orange hat ladies, sea swimming, illustrations, karen mead

Twelve months….and counting

Despite snow, hail and rain; despite the bitter cold and endless wind; despite the poo… Karen and I have managed to swim for a whole year! Yes, a whole year of daily swims (hence the daft celebratory outfits!).

What started out as a dare turned into a bit of an adventure. Karen having grown up in a hot country and, shall we say being a little less than enthusiastic about swimming in the sea by our homes on the Isle of Wight, was initially sceptical. But I managed to persuade her saying “it’ll be fun”, “we’ll get fitter and trimmer” and “it’s free”, and so we started swimming each day during the first lockdown last May. The summer arrived and the water warmed in the long rich days of sunshine and giggles. Our bodies turned brown and we swam a little further over the weeks. In the height of summer sun we snorkelled along the bay and felt amazed by what we could see on our doorsteps. This swimming lark was lovely.

Autumn crept in and the days began to shorten but the water stayed a manageable temperature. In fact looking back we feel that it still felt pretty good even into November (Karen, the renowned squealer, may challenge this!). Gradually as the temperature dropped and the leaves fell we donned an extra thermal hat under the orange hats and added rash vests up top. We had some pretty frisky wave days which inspired us to try out our ‘Fiona’ moves (look at our previous blog if you’re unsure) and acted like young children, giggling in the foam. We also invested in neoprene gloves and socks which were becoming more of a necessity. At first they felt weighty and restrictive but we soon became used to wearing them. And then all of a sudden it was Christmas Day and we were drinking champagne in the sea in a swimsuit and Santa hat with our husbands watching on in support (note not joining us in the water – Humbugs!). We had succeeded in the initial goal of ‘swimming daily in the sea until Christmas without a wetsuit’.

The trouble is once you’ve reached one goal you so often have already moved to the next, and before we knew it we were on into the New Year. But January was tough… and rather nippy. The sea temperature was falling fast and at it’s lowest reached 3C on Karen’s ‘handy’ greenhouse thermometer (which is regularly dangled low into the sea on a string). Even the sand on the beach froze and we decided that it was time to tackle wetsuit wearing. As many of you who have been following us will know, we didn’t get on too well with our wetsuits but persevered in order to keep swimming. We lasted two weeks in neoprene and decided that we would feel much more agile and comfortable without – and so returned to the rash tops, hats, gloves and socks combo. We swam in snow and we swam in hail but we kept on swimming.

By far the most difficult month was March. There were so many dull days despite the potential of Spring, and so many days with a bitter wind that went straight through us as we tried to pull on post swim layers. But driven on with flasks and homemade cookies we lived in hope of sunshine and warm breezes. Frustratingly the weather did not improve and so we just had to focus and move on. And then all of a sudden it was May again – our daily routine had somehow managed to steer us through and here we are twelve months later.

Throughout the year Karen has used her wonderful illustration talent to document our experiences. Those images say so much more than the photos we’ve taken and make me smile every time I look at them. It’s been quite a hilarious journey. We both feel that we’ve improved physically (well we’ve started to anyway ha ha) and are certainly more active. Deciding to do something everyday is hard to stick to and we very much acknowledge that we have relied on the other at times to keep motivation going. But more importantly we have laughed and giggled. We have ingested too much seawater in doing so and snorted and coughed with further laughter. We have discussed a huge range of subjects, worked ideas through and explored fears and anxieties. We’ve shared an amazing year of friendship – so thanks to my amazing swim buddy, it’s been brilliant.

Here’s to the next 12 months and new goals. If you’re wondering about sea swimming we’d say give it a go – you might even enjoy it. As I have told Karen almost every day this year whilst swimming in cold water…. “it’s not too bad”!

Orange hat Ladies, sea swimming, isle of wight

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