Wednesday, 13 December 2017

A swim video analysis gets to the bottom of why I'm not improving...

If I’m to attempt an ice mile this winter season, to reduce the chances of getting anything more than mild hypothermia whilst swimming, without a doubt I need to speed up. Not to over complicate it, in short, the quicker I’m done the quicker I’ll be out and enjoying a congratulatory, and very well deserved, slab of cake (the real celebrations will be later, once I’ve sufficiently recovered and warmed through, and will probably involve a large glass of a warming, seasonal tipple whilst cuddling very closely to a hot water bottle and sporting a very smug grin).

I spent this last season firstly build up my strength again after surgery, and then train for a long distance swim (10.5 miles) I had entered pre-surgery (anyone else that level of stupid, or is it just me?) and so all of my training was geared up for endurance rather than speed (not that I’m built for speed in the first place), and so now all that’s done, I’ve been spending hours in the pool and various lakes, working on my speed and as of yet, despite my best efforts, haven’t been able to improve on my mile time, and if my current training isn’t yielding me the results that I’m going to need, it needs changing. 

One way of doing this is to actually make full use of the squad training offered by the Tri club that I’ve been a member of for the last three years. Till now the only thing I’ve used is their beautiful lake, and so despite feeling out of my depth, and more than nervous, I bit the bullet and went along to their squad training session. I fully expected to feel intimidated, however I couldn’t have been more wrong, it was full of regular folks, mixed with seasoned triathletes, training for different reasons. I really enjoyed it, except for trying to decipher what all the numbers and letters (all in swimming lingo/code) on the white board meant. They may as well have been written in Mandarin (there may also have been an element of middle aged eyes trying to read tiny writing)! I think I hid my fear well, and decided that my best chance of not cocking it up was to follow the swimmer in front and hoped that they too weren’t new, and also struggling to decipher the lingo. It was hard work (in a good way) and at the end of that first session I felt great. At the end of the session I spoke to Coach about my inexplicable lack of progress, and also that my mile time in my wetsuit was about five minutes faster than without. As an official ice mile can only be done in a costume, hat and goggles, I didn’t have the luxury of the faster time. He suggested there could be several reasons for the time difference and for my lack of improvement. These included: I’m possibly over reaching, my lower body position being wrong, my hypermobility, a wetsuit is more hydrodynamic, less kicking required in a wetsuit meaning I won’t fatigue as quickly. He added that the best way to get to the bottom of what was exactly the problem would be to have my swimming analyzed. He does have a good point, and so I decided to go for it.

I booked one for the following week with Coach at the pool in Tadcaster. He explained that it would be done using a high definition camera to record my swimming above and below the water from various angles. I have to say, if I’m being honest the second he mentioned high definition camera he cannot have failed to see the look of horror on my face. High definition? Doesn’t that translated as up close? Which leaves me in a bit of a dilemma, you see as the winter swimming had progressed, and the water colder, I have followed the advice of various hard as nails fellow swimmers, who insist that one of the best ways of keeping warm (unless they are literally pulling my leg, and the more I think about it now, the more convinced I actually am that they might be) was to (I quote) “relax a bit on the self grooming” They weren’t talking about the odd out of place eyebrow, they were talking legs…now I have the long legs, (this is just a point of fact, not a complaint), so there’s a lot of leg, meaning I have grown quite the impressive winter pelt, which that leaves me in a quandary. Should I get rid? I’m not actually sure whether it does add that much extra warmth, and I might be over thinking this but I’m now worried that whilst it could be keeping me a tad warmer, it could also be causing unnecessary drag (thus I think I have unwittingly stumbled across the reason right there for my lack of speed without even needing the analysis after all!). Added to this, I’m not sure I’m ready to give up the luxury of the extra five minutes I’ve gained in bed every morning as a direct result of my ‘relaxed self grooming.’ Despite my quandary there was no way I was risking it, sadly it would have to go. All those minutes gained in the morning would now be spent in one fell swoop… I may be some time!

