It has to be said, despite the fact that it was a bit grim huddling poolside with the wind whipping round us and the prospect of an hour in 15° water ahead, it was still lovely to see everyone. There was Dan with a huge smile for everyone, there were Sue and Kathrine snuggled in their Dryrobes, there was Gail zipping herself into her wetsuit, Will with a big smile, and Lols, and Chris, and Emma beaming, and Ann and Mandy and lots of other friends. The mass of smiles almost made up for the weather. Almost.
We greeted Dan. We signed in. We placed bets as to how late Pip would be (15 minutes). We said hello to each other. We divided ourselves into faster and slightly less fast groups. And then, finally, we had to get into the water……
There’s something about the moment of first getting into the water for a reasonably substantial swim. You run a kind of check around your body – how’s everybody doing? At this point in the proceedings everybody is usually doing a bit crap, because no matter how much you swim, you still need to warm your body up before swimming seems easy. In my case, it takes about 400 metres of swimming before things start to settle down and feel natural. The first couple of hundred are always horrible: your body protests at what you’re trying to get it to do, and, if it’s anything like my body, tries to hand in a note from its mother.
And if you’re getting into water which is, by any normal standard, fricking freezing, this effect is multiplied as the lungs join in, whining that they can’t possibly be expected to breathe properly when it’s this cold and can they please be excused and sit this one out? Plus the negative bit of one is always grizzling “Ooh, this is cold. It’s really cold. You’re not going to get through this. You’re going to get really cold. This is horrible. And it’s going to get worse you know. You’re going to end up feeling really cold.”
The key, as ever, is just to ignore this chorus of disapproval and get on with it. Eventually everyone works out they’re not getting any attention and shuts up, and you can just swim. I won’t say it wasn’t chilly, I won’t say I enjoyed every minute, or that I felt like a highly-trained athlete, but I did the whole session, and didn’t even feel too cold or tired at the end of it.* It was a victory, even if only a small one.
*With the exception of my right little finger, which started clawing ten minutes from the end. Clawing is what happens when your hands get really cold: you lose sensation, and then your fingers turn into claws as you stop being able to do anything effective with them and they just flap around uselessly at the end of your arm. Charming!