As the proud owner of a winter birthday I think I’ve always had an affinity with the cold. Many a birthday plan has been ‘adjusted’ because of inclement weather (snow and ice) and I guess that over the years I’ve learned to truly love the winter and all it brings.
I became an open water swimmer in July 2007. I’d entered the London Triathlon and had bought a wetsuit one week before the event. I didn’t bother trying it out (fail) and after panicking for 10 minutes at the start of the race (mainly because I couldn’t see the bottom or anything at all as soon I’d put my face in the water), I was off like a rat out of a drainpipe and from then I knew I was hooked.
I spent the next few summers adventuring wildly in bodies of water that were anything other than a pool. This mostly took the form of swim events, some in lakes, some in rivers, lots in the sea. All carried out with the bestest of swim crews whose membership ebbed and flowed like the waterways we loved. Sometimes life gets in the way of adventuring, however much you try not to let it.
Fast forward a few years and a milestone birthday loomed. How did I want to celebrate it? With a sea swim of course! Even if it was January! A gaggle of gorgeous friends all gamely joined me. We were a vision in neoprene and silly hats as we ran squealing into the sea, didn’t swim that much and ran squealing out again.
There was one maverick however, one person who ditched the neoprene and ran into the sea in nothing more than his bathers and a swimming cap. I remember looking at him open-mouthed as his skin turned lobster red and privately thinking “Why?”. Nowadays, the wife of said brave swimmer says that he served as the prototype for my future swimmer self.
That day we had so much fun…the warming up in a café by the wood burner created more laughs and special memories that were very much part of the ‘swim’ itself. Such good times.
A new birthday tradition was born and every year I toddled off to the sea on that day looking forward to the initial shock of the cold water. Then one year, I decided to go without the wetsuit….just like Mr Prototype! That first time, I scanned the beach for onlookers and scuttled to the water’s edge, crossing my fingers that no one would think that I had taken leave of my senses and phone the coastguard. Coastguard encounter avoided, I managed a very sweary 10 minutes of actual swimming before scuttling back out of the water and back to my car….the deed was done….cold water swimming outside in just my togs (traditional speak for just your bathers) and me?
We were new best friends.