Braving the chill at Barton Springs Pool…

Jennifer Dillahunty and Chanda Spies wear knit caps to keep warm when they swim at Barton Springs Pool. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

Jennifer Dillahunty and Chanda Spies wear knit caps to keep warm when they swim at Barton Springs Pool. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

The anticipation kills.

Just before I plunge into Barton Springs this time of year, I question my sanity. Surely that icy water will numb my fingers and freeze my toes. The shivers won’t stop until noon; the chill will drive so deep that no one will hear me scream.

The first step is the hardest. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

The first step is the hardest. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

Then I just do it. And you know what? It’s always warmer than I think. Always.

I swim at Barton Springs almost every Wednesday morning, slipping into its chilly waters just as the sun rises. The first lap or so, I can barely see through the dark. Sometimes, that’s a problem. Today, I smashed face-first into another swimmer. (I’m sporting a nice bruise and a small cut on the side of my nose to prove it. Whatever.)

It sounds weird, but the pool feels warmer when it’s cold out. I think that’s because there’s less difference between the water temperature and air temperature. In the summer, that gap can stretch to 30 degrees or more. It’s a shock to the system to jump in.

This morning, though, the water felt warmer than the air. Getting in felt a little bit like taking a dive under the blankets on my bed.

A shortie wetsuit helps, too.

I never used to wear a wetsuit at Barton Springs. My buddy Brian Vance and I swam there year-round, and the cold didn’t bother me so much. Then I lost a little weight – and got older. The cold affects me more.

But if I wear a wetsuit and keep moving, I’m fine. Now it’s almost December and I’m still going strong.

Steam rises from the surface of Barton Springs Pool on Wednesday morning. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

Steam rises from the surface of Barton Springs Pool on Wednesday morning. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

It’s getting out that’s tough. A cold breeze over wet skin turns me blue. I keep a thick deck jacket at hand, and make a beeline to the dressing room to change into dry clothes when I finish.

Today, though, I took my time.

I saw two women kicking across the pool, wearing knit caps on their heads to stay warm.

“It makes a huge difference,” Jennifer Dillahunty told me as she and Chanda Spies cruised toward the deep end of the pool.

Whatever it takes.

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