure times are at least 20 to 40 hours. Sandycove Swimmers will swim 6 hour to 16 hour qualification swims, some just for the hell of it and because others might be doing so. Lisa Cummins will see no need to get out of the water at all and will just sleep while floating, to get a head start on the next day’s training.

13°C (55° to 56°F): GrandYou can do a 6 hour swim, and have a bit of fun. Daily long distance training is fine. Barbecues in Sandycove. The first Irish teenagers start to appear.

12°C (53/54°F): Well manageable! You can still do a 6 hour swim, it’ll hurt but it’s possible. Otherwise it’s fine for regular 2 to 4 hour swims. This the temperature of the North Channel.

11°C (51/52°F): Ah well (with a shrug). Distance training is well underway. Ned, Rob, Ciarán, Craig, Danny C., Imelda, Eddie, Jen Lane, Jen Hurley & myself, at the very least, have all recorded 6 hour qualification swims at this temperature. Lisa did 9 hours at this temperature. Swimmers chuckle and murmur quietly amongst themselves when they hear tourists running screaming in agony from the water, throwing children out of the way… 

10°C (50°F): Usually known as It’s Still Ok”. A key temperature. This is the one hour point, where one hour swims become a regular event when the temperature is rising. We start wearing hats after swims.

9°C (48/49°F):A Bit Nippy”No point trying to do more than an hour, it can be done, but you won’t gain much from it unless you are contemplating the Mouth of Hell swim. Christmas Day swim range. Someone might remember to bring a flask of tea. No milk for me, thanks.

8°C (46/48°F): The precise technical term is “Chilly”. Sub one-hour swims. Weather plays a huge role. Gloves after swims. Sandycove Swimmers scoff at the notion they might be hypothermic.

7°C (44/45°F): “Cold”. Yes, it exists. It’s here. The front door to Cold-Town is 7.9°C.

6°C (42/43°F): “Damn, that hurts”. You baby.

5°C (40/41°F): Holy F*ck!That’s a technical term. Swimmers like to remind people this is the same temperature as the inside of a quite cold domestic fridge. Don’t worry if you can’t remember actually swimming, getting out of the water or trying to talk. Memory loss is a fun game for all the family. This occurs usually around the middle to end of February.

Under 5°C (Under 40 °F). This is only for bragging rights.There are no adequate words for this. In fact speech is impossible.  It’s completely acceptable to measure exposure times in multiples of half minutes and temperatures in one-tenths of a degree. This is hard-core.  When you’ve done this, you can tell others to “Bite me, (’cause I won’t feel it)”. (4.8°C 1.4°C is mine, Feb. 2013). Carl Reynolds starts to get a bit nervous. Lisa make sure her suntan lotion is packed.

Ned Denison during the winter

2.5°C  to 5°C. South London Swimming Club and British Cold Water Swimming Championships live here. If you are enjoying this, please seek immediate psychological help. Lisa might zip up her hoodie.

1.5°C to 2.5°C: Lynn Coxian temperatures. You are officially a loon.

0°C to 1.5°C: Aka “Lewis Pughiantemperatures. Long duration nerve damage, probably death for the rest of us. Lisa considers putting on shoes instead of sandals. But probably she won’t.

*Grand is a purely Irish use that ranges from; “don’t mind me, I’ll be over here slowly bleeding to death, don’t put yourself out … Son“, to “ok” and “the best“, indicated entirely by context and tone.

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Interviewed for Open Water Wednesday on Daily News of Open Water Swimming

I’ve obviously been too busy to write much for the last few day, so I thought I’d let you know that Steve Munatones interviewed me a few weeks ago for Open Water Wednesday spot on the Daily News of Open Water Swimming which is available to his subscribers, principally on my favourite subject…cold water. I rambled on, as will come as no surprise to you by now.

Steve’s intro is below. I’m not in the habit of collecting clips about myself and I can categorically say I had nothing to do with Steve saying these things but THANKS STEVE (who is a regular reader and commenter here) though I’m a bit embarrassed!

I picked up my first Far East subscriber last week (that I’m aware of) so hello to Thailand, where about 20 years ago, before I was a real swimmer, I swam on the beach at Pattaya and still remember the sunset.

Also, it seems like the name Loneswimmer, that I chose all that time ago, has finally stuck, which I’m pretty happy about. It still works best for me. I love to swim with my friends, particularly at Clonea, the Guillamenes and Sandycove, amongst other locations,  aand though we have an increasing number of OW swimmers along the Waterford coast, I still regularly feel the need to break Rule Number One.

Steve, I like the new site layout, by the way.

I think most of us OW swimmers visit the Daily News. “Have you seen on Daily News…” is a regular conversation starter particularly over the summer. And the  are great tidbits to be gleaned. The recent Coke & potato crisps as a possible remedy for a sick stomach for example (I hate Cola, but nevertheless), and I’ve linked, a long time ago, Steve’s great article on the renaissance in Open Water swimming, one of my favourites.

“Donal Buckley of Ireland is the LoneSwimmer.  But his exploits are followed around the world.  His words, his voice, his perspective give swimmers around the world reason to pull for him, although most have never met him.  He inspires, he educates and he makes people smile and think with his profound prose.  He takes difficult topics and makes them simple.  He takes unknown issues and makes them engaging.  He tackles the concept of marathon swimming with zest and vigor and a uniquely educational and entertaining point-of-view. Donal simply makes the global open water swimming world a better place.  He is an English Channel solo swimmer and relay member who enjoys the simple joys and difficult challenges of cold-water marathon swims.  His thoughts, his opinions, his ideas are all interesting, engaging, spot on and thoughtful. His topics range from physical to psychological, from hypothermia to injuries, from training to its impact on daily life.  He is introspective, intellectual, interesting and intriguing from his lone outpost in the southeast of Ireland.”