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Thread: Experiences in Cold Water - Ireland (LOOOONG)

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    Post Experiences in Cold Water - Ireland (LOOOONG)

    I just can't handle the cold.


    Hi all,
    following the recent post about hypothermia, I had already been planning to write a longer piece on my experiences for information. As I said in the previous post, I found it hard to find good information on open water swimming when I started 2 years ago, and my modus operandi is to suck up as much information as possible when doing anything new.

    So snipping some bits from the last post and adding lots more new. It's quite long so apologies. But since I'm not a natural, or very experienced swimmer, nor built for it I hope the detail makes it more useful.

    First, background which is key for the context:

    I live near the South Coast of Ireland. I'm 45yo male, and I'm fairly light (under 12 stone, about 74 kg) for Open Water. I've put on about 10 pounds muscle in the last year with very heavy pool training last winter/spring and maybe 5 or 6 pounds fat over the summer/autumn when training switched to the sea and the intensity went down.

    I've been swimming for about 2 years here in Ireland. (I learnt basic swimming as a kid but only went first to the pool in spring 2006). I've been a surfer for about 10 years though so I assumed I had some strength and was also very comfortable in the sea obviously.

    Looking at the globe, we're obviously far north, on a level with Newfoundland, however the Gulf Stream warms (relatively) the Irish waters and our climate is fairly mild. Rarely <really> cold in winter or hot in summer. Very,very cold winter temps are -5C/23F, the warmest summer temp I can ever recall here is 33C/91F (10 years ago). I don't recall a day above 24C/75C this year.
    I have often told surfers overseas that ocean water temperatures are similar to Northern California, requiring a 5/3mm wetsuit with boots, gloves & hood for surfing in winter, and a 3mm full suit in summer, for surfing.

    A significant factor in Ireland is the fairly constant wind which is prevailing southerly and often very strong, meaning onshore here in the south. Humidity is generally high which we don't notice as there's not much heat. When the wind shifts North or NE though, the two combined make the conditions ""raw".

    OK; another key factor are the actual Water Temperatures.

    For the South/South East, very warm water temperature, if we get them (which we haven't really the last 2 summers), would be 17C/18C i.e. 62.5F/64F. Or at least there were 4/5 days I recall this year that I swam here in those temps. There was no consistent period however at that level.


    But the last two summers here have been dreadful. We would have reached those regularly summers before. The SW is slightly warmer, maybe 1deg C, because it catches the Gulf Stream better. All around the North & East coast could be 2 deg C colder. Best regular water temps this year during August/Early Sept. were around 14C/57F in Tramore Bay, Waterford where I mainly swim. I often swim Sandycove in Cork more towards the SW, (one of the world's great swim locations) and often find the temp. can be a degree warmer.
    Typical south coast Winter water temp might drop down to 9C/48C, with 8C/46F common in the SE. That can vary a bit depending on wind direction again and occasionally rising cold currents.
    Oh, yes I almost forgot. Typical tidal range on the South coast is 5 metres. Gotta remember that for a lot of swims cause it means strong tidal currents at times and locations.

    I give all the context info partly because I think cold water swimming can be significantly different for everyone, but my feeling is that the biggest factors are body weight & size. Big/heavy = easier. But you need to understand your surroundings. Factors like wind direction and chill, air temperature, currents, etc.


    The most common problem I see with cold water is the fear. I just can't handle the cold.
    It is often a belief though, rather than an actual fear, at least when discussing it sitting in a warm room or pool.. Here's a point though: None (almost) of us like cold. I have met one swimmer who prefers it. It's just that it's something to deal with. For marathon swimming it often becomes THE thing. And an aspect of open water swimming that's often missed on this forum and others is the challenge, not the race. I'm almost never going to be the fastest (unless I choose carefully!). But I want to be the best I can be. For an average swimmer like me, it can be something that levels the playing field. I'm swimming against myself instead.


    I went for my first non-wetsuit swim in May 2006. I'd been in the pool about 6 weeks at that stage.


    I remember the tangible physical fear I had before getting in. I'm not exaggerating. I was almost hyperventilating prior to entry. My chest was heaving. However I know myself well enough that I generally handle physical fear by throwing myself into whatever causes it. An d I remembered, I've been a surfer. Don't be a sissy, I told myself.


