Sunday, June 09, 2013

From Doldrums to Phoenix

I've been trying to find something positive to write.

There's a lot of positive things going on in my world but for some reason I can't bring myself to write of them.  Instead, I sit on my sofa today trying to work out whether this headache is an up and coming cold or merely dehydration after a really nice run yesterday.

I am supposed to be racing at Scissett this afternoon which is a race I really enjoy but I'm not sure if I should go.  If I do have a cold, I don't want to make myself worse.  Why should I go?  I have paid my money - and that's about the only reason.  I don't really need to practice my transitions.  It won't give me the opportunity to swim in my new wetsuit as it's a pool swim.  In fact, it could jeopardise my chance to swim in my new wetsuit next week if it makes my cold / not cold any worse.

Having been awful to a sick colleague last week and successfully managing to evade his flu, yesterday's mistake was a stupid one.  In a shop I heard the cashier telling a man that she had a summer cold.  I should've bolted then and there but instead I found a present for my husband so I went to the counter and engaged.  There was a cat sitting on the counter - the cat who comes from the pet shop.  The cashier had been stroking the cat and of course, now I look back, I also stroked the cat.

An hour or so later, having jogged into town, I had my lunch.  Smack on the wrist I forgot to wash my hands before I ate my sandwich and so, here I am, sitting on the sofa with a headache.  I remind myself I have a whole two weeks to get over it.  But I'm Oh so desperate to get in the water.

Why so desperate?

My swimming has really gone through the roof this year.  For years it's been unclear which will prove to be more successful - my swimming development or my running development.  For a while I thought it would be my running.  The sheer fact that my running went from 10k to 22k was enough to prove to me that my running was improving best whilst my swimming was able to stay comfortably at 1900m and only come down fractionally in time.

This year however, I have doubled my swim distance and whilst I've increased my run distance by 1.5 times, my 4km swim speed is proportionately comparable to my 1.6km swim speed whilst my half marathon plod remains about the same as it always has been and a damn sight slower than my 10km run speed.  At Wetherby, forced to finish by the pressure not to quit, my swim outperformed my cycle - something completely unheard of in my world.  It seems the Hippopotamus is my spirit animal after all - lumbering and graceless on land, speedy, elegant and deadly in the water.

There is a problem though and it is the cold.  At every open water swim this year I have struggled to come out of the water coherent, upright and in control of shivering muscle spasms.  It caused me so much concern at Eastleigh that I have been in to open water at every opportunity available.  I've got up at 5am to swim in the Prestatyn sea and not missed a beat at Rother Valley, even swimming with full compression kit on under my suit to take the chill away.  I've stripped off and swum in bra and knickers in the middle of my morning run.

I've swum without the wetsuit just to persuade my body to get used to the temperature as the temperature has gradually come up to meet me at what I hoped would be a compromise.

There was useful chat on my club forum Facebook last week about the difficulties of removing wetsuits.  Now I don't have any problems removing mine and naturally assumed everyone else was doing it wrong.  At swimming on Friday evening, all the other slim people came out of the woodwork now that the water is warmer.  I watched Vicki Moorhead struggling to get into her suit, cursing blind that it shrinks every year.  

As I got into the water it was luxuriously warm.  I said to the woman next to me, "ooh so warm!" and I felt confident that this time I would manage my 4 laps, perhaps even 5!  I powered around the first two laps, enjoying the sun on my back, tracking between the buoys, experiencing no dizziness, hunger or fatigue, no cold.  Towards the end of the first lap I experienced my first foot cramp.  I tried not to panic and slowed to breast stroke.  Eventually I pulled my foot through and I squeezed my toes towards my chest.  I tried to displace my wetsuit around the calf in case it was too tight but it only let the cold water come flooding in.  My hip extensors and thighs started to cramp so I let go and calmly took to breast stroke again.  Soon I was able to crawl again and churned out another lap as quickly as I could but this one went to bits.

I had to put the rubber bands on my fingers.  By the time I got to the longest back stretch, the water had seeped onto my back.  The water which had been leaching in through my wrists began to seep into my armpits, slopping up and down and the water I had allowed into my left leg seemed to seep all the way around to the right leg also.  By the time I got towards the end of the lap the foot cramp came again.  This time I managed to squeeze it away briefly.

As I breast stroked calmly, just enjoying the evening, I realised I wasn't going to get another lap out.  It wasn't that I was exhausted I just felt how I do when I swim without a wetsuit.  For a while it's exhilarating and enjoyable and then it's just deathly cold and the core starts to shake.  You know it's time to get out.

I stood on the beach (concrete) stripping off the layer of neoprene.  It was so warm to get the litres of cold water away from my body. 

Back in the changing rooms, the same lady I'd commented to on the warmth of the water was next to me.  She looked at me shivering and said, "how are *you* cold?"  

I shrugged and said, "too skinny?"

As I shivered, watching my friends come and go, all composed, all happy about the warmth of the day and the water, I accepted that my wetsuit is now too big.  I spent £327 on that suit.  I am the AGNI (all the gear, no idea) who bought the best so that my speed would grow into it.  Sadly, what has happened is I have shrunk out of it and also my skill has grown out of it.  I no longer need the buoyancy of the hi tech suit.  I have turned into a swimmer.  One who resents the restriction of the suit and if I get one that actually fits, I might even find it too hot.  That said, I have to be in that water for one whole hour and in my skin I can only manage around 20 minutes.  In my current suit, I can only manage 45. 

Now I see how bad it is, though not as bad as the bloke behind
I went back out to the lake side to see who was about.  Luckily, Alex Gilbraith from La Bicicletta was just coming out of the water.  We chatted about a new suit (actually I had it in my mind I'd rent one but a good deal is a good deal).

14 hours later I showed up at his shop and found myself squirming into an X2U small tall suit.  Once I'd got my legs in (it's difficult to imagine something will fit when you start off with your ankles tied so tightly together you can't forsee it feasible to haul it over your hips), I let Alex give me a hand.  From my experiences I see I have two weeks to train TSK to dress a hippo in a wetsuit.

After he let me haul the ass of the suit up from the inside and put the arms in, he kindly hitched up the shoulders and zipped the back saying, "If you can zip it up on your own, it really is too big" (vis a vis the old suit: oops - apparently I have been doing it wrong all these years).

I then took it upon myself to grab the crotch and feed the spare suit up the front to my neck to make the final fit adjustment.  

Well it sure as hell looked like it fitted and it didn't feel uncomfortable once it was on.  I took the suit home to take it out this week.  Having dug out my current suit to check, it is a large.  I remember now buying the large to get the leg length as a settler because there was no medium tall available at the shop.  I was also, after trying on multiple suits in the middle of June, pretty warm when I bought that suit.  So now I'm so incredibly excited about getting into open water again.  I wonder just how far I can go and what I can do with it when I'm warm.


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