Originally Posted by KatieK
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.