    I guessed it was around a mile or so around the Island. I had no idea if I could make it out to the first corner of the island, about 300 yards away. I was wearing a sleeveless 1mm neoprene which I thought was a good intermediate step. I didn't know if I would drown or die of hypothermia.

    But it was warm sunny day, with no wind, and it wasn't too bad. Quick submersion and a sudden rise in adrenalin and I shot off for the first 50 yards but then I settled and it was OK. I made it to the first corner and decided to go another bit. I actually went around the island and was delighted. I think it took around 35 minutes. It's actually 1900 metres give or take depending on tide, I got dressed and don't remember recall suffering any cold after-effects. I wasn't sure how much the neoprene vest contributed to feeling OK.


    So it wasn't that big a deal in the end. That said at that time I was about a stone lighter than now and much less fit. But getting in the same time that day was another chap maybe a few years younger than me, with a body like a whippet. No body fat, ultra-fit. Maybe a serious tri-athlete? I took no notice but my girlfriend told me he made it about 50 yards before turning and getting out. I guess the shock was part of the problem. He didn't give it those few vital extra seconds to let the heart rate slow, but I guess he was also much more vulnerable to the shock.


    A few weeks later the local pool manager invited me out for a 1 mile sea swim, (Baile na Gall, Dungarvan). It was cold. Very Cold. No neoprene vest this time. Slow entry because it was low tide on a flat beach with stones underfoot. But it was OK a couple of minutes after I got going again. This time I noticed how hard it was to get my face in the water. I did the full swim and I think it took about 45 minutes. That was it for me. I found my new thing.


    For the first couple of months I had constant nervousness before swimming, thinking about the cold. I usually found it hard to put my face in the water each time. I got in fairly slowly trying to get used to it., splashing water on my wrists and neck (heat regulation centres, and sides, to accommodate the increased breathing).


    The rest of that summer had me in the sea weekly and I even did a few races (the 2 biggies, The Lee River Swim, and the Sandycove Island Challenge, both around 2K). As I said I'm a late starter so I'll never be the fastest. But I'm kind of obsessive (it's a joke among my friends/family) so I always want to know I'm doing my best at least and getting better. So I swim as hard as I can.


    After a couple of months I was getting used to putting my face in, and just getting in quickly, no splashing around. Of course the water was very gradually getting warmer.


    BTW, I do 95% of my swimming, pool & sea, by myself. I usually swim out of sight of anyone on the coast. That's a different subject I might write on.
    Where I sea swim locally there are lots of polar bears, i.e. the generally older people who get in for 5 to 10 minutes 7 months of the year. But I am the only current long distance swimmer.
    My local pool is a 20m pool and there are no coaches nor any Master's swimmers. I plugged on through the winter in the pool returning to the sea weekly last summer.


    My first swim last year was the end of April. Again, I recall the fear. 6 months in a pool. And now I was getting in earlier this year. The sand was so cold walking the 10 metres from my sandals to the water my feet were getting sore. I didn't take the temp but in retrospect I'm guessing 8 to 10C/46 to 50F. Yes, I now know that's a very wide temperature window.


    I planned a 10 minute swim if possible, with my girlfriend watching on the beach. There was swell that day with head high waves breaking on the beach. So I went from walking in wet to the knees, to covered instantly.

    Nothing could describe it. There was little to equate it to cold. It could just as easily have been fire or acid. All I knew was instant all-over pain.
    Pain in my sinuses. Fire all over my skin. My feet felt like the flesh had been flayed off the soles. Heart rate sky-high.
    I swam for...20 minutes. The first minutes was awful. The next 10 were really bad. The 10 after that were fine. All the pain disappeared except the soles of my feet which lessened but stayed present.


    I've never felt that fear to the same level again. Because I did it and got out. Ha, and I almost enjoyed it!


    May last year I attended a talk about the English Channel by a successful soloer and signed up to do a double relay this year. Then I started training properly. We got a coach, a legend in Ireland, who I'd travel to see every once few weeks for stroke improvement. She also gave us our training plans. I had gotten fairly fit but it turned out I was much worse swimmer than I thought. This was <great> news because it meant I had a lot that I could do to improve. That work is still ongoing but I'm a better swimmer now. I doubt I'll ever be what I imagine though.


