Rain and Wind, Wetsuits and Open Water Swimming : Featured Guest Blog

By Liz Stephenson-Payne

On a rainy, cold Thursday I arrived at the Roundhay Park Boathouse. The rain was bouncing down and I have to admit my Leeds Girls Can do attitude was a bit dampened. I was here for a GoTri 'Tri Something New Beginners Open Water session'.

I was met by the 'Tri Something New' team who were going to be guiding us through getting in and out of wet suits, entering the water safely, adjusting to the temperature, sighting from the water so you know where you are and getting out of the water.

The boathouse was a bright warm refuge out of the cold rain and the team welcoming. One of the team suggested the session would probably be cancelled because of weather conditions as they were concerned about putting beginners into the cold water whilst it was raining. Much to the teams' surprise, when the rest of the group arrived we voted to go in. We were a ladies group as no men appeared, we certainly showed a #thisgirlcan attitude 😊

We first went through the hilarity of fitting and getting into a wetsuit. We were given advice on how it should fit and how to get into it. We all felt we’d done a gym session before we’d started. Then, we were advised on how to put on swim caps and goggles, a must for open water swimming.

After the wetsuit session, we trooped out to the lakeside and the pontoon from which we would launch ourselves. We were nice and warm from wrestling on the wetsuits so we had to acclimatise to the water temperature. To do this, we wet our hands, wrists and face to get things started and slipped in. We the lay on our backs in a starfish position. This gives you a chance to get over the initial shock of cold and to let the breathing normalise. The wetsuits give you buoyancy so you don’t sink. The rain stopped briefly and it was quite pleasant lying there looking at the grey sky.

We did some practice loops of a short course to get used to swimming in a wetsuit. We could do either breaststroke or crawl, face in or head up. Swimming in a wetsuit is different from swimsuit, my breaststroke is usually sleek and strong, in a wetsuit it’s more like a doggy paddle 🤣.

We then practised sighting and vectoring to make sure that the swimming pack swims the same distance (no having to swim wide around buoys) and coping with other swimmers swimming over you.

We swam a couple of longer loops. By the end of this it was raining hard again and we were all getting cold so we called it a day. Our training team was impressed with how long we had stayed in and how much we had covered.

So getting out of the water, certainly for me was not graceful but I managed it. Then more hilarity getting out of our wetsuits, a quick dry, fingers too numb to do up my bra strap and then warm clothes. I thanked the team and then home to my husband and a warm stew.

Liz Stephenson-Payne - Leeds Girls Can Ambassador

Liz is one of the original Leeds Girls Can Ambassadors. She used to teach Yoga, loves running, she is an excellent swimmer, chair-based exercise instructor and walk leader. Most importantly she is a great friend and a wonderful ambassador - truly showing us that #thisgirlcan. 


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