The life lived in Lycra is quite a sweaty one, I’ve found, but it’s not as sweaty as a life in rubber. I went swimming in a lake for the first time on Friday and the first mistake I made was quite a basic one. I got into my wetsuit far too early on one of the warmest evenings of the year so far. Rubber is not breathable, famously so, Wearing black rubber on a warm, sunny evening meant I soaked up the heat like the first gecko in spring. I thought for some reason it would feel a bit like wearing a condom all over and it really, really didn’t. It felt more like being inside one of those basting bags which seal in all of the flavour, in this case the flavour of armpit and groin sweat seasoned with a soupcon of BodyGlide. Only a barest smidgeon of BodyGlide because I’d forgotten to buy a new stick. It’s on the list for next week along with talcum powder.

I buddied up with Colin and Linda who were good enough to allow me to join them and waded a few steps into the water. I was expecting it to be cold but it wasn’t too bad. In fact the top two or three inches were oddly warm which meant that my hand had the sensation of passing through the warm surface layer and down into the colder water below. After two or three doggy paddle strokes I tried putting my face into the water. I was expecting to see nothing in the murk. I fact, I could see my arms and hands through the water. When some water inevitably entered my mouth, it tasted thin somehow. Chlorinated pool water tastes thicker.

I’m used to swimming for about 20 strokes then taking a break as I push off the side of the pool. That obviously wasn’t happening this evening. I still stopped for a break and trod water or floated on my back for a few moments to get a break or find my way. I tried to concentrate on my stroke and breathing, blowing out bubbles. It didn’t always work. There were times when I couldn’t push any air out at all and I have no idea why. I tried humming but got hung up on what tune I should hum. Handel’s Water Music seemed appropriate but I couldn’t remember exactly how it went, not with my head under water. Humming at least stopped me shouting for help which would no doubt have brought instant attention from the lovely men in the canoes.

I enjoyed having the extra buoyancy of the wetsuit. I sometimes forgot to kick and it didn’t seem to matter. My legs were floating up easily. It was actually difficult to do breaststroke in the wetsuit, so very slow was it. I hardly made headway at all. I only did it for two or three strokes at a time to get my bearings. I also had problems swimming in a straight line. I’m so used to following the blue lines on the bottom of the pool at Green’s. I kept pulling to the right like the cheapest hire car at the airport. I had to make a conscious effort to keep left. Linda had to keep calling to me to swim to the left a bit more. The old adage about men drifting to the right as they get older seems to be true after all.

I’d like to upgrade my Garmin to one I can use in the water too. I like to have the time and distance logged. I also like my toys. I have a PoolMate swim watch just now which is very good for swimming indoors. Its accelerometers allow it to count the number of strokes per length that you swim. It assumes that the pauses in a set are your glides at the start of a length so it counts the lengths you swim too. It’s a clever bit of kit but it doesn’t have GPS so it can’t work outdoors. The Garmin Swim watch doesn’t have GPS but there are a couple of Forerunners which are intended for multisports but I’ll have to save up a bit before I can buy either of them.

I have a lot of work to do if I’m even going to finish the swim at the Cambridge Triathlon in a scant few weeks but it was a good first session. I need to be less of a wuss about swimming crawl in murky, cool water. I did enjoy the session. I think I swam between 700 and 800m.I intend to build up to swimming an entire lap of the lake – about 1.4k – by the time of my big race. It’s a little shorter than my race distance but good practice.

My thanks to Linda and Colin for swimming with me and to the rest of my new clubmates at BRJ Run and Tri for laying on such a wonderful evening’s swimming. I’ll be back at the lake next Friday, lubed up, talced up, rubbered up and raring to go. I might even remember not to be quite so keen to get into my wetsuit.

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