This is a bit hard to write as I'm still suffering from the cold. It's worse when you get out of the water as your warm core blood heads out to your extremities, bringing freezing blood into your centre and making you shiver. But I did it! I was the slowest swimmer in the pack - in fact after the first circuit, I can't remember seeing the pack again. But I did it!
The temperature was around 14C at the coast and no warmer that 12-13C on the course - which was about 500m from the shore. The first circuit was fine. Somewhere during the second circuit, I started to feel I had strange lumps of meat attached to my feet. My toes had frozen, but it was bearable. By the third circuit, my fingers had joined my toes. I became claw swimmer. I couldn't close my hands and pulling was almost impossible. I think I swam the last circuit with just my legs - my arms forming some sort of feeble windmill claw-like stroke. Quite a lot of me wanted to get out and give up. But claw woman was determined to continue.
It's not all that unpleasant. The sun was on my back and the water was deep green. It was also choppy, which made me feel I was swimming in a washing machine. I seemed to have conquered my fear of sharks and even quite enjoyed swimming over the kelp forests. But being in cold water for a while does make you loose your sense of humour. I found myself getting angry at my guide who was trying to stay next to me on his surf ski, but kept falling off. I later found out he'd never been on one before - in which case, he was doing a pretty good job. But in the cold, I found it hard to appreciate this. I began to have uncharitable thoughts that a big shark would come and eat him. It was unfair, but it did cheer me up. Luckily a more experienced guide took over. He knew to stay within eye-contact and say lots of encouraging things, even though it was obvious that most of the other swimmers had got out, had lunch and were packing up to go home.
Still, I have now qualified to swim from Robben Island to Cape Town later this month. And now I think I'll go home and get warm.