From our breakfast table, we could see Lake Bolsena, Italy. The lake looked calm and friendly as the sunrise filtered in. However, we measured the outside temperature: 5C. It was going to be a cold day.
Once we arrived at the South side of the Lake, where we would start our adventure, we measured the shallow shoreline water temperature: 11C. Nice and refreshing. Considering the swim would be 13km in distance, we opted for a wetsuit. Our friend John, who will be making a solo attempt at swimming the Channel this summer, however, braved the temperatures and decided against a wetsuit. While John had built up a little more insulation than us for exactly this purpose, we were impressed with what he was about to attempt. Cap, goggles and Vaseline on, we set off at around 9am, to swim from Capodimonte to Bolsena.
I only realised how cold I was during our first feed, about 40 minutes in. I couldn’t open the water bottle that our boat had thrown out to me. In theory, drinking while on the go is a very efficient way to refuel. In practise, the inability to move my hands prevented me from having efficient feeds. Despite being very cold, I stay focused and continued to enjoy the feeling of being in the water with having the sun warm up my back.
After an hour and 51 minutes, John, who had been swimming without a wetsuit, felt a ring of cold around his belly, a sign he was really getting cold. Understanding the risks associated with hypothermia, He made the decision to get out of the water. Knowing your own limits and acknowledging the gap between mental and physical strength is not easy. He knew he had given it his all and was happy with the swim he had. Watching this decision making from John was a valuable learning for us.
We continued swimming. The feeds ticked by and, while we could see the shore, often it did not look to be getting any closer.
Four hours and 55 minutes after setting off we reached the other side. With John’s help we jumped onto the boat and quickly put on five layers of clothing in an attempt to warm up. Down jackets, gloves, hats and some food all helped to get our shivers under control.
Once warmed up, we found a fantastic local restaurant at the shore of the lake. We enjoyed delicious Italian fish from the lake and stunning wine from the vineyard beside us – life couldn’t get any better.
Lake Bolsena, we will be back. Next time, no wetsuit!