I've been spending time recently finding out about wetsuits and the like. Wetsuits appear to be vital for open water distance swimming. Particularly if it's a) early on in the season (which is late April-Sep) and if b) you havent acclimatised yourself to swimming in cold water.
Triathlon associations mandate their use if the sea temp is 15 degrees or less. In Dover last weekend the water temp was about 11. The temp probably wont get over 15 until late June.
Having said which, there are some who regard wetsuits to be for wimps. The Channel Swimming Association dont believe in them. Indeed, anyone who wants to make an "official" crossing of the English Channel (from England to France) has to do it just in their trusty speedos. And wearing an industrial tub of vaseline :)
Channel swim training started off in Dover harbour a couple of weekends ago and nobody there was wearing anything more than a cossie.
(Of course they didnt stay in the water long!! Apparently the water sessions were 2 * 30/40minutes each day. So I guess it's the principle that counts ;) )
There seems to be something very eccentric about all this. They say that "you have to have a touch of the loony about you to be an open water swimmer". So it could be just the thing for me!!
On which subject, I love the following video : www.tide.org.uk/films (Old Man in the Sea)
The equivalent for running appears to be the Hash House Harriers movement. Those guys are also loveably eccentric. Maybe I'll try that in the autumn/winter.
(Hashing usually involves meeting up at a pub and then going off for a run. It's a bit like hunting - one guy acts as a hare and the rest of the runners are the "pack" that go after him. There are a lot of rituals and silliness attached to it, and of course a fair amount of drinking :) Hence the motto of my local hash club - which is that they are "A drinking club with a running problem" .... lol ..... )