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-   -   Cold water, high altitude (http://www.totalimmersion.net/forum/showthread.php?t=1647)

KatieK 08-20-2010 03:38 PM

Cold water, high altitude
 
Hi All,
This week I went for a swim in a cold lake (65F/16C) at 7,000 feet above sea level. The air temperature was about the same as the water temperature. I live at about 2,500 feet, and I'd been in town for less than 24 hours before my swim.

I'm used to really hot air temperature (100-110F, 38-43C). Water temperatures below 90F/32C feel delightfully refreshing to me.

I expected to swim slowly at that altitude and have less endurance than normal. I also expected the water to feel cold when I jumped in but that I would acclimate pretty quickly. 65F/16C doesn't sound comfortable to me, but it doesn't sound that bad.

Things went pretty much according to my expectations, except I never felt happy during that swim. I didn't feel out of breath or cold, but my form was off, and I was just trying to get thru and be done. I swam a really tight loop around the boat dock--no interest whatsoever in swimming further out.

I wanted to stay in for at least 45 minutes, but after 30 minutes people started launching boats. Since I didn't feel good about leaving that spot, I decided to get out.

When I got out, I felt dazed and *extremely* breathless. I didn't feel cold until about 20 minutes later, and then I stayed cold until I took a long, hot shower about 2 hours later. Both of these things came as a complete surprise.

I'd be interested to hear others' experience/insight on this.

naj 08-20-2010 11:57 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by KatieK (Post 12588)
Hi All,
This week I went for a swim in a cold lake (65F/16C) at 7,000 feet above sea level. The air temperature was about the same as the water temperature. I live at about 2,500 feet, and I'd been in town for less than 24 hours before my swim.

I'm used to really hot air temperature (100-110F, 38-43C). Water temperatures below 90F/32C feel delightfully refreshing to me.

I expected to swim slowly at that altitude and have less endurance than normal. I also expected the water to feel cold when I jumped in but that I would acclimate pretty quickly. 65F/16C doesn't sound comfortable to me, but it doesn't sound that bad.

Things went pretty much according to my expectations, except I never felt happy during that swim. I didn't feel out of breath or cold, but my form was off, and I was just trying to get thru and be done. I swam a really tight loop around the boat dock--no interest whatsoever in swimming further out.

I wanted to stay in for at least 45 minutes, but after 30 minutes people started launching boats. Since I didn't feel good about leaving that spot, I decided to get out.

When I got out, I felt dazed and *extremely* breathless. I didn't feel cold until about 20 minutes later, and then I stayed cold until I took a long, hot shower about 2 hours later. Both of these things came as a complete surprise.

I'd be interested to hear others' experience/insight on this.

Hi Katie, there is a lot to cover so I'll only go over a few things and others can chime in later. You mentioned that you feel fine in water below 90F/35C, but how much colder? There is a huge difference between 90F and 65F. I swim in cold water four times a week year round and the warmest I get - at best - is 61F. And even that is a fluke most of the time! To acclimate to something like what you are use to takes time. you were wise to get out when you did, but the non -wise thing you did was take a shower two hours after you got out.

Like I said before, I swim in the cold water all the time and even if I only stay in an hour and feel totally fine, I shower and go in a sauna and get warm. keep in mind your body temp will still drop even after you get out. Your body goes into panic mode when it is in extreme conditions and does all it can to protect the vital organs (heart, liver, etc), and the arms and legs get cold and some times go numb. But remember when you get out get warm!!! Don't dilly daly it is crucial even on the hot days do it and you'll be good, don't and you may faint or pas out. No joke!!!

The only time I ever felt like I was really tired was when i stayed in for nearly 100 minutes in 53F/11C and it took me an hour to get warm immediately after the swim with a hot shower and sauna nearby!!!!!

Your body can do a lot under extreme conditions but it needs to be well taken care of to. And one last thing remember that fresh water swims feel five degrees cooler than salt water even if they both register the same on a thermometer.

But good on you to go and swim at altitude, which is also a major adjustment even if you do it already at a lower one. Okay I've rambled on enough, others chime in as well.

Naji

KatieK 08-21-2010 01:08 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by naj (Post 12594)
You mentioned that you feel fine in water below 90F/35C, but how much colder? There is a huge difference between 90F and 65F.
Naji

Hi Naji, thanks for the reply. I'm often swimming in really hot water (at least 95). The coldest water I've been in this past year was probably about 75, maybe 78. No saltwater this year :(

I didn't think 65 sounded *that* cold. Do you think it was cold enough to cause a reaction like that? Or do you think the altitude was more to blame?

naj 08-21-2010 02:15 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by KatieK (Post 12596)
Hi Naji, thanks for the reply. I'm often swimming in really hot water (at least 95). The coldest water I've been in this past year was probably about 75, maybe 78. No saltwater this year :(

I didn't think 65 sounded *that* cold. Do you think it was cold enough to cause a reaction like that? Or do you think the altitude was more to blame?

