In my previous Blog I was describing the techniques my daughter Emma and I were using to help us to contemplate the Christmas Day Swim we had committed to for Bude Surf Life Saving Club.Well, we did it, and lived to tell the tale.

It was minus 10 degrees that morning, with snow on the beach, and yet we had an exhilirating experience which we wouldn’t have missed for the world.

And to cap it all, we featured prominently in the newspaper coverage of the event, which is the biggest non-wetsuit Christmas Day swim in the West Country (500 swimmers).  That’s us at the front, seemingly leading the charge.  (In fact we were strategically positioned mid-field, so we had “pacers” in front of us and no turning back because of the massed hoards behind us!)

The most useful technique in the moment was the unleashing of sheer adrenalin, and simply matching the challenge with energy and “go for it” attitude.  I think this comes out quite clearly in the video (the first to use my new Flip Underwater Video camera case).

The event offered us the usual salutory lesson in mental limits.  There were moments for both of us when, if offered the choice, we might have elected not to go ahead and do the swim.  In my experience there are three things we tend to do which lead us to shy away from life’s challenges, and they are all self imposed.  These are:

  • Assumption.  “Because the air temperature is so low, our bodies won’t be able to cope with the cold.”  “It will be so cold that the shock will be too much and I’ll have a heart attack.”  And so on.
  • Exaggeration.  “There is ice and snow on the beach, which means my toes will freeze on impact and I’ll get frostbite, meaning I’ll have to have them amputated.”  “It’s so cold, no one will be mad enough to do this, so we’ll be the only ones there.”  And the like.
  • Illogicality.  “I can’t find my flip flops so I won’t be able to walk on the beach.”  “We can’t park in our usual place so we are going to be late.”   It’s amazing how creative we can be when we don’t want to do something.

Fortunately Emma and I were working as a team, and we helped each other to deal with these little moments of madness, and in the end it all worked out fine.  We’re glad we did it, we raised money for a good cause, we shared a memorable experience and expanded our personal mental limits a wee bit.  I doubt we will ever have to do a swim in such cold conditions again, so from here on in every Christmas swim will be a doddle!

Let me finish the year with a tribute to our dog, Rufus, who on Boxing Day decided his role as a Cocker Spaniel needed to be broadened to that of a Husky, and showed us how to pull a sledge with a human on it.  Uphill, and backwards.  He is an inspiration to us all, and the most motivational creature I know.

Warmest wishes to you and yours, and here’s to a mentally robust 2011!

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