A couple of weeks ago I went for a swim in what were possibly the most miserable conditions I’ve gone for a dip in. I nearly didn’t. My wife and I sat in the car in the seaside car park at Gullane as the icy rain and north-easterly wind buffeted the windows. Down below us, the sea was fierce, wild, scary.
Sheltered in the car, it would have been easy to call the swim off. Instead, we waited. I got my head in gear and prepared myself mentally for what was going to be a very challenging swim. By the time we’d got on to the beach 10 minutes later the rain had stopped and wind eased ever so slightly; a reward, it seemed, for my perseverance.
Gullane beach is one of my favourite swimming locations. Even on this wild November day it was stunningly beautiful. At the other side of the bay, far away, a couple of dog walkers edged closer as I briskly stripped then cut across the sand to the water’s edge.
The swim was spectacular. The sea less cold than I’d feared. The waves were buoyant, wild and exciting. Jubilant, and in between gulps of cold air, I was laughing like a crazed loon. I torpedoed through the waves out towards the sea, and body-surfed them back to shore. I swam perpendicular to the line of the coast, rolling this way and that as the wild crests crashed around me and the waves lifted and lowered me with each peak and trough. It was fantastic fun.
When the rain started up again some 10 minutes later, I didn’t want to get out, but I could feel the chill kicking in and didn’t like the idea of getting changed into wet clothes.
I felt amazing afterwards. The double buzz combo of the swim and for overcoming the mental hurdles I’d placed in my head. Back in the car, I had realised that no matter how cold the sea was (it was about 6C) and how tortuous getting in would be (the tide was far out), that I would feel worse for not getting in. I knew that the mental punishment I’d pay for bottling it would be far graver than the actual physical discomfort of getting in. Once I had that equation clear in my head, it was easy committing to the swim.