Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Crazy Cold Swimming

Me standing with Kosuke Kitajima, the world champion breaststroker, before our swim Monday (well, not quite, but this guy A-Long is a tremendous breaststroker and I have to swim really hard at freestyle just to stay with him and often cannot). The numbers in the picture are in Celsius for the air and water temperatures.

In Taiwan, we have had quite a lot of cold spells recently, and the temperature in my office at home today never went above 68F, in spite of today being sunny and my room facing the sun, at least around the middle part of the day. The colder weather has also caused the water temperature at the pool to drop further. I remember when 73F felt cold. Then I got used to 68F and it did not seem too bad. Then 66F, and then anything below that felt cold, and the emphasis shifting from serious training to just seeing what I could withstand, and also only on an every other day basis.
Well, Monday may have been only 61F in the water and 50F out of it when I swam 1,000 meters, but this morning, the water was only 60F and the air temperature was only 44F at least when I entered the water. The push off the wall felt cold, but at least I knew I had swum in only slightly warmer water a couple of days earlier. On the first 50 meters I could particularly feel the cold air on my arms as my hands one by one entered the water. However, after about 200 meters I felt reasonably comfortable, at least comfortable enough to relax and slow down a little. At the outset I planned to do 1,200 meters and that is what I did. I could have done more. However, the problem is not so much with the swim, but having to handle things like a hot shower in a cold air temperature afterwards. I really don't know enough about all of this, but for one thing it was hard walking barefoot after the swim to get to the showers and I was not sure how the rush of hot water would affect my circulation, especially now that I was standing as opposed to being horizontal in the water. It must be a sign of age, I guess.
My stroke feels quite good, although the cold may make me feel a little delirious and so I wonder if I am zigzagging at times because of how I am set up when I take the pull or because my mind cannot think normally. I don't know. Hopefully, the cold weather will soon be gone and I will no longer face such a predicament. I really miss being in Hawaii at the moment (for the swimming that is).
It is a little unfortunate that we have to exit the pool at around 8 am in the morning. If I could swim, say, at midday, at least the sun would be a lot stronger. Still, when there are only a handful of people swimming, we are very lucky to be swimming at all.
I am not planning to swim the English Channel, and I realize that it is way beyond my capability. To do so, I would need to increase my body weight by about 20 kilos, and spend a lot less time working. If I did not live so far from the place, I would consider being a support swimmer, although I am not good at traveling by boat in anything but calm seas, and so I am not sure I would be able to perform when needed. Maybe I will just stick to pool swimming for now.
Anyway, in case I am looking for a pat on the back after all this, a 70-year-old gentleman swam something like 1,500 meters today in the same pool as me today, and he was there Monday, too. Hats off to him, truly awesome!
When I returned home at around 10:30 am, the sun was shining and you would not think it had been so cold earlier. On my bike are various fruits and vegetables I bought at the open-air market and some hard foam squares, the kind you piece together on the floor to provide a mat for doing sit-ups on or whatever. The 16 pieces cost me about 60 cents altogether secondhand. No need to buy them new. All they need is a little soap and a scrub. Kitty as usual was there to greet me.


Mark said...

well done Bruce
sounds like invigourating training, am sure you are wporking hard to keep warm and that the extra effort will be worth while come the race day

ShirleyPerly said...

Wow, what an honor to even swim in the same pool as Kosuke!!

And hats off to you for sticking with swimming during such cold temps (water and outside). My local pool is only 69 deg F. I have to wear a wetsuit but the most limiting thing are the days/hrs it's open. Hopefully, I'll make it tomorrow.