    This year I again got in without wetsuit in late April, but I had been swimming weekly (at coaches insistence) during the winter in the sea in a 3mm swimming wetsuit (as opposed to a heavier 5/3 steamer). By the middle of May I switched to training in the sea 5/6 days a week. Back then I was doing 40/45 minutes a day and trying to do a longer 2/3 hour (with wetsuit) once a week. I very gradually upped the time without wetsuit with the imperceptible increase in water temp. I no longer worried about it.


    This is HABITUATION. I have become somewhat inured to getting into cold water. I know it hurts for a few minutes. I know adrenalin will shoot my heart rate up. I also know it will settle and I will get used to it. I know it won't kill me. This is the big mistake many make. They think we don't feel it. I do. It just matters less. Of course I feel the same about other's swimmers capability as some feel about me. I met a guy I know by accident last weekend, river swimming in 7.5C/45.5F water. That seems too cold for me right now. It makes me feel like he is good at cold and I'm not. But he's much taller and heavier than me, meaning an overall greater heat retention. He did 35 minutes in that temperature. I'm sure it hurt him too though just as much as a 10C/50F hurt me. That's a point to remember. We all have capabilities and different limits Are we willing to find them?


    ACCLIMATIZATION is a different factor. Acclimatization says the more you train in cold water the better you will be able to tolerate it and the longer you will be able to stay in it. Personally I don't this factor is as strong as Habituation. After all, physics and the laws of thermodynamics are absolutes.

    • One loses heat in water at 30 times the rate in air
    • Heat loss is slower on sunny calm days
    • You lose 30% of your heat through your head
    • The ratio of heat loss is proportional to the volume and surface area, so larger bodies lose heat more slowly as the ratio of volume to surface area is increased.
    • Fat is an insulator
    • You lose heat unless you input sufficient heat energy
    • Wind is your enemy



    As I said, yes, you get more used to being in, and you recognise your indicators better so you can push your limits more. You get better at preparing and recovering. Some much more experienced swimmers I know on long cold swims have learned to accept and bracket off the cold, realise it's there, know the efficiency is decreasing but at the same time know there can be a long gap between the early hypothermia indicators (unable to touch thumb to small finger) and remaining period during which much swimming can still be done.


    Last autumn I did an 8 mile tide assisted in Oct without wetsuit that took me 3 hours at 12 to 12 1/2 deg C./53.5 to 54.5F. I was expecting about a degree warmer. There were 14 swimmers some with wetsuits, some without. I was the thinnest without and the last out.
    It was quite cold at star for maybe 1 minute, I felt OK after a few minutes. I swam fine for the first 50 minutes, when I had my first food break (warm drink). My hands never regained full flexibility after that and gradually lost efficiency.
    My fingers were spreading at 1 hour, I had warm drinks about every 45 minutes. The last mile was horrible with wind against tide and I was really struggling. I was Mildly Hypothermic for 15 minutes after the finish. With help I was able to get dressed but I don't remember anything for those 15 mins though I <was> functional. My girlfriend says I was coherent but speaking extremely slowly, taking seconds per work. Lots of layers and warm drink to warm up. I don't however recall any serious shivering but I'm not saying there wasn't.
    This was very valuable experience and information about my own limits. Had I done the same swim this year, I think I'd have checked the water temperature first. If it was the same...I'd have worn a suit, I'd learned what I needed.


    After retuning from the Channel late this summer, I bought an infra-red thermometer. I'm still swimming in the sea once or twice a week. This autumn/early winter I'm going to go as long as I can and monitor the sea temp and conditions and record my times and sensations to build up my own knowledge about my limits.


    Here's what I have currently, remember BASED ON MY BODY & EXPERIENCE:



    18 C/64.5F : For me and most swimmers here on the South Irish coast, 18C is heaven and means never having to really worry about cold so one could swim up to one's training goals, (6 to 12 hours)
    16 C/61F in the English Channel felt like the warm shower I have when I get home from sea training here. Great.
    15 C/59F. In July this year I did a 5 hour swim in relative comfort (partly helped by warmer patches of maybe 16C/61F) with no warm drinks during the swim and no shivering after. But the wind was southerly. A week later I went to do a 6 hour in the same location but with a Northerly wind. The water was much calmer but I was out after 2 and hours.

