photo Mark H
When I cycled over to Threipmuir on Friday it was the lack of cover from the Arctic gale rather than the water temperature which was the thing that sent me home with a dry wetsuit. When Mike gathered together a motley bunch for a Monday night dip I felt I better go along. Time for a swim after a few months of wimping out.
Among the team from last year, Nicky and Chris were newbies this time. Jim gave myself and Chris a lift and we did little to reassure him. His previous outdoors was in the Med or someplace tropical so Jim and I did what we could to make him nervous about a dip in baltic Scottish waters. You remembered to bring goggle spray? And ear tape? And trouser oil? No transition mat? By the time we got there Chris was anticipating a near death experience, so it was by comparison, relatively pain free. That's what friends are for.
The diving shop sells hoods and gloves for welding oil rigs below the water line and so I was slightly overdressed. New for this season I was wearing a yellow striped hat. Last year I noticed Kathy was the only person visible from 200 yards in the water due to a brightly coloured hat. (Jim goes the other way and wears a water coloured blue/black hat.) I got a one-size-fits-all job off the internet. I think it comes deliberately small so that the chinstrap constricts your windpipe to stop any water going down. That on top of the industrial strength welder's hood and I think my hair actually stayed dry. Breathing was limited though.
We actually did have goggle spray. Rich (who seems to have given up swimming and all things tri or is pretending not to have got my email) had been our cutting edge early adopter, and showed up with a spray that stops your goggles steaming up (do NOT get in your eyes) and a much mocked transition mat which we were all a bit jealous of. BTW the goggle spray is best applied earlier in the day so it can dry out in time to get wet. Jim and I now have goggle spray. I expect Chris will get some for next week. I also tape my ears with zinc oxide sports tape. After much experimenting with all sorts of plugs and tampons it worked best at stopping my head fill up with the brown water of the reservoir.
Nicola: modelling warm and loving it!
As punishment for only doing out and back we made Nicky wait on the cold step till we had finished and she nearly died of hypothermia. She also brought Hot Chocolate which was a brilliant idea and very likely to become adopted as a regular habit.
Jim had a thermometer. Like most of these things it is totally unreliable. How are you going to check? Our one started telling us Gullane water was warm enough to make a cup of tea with. Jim's said 14' though he was probably measuring the warm water around himself in the shallows. Talking of which Mike was mentioning a preference to heating up his wetsuit with the addition of warm fluids. But perhaps not on the drive to the reservoir with others in the car.
Other new things this season: Mary bought a new water-proof camera after the last one died. I lashed this on a climbing sling to the bumbag round my waist, so that if it slipped through my welders gloves it wouldn't sink into the 12" of soft material your feet slide through. Nobody knows what this is or how so much got into the water as you would have to pump it uphill from town surely. Jim mentioned he often emerges from Threipmuir with tingling fresh skin, like it was a spa treatment, so maybe we should be bottling and selling the rejuvenating sludge off the bottom. Luckily the water is too murky to get a close look at it. So the camera stays on a leash. When we got over to the other side I finally remembered I was wearing my Suunto. This has not been swimming before and I wondered if it would survive. Anyway I finally remembered to push START, something I had been too distracted to do when getting in. It survived.
And Mike asked me to look after his hood. It wasn't as cold as we had thought and his was stopping his goggles getting a good seal. Or that's what he said. He suggested since I was wearing a bumbag I could put it in there. Only I didn't want it floating out every time I took a photo, so put the waistband of my bag through the chinstrap loop. As soon as we started off again his hood filled with water, inflated and made an excellent sea anchor. I wrapped it around the belt and reduced the drag but cursed Mike for most of the rest of the swim. It would unfurl from time to time and suddenly I'd be going nowhere. Next week I'm taking an anvil in a backpack for him to look after.
Mark does his blow up doll impression.
photo Mark H
Next week I will be opting for summer gloves and only 1 hat/choker. And maybe flipflops or something for feet on the gravelly path between car park and reservoir. I had looked at Luna Sandals but £100 seems quite maximal for such a minimal runner. And there are about a dozen cheaper options by Keen, Teva, Merrel etc. In fact anyone who makes sandals. I had a lovely pair of aqua pumps from Lidl for about £8 till I lost one in the surf at Gullane. I am still traumatised and went through the five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance before finally throwing out the second one.
I think we covered about three quarters of a mile including the bit I missed from the start.