The forecast said 47 degrees Tuesday, the alarm said 5:45 a.m., and I questioned my sanity. Was I really going to head our to Walden pond for one last swim on the first day of autumn? Peer pressure is sometimes a wonderful thing.
My friends were waiting when I arrived at 6:33. We pulled on wetsuits as the sky faded from black to purple to pink. Steam rose from the dark water, creating an eerie haze. After a few obligatory photos, we shed our jackets, pulled on our caps and made our way to the shore. The water was cool, but warmer than the air. We stood around waist deep, letting the water seep into our wetsuits. It wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it would be, but this was definitely no summer swim. Knowing I’d be warmer once I started moving, I dove in and started heading for the opposite shore. Four other bodies followed suit, and soon Katy was leaving me in her wake.
I swam with no fear, a big change from my first morning at Walden back in June. The fog made it tough to see one another, so we stopped halfway across to regroup, floating and giggling like eight-year-olds at summer camp. We paused again when we got to the other side. The sun was just rising above the trees, casting everything in a golden light, and making it impossible to see the shore we’d just come from. Everything felt special in that moment: the friends who have trained beside me all summer (heck, all year); this pond with its stark beauty and deep, mysterious waters; the sunrise, which always delights me.
Regardless of whether I’m on a bike, in a pool, or on my feet, exercise is an opportunity to get out of the confines of my life, to be reminded of the wonders of the world, and to shed superficial thoughts and needs to find a truer version of myself. I never feel more authentic than when I’m engaged in a physical activity, pushing my limits and letting my mind wander. Yesterday was a perfect example. It was also a reminder of how far I’ve come. Three years ago, sub 50-degree weather was the perfect excuse for skipping a run. Now, I’m swimming in it.
We swam back in one fell swoop. It was beautiful out there, and much quieter than it was just a month ago. It felt like I had the whole place to myself.
I swam ahead of the group and ran up to retrieve my phone in its drypak so I could take some photos. Unfortunately, it was so cold that my phone died after just a few shots.
Getting out was the hardest part. It was cold! I toweled off as fast as I could, hopping from food to foot on the cold ground. I ran to my car, turned on the heat as high as possible, and drove to a local coffee shop to warm up. In my haste to get warm, I didn’t even turn around for a last look.