    14C/ 60F is still OK. I can do 2/2 hours training. From here down I'm generally training until just 5 or 10 minutes after the hand starts to spread. Any change of a degree from here will be felt.
    13C/55F is cool but I could train 1 hours.
    12C/54F is cool but I regularly did 50 minutes until 2 weeks ago.
    11.8C/52.7F. Still between 45 and 50 minutes. More affected by sun & wind.
    11.3C/52F. 45 minutes. Cold shock starting after getting in. Lasts maybe 75 metres. Feeling ok during middle of swim. Have started flexing hands on recovery to aid blood flow.
    10.8C/51.4F. 40 minutes. Cold shock longer. Lasting up to 2/3 minutes. Cold in soles. No longer achieving complete comfort during swim. That's this week.



    OK, there are still some other items I haven't covered.



    THE EFFECTS OF COLD WATER;
    This is quite simple but if you really understand it, it explains a lot of other things.
    Without going through the figures for various stages of hypothermia, for regular cold water swimming, the important thing here is that as temperature decreases blood-flow changes. Blood circulation from the extremities to the core decreases, in order to protect the vital organs. The means the blood in the extremities, arms & legs will get colder than the blood in the core.
    PRACTICAL COLD EFFECTS.
    In order of occurrence for me.

    • Cuts on feet and fingers. This happens me more in the spring/autumn. My feet will be numb and it's easier to cut them on barnacles/steps etc. getting in and out.
    • Loss of hand co-ordination. This will start in the water. You can see your fingers turning white as the flood slows in your extremities to protect your core. This is normal. Your fingers turning white in water often happens well before losing strength.
    • Shivering. Doesn't often happen me right after I get out. I have a friend who seems to start shivering before he gets in the water, and then he can swim for longer than me. Shivering though is OK. For me it usually starts when I'm already dressed.
    • Teeth chattering. OK this happens when I'm colder than shivering. Chattering for me is usually accompanied by jaws also clamping shut. A weird combo.
    • Shaking. At least this is how I describe it. More whole body shakes. If I'm at this stage, I'm usually back sitting in the car, heater going full blast, unable to drive. This can take half an hour to pass.
    • After that it's just overall cold. This can take one to two hours to pass.

    Preparation:
    Stay warm as long as you can. Once changed into togs try not to spend too long posing for the looky-loos! You're losing heat. Better to do that while swimming at least.
    If you've got a bit of a walk to the water wear sandals as far as you can. Sand can get painfully cold on the feet in the winter and for me these are what suffer most. Cold will also mean more cuts on you feet that you won't notice 'til after.
    Drink. Warm is good but I rarely bother. At lower temps I'm not in long enough to worry about dehydration. On longer swims at 13/14C, i.e. 55 to 60F and up drink 500ml every 45 minutes.
    Caps. Latex is good. In winter I'll wear 1 silicon and 1 latex under it. Neoprene is good also.
    Ear plugs. Essential. I wear them year round while swimming here. Regular exposure to cold around the ears cause bone to grow over the ear cavity, eventually requiring drilling the bone out and impaired hearing. I know a surfer who this happened to so I'm really careful about this. I use silicon that cover the cavity, not the little plastic inserts. Cheap, easily replaced when you lose them due to cold fingers, and a custom fit every time.