The analysis:

Coach asked me to swim six lengths and explained that he would video me from various angles (oh hell!), which would capture all of my movements, enabling him to clearly identify the problems that are preventing me from improving. We would then look through the footage together (him at my stroke, me checking how my newly de-feralled legs were faring under the spotlight of ‘high definition’) and discuss what was happening and why, after that it was back in the pool for a step-by-step guide in how to correct my stroke using drills, training methods and practice specifically tailored to me. This was accompanied by analogies (some were hilarious, but hell I will never forget them) to solidify my understanding.

Six lengths completed, and one thing’s for certain, we were able to pin point many flaws in my stroke technique, which we discussed in depth. Some were problems due to poor technique; some caused by something else in my stroke (symptoms), some were bad habits and others were linked to my hypermobility. I’ve included some here:

1)   My right hand entry is thumb first, which is causing unnecessary strain on my shoulder (after Windermere I certainly felt this). I was given some Finis training paddles to help correct this. Let’s just say there’s work to be done… Nothing more embarrassing that having to fettle round the bottom of a deep pool for a lost paddle, all because you have a wayward thumb that just won’t do as it’s told!

2)   The video showed that because my stroke rate is slow I am over gliding which then causes me to have a pause (dead spot) in my stroke. This meant that in every stroke I took I had a point where I was actually slowing down, and I then have to do a kick-start to re accelerate. To get rid of this dead spot Coach suggested I shorten my stroke and increase the rate from 54 strokes/60 sec to 66/60. He also suggested that I spend time building up to this rate (thank goodness… I think I may expire from the effort otherwise!) and also spend time focusing on my rhythm. I had previously, and deliberately spent time slowing down my stroke rate, as mainly the distances I do are longer. I felt this meant that I was swimming more economically and preserving energy, however the video also highlighted that when I was doing my longer, slower stroke, what I was also doing was over-reaching.

3)   Over reaching causes two problems for me. The first being the increased strain on my already tense neck and shoulders. Let me explain: being hypermobile is of great benefit to swimmers, however my hypermobility (score 6 on the Beighton Score (that’s like a B in the new GCSE’s!)) is below the waist, and the lack of stability I have there (despite the trillion daily exercises I do) means that it causes increased strain for the muscles in my back, neck and shoulders as they are constantly trying to stabilize me (the effects of hypermobility, sadly), so whilst it would have been miles better for my swimming to be hypermobile in my upper body, my legs are the one area that Coach said was fine, and my ankle flexibility is actually an asset (hooray for me!). So basically, by over reaching I am adding extra stress to my already over worked muscles, and so by changing the length and pace of my stroke, it will mean I am swimming within my range and mobility, and will actually be kinder to my body.

4)   The other problem with the over reaching was that I am dropping my wrist and elbow. This meant my catch and pull are actually not very effective. To demonstrate this Coach compared it to that of Team GB Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington. Side by side it highlighted that I was using my shoulders to push the water down and outwards, rather than using the power of my lats and pecs, like Rebecca, to push the water back. I addition I was also arching my back as I lifted my upper body and was overloading my shoulders. Coach used a great analogy here “It’s like driving to London with the handbrake half on. You won’t get there as quick, you’d use lots of fuel and you’d probably do a bit of damage.” I must add here that in order to view the comparison I was given a large head start. In addition Rebecca was at half speed, and for a very brief moment I was actually winning (‘cause it’s always a competition, right?) before she motored past me at neck breaking speed!

That's me on the left for those of you struggling to tell😆

Analysis done; there’s lots to do. I’m armed with a copy of the session (video and audio), which I can (and I will) refer back to, suggested tools and corrective drills to support my training, and the knowledge that I can call Coach for advice and support (and I will) if I need to. I’ve learnt today that sadly I will never be able to swim like Rebecca Adlington, or a dolphin, or even a mermaid for that matter. I’m hypermobile in all the wrong places and slightly (only just though) over middle aged and over the hill (I already knew this bit), but today I also learnt that although the point of the analysis was to improve my technique to be able to swim faster for what is ultimately only one swim (and what I wasn’t expecting), the session was very much centered around this (‘cause that was the point of it), but the changes and improvements were also very mindful of my own physical limitations, so in essence the things I can do bugger all about, a better understanding how swimming as I am can exasperate these existing problems, and that the adjustments we’ve made will not only result in improving my speed, but (I feel now, as importantly) will also remove any additional tension to my already fatigued back, neck and shoulder muscles, for which I am delighted. And so what I wanted to gain from this analysis ultimately was speed, but what I actually came away with is knowing that I have actually invested in longer than just the one swim… I’ve invested in all of my future swims.

