Tag Archives: open water

Mad Irish OW Swim Week

I tried to reblog this last night, but it didn’t seem to work – but this is what I was linking too:

Dangerous When Wet: Learning to Survive Open Water Swimming

It looks amazing. I think I’d love to do it… I’d probably change my mind when I was there.

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Chilly swim

I got in the lake again today. As promised last week I went wetsuit free, even though it was colder – 13.1 degrees today.

It took me awhile to actually get in – inching myself into the water bit by bit trying to get used to the temperature. After about five minutes I took the plunge and set off. The lake itself was much quieter than last week – I think that was mainly to the fact that the weather was cold and overcast, as opposed to the bright, sunny, but cold day last week.

I only did 1.5 miles, but I was reasonably pleased with my pace – 57.05 minutes, so 38 minute miles.

It was a lovely swim, relaxed and peaceful – I didn’t push myself too hard, but I managed to move along at a decent lick. Hopefully my speed will improve over the next few weeks as I get used to the open water again, and I haven’t done much else this week, so it was my first real exercise for the week.

So, all in all, a good and successful, if chilly, day.

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Do wetsuits make swimming “dangerous”?

I swam in an event on Saturday. It was  a one-mile swim at my local lake and was quite good fun. I was a little disappointed with my time (35 minutes), especially once I realised that the winner was a junior girl that did it in 21 minutes and 14 seconds. To be honest it might as well be a different sport.

But that’s not what I want to talk about – I’ll bore you about my lost youth, the intricacies of my swimming technique and discussions of my training regime over a pint sometime. What I wanted to talk about was wetsuits.

As I said, the swim was only one mile and the water was really warm (about 21 degrees), yet there was only me and one other that got in the water in only a swimming costume. Two others had long costumes / short wetsuits, but the rest all had a wetsuit on.

What were they afraid of?

Surely it’s not the cold – it was maybe a bit nippy as you got in, but once swimming it was positively warm. And everyone getting into this event will have been in significantly colder water (with a wetsuit, but even so). Was it the water itself?

If I’m not careful I’m going to head off into the same kind of argument that is often used to argue against a helmet law for cyclists. I’ve already talked about that one (read it here), so I’m not going to get into that here, but there are some parallels.

Wetsuits seem to present the illusion that people need “protection” while open water swimming – either from the cold or from the water itself. Yet protection isn’t needed from either. Yet this idea that it will be “bloody cold” puts more people off from getting in in the first place.

People may come back and say that many of the swimmers at this event on the weekend were triathletes and as a wetsuit is mandatory in many triathlons, they were merely practising in race conditions. Which of course is a valid argument for the individuals involved, but I would just refer this post to the triathlon organisers instead.

So if you love open water swimming, try it as a “skin swimmer”, show people that the water is lovely and then persuade more people to join you.

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Jesus, it’s cold…

… that was my first comment on getting into the water. And that’s mainly because it was – I think the water temperature was 12.7 degrees – certainly a lot colder than the local pool. But the thing is, once I got going I didn’t notice the cold.

Now, for the outdoor swimming regulars, especially those at the BLDSA, I was cheating by wearing a wetsuit. But to be honest I thought for my first outdoor swim of the year it was probably wise. I did consider taking it off for a bit – and then I bottled it. Hopefully next week.

I swam at the Activities Away lake, just outside of Lincoln. It’s a small lake that has an 800m lap for swimmers – so two laps to do a mile. If you look carefully at the photo below you’ll see the two blue buoys in the far corners, it’s round those and back again to complete a lap.

The water itself, apart from being cold, is beautiful. It’s incredibly clean and clear and you can see all the way to the bottom nearly all the way round. In fact as you’re going up the left-hand side of the lake the route is to swim over the top of the sunken canoe, which feels a little strange. If you’re in the area and fancy an outdoor swim I’d definitely recommend it.

As for my swimming, well I did 5 laps which I was quite pleased with – even if I wasn’t brave enough to go wetsuit free.

In both of the open water swims I did last summer it took me about 5-10 minutes to relax and get going. I had put this down to the mass start for both of them (I did the Great North Swim in Windermere and the One Step Beyond swim at Holme Pierrepont in Nottingham). However I had the same feeling yesterday as I set off. I think it is a combination of the cold, a tight wetsuit, the unnatural element of it all and possibly the sheer stupidity of throwing yourself into a cold lake.

However, a few minutes of breaststroke and taking my time allowed me to relax and I was soon swimming crawl and really enjoying it. The ability to just swim without having to constantly turn is so liberating and it was really enjoyable to get into a rhythm that allowed me to swim in more than 25m stretches. I’ve no idea how quickly I swam as on this occasion it was more about doing it and getting used to it, rather than pushing myself, although that will come. The only downside was getting cramp now and again, although it was good to be able to practise how to relieve that while swimming without getting in people’s way in the pool.

The plan now is to do this just about every Saturday morning to get the feeling for it and of course to take the wetsuit off and practise being in the cold without protection – I must be mad!


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