Adapting: 17 C Is COLD For Me

I swam 1536m at 12:20 today, at the PC 32m outdoor pool. I was sunny, warm with a slight breeze from the north. The water was just under 17.5 C on my thermometer. No wetsuit today!!!

  • 512m,    29 SPL,     9:04
  • 512m,   29-30,    9:35
  • 512m,   30-31,    9:41

Oh, it was deceptively beautiful! I stood on the deck at the head of the lane, looking down at that crystal pool. I dipped my face in to prevent gasp-reflect, then stood as the sun kept my back toasty. I plunged in and sure enough I wanted to JUMP RIGHT OUT again, on that first lap. But I trusted the 2nd lap would be ok, and it was, but for the ice-headache. It gradually got better over that first 500 to where I might have said it was ‘comfortable’ in a relative way. I could appreciate the sense of warmth blasting out of my chest, but I still felt like I was swimming through pre-formed jello. I just couldn’t lower my SPL and I wasn’t about to slow the tempo down! It wasn’t like I was rushing to get to the end, rather the strokes replaced my shivering and primal survival instinct forbade any slowing.

Am I a wimp? Well, our bodies are very smart in an automated way and those alarms go off quite faithfully when we get near the boundaries of whatever our bodies are acclimated to handle safely. And when we feel that cold who cares what anyone else might think! But at that point, for a trained mind,  it is a rational, calculated thought that gives us the opportunity push a little more, anticipating that the price we will pay for it is affordable (by shivering for 20 minutes) and will be reimbursed later (satisfaction of making it 28 minutes in a temperature that would drown another in 5, and realizing that the human body can be trained to go so much further!).

In calculated and experienced response to the cold that was starting to take over at 1200, I decided to stick to my 1500 goal, knowing I had the high-noon sun on my back and a hot shower waiting for me not 50 steps away. But I did not dare go further knowing I had 3 more sports lessons to give at school immediately following my little swim break here and couldn’t afford to shiver stiffly for the next 20 minutes, like I did 2 days ago after 2000m in 18 C.

I was not ‘desperately’ cold at the end of 1500 but I pulled myself out satisfied in the effort. My SPL was dropping horribly anyway with my hands and toes starting to lose muscle control from numbness. I layed down on the warm marble deck, but within a couple minutes, when my heart rate slowed, I started shivering uncontrollably. So I headed for the shower. (I will need to keep this in mind when I do sea swims, since there is not warm shower nearby).

Now what will I do as the pool is only going to drop in temperature further? Do I keep going for my own little pseudo-Polar Bear PR’s? Or do I subject my old sleeveless wetsuit to these cold chlorine swims each week? (Granted they are not chlorinating the pool anywhere near normal strength since they are merely maintaining it for appearance- me being the sole aquatic creature for the next 6 months at least).

The sea is still 23 C. I may be able to handle 90 minutes there if I click the intensity up a little more. But, there will still be the issue of re-heating afterwards as the air and sea keep dropping. Even in a wetsuit I will still lose some core temp and will have to have a way for warming up afterwards. Another little adaptation puzzle to solve.

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