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Old 07-11-2013
Janos Janos is offline
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Join Date: May 2009
Location: Liverpool, England
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Janos
Default swim your way to ill health

Hi all, we are enjoying a bit of a heatwave in the UK at the moment. Last weekend, like most swimmers, I headed for one of my favourite swim spots. In my case it was Porth Iago in North Wales. As the temperature at home was in the mid twenties I did not give my wetsuit or swimcap a thought and just packed goggles and trunks.
On arrival temperature was down to eighteen degrees, according to car, and the usual south westerly was blowing just enough to give you a bit of a chill in exposed spots. We set up our picnic spot out of the wind and headed for the water. My girlfriend thought the water was too cold, but I was about to enjoy my first outdoor swim this year, and was not to be persuaded. She went in up to her waist and enjoyed the scenery while I went for it. I have never felt so cold on my face before, a cold that you would think would go once I had acclimatised, but did not for many minutes. It is worth mentioning here that I have lost a fair amount of weight due to a serious illness, but thought I was on the way back up again. The cold seemed to seep into my bones, and then I experienced a warm feeling, but this was unlike the feeling you get when you are used to the cold. I swam for shore, and noticed my girlfriend had been waving for me to come back. She intuitively knew something was wrong. I arrived back barely able to swim another stroke. My arms and legs started shaking uncontrollably, I walked back to our towels like a puppet. We had to throw every towel around me and get back up the cliff to the car to warm me up...I was a quivering wreck. I had the early stages of hypothermia.
My reasons for writing are that, more through luck than judgement I have not experienced this before, and if the circumstances had been slightly different, I would not of made it back to shore. As somebody who has vast swimming experience, and who skis, rock climbs and sails amongst many other things, this is hard to admit! Previously I had often wondered how swimmers 'got into difficulty' and then drowned. I always assumed I would have something in my armoury to deal with any situation. I can assure you that circumstances can dictate otherwise. This may not be news to some people...but to the gung ho character, that I guess is me sometimes, this is a lesson that must be learned.
In summary, if you are cold before you get in the water, think again, or stay in shallow water close to shore.

Regards

Janos
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Old 07-15-2013
terry terry is offline
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Sound advice, Janos. Thanks for sharing your cautionary tale.
Did you have any sense of what the water temp might have been? Had you ever swum in water that felt of similar temperature?
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  #3  
Old 07-15-2013
Janos Janos is offline
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Join Date: May 2009
Location: Liverpool, England
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Janos
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Hi Terry, water temperature would of been between 14-16 degrees c. There was a noticeable on shore breeze, which I think lowered my body temp down before I even entered the water. I have swum in similar water but always in my wetsuit with a cap on too. We are enjoying the warmest and longest spell of warm weather in the UK for possibly four or five years. I can only assume this has affected my judgement! I must of confused Irish Sea with the Med.
On a serious note, I now understand that when your core body temperature goes into freefall, you had better have a back up plan. The sudden lack of coordination was a real shocker for me, and I can now see how even 'strong' swimmers can get into difficulty. Acclimatisation is the obvious message here. Hopefully my message may make somebody think twice before just 'going for it' in water that they are not yet ready to deal with.

Janos
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Old 07-22-2013
dougalt dougalt is offline
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Location: Asbury Park, NJ
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Janos,
Thanks for the candid report.
Sometimes the best motto is, "When In Doubt, Don't Go Out".
I face this type of decision many times when I go down to the ocean here in New Jersey. I'm "chicken" enough to walk away from dubious situations... most of the time. The hazard is pushing our confidence levels too high.
By the way, are you aware of the "Swim It" device, which is a rip-cord triggered life vest that is worn strapped around your thigh while swimming?
Provides a bit of safety back up when you're out there alone.... (check the internet)
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Old 07-22-2013
Janos Janos is offline
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Join Date: May 2009
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Janos
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Thanks Doug. That sounds intriguing! Will check it out. I totally agree with you about walking away. Perhaps it is braver and more mature to stand up to our childish over enthusiasm sometimes, then to just go diving in, in the name of adventure, or perhaps just showing off. I was back at Porth Iago this weekend, with my wetsuit of course, and had a fantastic swim. The perfect medicine for any malady.

Regards

Janos
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