February 7th dawned bright and sunny in Austin, Tx. This was to be the day I’d attempt a polar bear swim in the frigid waters of Lake Austin in my seemingly endless quest to acclimatize myself to the cold.
Several hours later I actually woke up and my friend LeighAnn and I headed to the Low Water crossing under Mansfield damn to meet my new swim buddy Lynne.
Steep, rocky bluffs on either side of the lake made for quite a stunning setting. Mansfield Dam loomed overhead, a concrete colossus. The drought in Texas made it unlikely that the floodgates would be opened, but I was still a little apprehensive about the possibility of being swept away in a torrent of icy water.
Having been assured that an alarm sounds prior to any such release, I waded in a few feet to dangle my trusty thermometer in the lake. 53 degrees. Hmmmm. Lynne’s thermometer read 51 degrees. A scary prospect in either case!
Procrastination is my middle name, and I lived up to my moniker like a champion!! Eventually Lynne asked if it would help to do a countdown in the hopes of getting me in the water. The thought of her counting to several thousand while standing hip deep in freezing water seemed downright cruel, so I took the plunge.
In the words of the most annoying person on the planet — BAM!!!!!!!
How did that elephant get on my chest!? Get it off, I can’t breathe! My skin stung all over. Head up breaststroke for a few minutes relaxed me enough to breathe and eventually put my head in and swim freestyle.
There was a large bloom of duckweed to swim over before reaching the clearer water. I believe Michael Phelps swears by it and I plan to harvest some and dry it out for personal use next time I visit.
Once the initial shock wore off, I began to feel quite good. A couple of hundred yards along I took the time to admire the houses perched on the bluffs. Very nice! I was very excited and did more talking than swimming, which was probably a big mistake. At one point we discussed when to turn around and decided on a jetty that was a little way ahead. I thought it best to warn Lynne that when I turn hypothermic, the symptoms come on very quickly indeed.
We turned around and headed back. BAM! In the space of a few minutes I went from feeling fine to shivering, losing my stroke, and hyperventilating.
Weirdly panicked, I announced that I was getting out right there and then!!!
After wresting with another bloom of duckweed, we landed on the shore in amongst a group of nice lakefront houses.
It’s probably not everyday that two women in full swimming regalia (one hyperventilating) approach your house out of nowhere to ask for directions but our rescuer dealt with the situation very calmly. He didn’t even shoot us.
I wish I could say our saviour was a squinty eyed toothless wretch sitting on the porch playing Dueling Banjos but I think that’s a different part of the country. Instead, we’d happened upon a very nice young man loading up a truck. We explained that we’d been swimming and decided to get out. He politely asked “how’d that work for you?”, and offered to drive us back to our cars. His wife brought us towels.
Imagine my friend LeighAnn’s surprise when we were delivered back to her via a truck!
After thanking our deliverer profusely, I wrapped up in fleece and had some hot soup from my dear friend Stanley (my thermos).
Time in water – 25 minutes. Temperature – 51 ish.
(I’ve got lots of pictures currently imprisoned in my recently deceased laptop. Hopefully I’ll release them soon)