Hysterical Goose Pimples

It’s now a month since my glorious, cold-water, clothing-optional qualifying swim at Austin’s Hippie Hollow.

I’ve swum many yards in this month, but all in a balmy 80-82 degree pool.

With the big race looming over me (6 weeks to go), I’ve decided to re-acclimatise myself to cold water. After all, who wants to swim 17000 yard workouts in training only to to be pulled from the water during the race because of silly-old hypothermia!?

So, for the second time this week, I ran myself a lovely cold bath and lay in it for as long as I could.

HIVES!!!!

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Of course, my camera doesn’t do these raised, red, livid looking wheals any justice at all. Also my tiles need regrouting.

After consulting Google, I learned that my cold-induced hives were called “cold urticaria”.

Hives caused by the cold.

Apparently I suffered an allergic reaction to cold water.

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In the above picture the hives are very raised, red and look like a cross between a bad case of chicken pox and measles. This photo was taken only minutes after getting out of a 66 deg bath (immersion 25 min total-very minimal!). Very itchy. They covered both legs and were worse on my feet and ankles.

DermNetNZ.com says that my condition could be either acquired (most likely idiopathic), or familial.

At the moment I’m going with the acquired “idiopathic” cause. This is mainly because I’m a bit of an idio, and also because I disproved the familial. I convinced my skinny but daring 9 year old, Harriet, to get in the cold bath with me. You could have heard the screams a mile away, but when the big H takes up a challenge, she doesn’t give up. No hives on her!!

About.com:dermatology claims that in cases such as mine, swimming in cold water can cause “massive release of histamine resulting in low blood pressure, fainting, shock, and even death”.

DrGreene.com claims that cold urticaria is a really good excuse not to go swimming in cold water, and is made more bearable by extra hugs. However, the same Dr Greene also claims that cold urticaria can be a symptom of a number of unpronouncable diseases, including, but not limited to syphilis.

All the websites I consulted advised taking an antihistamine prior to taking the plunge. That would be ideal, but I’d have to campaign for the legalisation of the Li-lo so I could nap.

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Actually, I’ve only had these hives a few times before, and usually only when I haven’t been in cold water for a while. I didn’t even get them while training in Texas (though I did go dark red), so I assumed they were a Lake Michigan “thing”. Of course, our town water comes from the lake, so that might still be true.

Is that your Gu or are you just pleased to see me?

It’s done!! It’s done!!

The monkey’s off my back.

The 4 hour in 61 degrees or less qualifying swim for the Manhattan race is finally done!!

I arrived at Windy Point (Lake Travis, Austin) at 8am Sunday March 22nd. Air temp 64, water temp 60. Windy and choppy (it doesn’t look so in this photo). Terrified. The longest I’d been was 1 hour at 60 degrees.

After an extended period of procrastination, personal lubrication (vaseline), and psychosomatic illness, I took the plunge. By this time it was 8.18am.

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I swam a couple of sad, self pitying laps of Windy point for about 40 minutes.

Feeling miserable and cold, I asked my friend and observer LeighAnn for some hot soup. Out came Stanley, my thermos and second-best friend.

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Life suddenly got a whole lot better.

Buoyed by my newfound warmth, I headed round to Hippie Hollow to swim with some guys I’d only met via email, but who were nice enough to include me in their morning OW swim. LeighAnn drove the car and paid the hefty $10 parking fee. I swam there in about 25 minutes at an EZ pace to find my new friends already in the water.

Having checked out Hippie Hollow as a potential swimmin’ hole the day before, I knew what to expect.

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Not a problem. I had a very liberal upbringing down-under.

We swam laps of Hippie Hollow for about an hour and a half, blessed with a constant stream of entertainment provided by nudists engaged in a myriad of activities on the rocky shore. Stanley came to my rescue about every half hour, and although I felt a little uncomfortable, I never got to the point of shivering.

My new swim buddies, Robert Alford and Tom Fornoff finished their swim, and I realised to my delight that by the time I swam back to Windy Point I’d be more than 3/4 of the way through my swim!! Yippee!!

By this time the wind had picked up to gusts of 30mph and there were white horses everywhere. Tough conditions, but I think they distracted me from the cold and boredom of swimming alone.