Without question the drop in temp had a lot to do with it as well as elevation but the drop in temp more so in my opinion. Remember you don't swim in water colder than 75-78, I can tell when the water drops from 60 to 58 in a second because my body will let me know immediately! your talking about a 10 degree drop and that is huge in ow so make sure you follow the 10% rule and gradually increase your time and the amount that you swim in that water if you want to go further. I want you safe and sound for when we swim Alcatraz together next year in 58F water hehe :)

Naji

Ken B 08-21-2010 03:21 AM

Big chill
 
Hi Katie

I swam in my estuary till well into Autumn. The water temp dropped from a comfortable 18C to 15C. I love the feel of the cooler water but I have to limit my time to no more than 30 mins or I get cold to the core and take forever to warm up. Could be something to do with lack of insulation and age. In the water if I overdo it I start to lose coordination, a bit like when you realize you are biting your snorkel mouth piece and know it's time to get out. What really finished my season was the half day it took to warm up, even after hot showers. That and Merle worrying about her mad husband. Curiously, I joined the local mid winter swim at the beach on a truly horrible day. The water was about 11C with a nasty shore break. I swam out past it and was revelling in it then looked up and realized that everyone else was headed for the pavillion. That was about 5 minutes immersion and no ill effects at all. I am not going to try Naj's + 10% trick but now the days are lengthening I may don my 2mm sailing wetsuit and see how it is..

All the best

Ken

LennartLarsson 08-21-2010 09:14 AM

Hi Katie,
I live in Sweden and my house is right at the lake side. In the spring I start to jump in at about 12-13 C and it is terrible, really ice cold. I hate it at that time of the year. During the summer the lake warms up to about 23-24 C at the peak. Now we are at 17 and in September we will gradually fall down to 12-13 C again, but in the fall I love it. I feel great in the cold water. So the conclusion is, you need to adjust. To swim in 16 degree water when you are used to 32, no wonder you don't like that!

It looks like Naj has the best experience and I think you should listen carefully to his advice.

Lennart

westyswoods 08-21-2010 10:59 AM

Katie,
Warming the core takes a great deal of time. I would just like to reinforce Naj's first points about not waiting even though you may not feel it. Many years ago I was diving in Lake Superior, never gets warm, beautiful sunny summer day and all was well, until signs of hypothermia started. The buddies I was diving with at first blew it off long story short I ended up in a warm shower sucking up warm drinks for a long time, before I started to feel better. Take it very seriously and cautiously and know the signs. Hypothermia while swimming would be a good thread to start, need to get going to pilot for a Tri maybe will do so when I get home. Coach Sue are you out there, hint hint on hypothermia.

Swim Silent and Be Well
Westy

KatieK 08-22-2010 01:42 AM

Thanks to all for the replies. All that great insight was enough to make it worth jumping in that cold lake!

Lennart, I was really interested in what you said about acclimating throughout the season. There are three more open water events scheduled this year in Arizona. I'm committed to the September and October events, but I thought I would opt out of the November event (62F/16C water temps). Based on what you said, though, I'm hoping I can acclimate gradually by getting in a lake swim every week until then.

Westy & Ken, I found this article on the signs of hypothermia. It mentions that a person suffering from hypothermia is usually not aware of it. Next time, I'll consider that feeling of "not happy in the water" and "stroke not right" as possible signs.
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hyp...CTION=symptoms

Naj, if I could manage to swim Alcatraz without a wetsuit, I would love to do it.

Rhoda 08-22-2010 10:01 PM

One thing that I've found useful for swimming in cold lakes is not to jump right in. I go in for five minutes, scull around with my face (vagus nerve) completely out of the water. Then I get out and spend five minutes on shore, maybe wrapped in a towel, to recover from the initial cold shock. When I get back in again, the water feels much warmer and I'm able to put my face in and actually start swimming.
If there isn't time for this, I walk in slowly and splash cold water on my face along the way. Wearing two silicone caps makes a big difference, as a lot of heat is lost through the scalp.

cynthiam 08-23-2010 04:19 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Rhoda (Post 12660)
One thing that I've found useful for swimming in cold lakes is not to jump right in. I go in for five minutes, scull around with my face (vagus nerve) completely out of the water. Then I get out and spend five minutes on shore, maybe wrapped in a towel, to recover from the initial cold shock. When I get back in again, the water feels much warmer and I'm able to put my face in and actually start swimming.

If there isn't time for this, I walk in slowly and splash cold water on my face along the way. Wearing two silicone caps makes a big difference, as a lot of heat is lost through the scalp.

I don't do all of what Rhoda writes above, but I do scull around for a minute or two before I submerge my face/head. I too splash water on my face first and then go under & pop up a few times before I set out to swim. I'm aware that I might look a bit odd to other swimmers (esp. the very experienced ones), but I don't care one bit.

I also wear a (black) thermal cap with a neon orange latex cap over it. I know & see a lot of non-wetsuit swimmers in my area who wear only a latex cap during the summer, but 58 - 60F water is not summer to me! :eek:

I was a wee bit hypothermic after my first time in cold water, and I'm glad I had a sauna available. That warmed me up much more quickly than a shower would have. And a hot shower in that situation would not have been a good idea anyway -- tepid would have been the right water temp but I couldn't have judged that accurately. I did sip some pretty warm tea, and that helped too.

I'm new to open water swimming -- 2 months or so. I'm not yet as attuned as Naji to feeling the single degree (F) change, but already I can feel the difference of a couple degrees in water temp. I can only guess at what a shock to the system it would be to get into water more than 10 degrees F colder than what I'm used to. Plus altitude...yikes. Glad you're ok, KatieK. :)

Cynthia


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