It’s Election Day today. And while I will at some point stop by the polls to cast my vote, I elected to do sometime else this morning. I chose to don my long-sleeved wetsuit, neoprene booties, gloves and cap and go for a early November open water swim. Since we’ve had some unseasonably warm temperatures this week, I thought I’d opt for one last open water swim.
After a short 30 minute bike ride among the fallen leaves and colorful palette against the azure sky, I felt warm and brave enough to enter the water. My husband instructed me on how to use the selfie stick to document this insane activity (his words, not mine). I too agreed it was slightly crazy, but I thought I’d just go for it and not over-think it.
I posted an invite on a closed facebook page the day before. I was hoping I’d be more brave if I had someone to share in my misery. For various reasons, I didn’t have any takers.
So…a solo adventure it would be.
At about 9:30 am, I stood in the water for a few minutes to acclimate my feet and legs. Then I slowly crouched down to get the top half of my body in the water. “Not bad,” I thought to myself, “This might not be as crazy as I thought.” Fully immersed, I pushed off the lake bottom, started my watch (of course) and begin swimming.
Everything seemed fine, for about 10 seconds. Suddenly my heart started to race and my head started pounding. Really pounding. It wouldn’t stop. I have never voluntarily experienced that kind of cold on my face before. I could barely move my arms to make any forward progression. I needed to fix this. My goal wasn’t to just get in the water and get out, I wanted to swim. I was planning on being in the water, swimming, for about 30 minutes.
I tried breast stroking, which was more like a glorified doggie-paddle for a few minutes. That helped with the pounding pain in my head. Then I decided to flip over onto my back and backstroke until my breath got under control. This turned out to be a great idea! I could look at the crisp blue sky and enjoy the heat of the sun on my incredibly numb face. I continued this for about 10 minutes.
As I reached my turn-around point, I decided to put my head under the water again. I wasn’t foolish enough to think that the water was any warmer. I just thought my tolerance might have increased as my overall body temperature rose from the continuous movement. I was right. I was able to swim for freestyle for a little more than 15 minutes. As I neared my dock, I decided to swim in circles close by my house so that when I was sufficiently freezing, I wouldn’t be too far.
I started to get into a rhythm. I was relatively warm and thought, “I could keep this going for quite a while.” I was surprised by how warm and comfortable I was feeling.
Unfortunately, this feeling of euphoria was fleeting. As I started to take inventory of my various body parts, I realized that my feet were quite cold and my hands, while a tad warmer than my feet, were not happy.
My internal dialogue was continuing. “I’m good,” I thought. “I swam for about 30 minutes. I have nothing left to prove to myself.” I swam back to my dock, took another selfie and exited the lake…satisfied with my adventure.
Maybe it was a coincidence. But I think there was a reason I decided to take one last dip in the lake, on Election Day, of all days. Four years ago today, I elected to have major surgery to significantly lower my risk for breast cancer. Some days it seems like a distance memory and others it feels like it was yesterday. But today, exactly 4 years later, I elected to remind myself that I’m alive, thriving and having fun pushing myself beyond my limits.
A warm shower, wool socks and a few layers kept me warm for the rest of the day, despite the temperature reaching over 70 degrees!