A cold swim and lessons about the best laid plans

I finally finished my junior fall at Smith College and arrived back in Los Angeles yesterday. I kicked off my trip today with a nice 3 mile swim with my friends Rebecca and Chris. The water temperature has dropped significantly in the last few weeks and was 57 degrees for our swim today. By open water swimming standards that is not actually very cold, but as I am not acclimatized yet, it felt quite chilly to me. As we entered the water in the dawn light, I had to remind myself that I wanted to be there and that the training swim was just a stepping stone to my goals. As my friend Paige says, “its all mental”. I gasped as I put my head into the cold water, and we headed toward the Venice breakwater about a mile away. As I swam, my hands and feet grew numb but my body warmed up with the movement and I felt strong and fast in the salty water. Fittingly, the song Sunrise from In The Heights played in my head, while the light grew brighter around us. When we had covered abut half the distance to the breakwater, we realized that we had swam diagonally out to sea rather than along shore, because we were accidentally citing off a moored ship instead of the Venice pier. The water was so flat that once the sun came up we could see very far in all directions, and I was struck by how beautiful it was out in the water. When we reached the rocks, we turned around and headed back to our starting point, this time spreading out a bit more since the visibility was so good. I pulled ahead, swimming at my own pace so that I could stay warm in the chilly water. By this point, my hands and feet were fairly numb and I balled my hands into fists a few times to “un-claw” them.  When we reached our starting point, Chris said goodbye and Rebecca and I picked a building about 1000 meters down the beach to make the swim a little longer. As we headed to the building, I felt as if I was swimming on a treadmill and never getting any closer. Once we came level with the building we turned to make our final pass back to the start. This part felt much quicker and I swam shallow and could see straight through the clear water to the sandy bottom below. We exited the water and the sand felt odd on my numb feet. Though I had been cold in the water, the walk back to the car was by far the worst part of the whole endeavor. I started to shiver and had trouble zipping up my parka. This swim was one of the coldest I have ever completed and I certainly learned a lot about the mental and physical effects of cold.

I had originally planned to try to complete my 6 hour qualifier for the English Channel on Thursday and this swim was a tester to see how I would handle the cold. However, it rained significantly today, which means that storm drain runoff makes it unsafe to swim f0r a few days. Therefore, I cannot attempt my qualifier tomorrow. You know what they say about the best laid plans… I have postponed my swim until later this week, so stayed tuned! As I am learning, being adaptable and ready to change plans is a big part of Channel training and I am sure this skill will come in handy in the future.


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