    RECOVERY:
    OK, this is a bigger subject. But it can be reduced to a few simple rules.
    DO get dressed as quick as possible. Your temp continues to drop after you get out of the water. If there's wind, your hands will lose any remaining agility. I think 3 to 4 minutes. After that problems increase. Save anyone who want to talk to you because you're some kind of hero until you get something on.
    DON'T vigorously towel yourself to get the blood flowing. dry enough to drag your clothes on is good enough.
    DONT douse yourself or have a quick shower.
    DO put on lots of layers. Make the lower layers thermal. I'm using Merino wool and microfleece as it's getting colder. Plus hat. Plus gloves. Now it's getting cold I've started wearing thermal Long Johns as well.
    DO have a hot drink. More the better. Warmth in your core.
    DO get out of the wind as soon as possible.
    Remember the effects. After a swim you have colder blood in your arms & legs. What you DON'T want to is cause this blood to QUICKLY flood your core, and possibly cause hypothermic cardiac shock. So you don't vigorously dry, or pour warm water or air over you. If you suddenly warm your exterior normal blood flow recommences and cold blood goes inward.
    I would only have an immediate after-swim dousing if the swim was less than 30 minutes duration above 14C/60F.
    In practice I don't worry about hypothermic shock because I don't swim into that much cold but I do try to be careful about rewarming, since I regularly end up being cold for a couple of hours. Sometimes though I've noticed I've forgotten something I shouldn't have have. I'm rarely sure whether this was caused by the cold or post swim excitement. Sometimes an hour or so after a swim I might go into a supermarket. Passing the fridges always makes me feel really cold again!
    Finally, I'm no expert on all this, this is just the story of the last 3 open water swim seasons for me. There are many better and more experienced swimmers than I am in the irregular Sandycove swimmers with their 8 successful Channel Solo swimmers. Nevertheless the purpose as I've said is to maybe help someone more like me. All the macho the temperature is the temperature stuff is a bit annoying. Some open water swimmers also like to play the It's no bother, I'm harder than you game. Everything is approachable with information and time and Information, as we used to say on the 'Net back in the early 90's, wants to be free.


    Regards
    Donal

    Ireland

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    Re: Experiences in Cold Water - Ireland (LOOOONG)

    Donal, Thanks for the awesome post.

    I live in Southeast Texas and swam at Galveston Beach 2 weeks ago -- water temp was 80ish (F, of course). So I can't imagine swimming at 60.

    I really like the information and time concept.
    hmmm something to think about.

    Kathy

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    Re: Experiences in Cold Water - Ireland (LOOOONG)

    Donal,

    Great post.

    I surfed Lahinch and Enescrone a bit back. Great surf, low crowds, and, did I say great surf.

    Ireland will have a world surfing champ someday. There are too many perfect breaks.

    Now about the water temp...

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    That Was Fun!

    Okay D -- I did it!
    I'm applying some of what I read in your post ---> I even posted about it on a personal development site --> One limiting belief shot all to hell!

    There is no way I would have done this before I read your post -- well unless there was a very good reason.

    Thanks,
    I be back later --
    No excuses.
    Kathy

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    Re: Experiences in Cold Water - Ireland (LOOOONG)

    Hey Kathy,
    that's cool!It makes it worthwhile writing all that stuff down.

    Maybe today'll be your first step for a Channel Solo!
    One of my biggest frustrations when I started open water was lack of information, as I think I said. I thought the Peggy Dean "Open Water Swimming" book was mediocre at best, and the few experienced swimmers I met at the start were playing ego games.
    Hope it helps others as well. I'd be delighted to hear anyone's opinions.

    Regards
    Donal
    Ireland

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    Re: Experiences in Cold Water - Ireland (LOOOONG)

    Kathy and Donal
    Thanks for your posts on cold water swimming. Kathy, I particularly enjoyed reading your blog on the other site about the rewards of overcoming self-limiting beliefs.
    I've dabbled in cold water swimming previously, but this fall - along with fellow ADMSers Dave Barra and Willie Miller I've been swimming regularly in Lake Awosting, in the Shawangunk Mountains near New Paltz NY, from Labor Day until what I presume was our final swim on Halloween, when Willie and I swam 20+ minutes in 45 degree-water, with two caps and ear plugs as our only insulation. What made it all the more interesting was that we'd had an early snow four days earlier and there were still sizeable patches of snow around the lake, which we could see as we took a breath.
    Cold water swimming has indeed become addictive and I have yet to resume regular pool swimming this fall (had not swum in an indoor pool since May) as the experience was rendered so routine by comparison.

    I wrote at length on the TI web site about this experience in a blog titled Crazy Men in Halloween Plunge.

    Enjoy.
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    Thanks for posting!

    Donal, this was an incredibly helpful and inspiring post! I've been swimming for about 10 years, but this year I have really tried to extend my outdoor swimming season. So far, so good! I have gone pretty much every day and haven't felt too uncomfortable. What I really took away from your post was that I'm not crazy to be swimming w/o a wetsuit in 50-55 F water when the air is cold. Like you, I couldn't find too much information about this. Without the concern that I'm putting myself in imminent danger by even going into the water at these temps, I can relax and just get on with my swim. I don't mind the mild discomfort at the beginning and after that it's completely comfortable. The only part I hate is getting out. I rinse off and towel off to stop swimmer's itch, but it definitely leads to shivering. Thanks again.