One last thing, and almost as importantly as all of the above, news of the body hair – after much discussion with Coach (mainly consisting of his rip taking and not taking it one bit as seriously as I felt he ought) the jury is still out as to whether I should ditch the razor again or not, when actually I’m not one bit convinced that either the extra glide I’m promised from being more sleek or the extra insulation from a dense pelt are a fair match when compared to swimming in a lake that’s water is under 5oc. What I do know however is that thankfully hairy legs (or not) are not visible in high definition at a swim analysis (I checked … real close).


For those of you that are interested, Coach Morgan Williams did my stroke analysis http://coachmorg.com/?q=videoanalysis at http://www.tadcasterpool.org.uk/  

Finally, I wanted to share with you this link. It’s written by Dr. Alan Pocinki, MD about movement balance and sports performance by about hypermobility syndrome that I found interesting and informative, and actually made me feel something close to normal!


If you have enjoyed reading my blogs also I have a "group" on Facebook. Its not really a group, as it's only me, but on it I post more regularly, and I'm also on Twitter and Instagram. You'd be very welcome. Here are the links. 😊




Monday, 4 December 2017

"Not feeling it" swim...


There’s one thing that’s stuck with me since day one of the cold water swimming course I attended, and that was the words of one of the instructors. He said “you will probably have an off day, and if you do, even if you’ve only got as far as one toe in the water, if you’re not feeling it, get out.” Well, I’ve just had one of those days…

In hindsight I shouldn’t have swam really, I’d had a late (non-alcoholic) night the night before along with not much food (out at a bash where the best thing to eat was some olives that I managed to persuade from the waiter (and I hate olives). The food was truly terrible – AND I’m not easily put off). I’m also nursing the back end of a cold (nothing too debilitating, two paracetamol were consumed at its height along with necessary chocolate (being a medical emergency and all that), and that’s about it). I wasn’t feeling a hundred percent but thought I felt okay to swim (I didn’t want to miss a week either). I’d made my usual breakfast, I also found myself making a full English for my kids too as I was reminded, “it is Sunday, and you always do breakfast on a Sunday… you make the best…” And as my usual swim day is Saturday, and I’m a sucker for a complement, and a complete push over as far as they are concerned, and I felt the guilt, and yes, I’m sure they are perfectly capable of rustling up their own breakfast, but made it for them regardless, I then filled and packed my hot water bottle and hot drink, and set off on the hours drive to the reservoire.

The water temperature was 6.1oc, so just shy of a full degree colder than last week. I began my usual pre-swim routine, however I just couldn’t get myself as warm as usual, and started putting off getting in. I began faffing about with my stuff, re-folding my warm clothes round my hot water bottle and rechecking my already checked goggles, before Shark took the lot off me (she actually snatched), put them back in my bag and led me to the waters edge, where a welcome party of swans was there to greet me (Yay! - and if this wasn’t the sign I needed not to get in, I ignored it – not them though, no I didn’t let them out of my sight).

Nemesis and I keeping a close eye on each other.
I'd have preferred the distance to be larger, as in different lakes larger, but it didn't seem one bit bothered by the lack of personal space that I was.

Thryberg reservoir

One place I don’t faff about is at the getting in bit; I get in and get on with it. No point in prolonging the agony longer than necessary (this also refers to getting in the lake with the swans – honestly, I’m beginning to think I am Dr. Doolittle of the swan world…). It took me much longer to get into my stroke, and by the end of the first 300 metres I was still to find my rhythm, it felt like I had needles being stuck all over me (this is new?), my hands and feet were already feeling numb (not usually feeling this until near the end, however this is colder than usual…) and I was feeling really tense having my very own escort swan all the way round sizing me up. I should have got out after that first one, however decided that I needed to swim another torturous lap… Just in case things were to improve. They didn’t.

