Wednesday, January 27, 2016

CSO: Or why I didn't swim this weekend

I live in Seattle and swim in Puget Sound (or Lake Washington). Recently I've been swimming most often out of Alki beach in West Seattle.

Seattle has a dirty little secret. That is, with each large rain storm, the city releases thousands of gallons of sewage into the waterways, both Puget Sound and Lake Washington.  This is done to keep the sewage from backing up into the streets when the storm drains are full.  That's, on balance, probably a good idea.

However, I don't especially like swimming in raw sewage.  And so, when the rains are heavy, I check the city website for information on if the Combined Sewage Outflows (CSOs) have fired off.  If they have, I don't swim.

Here's the chart from this weekend, with my swim point marked with an arrow:

One might argue that the CSOs near my swim site weren't dispensing, so why not swim?  Well, I once got VERY sick after a swim with that logic.  So these days, a red or yellow CSO means no swim for me.

I hope to be back this weekend.  And, as the days are getting (slightly) longer, perhaps an after-work swim will be back on the agenda soon!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Getting Warmer...

The plan for this week's swim was to "hyper warm" before the swim and see if that helped with my time in the water.  The short answer is, it did!

Here's what I did... Prior to swimming I tried to keep my body warm. This started when I got out of bed, immediately putting on sweatpants and a sweatshirt, even though the house was comfortable. Then I kept the heat up in the car on the way to the swim, and wore a puffy jacket and hat until the moment I put on my swim gear.

That's me under the arrow. You can see in the pre-swim group photo I'm still wearing my hat and coat.  I was nice and comfortable.

For the swim I wore two caps (one silicone, one latex, that's just what I had on hand) and my booties and gloves.  I swam for 25 min or so, to the second stair case. And I felt comfortable the whole time (OK, the cold side of comfortable, but still ok).

My one mistake came near the end of the swim. I started chatting with another swimmer and just gently paddling. This got me COLD.  My fingers started chilling first. I tried to make fists inside my gloves and ended up removing the gloves, which just made my fingers colder.

For the first time, I did have a small amount of the teeth chattering after the swim.  This only lasted about 30 seconds and I was able to control it.  But that is the threshold I don't want to cross. I think I would have been ok, and not had the chatters, if I'd not done the slow paddle chat and instead finished swimming. I'll know for next time!

Air Temp- 40. Water Temp- 48.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Learning about cold water

Great January 2nd swim at Alki.  Met up with the gang, got in the water, and got COLD.  Ended up feeling like my fingers were colder than I wanted them to be, so I got out. Air- 29, Water 48, time in water, about 15 min.

I've been thinking about why I got colder faster this time. It might have been the air temperature, but I'm not really sure how relevant that is when your whole body is in the water.  I think what happened can be seen in this photo.

Of the two in red sweatshirts, I'm the one on the right.  You will notice that my hands are tucked up inside my sweatshirt sleeves for the photo.  This is a sure sign that I'm feeling cold. I think I was too cold before I even got in the water.  And therefore, couldn't truly get warm from swimming.

I have a big puffy jacket that I often wear in these colder temperatures, but had realized a few weeks ago that it is so non-breathable, that the warm air from the car heater wasn't getting into it to warm me post-swim. So I left it at home. I didn't think about how it could help me pre-swim.

My goal is to try to heat my body a bit more before the swim next time, and see if that helps.  If not, I may go back to the wetsuit, so I have more time in the water.

The good news is that my fingers re-heated quickly and I maintained my fine motor skills, so I was unlikely in any real risk of frost bite. I am glad, however, that I made the decision to get out of the water when I did. The goal is always safety first!