Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Getting Serious

A little over due with this post for a number of reasons, but better late than never.

As stated on the last post, Robin and I arranged to meet with Jax Higginson at Seaton Carew on 22 November. She wanted to join our little 'buoy club'. Despite the fog everyone arrived on time and after some brief intros we were headed into the water with the intention of doing a minimum of 60 minutes. Jax gave us some info re her pace, which made us think she would be slightly wrong we were...a dark horse to say the least, Rob and I needed to put in a very big effort just to keep up...anyway, as we reached the buoy the fog lifted and the sun appeared, rounding our orange friend, we swam south for about 8 minutes in order to complete the first half hour.The plan was then to return to the buoy, have a quick welfare check then back to the beach. This way no matter how much you feel like it there is no quitting before the agreed time due to the distance from shore. Rob failed to stop for the 'check in' preferring to get keep moving, I knew this meant he was feeling a little cold, so I continued swimming with Jax on my left and Rob to the right. 62 minutes later we were all done, the water was 52f /11.1c A great swim, with Rob receiving some stern advice re his post swim routine needing to be muck more slick and coordinated.

After a couple more pool swims I arranged to meet with a few other locals from OWSNEE on Saturday 26 November for yet more individuals who wished to try the buoy swim...It was blowing a gale, however Magic Seaweed predicted no incoming swell. 13 swimmers gathered, we had a safety briefing before heading into what looked like flat water. Before too long we had a wind against tide situation, I reached the buoy in challenging but not the worst conditions and thought I would be the only one today. The fight to get back to dry land was good fun and I fully expected to be the last out. To my surprise around ten swimmers were still in the water. I quickly dressed and waited on the beach as the remainder slowly started to appear..the comments that followed on the facebook group indicated that most if not all found it extremely tough, to the point of being frightened. I was delighted that a safety brief had taken place and that most had swam in groups...slapped wrists for those who did not listen!...yes that's you Amanda Bell.

Yet more pool sessions before December arrived and the prospect of swimming outside into the final month of the year...Another planned session with Rob on the 1st of the month, we agreed to swim to the buoy and straight back as the air temperature was dropping rapidly...out to the buoy in the 50f /10c water, all felt good, we stopped for the standard check in, I moved from the horizontal to tread water and suddenly felt dizzy..I told Rob and we headed back to shore without delay...the spell of dizziness seemed to subside once swimming again. We both made a good recovery and headed off home. I was a little worried for a couple of days afterwards and hoped it was a one off incident.

Sunday 4 December and yet another visitor to join the club, this time in form of Channel Swimmer Dee I am not saying we are rubbish, but, Dee needs to wear Tee Shirt and shorts for extra drag to give us the slightest chance of keeping up! She is rapid to say the least. The air temp had dropped to 5c, with the water continuing to drop by the day, today my watch was showing 49f as we rounded the buoy, another great swim with no dizzy spells..I was more than happy. And this time even Amanda listened to the brief ;-) The only negative was me having to head off for an 10 hour night shift.

The following morning after a few hours sleep, I gathered my flask, swim kit and warm clothes, having arranged to meet Joe, Amanda and Katherine for another dip at Seaton. The ice on the road at home almost prevented me getting the car off the drive. That said, a short time later we had gathered in the car park, we began to shiver before we were even stripped. The air temp was around 3c, it was windy and I was tired. The breakers looked big from the safety of the cars, so it was no surprise to find them above head height as we waded into the water. Amanda will not mind me saying she had some doubts, (the breakers are not her favourite thing). However we soon cleared them and began to make our way out to sea in the direction of the buoy. Joe and Katherine (in her wetty) leading the way, the strong wind was helping us make good progress, however the water was only 48f / 8.8c combined with the air and wind made it a bit chilly (see Donals precise temp guide on the link)

I met Joe at the buoy..we laughed about the temperature and the battle that lay ahead to get back to shore, we were in good spirits, it was like being back in April. I could not see Amanda and felt certain she was already headed back. In a matter of moments I was separated from Joe, I was struggling to sight. Making a direct line to safety was almost impossible. I knew from the many swims here with Joe in similar conditions, to just get my head down and swim hard, attempting to keep my stroke long and swim under the oncoming waves and chop.

Surrounded by white horses, I stopped to confirm my position/heading, I had drifted north about 150 metres from the buoy, I glanced Amanda in the distance and was horrified to see her still heading to the buoy. Despite my best efforts I was unable to get her attention, the sea was roaring and the wind made it impossible for my voice to do anything but disappear. Amanda was acclimatised and looked good, however the journey back was going to be far from easy. I began to feel the cold and could no longer sight any of the others, then suddenly I swam into what felt like an icey stretch of water...I was, for a moment, cold to the bone, then without warning something very strange...I felt like I was over heating, I needed to take off my cap, I was burning up. I was able to recognise that this was a danger sign of hypothermia. I felt faint but managed to talk myself into NOT taking off the cap, I began to worry intensely about Amanda, I was convinced she was in trouble. This was serious.

I lay on my back, getting battered my the swell and chop.. I decided the best course of action was to backstroke, this way I could breathe easily, could continue to look for the others without the need to stop and perhaps more importantly could generate some heat and make progress to land.

After what seemed liked an eternity I was tossed about in the breakers and hobbled up the sand, Joe had just landed but there was no sign of the girls, I expressed to him my concerns and was actually pleased to see the arrival of a coastguard truck. I rushed to the car, got dressed and started to get some hot fluids down my neck when to my ecstatic joy I saw Amanda speaking with the coastguard. (a concerned member of the public had called them after seeing us enter the water and failed to see our return) Once dressed Amanda joined me in the warmth of my car, I gave her a hug and almost burst into tears such was my relief that she was safe.

My own recovery took rather longer than normal but soon we were all home, dry and warm. A few reminders today regarding the importance of briefings, safety measures, lack of sleep, air temperature, swimming in groups etc.

A swim that under normal circumstances only ever takes 45-50 minutes had taken me an hour. A short time after arriving home I spoke with the ever positive and poker faced Joe and asked what he thought...his one word reply 'Nasty' said it all.

On reflection I was reminded of Cyrise Sanders post here.

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