You know, in all the swimming I did last year, I never really wrote about ordinary swims that much. Every swim was part of a structure, a plan, the wet road toward Dover and the Strait. I tended to think more about big swims and tough swims, or swims which marked some milestone.
I often say, (maybe not here), that early May last year was the toughest test. Those early days in the cold, always by myself, every day swimming into deep cold, recover for the next day and doing it all again, regardless of weather.
Today’s swim was slightly reminiscent of that week but without the overarching story and of course it’s a month later and the water is warmer.
The day is poor. The air temperature is only 12 °C and the water temperature is 11.5 °C. There’s the prevailing south-westerly wind. The sky is overcast and there are irregular rain showers.
The height of Newtown protects the Guillamenes and the inside west side under the low cliffs of the bay from southwesterlies, so the water is not too choppy. There’s a small swell running though, driven by those onshores, which is making it into the bay which is larger further out. Inside it’s only half a metre or so. I know that it will be a bit bigger further in going over the Colomene reef, around the pier and under Doneraile Head.
There’s no-one around. After the sun of the weekend and the large number of teenagers, it’s back to an empty car-park and just me and my swim-box here again. Not even the doggits.
I felt like I needed my rubber mat to stand on. The air is chilly and the sky and sea are grey. At least there is a rising tide.
Given the conditions and tide, I decided to head inwards. I knew I would have the swell pushing me in and have to fight it on the way back. Also once I got past the Colomene reef, the cliffs pull back a bit, so the chop picks up between there and pier. Okay on the way down, less so returning.
I stood on the steps for a good 30 seconds. It was like winter. But I knew the water wouldn’t be as cold as it looked. This is the advantage of experience, to be able to just do it when you may not feel like it..
I dove in, and settled immediately. Now, things were better. I was in the water. Off to the pier with me.
Past the Colomene I started to see hundreds of common jellies again.
It took about 18 minutes, an average time, or even slow considering the swell. As I approached I decided to keep going across under Lady Doneraile Head toward the beach, since you can only do this above half-tide, and I remembered I hadn’t done a swim to the beach yet this year.
I reached the beach in 30 minutes. By then I’d had some sun breaking through clouds. After I turned I headed back toward the pier. I had learned some years back that heading directly toward the Guillamene across the bay from here was a bad idea as I would run into the end of the Scarf.
As I passed the pier end there were two children and a man just watching me. You always wonder, what are they thinking? There was no obvious entry point for me. And the only visible exit point was at the pier itself, and I was swimming past.
The journey back was a slog. It usually is. There’s a stand of trees on the skyline about 200 metres returning past the pier, which indicate one of the spots which had a current which slows you for a few minutes. 50 metres to the trees. 50 metres to the trees. Still 50 metres to the trees.
The wide section before the Colomene was choppy and swelly. No swimmer feels the glide in these conditions. You get pushed skyward on the swell, and crash back down. Your hand hits wavelets, and your arm hits swell or trough. Your stroke is short and choppy like the water itself. But it’s not too bad, because at least I didn’t get a pain in my head from banging off bigger chop.
And then, quite quickly I passed the last house and was swimming in toward the Guillamene. Just over an hour and ten minutes, slower than the same swim would be in better conditions. One-fingered claw on my left hand. Rain as I was emerging.
I changed in the alcove. Looking at the water I could see the wind had picked up to Force Three with whitecaps everywhere. The black clouds were moving off again while sunshine was arriving once more.
All in all, nothing unusual. Cold, hungry. Happy. Home.