Have I mentioned that I have a new respect for Alaskan salmon? While I find swimming in the Fastlane current fun and rewarding, there is an unrelenting current. Sure, I can stand up any time I want to. And I can press a button to turn it off as desired. The worst thing that is going to happen to me is that I will bump into the vinyl side of my Tuff pool, but it gives a swimmer insight into the determination that a salmon going upstream must have.
It was possibly the midday temperature of 9° Fahrenheit (about -13 Celsius for some of my friends) of this particular Saturday that made me more empathetic to the desperate struggle those fish have to face. In spite of knowing and feeling the fact of my 80° Fahrenheit pool water, I was facing environmental elements of my own. The scene unfolds something like this:
- I check the outside air temperature about 20 times and pace around the house.
- I get a rush of adrenaline at the thought of stepping outside in my swimwear.
- I get encouragement from other family members, including time restrictions from my husband.
- I put on my swimsuit and cap, then cover that up with my full body red spandex suit. (I have been wearing that rather than the leopard print full length suit because of the foot coverings. I plan on making some swim booties soon.)
- One of my girls or my husband has to zip me up, because I have not attached a string to the zipper, and there are certain angles to which my arm will not bend.
- I put on my polar fleece ducky bathrobe.
- I tell my crew that I am ready to have them open the pool for me (we are still working on the cover system), and while they do that,
- I gather my goggles, Fastlane controls, and towel.
- I hang up my bathrobe inside of the laundry room just prior to stepping out into the garage,
- where I briskly find my flip-flops (because I don’t want my wet, spandex covered feet sticking to icy cement or such when I get out), then
- I hurry out of the garage and over a snow covered 3 feet of lawn to the side of the pool.
- Once there, I immediately slip off the footwear, climb over the cement wall while pushing the button to start the Fastlane, then
- put my goggles over my eyes and start to swim.
What continues to surprise me is, after this point, I am quite comfortable in the pool. I can relax, think about balance and stroke, breath in a non-stressful way. The current creates minor waves that actually benefit me in the cold weather by nearly covering my head when I’m face down. When I first began swimming in the Fastlane, I was not used to those waves and found they challenged my breathing some. Now, I basically don’t notice them because it has become habit to turn more for my breath. This should help me in any open water swims I do in the future.
Unfortunately, I have not yet increased the combination of my stamina and technique in the Fastlane to be able to swim more than 2-4 minutes at a time, on average. This means that I must still raise my head into the cold air periodically. At temperatures as low as 40 degrees, this hasn’t been an issue. My swim today was only 20 minutes long, and I didn’t notice discomfort, but last week, I swam for 30 minutes when it was 16° Fahrenheit out, and got a headache from the cold in the last five minutes. For this reason, we are looking into more of a covering for the pool, one that I can safely swim under, but doesn’t take as much heating as a whole room.
After my swim, I rush back into the laundry room within 15 seconds of getting out of the pool. In there, the temperature is better than the average gym locker room and I can relax and dry off. Someone else goes out to close up the pool. If the temperatures stay this low, I will likely continue with my swims, at least 30 minutes at a time. Even with it being outside, I spend less time cold than I would in the car driving to the gym. It is actually easier to get into the water when the outside temperatures are this low! It’s just that cold distance from the garage door to the pool that plays mind games with me. However, snacks are readily available as soon as I get out. :-)