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.
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.
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.