When I signed up for this swim there have been two blogs I have been quietly fantasising about writing. The most exciting one for me is the one after the swim when I can tell you all how amazing it was, and I was and how proud I am of myself etc. etc.
Before that one though I had been pre-emptively making mental notes about my first open water swim. About overcoming the tribulations of the pool and emerging, victorious, from the murky depths of the lake…
I could write that tonight but it would be a complete fabrication as, to be honest, my first swim was a complete nightmare. I hated it… and that really, really wasn’t what I was expecting.
My new wetsuit arrived yesterday and I could hardly get my foot in it so, in a bid to overcome my mounting panic about being unprepared, I dusted off my wetsuit (one I bought about 5 years ago that (honestly) my dog ate part of in the car on the way to Cornwall) and headed for my local swimming lake.
Anyway my local lake was 27.5 degrees. That’s over 80 Fahrenheit and I was advised not to wear a wetsuit as it was basically like a bath. But this felt like was chance to try out swimming with a wetsuit so I headed off to do a simple 400m acclimatisation lap anyway.
What a mistake that was.
I was ok doing some front crawl initially but I’m not fit enough to continue for any great distance so I threw in some nifty breaststroke to catch my breath. Or not. Doing breaststroke in a wetsuit is a bit like swimming with bricks on your chest. Not easy. And certainly not a way to catch your breath – I was struggling to take any air on board at all. I’d read this can happen when you first take to the open water but this was pretty severe and I haven’t got the best respiratory performance at the best of times anyway. I think a tiiiiiiiny bit of panic set in.
A bit more crawl (and a couple of collisions with cadaver-sized weed-blooms) later and I started to feel really pretty uncomfortable. This was not easy, it was not fun and I was worried about completing the 400m which really shouldn’t be a problem.
Anyway I paddled on and eventually just put my head down and ploughed to the jetty as I knew I had to get out of the water. I had massive pressure on my chest and was about to faint and throw up simultaneously – how fabulous. Luckily my son helped me loosen the top of my wetsuit which had been pressing on the top of my neck and making me feel very odd. That coupled with a general feeling of asphyxia and terror (and a few smelly entrail like weeds loitering around my face) meant I couldn’t get out of the water fast enough.
It took over 30 mins to stop the shaking, dizziness and nausea and I was so utterly surprised and disappointed that I cried and swore I would never, ever swim in open water again. 24 hours later and needless to say I’m due back in a lake on Saturday morning, with a hang over, so that’s bound to go REALLY well too.
I’ve ordered 3 more wetsuits of various shapes and sizes to try and overcome my main issue which was the feeling of being constricted. I’m definitely not built like a triathlete so I am looking at a wetsuit size called an ‘Athena’ which is basically an XXL but if they are happy to let me pretend to be the Neoprene Goddess of War rather than just a rubberised lump then I’m happy with that.
If all else fails I’m going to ditch the wetsuit. I can handle the water and the weeds and the sharks and the dead bodies, the rats, the shopping trollies, the effluence and everything else that you find in the Thames but I can’t handle the complete loss of control I felt yesterday. Its really not what I signed up for…*
*Don’t worry – I know its EXACTLY what I signed up for.