I got out quickly, or as quickly as a stony walkway, frozen feet and jelly legs allow and Shark had me dressed and in the café drinking coffee in no time, (not like me at all) I declined the offer of cake. I put it down to self-pity, and feeling that I didn’t deserve it after a poor and frustrating swim. I felt miserable, like I’d failed. It’s not like me to feel so deflated. Something was most definitely amiss, and I found out what on the way home. Driving on the motorway I began with the symptoms of a migraine. I’ve not had one for probably ten years, so felt a bit stunned and scared. The zigzag aura, that’s usually a pre warning of an inevitable nasty headache, was getting worse. I immediately called Shark, who fortunately was driving in front of me. She told me to stop driving immediately (yep, only me…hard shoulder of one of England’s busiest motorways). We pulled over, and she administered tablets, water, sugar and advice whilst checking my vital signs and waited for the aura to go. If she’d have pulled a stethoscope out of her rucksack I would not have been surprised (whole new level of gratitude for my swim buddy). It was almost comedy (if I weren’t so panicked) when she reminded me that I’d had a full medical the day before and been given a clean bill of health, and asked me what the hell I’d been doing in the twenty four hours since I’d had it to cause this! When the aura had gone the headache I expected didn’t arrive (I’ve read since that this (a silent migraine) is more common in older sufferers, although I must fall into the rarer instance of it happening to the younger, in the prime of their life, only slightly over the hill sufferer), and so drove, again in convoy and slowly, home, where I had a long shower and an even longer Nanna Nap.  

Here’s the thing, I don’t know what caused the migraine. It could have been a number of things: not eating the night before, feeling a bit ill, swimming tense (thanks to my Nemesis), I could even probably find a way to blame the Super Moon and my decision not to have cake for it, however I’ve also read that the warnings of an imminent migraine (prodromal stage) are very similar to all the things I’d been feeling before and during my swim: irritability, feeling tired, tingling and numbness. It’s been so long since I’d had a migraine I’d not even considered it as a possibility, and if that is the case, then the timing was just awful… and so there is a lesson here, and (as always) a silver lining. I have had a stark reminder that cold water is not forgiving just because I’m having an off day. Swimming in it at these low temperatures can be dangerous and brutal and is already punishing on the body, and that’s on a good day, and if I’m “not feeling it” again before I get in, there’s no way on Earth I’m getting in. It's just not worth it. I will sit it out along with a hot water bottle, my body weight in tissues and some Berocca (and cake and emergency chocolate) if necessary.


Oh, and the silver lining? Whilst my kids seemed unable/unwilling/like their routine too much to cook breakfast, it seems they can pull a delicious Sunday dinner out of the bag without being asked and without help. Well, to be fair, I think they realized there was no hope of getting fed by me once the duvet arrived on the sofa. I'm still not sure whether the "hope this is a one off" was referring to me being a bit under the weather or them actually cooking, but anyway, who knew they could? Not me, that’s for sure!  


Monday, 27 November 2017

One mile qualifying swim at 7oc in the bag!


I’m no Wincy Willis, but I was convinced that this week’s qualifying swim would go ahead on account of the water being too warm still (over 6oc- if you can call that warm!), and as last week the water was only just under 10oc it would need a significant drop to count. Even 0.01oc drop is a huge deal at the moment, however today needed to be a massive 4oc to count.  Anyway, what do I know? Britain has entered a ‘cold snap’ this week, and qualifying would go ahead as planned.

The water temperature was 7oc, and under new rules from IISA, to qualify I would need to swim a mile at this temperature, rather than the 1,000 metres at 6oc that I was expecting. Even though today was qualifying day, all week I had convinced myself that it wouldn’t be happening, and felt quite grateful that I would have more time to prepare as the temperature slid slowly down the scale to 6oc. I’ll admit that I suddenly felt a bit overwhelmed and unprepared. This was 3oc difference from last week, and by far the coldest swim I’d done, added to this Shark was absent from duty again, and as I had also expected to be swimming round the short course (nice and near the shore line), rather than the long course, I hadn’t brought my tow float either!

