I have a tendency to take up a hobby, and take it up hard. I buy all the stuff. I read all the websites, and any books available. I find like-minded people on the internet, or in real life if I’m lucky. I buy more stuff. This is fine when it’s a cheap and not particularly time-consuming hobby like learning to draw, or something that I will continue to do for a long time, like running. Fortunately I have not yet taken up driving sports cars or anything too mid-life crisisy. But there is some evidence that open water swimming is my Next Big Thing. Look how ridiculously pleased with myself I am:
Swimming is not so much like running. To run, you need a good pair of shoes, a sports bra, and comfortable clothing that you don’t mind being seen in. You leave the house, you start running, you run as much as you feel like, then you return to the house and get a shower. You feel smug for the rest of the day.
To swim, you need a swimming costume you don’t mind being seen in, a brightly coloured hat and a tow float to ensure that you definitely can be seen, a pair of water shoes if you don’t know what it will be like underfoot, a towel and preferably a massive changing robe, something to wear afterwards, access to a hot drink, some means of carrying your valuables while in the water, and in my case, a change of glasses so that you can see where you’re going without risking not being able to drive home. Unless you’re very lucky, you need to travel to the water, rearrange your clothing, and talk yourself past the initial cold shock when you think it’s all a terrible idea. If in the sea, you can bimble around a bit and get splashed in the face, which is fun. If in a river, you have to swim up to the point that you have decided is halfway, and then swim all the way back (which is easier because part 2 is downstream, but if you’re already cold, you still have to keep going). If in a lake you have to book and pay money and swim around a course, but the upside is there are grebes and swans and coots and grey wagtails, which are all excellent. Then you have to get out and it’s cold and you have to take off wet things and put dry clothes on your damp body and drink your hot drink and put your wet things in a waterproof bag and drive home and have a shower. Then you can feel smug for the rest of the day.
In the lake you will also encounter the people that Susan and I refer to as The Triathletes. You can tell these people by the fact that they wear wetsuits when the water is over 20 degrees, and goggles, and they do the crawl, and they don’t notice the grebes or swans or coots or grey wagtails. They render the water choppy as they zoom past. They have very expensive changing robes with zips. They have to make a lot more effort to get the smug feeling. We are hoping not to succumb to any of this.
If you have a nice place to swim nearby, I will come and visit you.