I flew to Bremen, in Germany, on Monday 15th November for a Masco Europe Leadership Programme. As I arrived at the hotel I had a text from my colleague Lindsay, saying that while the hotel boasted a ‘large swimming pool’, she thought it would probably seem more like a ‘large bath’ to me. I jokingly texted back asking was there not a lake nearby that I could swim in?
As I woke on Tuesday morning, I put on my running gear and headed to reception to ask for a recommended running route. The lady on reception reached in the draw for a map and pointed out that 200 yards from the rear of the hotel was a lake which had a footpath all the way round. I asked if swimming was permitted in the lake, she confirmed that indeed it was, but with an expression on her face that said “but surely not this time of year – no one would consider swimming in the lake in these temperatures”.
I headed off for my run, around the lake, which was a very enjoyable 8.5miles. The route took me through parks, past hotels, one small town, Bad Zwischenahn, a number of lovely wooded areas and also across fields and various bridges. On many occasions I enjoyed a delightful view of the rather ‘inviting’ lake.
Now, I have to confess, the more I have got into this open water swimming lark, the more of an ‘anorak’ I have become. There are an increasing number of occasions that, when driving, walking or travelling by train I see a glimpse of open water and think ‘how inviting does that look’, ‘I’d love to swim in that!’ – Well, today was no exception, and despite the time of year and cold climate, I was keen to swim in Lake Bad Zwischenahn before the week was through.
Over the next two days, the conversation about swimming in the lake picked up and by Wednesday evening, my support crew – consisting of Lindsay from ‘Moores Furniture’, Lorraine from ‘UK Windows’ and Mark from ‘Lane 4’, were had committed to meeting at 07:10 the following morning.
As I headed to bed that night I realised I was missing two critical items for open, cold water swimming, I had neither a swimming hat nor ear plugs! I made a quick trip to reception, but as you may guess – such items were not for sale.
Unusually, I enjoyed a broken nights’ sleep, waking up several times thinking about the inevitable ‘brain freeze’ I would endure the following morning.
Finally, the alarm went off and I met my loyal crew in reception, as we walked outside, I realised I’d miss-judged the amount of light there would be at 07.15 – safe to say it was dark, very dark.
We walked through the park and to the end of the pontoon, before I stripped down to my trunks, posed for a quick photo and climbed down the steps into the black icy water. For the second time in a week my thoughts were… OMG! How cold is this water! I swam away from the pontoon towards another we could just about make out in the dark. The water was icy cold and although my body, arms and legs were all okay, my head was hurting with just how cold the water was. I had to pull up, out of frontcrawl 2 or three times into breaststroke in order to lift me head out of the cold.
After several minutes, I had made it to the second pontoon and wanted to make a quick turn-a-round to make my way back again. I turned and looked up ahead, into… darkness. I genuinely had next to no idea which direction I needed to swim back to – everywhere was either dark grey or black.
I called out the support crew, partly to let them know I was okay, partly to let them know I was turning around to come back, but mostly to obtain a bearing of which direction to swim.
On the way back I managed to keep the frontcrawl going all the way, and it felt like only a few minutes before I was back, I could make out 3 tall silhouettes standing in the dark. (Yes, even Lorraine’s 4’ 6” looks tall when silhouetted in the dark, standing on a pontoon 2 feet above the water line) I quickly reached for the ladder and climbed out.
The crew were brilliant, they quickly passed me my towel and hat, took a couple more photos and commented on how mad they thought I was to have completed the swim.
Just before we walked back to the hotel, I paused for a moment, I knew it really had been only a very short swim, and for a moment I was tempted to go back and repeat the two lengths, but the team talked sense and told me to be happy with the achievement and to go and enjoy a warm in the hotel pool and spa. I duly followed the instructions, and after a brief walk back ‘slowly’ progressed from the pool, Jacuzzi, steam room and even a few minutes in the sauna before heading to breakfast.
As I said in my last blog, open water swimming of this kind is very exciting and fun, but you do have to be sensible, swimming as I did without a support crew would have been irresponsible and dangerous. I therefore would like to publically and formally thank my crew for their support…
Lindsay, Lorraine and Mark, ‘THANK YOU’
Thank you for getting up early,
Thank you for your patience in the cold, dark drizzle, and
Thank you for allowing me to indulge in my weird sense of enjoyment.