A friend of mine Peter and I have swum this week in New England. It's an example of how one person can inspire and motivate another. I started swimming in the ocean beginning on April 16 (@ 49 degrees F.), then I swam again in late October, after enjoying my cold river and ocean swims all season. But my friend kept going.
I got an email from him the other day, describing how he ran then dived into the 46 degree waters off South Boston. So I determined that it was my turn. I went over to Plum Island in the early afternoon. The air was 43 degrees F., sunny and breezy, and the sea was well...cold.
I walked for about a mile and was completely alone on the pretty windswept beach. Small waves were rolling in on the purple Atlantic water. The sun glinted off the chop. Properly motivated, I found a sea-battered log, stripped down to my bathing suit, and placed my clothes on it in the order that I woujld put them back on, pants to shirts to coat.
I was about 40 yards from the sea, toward the dunes. Pool thermometer in hand, I sprinted down to the water up to my knees. It didn't hurt, like cold water sometimes does. I was actually surprised that the temperature was quite bearable, given that we have had nights of 20+ degrees. I took a quick reading with the thermometer and it was 47-48 F. A personal record, but only by about a degree. I would not have done any of this if my friend hadn't sent me the email first, and I was having good healthy fun.
I looked around for bundled up walkers, faintly embarrassed, as if someone was going to call 911 ("a person is trying to end it all..."). I was still alone. I dived in. Oddly I didn't gasp (the mammalian diving reflex). I popped up pretty quickly, with the familiar all-body numbness and bathed in beta-endorphins.
I ran back to my clothes, put them on in order, then wandered back down the sand with a kind of runner's high, ruminating over solving the problems of the world. In other words, these cold-water swims are excellent for your state of mind. I had skied in Vermont four days before, a ski/swim first for me, and I think I felt colder skiing than I did swimming.
I couldn't wait to email my friend Peter. Motivation and camaraderie.
A footnote. Walking back along the wooden walkway to my car I heard gun shots. I actually smelled cordite, a whiff of gunpowder. Men were shooting in the estuary towards the Plum Island River. Weird. Driving home, I gliding up to a traffic cop, and he said "they're allowed to bird hunt." But a stray bullet taking out a bird watcher? It didn't seem all that kosher.