Monday, January 21, 2013

Yup, 5 degrees really is cold

It finally got there.  5 degrees celcius.  When I started on this journey for some misguided reason I thought the water temperature would bottom out at 6 degrees.  I couldn't remember water colder than 6 in Vancouver, and without researching it at all I just decided that 6 degrees would be the coldest it would get.

I was wrong.

I had been out of the water for a while.  At first Christmas got in the way; we had dinner parties, guests, and many events to attend.  And then the post Christmas daze took over.  All of January Matt and I kept telling each other that it was time to get back in the game and start exercising again.   Then we'd turn back to our books and settle down in front of the fire with some Christmas baking.

But last week Matt set the deadline:  we'd get back on track on the weekend.  On Saturday morning I was a little hesitant but Matt insisted so we packed my swim bag and headed out.  It was foggy but the blue sky above promised  better weather.  We decided to visit Bachelor Bay since the beautiful day would mean a lot of scuba divers and people enjoying the park at Whytecliff and I wanted to avoid the usual questions.  When we arrived the sun had beaten back the fog and seeing it shining over the water inspired me.  There was no wind whatsoever and the surface of the bay was as still as glass.

I can't put my face in the water yet!

I was nervous getting undressed because I hadn't been in the water for a month.  When I walked in it felt cold, colder than I remember it ever feeling.  It took a long time for me to be able to drop my head as I swum.  Almost immediately I felt stabbing pains all over my body and the soles of my feet felt like they were separating.   After about 5 minutes I let my face rest in the water and had a brief but strong ice cream headache.  Around that time I started to feel pain in my hands and wrists.   I swam back in to be close to shore and Matt and did a couple of laps parallel to the beach.

When Matt told me that I had been in 11 minutes I thought about staying in longer but decided to play it safe.  It seems when the water gets down to the lower temperatures, the body feels a greater difference in degrees.  That is, 10 and 9 degrees felt about the same, but 6 and 5 doesn't.  For the first time since I started this journey I felt pain the whole time I was in the water.

My feet and toes were so numb it was hard to stand up and walk out

Warming up was different too.  I started shivering while I was still getting dressed, about 5 minutes after exiting the water, and continued uncontrollably for about 20 minutes.  Then shivered for about another 20 minutes.  The worst part was the pain in my forearms.  The cold water pooling in different parts of my body was unpleasant as usual, but the pain in my forearms was a new sensation.  If anyone has any idea what this is about I'd love to know.

I also felt cold for the rest of the day.  Usually after warming up and then a hot bath I feel as good as new, but this time I never quite warmed up.  Of course this could be because I'm not in as good shape as I was before Christmas, or because I've lost some adaptation or any number of other reasons.  I will have to see what it is like next week.

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