Friday, 3 February 2012

Colder than cold


I have a friend who says she doesn’t get into water that’s colder than 28°C.  I think she might be wiser than first impressions let on (she occasionally wears leopard print). A vitally important part of my training is acclimatising my body to being in really cold water for long periods. Whoever said hell is hot has no idea of the torment and trauma it takes to submerse oneself for 60 minutes in 120C water.

Willpower. Sheer, stubborn, mind-over-matter willpower has to be mobilised from my unwilling brain to get my body out of the front door on a chilly morning. And then into the water. I have previously trained in, and when the ice thaws will have to return to, Heron Lake.
At 5:30 am.

Having cleared the hurdle of actually getting out of bed (did I mention how much I like a warm toasty bed) and donning a Speedo, the next challenge is to actually get into the water. Breathe-in, breathe-out, breathe-in, breathe-out, and visualize. And then it hits you - pure anaphylactic shock, but without the allergy part.
Excruciatingly. Cold. Pain. Like an icecream headache except that the icecream runs into to all parts of the body, trailed by the pain.
Hyperventilate, hyperventilate, hyperventilate.

All this only lasts about 90 seconds, but it feels like eternity (which I guess is what hell’s about). Those pre-birth breathing sessions I attended with my wife, as a passive observer, have renewed meaning now.

Survival instinct kicks in. And your body, your muscles, in fact every single cell in your being, screams OUT, OUT, OUT! And the only way to deal with this is to muster what’s left of your willpower resources to put your brain into 'body override' mode and swim. Swim like a finned and scaly Usain Bolt. Two minutes into this you begin to feel that your genes might just, just have showed true Darwinian mettle (the adapt or die adage), and that you’ll survive. Maybe thrive even. And therewith starts the day’s training.

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Wayne likes pork pies and Guinness. He likes routine and predictability. He loves his family. He's 40+, short(ish), balding and battling with waistline expansion. He's been known to occasionally play a good round of golf, likes to tinker with 'stuff' and has rescued a group of friends from the African wild by fixing a Land Rover with a jellybaby.

He's never been a great fan of physical exertion. In short (apart from the jellybaby incident), Wayne is an ordinary person. And he's about to do something really amazingly, astoundingly and astonishingly extra-ordinary. He's going to swim the the treacherous, never-been-swum-before channel between Kintyre (Scotland) and Ballycastle (Ireland). For charity. This is his story.