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Impetuous boy! Dive! - John C. Kirk

May. 9th, 2010

06:38 pm - Impetuous boy! Dive!

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Today I went swimming at Tooting Bec Lido for the first time. This is an unheated outdoor pool, so it was quite cold: the board said 12°C, but one of the other swimmers thinks it was a bit colder than that. That's warmer than the OSS December Dip (6°C), but I also stayed in for longer: I did 4 lengths (91m each), which is equivalent to 18 lengths at the local Virgin Active gym. I averaged about 5 minutes for each length; one effect of the bigger pool is that I get fewer opportunities to push off from a wall, so that slows me down.

I was a bit nervous before I went, since the weather's been quite dingy lately. However, this is the first free day I've had in a while, so I didn't want to waste the opportunity. The basic idea here is "proof of concept", to see whether this was practical. Now that I know I can do it, I can go back with more confidence, and it should get easier as the weather gets warmer.

I recently joined the South London Swimming Club, so I get "free" entry to the lido all year round. We're still in the winter season at the moment, so I can only go between 7am and 2pm, and my basic plan is to go on my way to work. It's an 11km cycle ride from my flat, which acts as a nice warm up; today I rode home afterwards, but I would normally continue to Balham or Clapham Junction (a shorter distance). I'm not planning to go every day, but I also don't need to take a long swim to "justify" the trip: since it's en route anyway, I can just do a couple of lengths to wake myself up.

I don't have a wetsuit, so I just wore my normal swimsuit. (I may get a wetsuit at some point, but I suspect I'd have trouble carrying it on my bike.) Looking at the other people in the pool, it was a mixture of swimsuits and wetsuits, but I think that the people wearing wetsuits were probably training for triathlons. Anyway, they seem like a friendly enough bunch. The SLSC website has a rotating banner at the top, and one of the images shows a bunch of people having a snowball fight in swimsuits! At least I can take comfort that it wasn't that cold today.

I guessed that some things would take a bit longer on my first visit, since I needed to find my way around. For instance, there are a couple of bike stands in the car park outside, so I locked my bike up there. However, I then discovered that there are several more bike stands inside the pool area (i.e. someone would have to climb over the tall fence to get to them), so I went back and moved my bike inside. There are male/female changing rooms, but most people got changed in the cubicles around the edge of the pool (the doors have bolts). There were few enough of us that we could effectively claim a cubicle each and leave our clothes in there while we swam. I didn't see any lockers, so I think they're assuming that outdoor swimmers are basically honest people.

Rather than diving/jumping in, I went down the steps at the shallow end. That took the water level roughly up to my thighs, so I then crouched down to immerse myself up to neck level. (Best to get it over with quickly, rather than standing shivering for ages.) This left me gasping for breath, but I started swimming, and I felt warmer after I'd done about 20m. I alternated between breaststroke and front crawl, although my crawl was really more like a doggy paddle, since I didn't want to put my head underwater! I stayed close to the side, in case I got into trouble, but I didn't have to grab hold of it until my final length (when I retrieved a bottle that had blown into the pool).

When I got out, my teeth were chattering, and it took me a while to warm up. I think some heat was draining from my bare feet into the concrete floor, so I need to take sandals with me next time. Fortunately, I always carry "emergency chocolate" with me, so I felt better when I'd eaten a Wispa.

I didn't enjoy this quite as much as my previous outdoor swimming, and I think that may be because the sky was cloudy. Even if the water's cold, I think that it looks very inviting when the sunlight reflects off it, and you don't get that effect in an indoor pool. However, all in all I think this was a successful trip.

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