Sunday, December 13, 2009

On a Cold, Dark Sunday Morning

The pool temperature was 27 degrees Celsius, which is just over 80 Fahrenheit.

"That's a bit cooler than usual," said one of the two Friendly Old Codgers I met as I paid. He turned to me. "Too cold, don't you think?"

"Well, er, actually - - " I said, "I'd like it a bit cooler. I'm preparing to swim in a lake."

He gave me the look of a Yorkshireman beholding a lunatic.

We met again in the room with the lockers.

"Are you really going to swim in a lake?" he asked.

"Yes, Windermere, in September next year," I said. "It's the Great North Swim. A mile across Windermere. I've entered and now I need to make sure I can do it. Though the temperature might be below fifteen degrees. Which is why I'd like this pool to be a bit colder."

"You're bonkers," he said cheerfully, though perhaps with some accuracy.

It was cold and dark when my alarm clock went off at seven o'clock this morning and I was very tempted just to turn over but I though no, I've planned to go swimming and that's what I'm going to do.

Scotthall, my usual pool, is closed for refurbishment (oh boy, did it need it!) and I went to Fearnville, which is a bit confusing as it's exactly the same design, though I considered it to be slightly cleaner, which pleased me.

I thought I'd do a mile, which is 64 lengths, as that's what the Great North Swim is. My regular swim has always been a kilometre - 40 lengths - but I thought I need to up the distance a bit.

After about eighteen lengths, rather to my surprise, I heard people shouting my name. To my absolute joy, it was my lifelong friend Jo and her younger sister Deb. Jo's father Syd was at school with the Communist and was his friend right until the Communist's death: Syd's still in good form at nearly eighty-six. Jo and I have known each other ever since she was born, four months after me, and I remember the big fuss when her sister Deb was born four years later.

We went swimming together throughout our childhood. For many years we went to Leeds Ladies at the Olympic Pool on a Thursday night. Jo, who is a tiny four feet ten, is a faster swimmer than I am and Deb, who is an even smaller four feet nine, is much faster than both of us. She swam competitively for years and the other swimmers always underestimated her because she was so small - but she's a little powerhouse of energy.

Deb, in an interesting bid to bring the nation back to average height, is married to a man who's six feet six. Their son, who is fourteen, is a superb swimmer who swims eight times a week, and is the thirteenth fastest in the country in his age group in breast stroke.

So I wasn't going to even try to keep up with Jo and Deb but I kept on going. When I entered the Great North Swim, on the form you have to estimate the time you think the one mile will take you. I put the slowest time you could choose - between an hour and a half and two hours, because I think the cold water might slow me down. Though perhaps it might speed me up in the hope of getting out of it faster!

However, when I'd done sixty lengths I looked at the clock and found to my delight that exactly an hour had gone by - so I was swimming at my old speed of a length a minute. My target was sixty-four lengths but when I'd done that I felt fine so thought I'd do a few extra lengths just to make sure, so I did seventy. And then I did an extra two just in case I'd counted wrong - I always do that!

Jo and Deb got out at the same time as I did - they'd just swum for an hour without counting lengths. We agreed to meet up for more swimming soon.

I was home by quarter past ten and I loved it! I've never been a fast swimmer, though my style's pretty good which is why I can keep on going. But this morning I thought - well, perhaps I don't think I'm a very good swimmer because the people I've often swum with just happen to be really good! At Tenby I used to swim with two brothers and they always beat me by a greater margin every year - - and then the older one popped up, swimming for Scotland in the Commonwealth Games. And it was years before I could beat my mother in a race - - but then, she was a strong competitive swimmer being coached as a possible Olympic hopeful in the thirties - - until Hitler bombed the swimming pool!

It's been a hard few weeks for various reasons: I've been feeling very tired and I was beginning to think - - hey, Daphne, are you sure you can still do this swim? I saw a television programme this week about the actor Robson Green swimming in open water and finding it all really difficult and really cold and I thought - am I deluding myself? He's young and fit and I'm - - well, not so young and not so fit. But I've always swum in open water: I'm used to the cold, though always slightly nervous about getting cramp in my bad leg.

But this morning's given me confidence. I'll carry on training. Bring it on.


Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

Daphne - To defeat the Windermere cold your body will need to be liberally greased with either goose fat or Vaseline and I am happy to inform you that I have recently completed an NVQ course in "Greasing Lady Swimmers" so I will see you up in The Lake District next September.

12:25 pm  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

I am not much of an athlete. But I am very much an athletic supporter.

1:28 pm  
Blogger Jennyta said...

Daphne, I am in awe! You go for it, girl and good luck with all the training.
(Might I suggest that you give YP's offer a miss though? He faked his sustificate, honest!)

6:03 pm  
Anonymous Milo said...

Amazing you can swim so far! Extremely good for keeping fit. I feel really crappy not having done exercise since giving up the gym 8 or so months ago. That feeling when you finish after a demanding session, the endorphin rush, is like nothing else. So good for the mind, too.

10:45 pm  

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