The temperature at the Guillamene took its first real drop of early winter last week, down to 11.3° Celsius (52.3° F.). After a sub-seventy minute swim, it was like meeting an old acquaintance. Little finger dexterity gone, reduced co-ordination when getting dressed, and wearing a wooly hat afterwards. No big deal, it’s not below 10° yet, but there’s six months of this in our future.
Next day, the temperature was about the same, it was cloudy and there was Force 5 onshore southerly wind. After only 57 minutes, and much less distance covered, my nose was raw, and I’d been battered by the one to three metre chop and waves. I’d dropped below my one hour minimum target for this temperature. One metre waves off the Guillamene, but up to three metres where the waves were jacking up over the Comolene reef, as always happens. Go in or out the bay, there’s no escape. It seemed strange that it was less than a week since the pleasant swim on the previous Sunday. It’s the ambient temperature, the winds, the lack of direct sunlight, that’s driving the temperature down but mostly the feeling that it’s cold. In early summer I’ll swim longer in this temperature, the expansiveness of sunlight leading me on.
Swimming back from Doneraile past the Pier, there were two anglers on the pier end, and I glimpsed them between the troughs and being hurled upwards, crashing down, utterly without grace, wondering did they even see me. You feel sometimes invisible when very close to people in the water, sometimes you feel unusually visible, both are probably wrong. One of the things about swimming inwards, and why I prefer to swim outwards in solitude, is that a road and path runs along the cliff top, and swimming I am conscious of people walking and looking out at me, or imagining them doing so.
Sometimes before, but mostly afterwards, when changing, and especially during swims, my thoughts stray to catchphrases about cold and what articles I can write about it this winter, after writing so many last year. And today I wondered if there really is yet an end to writing about cold for me, at least for now. It is I think, at least about myself, one of the ways that I define swimming. Swimming is cold. I swim, I’m cold, I write.
I’m not good at it, the cold, but I’m pretty good at it. I mean it’s not a natural talent, I’ve had to work at it. Which is part of why I like writing about it. Every time you swim in cold, it’s even more of an adventure than a simple one hour open water swim in 14° C. The open water is an adventure and the cold is an adventure.
Cold. I hate it. I like it. I hate it. I like it. I hate it. I like it. I hate it. I …