I took my time returning to Windy Point and there was only about 30-40 minutes remaining when I arrived. One more shot of Stanley and a couple more laps and I was there!!

My last 10 minutes were occupied by swimming a bit of breaststroke, stretching and watching a catamaran capsize.

12.18 precisely (not that I was watching the clock..) and I was outa there!!!

Very happy, very relieved, very grateful to all that helped, and feeling a lot better than expected, I went back to my friend’s house, showered, dressed, had some food and a Stella. Bliss.

During the swim I think I had 2 quart sized Stanleys of chicken broth, some gatorade (can’t remember how much), 6 Gu’s and an Ensure with a chaser of lake water.

My only complaints during the swim were a sore lower back (probably from sighting over the waves) and squashed ears because I wore 2 caps (legal!!). I also saw several Texan sized Bass and unfortunately, from below, a middle aged man hiking in nothing but a pair of shoes and a daypack. Quite a point of interest.

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THANK YOU to all my friends in Austin, Texas, for helping me do something I didn’t think was possible. My friend LeighAnn Doherty and family, Lynne Smith, David Blanke and my new Hippie Hollows Robert and Tom.

Can’t wait to go back :)

Pearls of Wisdom

I’ve been a pretty hard-core, serious swimmer for 6 years now, and I think it’s my duty to pass on some of the valuable lessons I’ve learned the hard way.

Top 10 things never to eat/drink less than 1-2 hours prior to swimming:

1. A pulled pork sandwich;
2. Garlic bread;
3. 4 pieces of pizza (pepperoni);
4. Sardines;
5. more than 2 slices of birthday cake;
6. A really hot curry;
7. Baked beans;
8. a burrito;
9. 2+ cups of espresso (after the 3rd toilet break in a 1hr workout, don’t bother getting back in);
10. beer.

Top 10 things not to do less than an hour or two prior to swimming:

1. dye your hair red;
2. take an antihistamine;
3. apply self-tanning lotion;
4. get nice and warm in the hottub;
5. put on eye makeup;
6. start watching a long movie;
7. put a roast in the oven;
8. go for a long run;
9. go to the dentist;
10. donate blood.

I hope this has been helpful.

Beware the Ides of March

Tonight’s blog is a tired blog.

Today was my long swim day, and what a perfect day to be inside swimming for 4 hours.

It was the warmest, sunniest day we’ve had in Chicagoland for months. Aside from being tired, grumpy and in the final stages of Consumption, I woke up with “ladies” problems….grrrrrr. To cap it off, it was the Ides of March!!!!!!!

After much thought, I decided that the following would be a good workout:

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This turned out to be way too easy, even for a consumptive, and I finished it in a personal best time.

So after much melding and mixing of my various plastic baggy clad workouts, the following was achieved:

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yards swum: 13,100;
toilet breaks: 6;
coffee consumed: 20oz:
Nutrition: 3 bottles of water, 1 ensure drink (yuk), 20 oz espresso, 2 gels (lemon sublime and vanilla), 1 small block of Cadbury’s milk chocolate and 4 Tim Tams.
Recovery: 2 Stella Artois and miniburgers at the pub.

and there was much rejoicing.

It’s not over til the fat lady sings

This is more of a cry for help than a blog.

I’m doing a lot of long pool and OW swimming at the moment. A fair amount of my swims are solo, and I never really know what’s going to be swirling through what’s left of my grey matter during these sessions.

Usually there’s nothing at all going on upstairs, but occasionally I’m tormented by a song that’s completely annoying. I recently aborted an open water training session much sooner than I should have, and I honestly believe Jefferson Starship was to blame (NOT me!).

I’m sure I’m not alone.

What are the worst songs you can have stuck in your head during a swim??

Here’s a sample of some of the more painful songs I’ve endured during long OW swims:

1. “We Built this City” by Jefferson Starship;
2. “We’re all Alone” by Boz Scaggs;
3. “Lonely No More” by Rob Thomas;
4. “Island Girl” by Elton John;
5. “Dreadlock Holiday” by 10CC;
6. “Lumberjack” by Monty Python;
7. “We all know frogs go pop in the microwave” author unknown, but the party who suggested this song before a swim knows who she is…Kim Weeks….;
8. “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield;
9. “I’ve done Everything for You” again..Rick Springfield;
10. “Come on Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners;
11. “Jaws Theme” by John Williams.