As Leon gave us our safety briefing I felt calmer knowing that there would be two motorized safety boats on the water, along with spotters, and a crew of people waiting at the finish to take me inside and look after me (and the others – thought I’d add).

As I readied to get in, I realized how quickly a small group of people, all with the same achievements and goals in mind, comes together to support each other when one has a mini meltdown (over dramatic I know, but I’ll use it anyway). It’s both lovely and worrying at the same time how the folks I swim with have very quickly got the measure of me. I’m usually quite chatty (surprised?), but when I found out I would be doing the qualifying swim after all, needed a few minutes to gather my thoughts and regroup if you like, and this was when one lovely member of our group began offering supportive words and encouragement, the worrying part was when of the crew members asked me for my after swim drinks order. On the tip of my tongue was to suggest celebratory champagne, for if I do it then I will deserve it, however my mind was read, and before I could make any such proposition I was beaten to it with “if alcohol and swimming could be mixed I would be serving you your first choice, however they can’t and so shall we go with your usual cappuccino instead?” I settled for coffee, but resolved to celebrate later, nothing flash… just a little tipple, warm fleecy blanket, gloves, a hot water bottle and me, hovering dangerously close to a radiator. After I’d sorted out my drinks order, Star Baker Chris came to see me to wish me luck and to ensure that I knew what was waiting for me, lifted the corner of his Tupperware container to (just about, if I squinted) reveal the fruits of his labour, his “new and improved recipe” chocolate brownies. Now I wasn’t sure how he could top the original ones, I happened to think they were perfectly fine, and on occasion have been known to have a couple after a swim, and then have one for the road, so speak from experience when it comes to the quality of them!

We all made our way down to the shoreline, and after the group photo, and being reliably informed that the pike would be low in the water as it’s so cold (so only debris, other (and much harder) fish, swans and the actual cold itself to worry about), always a silver lining! I went through my usual pre-getting in routine (slurp of hot squash and strip off – nothing complicated), before taking the plunge and setting off. On one hand the swim went really fast (not in speed of movement), I was constantly checking how I felt, and being thorough and all, this took up time (time that was usually spent worrying about possible fish and swan attacks), whilst on the other hand my stroke felt all over the place (except when the support boat did a drive by- I think I pulled something decent out of the bag for that), it just felt slow and not altogether smooth. I was definitely accurate though. I know this because I hit five out of the sixteen buoys with a body part (not always including an arm or hand). A new course record for me, although sadly there's no certificate for this. Quite proud!

All done, I tried to stop my watch at the last buoy (priorities all wrong). This shouldn’t be attempted in really cold water, with cold hands that were not cooperating, but my stupid self was quite determined, and after much faffing about with the tiny button whilst trying to keep my head above the waterline, I realized that my time would have been greatly improved had I decided instead to just swim out and ask someone more capable to do it for me.

Getting out was literally a whirlwind. I was briefly congratulated, wrapped in towel and Swimzi whilst ushered inside, whilst being asked a series of very difficult questions (how do you feel? Did you order tea or coffee? Did you drive here today?) I think I answered all correctly, but have little recollection as I was concentrating on trying to walk whilst keeping my shoes on (it’s no good, I’m going to have to order more fitting shoes for this- and I can’t believe I’m going to, but, yes - probably fleecy Crocs or similar) without breaking my neck, or a toe (although if I were to break a toe at this stage, there’s a probability that I wouldn’t feel it for quite some time). Once inside I felt a bit weird, I felt like I was burning on the inside, I’d never experienced this before, and was quite alarmed, however was told that this was normal. I was stripped of my wet costume (I really didn’t care), dressed in warm clothes and my coat, reunited with my re-warmed hot water bottle (although at that point it could have been anyone’s, as it was put down my back, and given my coffee in literally under two minutes (these girls were utterly amazing). It was so quick that I lost all track of time, and was beginning to think that the after drop wasn’t coming this time…WRONG! I was shivering enough to dislodge a filling at one point and continued for quite some time. I was keen for it to stop soon as I was impatient and wanted to tuck into my “new and improved recipe” chocolate brownie that had been waiting for me. I couldn't chance it before, when I was shivering, as there was a dangerously high possibility that I may well drop a bit, and that was just not worth the risk!

