I'd not been off the plane for ten minutes when a friend (and fellow swimmer) Claire called me to ask if I would be able to meet her the next day for a swim and have a coffee and catch up afterwards. Despite having a suitcase of laundry that needed attention, I agreed and packed up my wetsuit ready to go. After a week of sun, sea, sand and a small amount of swimming (in clear, warm, azure waters - sigh!) and the real fact that I'd also eaten my body weight in food, I needed the exercise and there was a real possibility that even getting my wetsuit on would be a long and difficult process, but holiday over, and my Windermere swim a week away, I needed to just rein in the bad eating habits before then.
I arrived the following day and as I began unloading my wetsuit etcetera out of my car (I don't know how to travel light!), Claire came over to say hello and to inform me that I wouldn't be needing it. "We are swimming in skins today." She announced. I must have looked shocked as I had assumed (wrongly it turned out) that Claire wanted a quick swim (in a wetsuit) and to have a catch up over coffee (etc) and to look through my holiday snaps, instead she had conveniently forgotten to share this titbit of information. "It'll be fun!" she added. I on the other hand am not convinced, but I should tell you that a small part of me actually breathed a sigh of relief. Nothing worse (or more exhausting) than trying in vain to get your wetsuit over chunky knees and holiday thighs, however the main part was horrified. I've only swam in skins once before, and that was last year, and whilst it was dramaless (unusual for me) I don't remember it all that fondly either, added to this (and at the risk of repeating myself), I've literally spent the week swimming (slowly and usually with snorkel and mask) in the most amazing crystal clear water at 30 degrees celsius with all manner of colourful and vibrant (and mostly small) fishes. I was both surprised and delighted with myself for actually doing it without panicking, and only hyperventilated once when a leatherback turtle appeared and took me completely by surprise - imagine that, being in the sea and all... 😅 Looking out at the lake on this cloudy and cooler day didn't seem all that appealing in contrast.
Unfortunately a hundred other swimmers arrived at the same time as me and not one of them appeared to be in any hurry to get in. I thought about running in, but the odds of me breaking my neck in the process were long, and to be honest the bo**ocking I'd get from Leon for not aclimatising properly (even at a water temp of 18.5oc is a must) was just not worth it, so how did I get in? By side stepping at a brisk pace whilst hiding behind a strategically placed swim hat, that's how, and whilst I had planned to strut into the water like a seasoned athlete, the reality was far, far removed from that.
It was always going to be a rigmarole getting in. It was agonisingly slow, very sweary (not sure it's even a word) and with little dignity. There was nothing ladylike whatsoever about it, which was reinforced when I stubbed my toe on a rock and fell unceremoniously into the water. A quick recce revealed no damage, but the remaining week old nail varnish on my big toe was no longer there (no bad thing really - I'd decided a day into the holiday that white nail varnish was not the colour for me, so it did me a favour really).
After the initial shock (and embarrasement) of falling in I regained my composure (once the applause and laughing had eventually stopped) to find it wasn't too bad and after I climatised, we set off. The plan was to swim for 200 metres and see how we felt, and then just carry on from there if we were okay. Claire wanted a more leisurely swim, whereas I wanted to compare my usual time for a mile against in a wetsuit, and so we agreed to swim at our own pace. I set off at a good speed, concentrating on my stroke and how I was feeling without a wetsuit, but it wasn't long before my feet began to feel a little chilly. I realised that the best thing was to up my pace, and as fortune had it a man came from nowhere (a bit like the shopkeeper from Mr Ben - for those of you of a similar age to me) and overtook me (scared the life out of me). I'd like to tell myself that it was in a bid to get warmer that I decided to try and keep up with him, and to an extent it was, however if I'm being honest the real reason is that the competitive me just couldn't bear it. After another 400 metres it was very clear that I was not going to catch him, and I was also failing miserably at getting my feet warmer, when I caught sight of a whopper of a brown, large, camouflaged (I know not entirely as I could see it) fish, nothing like the fish I'd been used to. You'd think that I'd be okay with fish per say after my week pretty much living in the sea - where actual sharks live, but I still let a brown fish spook me. I immediately went into fight or flight mode resulting in the quickest lap I've ever done (discounting the one in the boat where I forgot to turn my watch off - It was a bit of a panic and all as I was being rescued from a lightning storm at the time).
How did I feel swimming without my wetsuit? After the initial shock (both from the surprise of doing it and the cold water) I did feel quite vulnerable when I got in, but once I'd relaxed into my stroke and concentrated on listening to my body, I actually quite enjoyed it. It wasn't as alarming as I thought I would be, and as long as all the fishes stay out of my way (could do with someone to corral them into a corner whilst I'm in) I managed to relax a little. Acclimatising is vital if I'm to do it going forwards and ensuring that I've warmed up fully before I get in, this should mean no cold feet, or indeed no cold anything. I think the worse bit for me (and this will come as no surprise to the that know me) was the fear of the unknown (fish), however I am sharing their environment and it's just part of it, however if seeing a fish is going to mean my lap time increases as it did today, I'm pretty sure I can learn to live with it... Eventually!