This was to be the first year for me to swim through the winter season. My schedule continued nicely into January, but then I got hit with the flu, which was the third time since September. This kept me out of the water for a few weeks, and I am still not fully recovered. My muscles are itching to get some exercise, so I finally took the cold dip on Monday of this week. As soon as my head went into the water, I was gasping for breath. This lasted about 10 minutes until I calmed down and was able to do about 1,000 yards (900 meters). The gasping is related to a nerve in the face which has a reflex behavior when dipped in cold water that causes the heart to start beating hard and the lungs to contract. Since I was regularly swimming in cold water through December, however, this had gone away for me. The few weeks of slacking off caused me to revert to a more normal reflex behavior.
Yesterday I swam again and the gasping reflex was mostly gone. Today I skipped, but tomorrow I will try again. The water temperature is likely a bit less than 50F (10C), but my swim partners are the ones with the thermometers and they are all avoiding the lake at the moment.
Finally there was the low water level which was due to the "drought" over the summer. Water is now being pumped from the local arroyo into the lake, so the level has increased by perhaps 6 inches. It could use another 6 feet to get back to a reasonable level. Restarting to a regular schedule mid-winter is somewhat more difficult than just keeping it going through the fall. A final note is that the lake cools rapidly in the fall, but it warms much more slowly. The cold water will be with me until mid-April.