So, that’s it really. My qualifying swim is completed, and was made not without the support and help of a great group of people. The incredible support crew at Swimyourswim, led by Leon and my fellow comrades, all of whom were amazing. There was only one person missing from that lot, my non-swimming swim buddy, Shark, having said that, she may as well have been there. I received a text message five minutes before I got in, which read as follows:

Shark: “Please take care and the very best of luck today. Sorry I can’t be there but will have celebratory cake on me next week. You can do it! X”

Me: “Thank you. Wish you were here with me, but you’re not. Celebratory cake? I see right through you Shark, it’s guilt cake really. It better be a huge slab- AND I’m not sharing.”

Shark: “You’re right… I’ll buy the whole cake if needs be. What time you in?”

Me: “Getting in now. Talk later?”

Shark: “Okay, good luck. Call me when you’re out?”

Me: “Will do!”

After this I get in the lake and do my swim. When I get out, and look at my phone, so that’s about an hour later to find six missed calls and a text that reads:

Shark: “I am worried. I’ve called you lots and you’re not answering. If you don’t call me back I shall be forced to call Leon to check up on you.”

Me: “I’m here, I’m fine, all done. Yay! Sorry to make you worry, although slightly amused that you called me not ten minutes after I said I was setting off. How fast did you think I would be swimming? I am not Michael Phelps, or a mermaid…” 

Shark: “Did you get a photo you could send?”

Me: “Oh no, sorry, my paparazzi loving Swim Sherpa isn’t with me today (better offer I think), so there are none thankfully.”

Shark: “Well now I know you’re alright I shall continue with my very important trip away and see you next week for cake and detailed account of the swim… excluding the stripping and getting dressed bit. You can leave that out! X”


See, incredible support crew… Even the absent ones!!!


If you have enjoyed reading my blogs also I have a "group" on Facebook. Its not really a group, as it's only me, but on it I post more regularly, and I'm also on Twitter and Instagram. You'd be very welcome. Here are the links. 😊

 @Openwaterwoman_
Open Water Woman



Saturday, 25 November 2017

Swimming in cold water and the struggles with "after drop", bad camera angles and complicated clothing...


After Shark had very kindly offered to drive to the lake this weekend, and informed me that we would be leaving at 7:45am, I did manage to get my kit bag and myself to her house on time (this includes a five...ish minute leeway), despite a small lie in (not entirely planned), and no time to put on even any mascara (Don’t judge – I’m ancient and need all the external help I can get!) by the skin of my teeth. I would also have loved a coffee, having not had the time to have one before I set off, and would have suggested under normal circumstances that we stop on the way, however, being that I had already delayed us a tiny bit, decided that it probably best to not push my luck further and that I’d manage without until we got there.

Shark wasn’t swimming but had offered to come along for moral support, hold my towel, cheer me on, check I was okay when I got out, issue instructions through the changing room door and replenish hot drinks and my hot water bottle, and although the former part of the journey was spent putting the world right (half an hour of utter rubbish), the latter was spent talking about her new role as non-swimming swim buddy – or in short, and less tongue tying to say, Swim Sherpa.

