Prior to last week I had never swam below 48f. Last week I did 44f, this week 40.5f/4.6C. For months I have been making reference to the number 42. For the nerds out there like myself, well 42 is the answer to the ultimate question, of life, the universe and everything (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy). I have also taken other good advice from this book “Always carry a towel”. It can be amazing where you find inspiration.
So what drove this desire this year and what did it feel like?
So let’s start with the desire. This swim season was poor on many levels. It had some highs and a number of lows. I started the season with Big Plans to swim across the Chicago lake shore. Weather, safety and other factors got in the way, which you can read more on from earlier blogs.
Secondly and I have not talked to many people about this, but there was death and there was some fear. A swim friend Charles died at the end of a swim at the beginning of summer. I communicated with him the night before when he was expressing some concerns, like many others I told him he would be fine. I would of done the same and got in the water too.
There was some aftermath for me , I have never, ever imagined myself drowning/disappearing in water. In water I am comfortable, strong, powerful. After Charles incident, I kept visualizing myself disappearing under water. It’s silly, nothing had changed in my ability to swim from before to after his passing. But I kept thinking about it.
I have a history of swimming on my own and not necessarily telling people where I am and what I am doing. This is a mistake of mine which I have tried to rectify lately.
At this point I have to thank a swim friend, who has become my regular swimming partner. She made herself available to swim when my concerns where first occurring, through to when I felt comfortable swimming on my own and through being on beach yesterday for me for safety as I swam. So thank you.
Anyway, with the above, I felt I lost some control of something I have always felt in control of. I did my 10th “marathon swim” of the past 4 years and barely felt any happiness from it.
So I tried some different things. I tried swimming in to dusk which was joyous, I kept swimming as water got colder. It came to me I could still do something new this year. Something that would make me happy, something that would mean the swim season wasn’t a waste, even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else.
So 42f came in to my head. I made many jokes about it, I occasionally made reference to it while few knew what I was referring to.
Lake Michigan dropped fast this year. Last year in Oct we were swimming in 60f+ water. This year sept barely saw 60f. Then it was just a case of riding the temps down and being a little more prepared for the opportunities.
Preparation in the summer doesn’t take much, preparation just means having my shorts, hat and goggles in the car. Preparation as temps drop is a little more work and requires a little more organization. One you have to keep a little more of an eye on the weather and be ready to take advantage when the opportunity arises. Then and not my strong point, contrary to what I wrote above, is having things always at the ready such as a towel, sweater, fleece top, jogging pants and when possible a cup of hot tea. Then there is the stupid clock change, which really limits any weekday swim. So I have learnt to prep better.
As I mention above, the rest was riding the temps down. The first day sub 60f was tough, it actually happened in sept, early September. The body feels it, it takes longer to warm up after. It’s odd though cause those first few times this year felt much worse that the more recent 40f+ swims.
I have not suffered any real after drop in recent weeks. The swims haven’t been long 10-15 (past two weeks) mins but they do the trick. The skin burns, the body stings and it passes. You get out and the drying the body stings and you get yours clothes on and they sting a little as they touch your skin. But you feel alive, it’s November and you are outside, in the water, experiencing pain and joy and the endorphins are kicking in. On a personal level I feel a lot happier when still being able to swim outside, it’s like my own personal fight with nature, nature will win but I get to push back for a little while.
I try a little above but I don’t think I can explain in words what swimming outside and in to the cold does for me but it makes me happy and I don’t think it needs to be explained more.
Some people have already asked if I plan to do an ice km or ice mile and the answer is no, At this point (never say never) i am not doing this to join another small list, I have been doing this purely for me, for my happiness in water.
Did I find the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything? No probably not but it made me happy trying and maybe that’s everything
A Somewhat adequate swimmer