Originally Posted by Rhoda
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!
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.