“It’s so freaking cold that the fish are wearing sweaters.”

We have been in the lake since May 9th training for our chilly relay swim across the English Channel this summer. Our conversations have been going like this as we stand in the water trying to talk ourselves into actually swimming:

“Colder than yesterday, which was colder than the day before. How is that possible?” — Me

“Just get in.” — Charlie

“Don’t rush me.” — Jan

“It’s a good thing we don’t have balls.” — Me

“Maybe we do.” — Charlie

“I just saw a fish go by. It was wearing a sweater.” — Me

“Just get in.” — Charlie

“Look at the ducks on the shore, I think their feet are frozen to the ground.” — Me

Charlie checking the lake temperature. Sometimes it’s better not to know.

When we start whining I bring up teammate Jaime who is swimming in chillier waters in Alberta. The day she went in when it was 7 degrees in the water with an air temperature of 8 and it was snowing a bit was pretty hardcore. We have been swimming in 12- to about 15-degree water and once in, over the initial ice cream headache and teeth-aching first few minutes we are actually finding it almost “enjoyable”. We have the lake to ourselves as even the hard-core Ironmen are still in the pool. We’ve learned to trust that this too shall pass and we actually will find it bearable.

We have a perfect one-kilometre swim route from the Peach (giant Peach concession stand) to the SS Sicamous (historic paddle wheeler) which is protected from boat traffic by a line of buoys.

The glass is half-full…of lake water

  1. The cold water is helping our immune system. It helps boost the white blood cell count because the body is forced to react to changing conditions. The cold actually shocks your system into rallying its defences.
  2. We get an endorphin high because it brings us close to the pain barrier or on some days through it. The pain stimulates endorphins and voila…it hurts so much it makes us feel good. Something like that…
  3. It boosts our circulation and flushes our veins, arteries and capillaries. The cold water forces blood to the surface and pushes the cold downwards.
  4. It burns a few more calories.
  5. Cold water swimming places stress on the body physically and mentally. So, go figure this one…those stresses reduce life stress making us more calm and relaxed.
  6. You actually habituate to the cold water. You find it hard to breathe for the first minute or so but you settle in, relax and get used to it. You learn it won’t kill you.
  7. The pain of immersion never disappears but the cold shock response will reduce somewhat after about five or six cold water swims.
  8. It makes you feel BAD ASS to be out there when it’s frigging cold and wavy and people on the beach stop and stare. You learn you have the power to master the cold.
A rare calm day. Nice for swimming but not great for our Channel training.
It is really mind of matter for the first few minutes…every time. You learn to trust that the initial shock will wear off and the sense of revitalization you get afterward is worth it. My new secret pleasure is a hot bath of about equivalent swim time with Saje Apres Sport bath salts. Good thing we have solar panels for our hot water.
I don’t know if I will be swimming in early May next year though… Probably will wait until June.