I’ll end on that one, but there are many more.

Suggestions as to GOOD music to think of while swimming would be appreciated!

Chicken signing off…

Deliverance

February 7th dawned bright and sunny in Austin, Tx. This was to be the day I’d attempt a polar bear swim in the frigid waters of Lake Austin in my seemingly endless quest to acclimatize myself to the cold.

Several hours later I actually woke up and my friend LeighAnn and I headed to the Low Water crossing under Mansfield damn to meet my new swim buddy Lynne.

Steep, rocky bluffs on either side of the lake made for quite a stunning setting. Mansfield Dam loomed overhead, a concrete colossus. The drought in Texas made it unlikely that the floodgates would be opened, but I was still a little apprehensive about the possibility of being swept away in a torrent of icy water.

Having been assured that an alarm sounds prior to any such release, I waded in a few feet to dangle my trusty thermometer in the lake. 53 degrees. Hmmmm. Lynne’s thermometer read 51 degrees. A scary prospect in either case!

Procrastination is my middle name, and I lived up to my moniker like a champion!! Eventually Lynne asked if it would help to do a countdown in the hopes of getting me in the water. The thought of her counting to several thousand while standing hip deep in freezing water seemed downright cruel, so I took the plunge.

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In the words of the most annoying person on the planet — BAM!!!!!!!

How did that elephant get on my chest!? Get it off, I can’t breathe! My skin stung all over. Head up breaststroke for a few minutes relaxed me enough to breathe and eventually put my head in and swim freestyle.

There was a large bloom of duckweed to swim over before reaching the clearer water. I believe Michael Phelps swears by it and I plan to harvest some and dry it out for personal use next time I visit.

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Once the initial shock wore off, I began to feel quite good. A couple of hundred yards along I took the time to admire the houses perched on the bluffs. Very nice! I was very excited and did more talking than swimming, which was probably a big mistake. At one point we discussed when to turn around and decided on a jetty that was a little way ahead. I thought it best to warn Lynne that when I turn hypothermic, the symptoms come on very quickly indeed.

We turned around and headed back. BAM! In the space of a few minutes I went from feeling fine to shivering, losing my stroke, and hyperventilating.

Weirdly panicked, I announced that I was getting out right there and then!!!

After wresting with another bloom of duckweed, we landed on the shore in amongst a group of nice lakefront houses.

It’s probably not everyday that two women in full swimming regalia (one hyperventilating) approach your house out of nowhere to ask for directions but our rescuer dealt with the situation very calmly. He didn’t even shoot us.

I wish I could say our saviour was a squinty eyed toothless wretch sitting on the porch playing Dueling Banjos but I think that’s a different part of the country. Instead, we’d happened upon a very nice young man loading up a truck. We explained that we’d been swimming and decided to get out. He politely asked “how’d that work for you?”, and offered to drive us back to our cars. His wife brought us towels.

Imagine my friend LeighAnn’s surprise when we were delivered back to her via a truck!

After thanking our deliverer profusely, I wrapped up in fleece and had some hot soup from my dear friend Stanley (my thermos).

Time in water – 25 minutes. Temperature – 51 ish.

(I’ve got lots of pictures currently imprisoned in my recently deceased laptop. Hopefully I’ll release them soon)

I Shot the Sheriff

Howdy y’all!!

My quest to swim around Manhattan this June requires me to complete a qualifying swim in cold water. Brrrr!

I only did warm water swims last year, so am in dire need of accclimatization before attempting my qualifier. Of course, we’re a wee bit too frigid up here in Chicago for swimming at the moment, so..

Austin Tx, here I come!!!!

Actually I’ve already been to Austin a few times to brave the waters of Lake Travis. Between my old friend, LeighAnn, and my new friend Lynne Smith (English Channel swimmer extraordinaire!), I’ve got amazing support.

So, to honor the people of Texas, I present to y’all my new training suit…