25th Jan

I’m in a lot of pain but somehow I’m still at the swimming pool. I’m going to try for 15 lengths this time. My knee says otherwise, so does the bruised burning feeling in my big toe joint, but I’m just going to ignore it for now, because sometimes I can’t tell if it’s pain from use or overuse. One things for sure I need to find out. I imagine and try and picture windermere and the blue tinted pool water turning the murky brown of the lake, the temperature of the water dropping and the occasional clap on ear from a boats passing wave. It’s not though its just some big lad heaving past me like a tug boat.

2nd Feb.

I wasn’t so good today in a lot of pain but still managing to swim. I’d intended to do 35 lengths but only managed about 27. I think back to the time I learned to scuba dive in this pool with the local sub aqua club, yes there is one! Right in the middle of the midlands, definitely not the idea place for it that’s for sure. Also the site of one of my worst memories ‘nose to mouth resuscitation’ when we had to practice open water rescue techniques and we had to simulate carrying this out. Ending with me with a dudes mouth round my nose, and then having to return the favour. Personally I think I’d rather die than wake up in the sea with another dudes mouth round my nose. Imagine if they woke up and sneezed right down your throat. Grim is not the word. In other news I have just purchased a low profile swim / snorkel / scuba mask especially for Windermere which I’ll have to get used to using, and it’s probably going to make me look like an alien.

3rd Feb

I am probably nowhere near ready for this but I suggest to Andy that we go and check out Dosthill quarry where we have been before for a training swim. Only thing is it’s February and It’s going to be absolutely brass monkeys cold in there. It’s fed by a spring so it is not going to be warm at all.The other thing I’m wondering is how I’m going to fit the lockdown / illness pot belly into my triathlon wetsuit. I’m not exactly looking ship-shape. Ship wreck maybe, or even chunk of whale carcass I could probably pull off, or maybe pass a neoprene coated twiglet.

4th Feb

I get up early and get my stuff ready then right out the door to head over and meet Andy in Nuneaton then drive over to Dosthill. The frost on the pavement glitters in an evil way in the pale yellow morning sun. I’m wrapped up in some pretty heavy clothing for mountaineering as usual but I still feel cold. This is not a good start. There’s also a burning sensation in my arthritic foot so bad it’s like someones holding a blowtorch to it.

When we get to Dosthill, apprehensive is an understatement. Alarm bells are going off in my head saying ‘don’t do this!’ and Andy turns looks at me while we are still sat in the car and says “Do you still want to do this? We could just go and get lunch instead?” Man, at this point it would be so easy to just give up and go sit in a warm pub, but this is me and I know if I give up now I might as well give up the whole idea of swimming Windermere and I’m doing it to remember vix in my own extremely crazy way. “Lets do it, I won’t forgive myself If I don’t” I say. Then laugh. This is going to be really traumatising. But it’s nothing like the trauma and discomfort I’ve already got through. Me and Andy are about to become Human Icebergs. Bring it on.

We walk to the cabin, which is basically a shipping container and let them know we are here and I ask the guys the water temperature with some weird hope that he’s going to tell me it’s warmer than Andy told me it was going to be early. Apparently not “it’s 6 degrees in there, do you have a wetsuit?” the guy in the cabin asks I say I do and I am glad for it, though it’s a triathlon wetsuit so it’s not going to be that warm. And even though I think I’ve got some kind of death wish Andy has brought a shortie wetsuit with him. For those who don’t know its a legless and armless wetsuit usually used in warmer weather. He decides he’s going to hire a full wetsuit which is probably a good idea.

We get suited up and head to the water, I step in and with my neoprene socks on and wetsuit I don’t feel too bad, its a little chilly. Andy steps in too and thats when the water leaks into my suit and the mere contact of the frosty water makes me let out a yell, followed by Andy also letting out a scream like he’s been attacked. I wonder for a second ‘why am I like this’ most people would be sat at home with a nice cup of tea. But no, not me I’m stepping into a freezing cold giant pond in the bottom of a disused quarry. I feel like the more the water seeps in a bit more of my soul seems out too, this is blindingly cold like ice cream headache level. Jack frosts icy palm squeezes my testicles, ‘Jesus’ I scream being suddenly as the icy water magically turns me from atheist to Christian for a split second. I dunk myself into the water and me and Andy start to swim, and I’m not warming up. It’s like taking a bath in local anaesthetic. When the shock of the six degree water reduces a bit and my brain starts to function again (maybe purely in survival mode) I realise we have been joined by three other swimmers. The other swimmers and us joke a little again how cold it is, and get talking about why we are doing it. Which is a really bloody good question. I explain about my reactive arthritis, and the ladies say they brought their male friend as the cold water reduces his swelling ‘its not the only thing that its brought the swelling down on!’ clearly meaning what all us dudes know. When we get out we will all know briefly what it would be like being born without a dick.

Tuesday 1st Feb

I think I may have overdone it yesterday night in the pool, judging by how much my legs hurt today. Bearing in mind I’m still recovering from reactive arthritis in the right knee, hip and foot. The days it hurts it just burns like hell and I can’t really put pressure on it like today. Yesterday though I swam 1400 metres which is a vast improvement, only thing is nobody not even the doctors can tell me what ‘overdoing it’ is despite them all apparently loving the phrase. The other thing is as it doesn’t flare up until the day after I have no idea if I’m doing too much. It’s pretty much totalled my day off from work though, I’d had in mind I’d go top the gym and start working on the rest of me but all I can manage is a zombie like shamble. I’m clearly not going anywhere today and what’s worse is I’ve got water trapped in my ear so I’ve lost almost 50% of my hearing.

Wednesday 2nd Feb

I’m still not able to walk well and when I tell my boss Hugh about not being able to hear in one ear he says something about ‘taking more personal responsibility’ well at least that’s what I thought he said. Maybe he was telling me I have amazing swimming ability? It’s not like I’ve gone out there thinking ‘yeah f*** it I’ll just lose half my hearing for a laugh. I think I’ll remind him of this next time he gets a cycling injury. On the bright side at least I can pretend I haven’t heard anybody for most of the day. In fact it’s probably one of the most peaceful days I’ve had at work for a while. I decide I won’t be forgetting my swim ear plugs again, there’s a fair few moments I wonder if I’m going to be hearing the sound of the sea in one ear permanently. Luckily towards the end of the day it clears up…the water must have evaporated.

Thursday 10th Feb

When I finally get my tired ass out of bed on my day off I get down the local swimming centre. And its good they have a lane swim in place but I instantly get stuck with the issue I’ve had many times before, there’s a fast lane and a slow lane and as usual the fast lane is clogged with people who seem to think ‘fast’ refers to them which it clearly doesn’t even if they had a shark in there with them. It makes me wonder how they don’t clock they should be in the slow lane after three other people keep on having to swim round them. After a few lengths in the fast I switch to the slow because my legs hurting a bit and about half way through a length a mass of hair appears in front of me, for second I think someones let their dog in the pool (which wouldn’t be that much of a surprise in Smethwick) but it turn out to be just an epically hairy dude, not a dog or a rug with arms and legs. He is also super slow and seems to think that backstroke without looking where he is going is a great idea. I swim alone considering the merits of buying a shark costume for next time I’m here.