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    Re: Experiences in Cold Water - Ireland (LOOOONG)

    Just a suggestion about warming up after a cold swim: Before you leave the house, fill up two 2-liter soda/seltzer bottles with hot water (don't melt the bottles), screw the cap on tightly and then seal it with a small strip of duct tape to keep the cap from coming loose. Transport them wrapped in several layers of an old blanket and keep them in that while you swim. When you are done swimming, put on a slightly large sweat suit, unwrap the bottles and slip them under the sweat suit. Nice.

    This trick can also be used to keep your spouse from bankrupting you. By that I mean that we keep the heat down at night in the house and when I get up at 5 AM, The Court Without Appeal will kvetch that she is cold and demand that the thermostat be set at a temperature that melts steel. I often slip two 2-liter bottles under the covers next to her and the demands cease, she goes back to sleep for a few more hours, and global warming is slowed slightly. The key here is to make SURE the bottles are sealed. I've never had one leak yet, however.

    I also use this trick to keep our one very old cat warm - I make a nest on the couch of blankets with the bottles under the blankets for her.

    -LBJ
    "Excitable boy" they all said.

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    Re: Experiences in Cold Water - Ireland (LOOOONG)

    Thanks Terry,
    And thanks for the great signature --
    I guess it looked familiar to you!


    And Leonard,
    hmmm not much to say -- I'll keep that in mind.

    Kathy
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    ><((((>`. .`.><((((> .`..`.><((((>`.
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    Re: Experiences in Cold Water - Ireland (LOOOONG)

    Donalb,

    A slightly unrelated question. How much colder do you think Galway bay is? I swam a little there last summer.

    If you're ever up in Galway, there's a great OW venue there in Salthill. It's called Blackrock.

    We've gone to Ireland a few times. I've always dreamed of doing the Liffy Swim.

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    Re: Experiences in Cold Water - Ireland (LOOOONG)

    Hey Sarge,
    I lived in Salthill/Galway for a couple of years, but I was a cyclist then, not a swimmer.
    Actually I would guess Galway Bay is around the same as the South East, at worst 1 deg C lower. Galway Bay itself is big and deep enough and exposed to wind to maybe drop it the temp around the shores, but from years surfing in Clare & Lahinch, I found the water up there generally slighter warmer than Waterford.
    I haven't done the Liffey swim myself nor plan to , though I have done the Lee Swim in Cork for the last few years, a swim which is really growing in popularity and which people from abraod are starting to travel to, I think there were over 400 this year. Also Sandycove is only a short trip away, and is becoming very well known in Open Water Swimming.
    See here for a pic and brief description.
    http://www.10kswimmer.com/search?q=sandycove
    Next time you're coming over you might find it easier to get a few good open water swims in...
    Regards
    Donal
    Ireland

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    Re: Experiences in Cold Water - Ireland (LOOOONG)

    Donal an excellent post.

    I have done a little cold water swimming and do appreciate your fine post.

    I never wrap up after a cold water swim, to me it holds the cold in. I would rather walk around and let the exercise warm the system. I would get off my wet swimsuit, dry off, put some dry shorts on and a cotton "T" shirt just to make sure the wind does not cool you off.
    Keep it simple George Park
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    Re: Experiences in Cold Water - Ireland (LOOOONG)

    Donalb
    Thank you for your excellent posting.Very informative and useful.

    I am one of the polar bears you refer to - swimming in Salthill,Galway (at Blackrock). There are some beautiful photos that really capture swimming there on http://johnsmyth.ie/

    Have a look at this website - do a search for Salthill. John is a professional photographer and he comes to Salthill to take photos probably every week. Maybe you'll be tempted by them back to Galway Bay.

    He has taken some great photos this month - a month in which we had 140kph winds and a week of calm freezing waters depending on what day you picked.

    Regarding our water temp here in the bay - Water temp hit 2.5C on Jan 14. Its currently (today - 26 Jan) just under 6C which is comfortable relatively speaking. At this temp I limit my swim to 150m. The Atlantic (Gulf Stream) is 10C, 200 miles offshore, at the moment so we are a good bit below that.

