One of my goals for my last week at Smith is to explore the local area, which is sadly something I’ve done a rather bad job of throughout my years at Smith. My friend Eva helped me on this quest by introducing me to a beautiful lake about 30 minutes away from Smith in the town of Ashfield. The drive out to Ashfield wound through the beautiful Western Massachusetts countryside and we arrived at the lake under a clear blue sky with a little bit of wind.
We weren’t quite sure how cold the water would be so Eva brought us both wetsuits, just in case I wanted to wear one. One of the masters swimmers I swim with sometimes had told me that Ashfield had been hovering around 52 degrees, so I was a little nervous about the water being too cold for me to muscle without a wetsuit. I decided to wait until I felt the water to make a decision; my dislike of swimming in wetsuits fighting my desire to not freeze. When we got to the lake the air was around 60 degrees with some wind but the water felt warmer than I expected, maybe around 58 and I decided to give it a go without a wetsuit.
We waded into the lake and agreed to check in with each other often but also said that we didn’t have to stay super close to one another, as the lake was empty. We swam straight across the lake and tread water for a little break at the other end. It was so good to be back in open water, and I felt like I was flying across the lake. We turned and swam back to our starting place and decided to take a second lap. On the second lap the wind picked up and I thoroughly enjoyed swimming into the chop on the way there and flying with the wind at my back on the return. Eva is training for a half Ironman and we paced each other well across the lake. I counted my strokes for one length and decided that each round trip was roughly equivalent to 1000 yards. I took one more lap because I was still enjoying the cool water and wanted to take full advantage of the visit to the lake. I wish I’d had a thermometer to take the water temperature because it really felt cool rather than cold and after 3000 yards my hands and feet weren’t numb and my fingers had not yet started to claw.
I cannot believe that I have been at Smith for 4 years without discovering this amazing open water swimming location. I am so grateful to Eva for taking me on this adventure and braving the cold water with me! This short excursion back into open water certainly has made me excited for the many swimming opportunities that this summer will surely hold.