Today is October 16, and I put in 40 laps of our pool (which is pretty long) and am looking forward to another couple of weeks of swimming. The pool is ostensibly heated but the heater went out for about a week and the temperature of the water dropped from around 80 to 68oF. We got the dang thing working again and today the temperature was up to 70. Nirvana.
Most of my friends can’t understand how I can swim in such old water, but you just have to consider where I swam growing up.
My family belonged to the Eel River Beach Club in Plymouth, MA (it’s still there) and the pool at the club was salt water. A huge pump used to draw water from the end of a long pipe that extended out into the ocean (actually Massachusetts Bay) to fill the pool. The average temperature of the water in MA Bay is in the low to mid-60s in the summer, so when that pool filled it was cold. It warmed up with use but was drained and refilled regularly.
This is what it looks like today – a lot bigger with no high dive but the pump house (blue top) is still there.
The beach in front of the club was where most of the adults who weren’t playing tennis or watching kids would go, because the pool was always a storm of activity: swimming and diving lessons, practices for meets, and of course the rough and tumble games of Hill Dill or Corner Tag.
This is a picture of my cousin Peter and me in the pool – I was probably 10?
I would occasionally go down to the beach (on the other side of those cars) with my Mom and take a dip there. Every day like clockwork, an elderly, very fit man who lived on Manter’s Point overlooking the beach, would come down with a thermometer and tell us the water temp. I swear it was frequently in the 50s, and even when it was warmer, it was usually only the top four inches or so. The minute you dropped below the top layer, you froze.
Our idea of a swim was to run into the water, get wet, then stay in either swimming or just moving around until you couldn’t feel your skin. Then you ran out and lay on a towel in the sun, reveling in the warmth.
So cold water is not much of a challenge for me. I usually quit swimming when the pool gets to 60 (November) and get back in in March or April when it warms up to 60. The four months in between are dark days for me – no swimming. I can’t stand overheated, over-chlorinated gym pools where you get run over in the lap lane, although I have been driven to a few water aerobics classes just to enjoy being in the water.
Cold water is denser and will sink in warmer water, which is why the ocean is colder on the bottom. I swear swimming in cold water takes more energy, too, but it could be a figment of my imagination.
The coldest water I have ever been in? Off the coast of Maine on Memorial Day. The water there averages 47-51 degrees and my Dad bet me a dollar I wouldn’t go in. I absolutely did but came out in the same motion.
And there you have it: why I swim in cold water!
PS We have a hot tub in which I can warm up in afterward.