This is why I swim in the ocean!
by, April 1st, 2012 at 04:27 PM (541 Views)
I had a very lovely swim out at Brighton Beach today. It wasn’t the most obvious day for an open-water swim—air temp was mid-40s, with an overcast sky—but I’d been looking forward to being in the ocean again all week, plus I knew at least a few CIBBOWS friends would be out on the beach at 10 this morning. So I packed some warm clothes and hot chocolate and headed out on the train to meet them.
Once I arrived at Brighton, I quickly found Cara and Brad, and we waited on the beach a bit for the others to show. There ended up being only 5 of us today, 4 of whom swam. The wind picked up as we were making our final preparations for getting in. We scanned the sky, hoping it would blow some of the clouds away, but only a weak glimmer of sunlight shone through. Brad, who had swum yesterday, confirmed that the water temp had dropped a bit—last week it had been 50. I finished getting ready, then ran down the beach with Cara, who always brings her thermometer to record the official water temp. I didn’t wait around for her reading, but took a few quick breaths and quickly started swimming east—the water was cold, but the air was cold and windy! I knew which poison to pick.
I was able to swim hard and felt pretty good right from the start. It was lovely feeling the cold water envelop me. I felt some prickling in my hands, but it felt more interesting than unpleasant. The only cold-water sensation that I didn’t like was a odd tightness in the skin on underside of my upper arms—it felt unpleasantly stretched each time I reached forward, as if it would tear. But this often happens to me when I swim in the cold, and I knew it was just a feeling and would go away in a minute or so, as it did.
The water was fairly clear, but I was soon far enough out that I couldn’t see the bottom. I swam along, suspended in a beautiful dark green sea. Without much sun the color didn’t seem to change at all with the water depth. My past few times out at the beach I have been skittish about things (crabs and seagulls, for instance), and haven’t felt truly relaxed when I was swimming. Today was different. The me-ness of me that felt apart from the water disappeared, and I felt wonderfully at home in the sea. I watched the birds gliding above me, and accepted that there might be swimmy and crawly things below me, and I felt kinship instead of fear.
The water helped me along with some gentle waves, and I felt its motion and appreciated its help. As I passed the pilings on the way to the white building, it occurred to me that I was getting pretty chilled. I picked up my turnover a bit—I had been drifting off towards tourist pace. I had set out today with the goal of swimming to the white building and back, about a mile. I knew I could do that, but I also knew that the warming-up afterwards would be more pleasant if I kept swimming vigorously.
I got to the white building fairly quickly, then turned around and headed back into the wind. There was some mild chop in this direction, and swimming straight into it felt pleasantly challenging. For a brief moment the sun came out, and I did some backstroke to admire it. I caught a glimpse of Brad doing the same thing going in the other direction, and waved at him, but couldn’t tell if he saw me. The chop and wind must have been pushing me in towards shore a bit, because I had to correct course a few times to make it around the pilings and jetties. I swam in some shallower water near the big jetty, and could see a large crooked black shape on the bottom—either a tree branch or a sea serpent!
I savored the sensations of swimming hard on the way in. I enjoyed watching the buildings on shore go by, and never felt any colder than I had on the way out. I swam by a flock of seagulls that someone on shore was feeding, and was glad they were far enough down the beach from my blanket that I didn’t have to wade through them to get in. I was still mesmerized by the greenness of the water, and the relative paleness of my hands and arms and I stroked through it. When I got back to my starting point, I wished I could stay in longer, but I could feel the coldness in my hands and feet and knew it was time to get out.
I quickly got changed into warm clothes—lots of them. I had brought long underwear in addition to my wool pants and sweater and swim parka. I put everything on, snapped the hotsnapz warmers I had brought and tucked them in, then jogged easily up and down the beach. After about 5 minutes, I could feel the cold creeping through my torso—my chest and upper back felt especially chilled—and I started shivering and teeth-chattering. This lasted a while, but never became uncomfortably severe. It was tough to get warmed up on the beach on such a day, though, and I was glad when everyone made their way in and we all got packed up and headed towards the subway.
It turned out that Cara had measured the water at 47. It’s good to know that I can manage swimming in that temp even on a less-than-ideal day. Today left me feeling exhilarated about swimming in the ocean. I’m looking forward to the water warming up a bit more, and the weather returning to a warmer and sunnier state, so that I can swim even further. Next week I’m hoping to swim past the WonderWheel and all the other Coney Island attractions!