    By the way - Yesterday (Sunday 25th) was amazing in Salthill - about 20 students from Minnesota showed up at the diving board and started high board diving into the sea. I think Obama told them they could and they did.

    Cheer & thanks again
    Gerry

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    Re: Experiences in Cold Water - Ireland (LOOOONG)

    Cheers Gerry,
    Yes, January has been odd weather wise here.
    My normal experience of January sea conditions is generally calm, often disappointingly so. Not so this year with the storms combined with colder water than we've had in at least 5 years. When was the last time Salthill got snow?
    BTW, how did the first Galway open water swim go this year? I haven't talked to anyone that was there. It was only a 1000 metres or so?
    Might make it next year if it's a bit longer. A friend is working on the Volvo Race organisation, we're hoping she might kick a few tickets our way and we're there.

    I've only made it into the sea twice this month, due to the high SW winds, very few days safe enough to swim. No beach access at the Guillames in Tramore so exits dangerous in SW surging water.

    6.5C here at New Year, last weekend it was down to 5.8C, (42.5F) (talking to a few of the auld lads it has hit lower, down at 4C, but I missed it). Unlike you though I wouldn't describe it as comfortable, maybe "surviveable" is a better description for me. Fair play to you.

    I did 20 minutes non-wetsuit at the weekend, pleased with myself. After the last few months regular swimming I think I might have it mentally cracked. The pain just doesn't matter (it's there but feck it anyway)! You should have seen the colour of me when I got out, all the audl fella's were laughing.
    I did wear a pair of swim fins last weekend, 1st time ever in the sea, there was a swell running and I thought I'd add a bit of safety.
    This time last year I was doing 25 minutes every 2 weeks, but wearing a suit!
    One recent thing I've found that helps also, is having another reason to get in. With the lighter training I'm doing this year, and not being able to afford regular massages like last year, I seem to developing occasional muscle knots in my back. There's been a few days, particularly in Dec, when I had pain, and the thought of getting in the cold water to relieve it really helped. And of course, deep cold is really good for muscle problems.

    Speaking about the previous post from Geochuck about not wanting to keep the cold in, well I hate to try to correct anyone else's experience but I would be concerned that someone might decide not getting dressed immediately after a (very) cold swim might be helpful.

    Lots of Layers are the safe answer. The very, very best option is Merino wool baselayers underneath. I now use two Merino layers, t-shirt & a long-sleeve, with a micro-fleece over that, then another jumper then a coat AND hat AND gloves. Oh, and Merino long-johns.
    Merino holds up to 30% of its weight in water while retaining heat. (gotta love ALDI, Merino wool baselayers at xmas for 20 euro! 50 or 60 up to a 100 euro elsewhere)

    I do get bloody cold though. We're talking about water temperatures that might kill you in 45 minutes (if you're thin like me but have some experience). BTW, a 15 to 30 minute survival time figure is often quoted here whenever there's a fishing accident, but I generally think that's inaccurate.
    I've fine tuned my own understanding of this in the last few months, and figure I have a maximum of 5 minutes to get dressed. By then the deep shakes are starting and I'm already moving slowly. If I'm not at least partially covered by then (torso) there's trouble ahead. I've started bringing my dogs down. After the swim I get them out of the car and let them drag me for a mile or two along the coast to help rewarm.

    Anyway. Cheers. For all, I did see somehwere over the hols that a new study is showing that head loss through the head is NOT as significant as we previously thought. It was always said it was 30% of loss, but is now reckoned to only be 10%. Use that info as you will.

    regards
    Donal
    Ireland

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    Re: Experiences in Cold Water - Ireland (LOOOONG)

    Hey all,

    I have been training cold water for many years, and yes, you're body does begin to adapt and prefer colder temps. I recently have been converted to minimal clothes afterwards in a warm car. I wouldn't recommend it if you're still out in the elements, but I have started experimenting with it, and it does indeed keep you warmer. I'm at a point where 50F is very comfortable for me, and last week swam in 42F for 45mins with relative comfort (no shivering afterwards). I jumped in a warm shower afterwards, but I agree, that's not something I'd recommend for newbies.

