Since that last Forty Foot dip and before I started coughing for Ireland I had four more swims at Seapoint. This catch-up chronicle will be the last post before the real-time, big freezing November plunge which I have to say I’m a little queasy about. November can be the time when people sensibly hang up their togs. I’ve been googling health risks associated with cold water swimming and the good news is if you’re acclimatized it’s not a problem usually… My only preparation though this month is that moment or two before the hot water of the shower kicks in. And I’ve been dodging that cold spray bigtime.
Sounds, Sights, Smells: seagulls, cormorants, pigeons, the smell of decomposing autumn leaves, the green DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) train whizzing by, jack hammer hammering on the street above, water splashing, the morning dog walking brigade.
Didn’t think I would go in each time, but each time I saw the other swimmers and that did it. Arriving hot with stress beforehand, afterwards leaving delirious with my new porpoising purpose.
Swim Number 1:
The sky was bruising as Monty says in Withnail and I and it was chilly out. But I felt charged up with my mantra: I am brave. I am brave. I am brave I chanted as I walked down the ramp, just barely avoiding sliding in a tidy little pile of dog crap. Good thing the singing council man bleaches the steps everyday. A few people were swimming. An older lady with very muscular arms and short boyish hair. I swam about, got a slurpee headache from the cold and instinctively found it helpful to bark through the first minutes of swimming. Wooof woooof woof. (Later on I found out this makes sense, according to the internet you are meant to exhale when you first get in to cold water.) After the cold passed I frolicked gladly about and managed to crash into the Hillier, scraped my knee but not badly. When I got out of the water the woman with the good pipes was busy drying herself off. She said she was turning white from the cold and I said better than blue. She said she has bad circulation. I thought that was supposed to be one of the benefits of cold water swimming. Ha, she said she’d been swimming forever and hers hadn’t gotten any better. Maybe though it would be worse without doing it… I asked how often she swam and she said she used to go everyday for two years but she had to quit because she was getting obsessed with it. So now she stops in November.
I got dressed and decided I would add speed walking après-swim on the seafront as part of the ritual. Helped enormously to warm up.
Swim Number 2:
Another cold morning, but it was sunny! I wasn’t sure if you could swim at Seapoint at low tide. I went down there and hung up my stuff and sure enough when I looked out to sea I did a double take and saw a woman walking on the water like Jesus far in the distance. She must have been out 200 yards into the open sea, walking on a sand bar. I got in and swam in the shallow water, getting up to stand when it was too shallow and my knees were grazing the bottom. It was uneven, there were deeper bits here and there. I followed the Jesus woman, assuming she must be following the depth. A few others got in. A dark-curly-haired man who I had often noticed sunbathing and reading his book was in the water. I basked in the sunshine and icy water. It was a welcome relief to the gong show at home. Monkey number 2 had turned a corner in toddlerhood, he was now being more adventurous and smashing plates like he was at a Greek wedding and frisbeeing bowls. I was in a different time zone out here in the middle of the sea on an ordinary September morning. Temporarily unavailable. In my own Atlantis universe I could do handstands, a low-tide bonus.
After the other swimmers got out I followed suit. I headed back to the ramp and thought I was on it, but stumbled on a rock. Nothing serious, I was able to grab the railing. The seaweed made the ramp a little slippy.
Drying off, the curly-haired man said to me, “You nearly went!”
“You nearly went!”
Hmm, what does he mean? “I did get in!”
“No, you nearly went! If you miss the ramp, you can twist your ankle badly there, it’s full of rocks, you need to get on the ramp.”
Seadog told me later went meant died (or something really terrible) in this Dub-speak exchange.
I think this guy fancies himself a guardian of the place. One time when I was there with the family having a look-see he was going around the place telling everyone that he’d found something, never mind what it was, but if you’d lost something, come talk to him.
After I had done my little speed-walking strut I saw him reading his book, in his shorts, sunbathing. It wasn’t hot out that’s for sure. Still, a great way to spend your mornings if you’re not working. He was definitely getting his vitamin D.
Swim Number 3:
I was filled with no way am I gonna do this. I did it, all the while fantasizing about wetsuits wetsuit wetsuits. There were two youngins in them and they said they were toasty. The super skinny green-hatted woman I’d seen before arrived and walked in, dipped her toe and then went back to put on black sea gloves. Another oldtimer was doing jumping jacks beside the martello tower.
In the mornings I always wonder will I do this? I give myself permission not to. I put on mascara and perfume to confirm that I won’t. But I put the swimming bag in the car just in case, and sure enough the school run mania and other people swimming make it happen. Fear and a kind of positive masochism are a part of this. At night in my bed with my fuzzy socks and flannel bed sheets, I shiver thinking of the cold water. I think no way am I getting in again tomorrow. No way.
Swim Number 4: It was low tide again and a super sunny, blue sky Indian summer day: 18 degrees. There was the Jesus woman again swimming far out to sea, some big-bellied Sopranoes-looking guys standing in the shallow surf talking business. I was surprised given the temperature outside how cold the water still was when my toes hit the ramp.
A young guy with tattoos was getting in near me.
“Oof,” I said.
“Amazing how cold it is!”
“Yes, imagine for me especially, I am a Spanish”
“Oh,” I said stupidly, “Is it much warmer in Spain?”
But he was off doing his determined crawl to the horizon. I got in and I felt the usual resistance. Why bother my body thought, just get out! But watching the Spaniard crawl and the Jesus woman swimming in the distance I knew that if I persisted, if I in fact surrendered to the cold something amazing would happen. I keep re-learning you have to surrender to the cold. Let go. Give in and then the bliss happens, your body relaxes. Break the cold barrier = bliss. Would rubber speed this process up? And then suddenly the ecstasy happened and I was communing with nature first thing in the morning, in the middle of the city. And I’d tapped into the wonderful stillness of the morning before too much of the day’s hustle and bustle has kicked off. I imagined I was a synchronised swimmer, I swam on my back and splashed my feet vigorously, making delightful arcs of water spray up in the air. The drops almost in slow motion. This has got to be the most refreshing, zesty way to start the day.
Later I got out and I saw the muscular old woman showering topless and the sunbathing guardian ..guy reading his book, oblivious two feet from her. It’s great how jiggy it is here.
Song that sums up my general feeling of well-being following swims: The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)
I have been leaving my two pairs of goggles and bathing cap around the house to dry, on the radiator or counter or wherever. I especially like the aesthetic of the goggles. It gives me a thrill to see them out of the corner of my eye especially when I’m miles away from writing or adventuring and am elbow deep in the mind-numbing mountain of housework four humans can generate.
I was cheered to see two swimmers out in the bay at 10:30am on a rainy Halloween morning. Next blog update: prairie dolphin goes Hardcore in November…
PS I’m sure from now on, I promise, my updates are gonna be shorter!
PPS You know that game where people decide which vegetable they are? If I was a foodstuff after my swim, I’m pretty sure I would be a few scoops of lemon sorbet.