The water temperature was finally under 10oc (9.8). I planned to swim five laps of the short course. A mile… or so I thought, and although I spend the best part of the first lap doing anything to avoid the almost inevitable ice cream head (although think I may have cracked this one) whilst trying to find my swimming groove, by the second lap I have settled into a rhythm and felt well. By lap four I was almost blasé about the whole swim, however this was actually short lived, as I honestly hadn’t realized how much the cold had effected my coordination, until I came upon a bit of traffic. The traffic and I approached the buoy at the same time, and I had judged it that he was slightly wide of it, and so that gave me the advantage of the racing line (of course he had no idea we were racing…). In my head I was nipping round the inside, doing a corkscrew movement around the buoy, and emerging round the corner unscathed and effortlessly continuing my swim. The reality of which was nothing like it. In brief, I lost all sense of proportion and squeezed through a gap that actually didn’t exist, hit my hand on the buoy, and then head butted it and then hit the swimmer on his ear almost dislodging his goggles (If we had have actually been racing I could well have been disqualified for this misjudgment). Other than that, all was going well until lap five when it felt like I was feebly trying to swim through treacle. I managed to up my pace in some kind of final flourish when I remembered there was the prize of chocolate goodies to be had on completion, and made a huge effort to look like this lap had been no effort whatsoever. I was nearing the end, but as I approached the shore line I heard Shark yelling to me “one more lap. One more is a mile.” I can’t tell you how cheerless I felt hearing this. I’d used up tons of energy on my last lap; I was tiring and feeling the cold. I knew I’d just about got one more in me and so began my second attempt at a final lap complaining under my breath (mouth closed of course). Having upped my speed on the last lap thinking it was just that – my last lap, to unexpectedly have to do one more felt like torture, however by the time I’d really finished I had overcome my mini meltdown and was back in my stride.

Finishing, I was surprise at how great it felt. Shark was taking photographs of me getting out (including usual theatrical exit) … when actually wasn’t she supposed to be holding my towel whilst yelling encouraging words at me rather than trying to be Annie Liebovitz? Once properly out Shark came into her own, she had me wrapped in a towel and my Swimzi, drinking hot orange (from new, shiny flask) and walking me to the changing room in no time. If last week is anything to go by I know I have approximately ten minutes to get dressed before the ‘after drop’ (In brief- The ‘After Drop’ refers to when your core temperature continues to cool down after you come out of (in this case) cold water and are beginning to rewarm again. It’s the warm blood from your core mixing with the cool blood from your peripheral. This causes your core temperature to drop).

I knew I had to get dressed quickly, however the lack of coordination that I had in the lake was also very obvious in the changing room too. I was so surprised at the difference one degree temperature drop makes. Last week I was dressed and drinking coffee in no time, before I began shaking (mildly), whereas this week, and despite being very aware that I had only a short window of time, I felt useless! My skin felt sticky as I struggled to put my top on, and after only managing to with get half of my body in (no further details required here I hope) I gave up in favour of battling with my socks instead. I knew I was taking too long, and after my toe became entangled and all hope of retrieving it were lost, I asked Shark for help. I figured with her nursing background she would have ‘seen it all’ anyway, and would not be shocked by the mess I was in with my complicated jumper and stuck toe. Shark goes into Sherpa mode (I did notice the amused look on her face) and took over my dressing. All hope of retaining any dignity were sadly lost when she announced that my jumper had to come off as it was the wrong way round, and I just sat there and allowed her to get on with it, not caring less, whilst she fussed over me (for which I am most grateful). That’s when the shivering started (In a nutshell, shivering is your body’s response to being cold. It’s your muscles contracting and expanding quickly. This produces heat, which helps to raise your body temperature), effectively making Sherpa Shark’s job more difficult and laborious (for I was neither use nor ornament). Once I am all dressed and good to go, I was ushered into the café area where a coffee (with lid and straw) was put in front of me along with one of Star Baker Chris’s rocky roads along with a refilled hot water bottle. I am instructed to do as I’m told (difficult), which included sitting, drinking something hot and walking round the room (in no particular order). I have to say that the shaking went on for far longer than last week, and there was just no way to control it, despite my best efforts – I tried!

About half an hour later and once the shaking has subsided enough, and Shark is confident enough that I won’t drop her phone she offers me her camera to have a look through some of the photos she had taken. I am shocked at how terrible I looked. I actually look grey. I hold Sherpa Shark fully responsible for this, as she should have known that soft filters, gentle lighting and flattering camera angles were required and thus should have been adopted before she took any photographs. I shall also blame the extra lap I had to do in order to complete the mile. I will not however blame myself in any way, shape to form, or the fact that I didn’t have enough time before we set off (due to unforeseen circumstances listed earlier) to put any (waterproof) make- up on, that’s evidently very much needed at such times! 😧


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 @Openwaterwoman_