    I also have to say, that while my body seems to be developing it's own "wet suit", that is, an extra layer of fat, my recent experiences have sort of blown the whole notion that you must have a layer of body fat out of the water. I have just come back from the Strait of Magellan, where I trained/crewed for my friends who crossed last week, becoming the 6th, 7th, and 8th persons to ever successfully complete that swim. The water was 40F, two of them swam close to 2hours. My friend Rachel could be described as skinny, yet she has an incredible tolerance for the cold that more innate than most. I do think so much of this is mental, of learning to relax your mind and body in a state of extreme distress. Learning to push through pain. But even Rachel is starting to develop a tiny layer of fat. The body is amazing in it's ability to adapt.

    Rachel has a wonderful blog describing her swim at http://www.rachelgolub.blogspot.com/

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    Very Active Member geochuck's Avatar
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    Re: Experiences in Cold Water - Ireland (LOOOONG)

    Donald I just did not want anyone to put a blanket around me. I would dry off and just not insulate the lower body temperature in with a blanket. The dry off and into the warm car is good and I have done this.

    Females for some strange reason are not as effected by cold as the guys. I know lots of females who could stay in cold water longer then most men of greater stature.
    Keep it simple George Park
    Swimsuit Sale http://www.swimdownhill.com/index.html

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    Very Active Member Leonard Jansen's Avatar
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    Re: Experiences in Cold Water - Ireland (LOOOONG)

    Quote Originally Posted by geochuck View Post
    Females for some strange reason are not as effected by cold as the guys. I know lots of females who could stay in cold water longer then most men of greater stature.
    The physiological reason for this is that women have a more evenly distributed layer of subcutaneous fat. Consequently, core body temperature tends to drop more slowly in women. Paradoxically though, women's perception of cold actually tends to be more acute as that same layer of fat slows heat transfer from the core to the skin - hence women feel colder but are in less danger of actual hypothermia. Once a woman learns to deal with the perception of cold, she can stay in the water longer.

    That same layer of fat is also why women tend to have better natural body position in the water as opposed to guys. Kind of like an internal wet suit.

    -LBJ
    "Excitable boy" they all said.

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    Re: Experiences in Cold Water - Ireland (LOOOONG)

    donalb You are in a different league to me. I just swim for sanity in the winter. You swim to train. I'm just an old codger. I don't stay in the water long enough to get cold (just 4 mins / 150m yesterday) I dont know of any open water swim events in Galway yet this year so I cant tell you how they went. Hope you make it to Galway for the yacht race. Hopefully there'll be a few of them left in the race by then. Come down to Salthill and we can swim out to them! Cheers Gerry

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    Re: Experiences in Cold Water - Ireland (LOOOONG)

    My experiences of cold water are many from swimming where snow was melting into the water to a 14 hour attempt of the English Channel at 63 degrees.

    Swimming in the snow melt of a mountain lake at 9,000 feet here in Colorado was an experience. I am not sure of the temp, but it was likely under 50 degrees and more like 45 degrees, since the days rarely get above 70 degrees at that elevation. What I was feeling the most was needle pricks on my chest and the feeling never went away while I swam for 30 minutes or so. Breathing was hard, but I was not pushing it. Cold water swimming is a state of mind, but I always have someone in a kayak next to me in these mountain lakes. On the plains of Colorado, the Colorado Masters swim in the gravel ponds at Chatfield Res. We start in late April or the first weekend in May. I have swam here at 49 and 47 degrees, but always with one or two other loonies without wetsuits. We would wear silicon caps, earplugs and our suits and that is it. Swim times were from 25 to 40 minutes. As long as we were moving it was okay. Again, like the other postings it is a state of mind to overcome in cold water. A last note about swimming in cold temps, when you overcome and are able to swim in it, it is easier everytime after. I can now swim in 56 degree water for an hour or more and I do not have the shakes as bad when I am warming up.

    The English Channel after 14 hours and less than 2 miles from the French coast I gave up. I could not move my arms out of the water and thus could not keep warm. Have reserved my boat for 2011.

  20. #20
    Very Active Member Ron Lockman's Avatar
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    Re: Experiences in Cold Water - Ireland (LOOOONG)

    http://www.lajollacoveswimclub.org/A...d%20Mediu1.pdf

    Everyone who swims in cold water MUST read this!

    I swim once a month @ the La Jolla Cove.

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