Monday, October 24, 2005

Grandpa Badass

If you were driving past the swimming pool in your neighborhood today, and it was around 2 p.m., you might have glanced over and seen someone sticking a barbecue thermometer into the pool. Then, you might have asked yourself "Who the hell is that?"

Well, um, me.

It was obviously important. Only something important would make me take a temperature probe and plunge it into the icy waters of the Great White North, otherwise known as "our pool." I only have one more week to swim outdoors before the pool closes until April 1, and I'm going to swim, even though it was only 65 today with a low of 44 this morning.

So after I finished swimming a mile this afternoon, I wondered about the water temperature. It wasn't so cold that I couldn't swim, but it was cold enough that I spent most of the workout fantasizing about all the clothes I would get to put on after a hot shower, and when I say "fantasizing" I'm not talking about a thong.

Let me just give you a few seconds to wash your brain out with soap after that disturbing near-image. Believe me, I'm even more horrified than you are, because I know what I look like.

So here's the sudden conclusion: sixty-seven degrees. That's what the digital probe registered as the water temperature. That doesn't even sound cold, but I promise--it is. It's wetsuit temperature (3/4 length, at least), but I'm not buying one for two weeks in October and two weeks in April.

While I was researching this, I came across an article titled "Wet Suits and Marathon Swimming." It was like stumbling into a dark alley and getting the hell beaten out of you. Now marathon swimmers are the hard core of the hard core--they eat marathon runners for snacks--but it was still pretty eye-opening.

Here are some choice excerpts:
--After a wet-suited swim, for fear of almost certain ridicule from "real" swimmers, don't even think of comparing your effort or your time with those of true (non-wet-suited) Marathon Swimmers who have completed the course.

--Tests in water above 20°C (68°F) showed that some swimmers may prevent a drop in core temperature by wearing a wet suit. Most marathon swimmers, however, would consider 20°C as Warm, if not Hot. Swims during the summer in the English Channel will likely involve a range of temperatures from 12°C to 18°C, while swims in Loch Ness and the Irish Sea will generally encounter water temperatures of 9°C to 11°C during the summer months.

--Chicago native, Ted Erikson, was the second two-way conqueror of the English Channel in 1965, conqueror of the Farallon Islands to the Golden Gate Bridge in 1967, and with legendary Abdel-Latif Abouf-Heif he was one of only two survivors of the historic 12-person, 60-mile race on Lake Michigan in 1963 from Chicago to Benton Harbor. At 71 years of age, Ted concluded a discussion of wet-suits with the definitive statement:

"If you need help to cross the lake, get in a boat."

One of only two SURVIVORS?

Oh, and by the way--did you see that Farallon Islands mention? That's where the highest concentration of great white sharks in the world hang out for part of the year. It's also a twenty-seven mile swim to San Francisco.

Here's the link:

I felt pretty tough when I got out of the pool today. After reading some of this stuff, allow me to amend that feeling to "soft as melted butter."

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