After humming and hawing for a little while I decided that it was time to face my biggest triathlon fear down, and do it in style. When I say style I do mean with a massive amount of “uncoolness,” some squeaking and the occasional whimper. I am talking about the open water swim. It is strange that this is my big fear, because during my university days I actually trained as a professional SCUBA diver, and spent countless hours under the water doing surveys, tying knots and waiting patiently to decompress. Since then I have developed a somewhat irrational fear of the murky depths combined with a total dislike of going through cold shock. My two open water swims during races last year, both Olympic distance triathlons, were rather terrifying and I was pretty much last out of the swim on both of them. On the run and the cycle I am generally in the top ten percent, so I leave myself with a lot of hard work to get back through the field. To get over this fear I have acquainted myself with the Devon and Cornwall Wild Swimmers. Read on to find out how I got on.
I found the Open Water Swimmers on Facebook, originally spotting the West Country page before being pointed at the Devon specific page. They always seemed like a friendly bunch, but I never managed to make the time to meet them, until now. I posted a message last week to find out if anything was happening nearby and got a message from Pauline to say that if there was enough interest then they would be starting up their Friday morning group again shortly. It turned out there was and we met today. They all seemed very friendly online and had been helping me work out the swim for my charity challenge in July. All this, despite never meeting me.
I turned up and was introduced to several ladies, all of whom were very friendly, but I did start to wonder where the guys were. I figured that we can’t all be pansies, surely? A few minutes later Rob rode up on his bicycle, and it turned out that he was swimming without a wetsuit. in fact, if you check the picture below you will see that the people in a wetsuit were a majority and were all fellas. There was no mocking though, they were all very encouraging and didn’t make me feel like a wuss I guess that will wait until they know me better?
I asked about a photo and the group assembled without a moment’s hesitation before turning around and wading into the water. Pauline stayed by my side as we did breaststroke through the shallows, gently encouraging me to get my goggles on, get my face into the water and get it over with. She then shot off like a torpedo that had been fired out of a submarine. I splashed for a bit, resumed breast stroking and struck up a conversation with Lynne. It turns out that she has been through the cancer mill as well, so we swapped notes until we reached the buoy that marked the end of the safe swimming area. As we made our slow way along Pauline had gone to the next buoy and was on her way back to meet us. I finally decided to look a bit more serious and struck out for the buoy. By the time I got there everyone else was a lot nearer the shore and my irrational fear started to kick in. I gave myself a bit of a kick up the arse and made my way back across to Lynne and Pauline, before staggering back up the beach. Twenty minutes had passed and Pauline looked at her watch declaring that the water temp was a whole 7.3 degrees celsius. No wonder I was getting brain freeze every time that I put my face in the water!
Afterwards we nattered for a bit, some went off for a coffee and others made their way to work. I popped in to see Sam in the hospital, but more on that over on our Leukaemia blog shortly. www.theleukaemiaconclusion.co.uk
I felt exhausted for the rest of the day, I’m guessing that is an after effect of the cold? As the day goes on I find myself really starting to look forward to the next swim and meeting up with the Devon and Cornwall Swimmers again next week. I do need to get one of those poncho style towels for easy changing on the beach though, they all made it look easy while I stumbled and staggered my way through getting changed with one numb hand grasping the towel, the other fumbling my pants, all the while trying not to step on a pebble, fall over and show everyone a bit more than they would want to see (especially given the temperature!) More pictures below, thanks Helen for taking them for me, I am easy to spot as I am the renegade in the white swimming hat.
You can find out more about the Devon and Cornwall Wild Swimmers Here: http://www.devonandcornwallwildswimming.co.uk/
Lynne also has her own wild swimming blog that you can find here: http://wildwomanswimming.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/nippy-tinside/