Following on from a very successful and recent 10km swim in Eton Dorney Lake, today I set myself a goal of three hours swimming in the cold waters of Tooting Bec. This seemed like a very realistic target on the face of things. But an anecdote from Nuala Muir-Cochrane, a successful Channel swimmer, quickly hit home.
For some reason that it’s impossible to describe, temperature in a pool feels absolutely nothing like the same temperature in a lake or the sea.
And it’s more than purely psychological. The water in Dorney seemed warm on Monday. We were floating around for a minute or two prior to the start, and I remember thinking it was very pleasant. I almost, almost thought it was warm.
Not so today! When I put my face into the water today, I really felt the cold. I felt chilly from the start, and I soon had to face the fact that three hours would find me in hospital... or so exhausted from fighting the cold that my swimming would be over for the week.
Bitterly disappointed with myself, I climbed out of the water after less than an hour. I was not tired, nor was I as cold as when I’d been when swimming in five degrees. But once I knew that my original goal was not going to be realised, my resolve collapsed. It was a massive setback after the encouraging four hours of exposure so recently beforehand.
The rest of today has left me to rue my lack of mental strength. It’s always so easy to do that when you’re warm: simply promise yourself you’ll ‘man up’ next time. But the negativity has gnawed away at me all day, and in the end I have decided to go back to the pool tonight and do another hour. That still won’t make up the initial three I intended, but it will make me feel a lot better... once I’ve warmed up again.
One truth remains: nothing about this challenge will have been easy!