In hot water again

April 27, 2015 -- About four and a half years ago, a young guy named Fran Crippen died because he swam a race in water that was too warm.

I learned that from the internet after I returned from my 2-kilometer swim today.  Record-breaking heat has struck Florida; the weather is unusually hot for April.  Consequently, the pool in my neighborhood is warmer and warmer every day.  Today, the water was 101 degrees Fahrenheit.

Still, it felt cooler than the air, which was about 90 with about 80 percent humidity.  The sun was high in the blue sky; the clock said 1:25pm when I began swimming laps.

I told myself that if I started to feel poorly, I would stop swimming; I promised myself that I wouldn’t let the compulsive swimmer in me do something crazy.  And yes, I do drink plenty of water.

I felt fine during the entire swim, but I was wondering, the whole time, about how the body can take working out in such heat, with no evaporation to cool the body surface?  Normally, the water would take the heat away from the body, but not when the water is warmer than normal body temperature.

Near the end of my swim, a doctor (radiologist) arrived at the pool to swim his laps.  If I had started to swoon and drown, maybe he could have revived me.  I told him the water was a hundred degrees.  Just like a doctor, he went to the thermometer, examined it, and told me that no, it was actually 101.  Okay then.
The hot little pool on our street; it is 30 feet long.  220 lengths in this pool is slightly more than 2 kilometers.

The day that Fran Crippen died, he’d told his coach that the air temperature was a 100, and that the water was 87 degrees.  But instead of swimming a mere two kilometers, he was swimming a 10-kilometer marathon.  The race was in the United Arab Emirates.  The cause of death was unclear; some said severe fatigue, and some said heart attack.  I'd say it was a killer marathon.

One doctor who studies survival in extreme circumstances said that because of the body having difficulty in getting rid of the heat in 87-degree water, muscle spasms can happen.  The heart is a muscle, and when it spasms that’s called arrhythmia.  Lungs can also fail because of malfunctioning muscles.

I did notice that I started wheezing just a little in the second kilometer; but that isn’t unusual.  Well, I guess it isn’t unusual for me to swim in warm water. 

I think 87 degrees is fairly ideal.  So do some experts, although most say that for a tough workout, that is too warm; 82 degrees would be better.  Somehow, 87 degrees doesn’t bother me at all, even though I’m working hard for an entire hour.  But the 90s feel quite warm in the pool, and 101 is a little steamy.

When the famous long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad swam for 8 hours in 89-degree water, she said she became nauseous.  The sick feeling started about an hour and a half into her swim.  By the fourth hour, she felt terrible and her arms weren’t working properly.  Why the heck did she continue to swim in that water for eight hours?  That’s nuts.

The other community pool in my neighborhood has chillers.  It is also 33 percent longer than the pool I’ve been using.  The bigger, chilled pool is a little farther away, and not as aesthetically pleasing, but I think that if this heat continues, I’ll be bicycling over to it.

That may not be necessary, however, because thunderstorms may be rolling in this evening and continuing, off and on, during the next several days.

Let it rain!


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