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swimsuit addict

Beach swim

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I had been looking forward all week to heading back to the beach this weekend. Last week, I barely did more than dip in the cold water; this week, I wanted to stay in and swim long enough to get in the full range of cold-water swimming sensations—or at least the ones that fall to the safe side of hypothermic spectrum. The water had scarcely warmed up from last week—it was between 40 and 41 today—and air temps were in the high 30s when I left home. But the day was sunny, and there wasn’t too much wind, so I had hopes that it would warm up a bit by the time I got out to the beach and in the water.

When I arrived at Brighton one of my fellow CIBBOWSers was finishing up an ice swim. (To be an official ice swimmer you must swim a mile at 5C or below). She had attempted this the previous week and fallen a little short, but today she made it the whole distance, and I was happy to be there to see her achieve her goal. Once that had been accomplished and she and her crew had gone up to her car to warm up, there were just four of us left on the beach—a smaller crowd than last week, but still good company for a beach morning.

I got in pretty quickly, and swam to the big jetty to the east and back, about 700 meters. The tide was extremely low, and the water had an opaque orangy cast to it today. It took a while before I felt anything besides the initial pins-and-needles sensation in my face, hands, and feet that swimming in water this cold brings, but eventually that faded a bit and I felt a pleasant warmth in my shoulders, face, and torso. On the way back from the jetty the current was against me a bit, and the water turned a bit choppier, but the swimming never felt difficult, just different. I watched the landmarks on shore and was reassured that I was making good progress the whole time despite the current. When I reached my starting point I was feeling good, and was tempted to continue on westward, but I could feel my hands stiffening up. I feared that if I extended my swim I might not have the dexterity to be able to get dressed without help once I reached shore. (Not that there wouldn’t be help there if needed—we swam in shifts today, and tend to look out for each other in general—but there are some things I like to be able to do for myself.)

So I came ashore, and was able to shed the swim swimsuit and pile on the layers quickly, before any shivering set in. Before I had gotten in I had arranged my clothes for speed dressing—hat on top, then neck gaiter, towel, wool camisole, wool shirt, fingerless gloves, second shirt, sweater, changing skirt, long underwear, wool pants, parka, scarf, mittens—and it paid off. I’ve never done triathlons, but I suppose this is a more layered version of the planning and packing triathletes must do for their transitions.

Once dressed, I jogged around on the beach and enjoyed the sensations of rewarming. I shivered a bit, but not too hard, and enjoyed the beautiful day as I sat and chatted with friends, drinking hot ginger tea and slurping soup. After lunch, I spread out a second blanket and went through a short stretching routine—rewarming after a cold swim always seems to help my flexibility. The day never warmed up as much as we had hoped, but whenever the wind calmed down the sun felt glorious. Finally it was time to head home, so I packed up and enjoyed a quick subway ride back to the city with a couple of my swim companions. I’m glad beach season has returned!

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