Important Message on “Ice Mile” Swims

Over the last few weeks, we have seen many swimmers complete the very notable challenge of an “Ice Mile”. This is a 1.6 km swim in 5ºC or less. With so many swimmers having completed their Ice Miles this winter, others are becoming interested in trying it for themselves. While it’s great to see such enthusiasm for these swims, they do come with a warning label, as Ned Denison (who himself completed an Ice Mile last week) pointed out in an email to the Sandycove Swimmers mailing list yesterday evening…

Ned noted in his email that, over the last few weeks, many people have expressed an interest in having a go at one of these grueling swims. Ned is very enthusiastic about the growth of swimming and is always encouraging other to set big goals, so it’s fitting that he was the person to issue the following warning:

  1. These are not casual swims – every swimmer must have an ECG done in advance of the swim to ensure acceptable cardiac health, a doctor must be on site during the swim and there must be at least one extra assistant per swimmer.
  2. These swims must be regarded as “extreme” events and, as such, must be treated with respect. A lot of serious consideration must be given to your own safety and the safety of those around you before you even begin to plan an Ice Mile.

Ned also noted that, in the past few weeks, one swimmer had to be airlifted after one of these swims and that the three other swimmers alongside whom he complete his Ice Mile have no recollection of the back end of their swims! He also offered a few observations about recognising a swimmer who needs to be removed from the water and other important aspects of swimming in such cold water.

If you are planning an Ice Mile, please bear the above message in mind. Make sure that you have plenty of cold water experience, that you are in prime condition and that you are surrounded by qualified safety personnel experienced in hypothermia. The consequences of getting a swim like this wrong are just not worth thinking about.

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Irish Results from the Russian Winter Swimming Championships

Our four competitors (Nuala Moore, Anne Marie Ward, Pádraig Mallon and Noel Brennan) at the Russian Winter Swimming Championships have all returned home safely from Tyumen, Siberia following a very successful weekend. This morning, I spoke to Pádraig Mallon (Armagh) about how the hardened swimmers got on at the event…

Photograph – Facebook

“Team Irlandia” (l-r: Nuala Moore, Pádraig Mallon, Anne Marie Ward, Noel Brennan) with Jackie Cobell, the World Record holder for the slowest even English Channel swim!

Owen: First of all, Pádraig, can you tell us what the conditions were like when you first arrived in Tyumen?

Pádraig: When we arrived on the Friday, it was around –19ºC or –20ºC and there was no wind-chill factor, but there was a lot of snow and ice on the ground. This was what we had been told to expect so it didn’t come as too much of a shock.

Owen: Obviously, swimming in such extreme conditions is not without some major risks. What sorts of measures were in place to make sure that swimmers were safe?

Pádraig: The events were very well organised and were run by professionals who knew what they were doing. Everyone had to have an ECG and a blood pressure test before each swim, and if the doctors weren’t happy you would not be allowed to swim. This gave both the organisers and the swimmers peace of mind that everyone was fit to swim in 0.3ºC water. The recovery process after swimming was also carefully managed.

Owen: The 25 m and 50 m individual events and the 4 × 25 m relay event were on the Saturday. How did the Irish team do in these events?

Pádraig: It was a bit cooler on the Saturday, about –21ºC, but still not too bad. The first event was the 25 m breaststroke, Anne Marie came 4th and Nuala came 5th. In the freestyle, Nuala came 5th and Anne Marie came 6th. The women’s 50 m events were cancelled but Noel Brennan (Donegal) and I got to swim in the men’s event. The four of us also got to swim in the relay, which was a bit of fun, but we didn’t place.

Photograph – Facebook

Noel Brennan entertains with some unusual headgear!

Owen: Great stuff! How did the endurance events go on the Sunday?

Pádraig: It was a lot colder on the Sunday, between –30ºC and –33ºC during the competition. There was also a breeze, which made it feel even colder. Nuala and Anne Marie both did the 150 m and Nuala placed 3rd in her age group. I did the 300 m and placed 3rd also. The last event was a swim-off between two Russians, both going for the same ice swimming record. The winner broke the record by swimming just over 2,250 m in just over 1 hour 6 minutes…

Photograph – Facebook

Pádraig waits in anticipation for the start of the 300 m endurance swim…

Owen: Fantastic results, two medals for Ireland isn’t so bad at all! What was the highlight of the whole experience for you?

Pádraig: Definitely winning the bronze medal in the 300 m! I was only taking 50 m at a time. It was a great experience to swim against such a high calibre of swimmers and come out with a medal.

Owen: You must be delighted to be home at this stage?

Pádraig: Yes, we had an amazing time but I’m very relieved to be back in home to damp, semi-cold conditions!

Owen: Pádraig, thanks a million for taking the call. Enjoy the thawing-out process and have a great Christmas!

Pádraig is the organiser of the Camlough Lake Water Festival, which is held in August each year and includes a myriad of open water swimming events of various distances. He is waiting on confirmation that Camlough can also host winter swimming events in 2013 for anyone looking to experience the “euphoria” of cold water swimming for themselves, so watch this space…

Three Irish lunatics headed for Siberia!

Tomorrow, three lunatics from opposite ends of the Island of Ireland will board a plane bound for the heart of Siberia. Nuala Moore from Dingle in Co. Kerry, Anne Marie Ward from Co. Donegal and Pádraig Mallon from Co. Armagh are heading to the city of Tyumen to join fellow ice swimming enthusiasts from around the world for the Russian Winter Swimming Championships.

Photograph – Unknown

The Siberian city of Tyumen, Russia’s oldest settlement in Siberia, in the depths of winter.

The temperature in Tyumen at the moment is about –25ºC at night, with a daytime maximum of –10ºC. Good and “fresh” then! The swimming will take place in a specially made hole in the ice, just under the bridge in the above photograph, so the water temperature will be as close to the 0ºC as possible… The Championships get underway on Saturday, when swimmers will have the opportunity to swim in 25 m and 50 m events, on both freestyle and breaststroke, as well as a 4 × 25 m relay event. On Sunday, freestyle events in the 150 m, 300 m, 500, 800 m and 1 km distances will be available, as well as a grueling 1+ km endurance event for the real die-hards!

Photograph – Nuala Moore

Nuala’s training régime attracts some media attention!

The Championships are affiliated with the International Ice Swimming Federation (link below) and a potential Bering Straits crossing being planned for 2013. Swimmers may be accepted into this crossing depending on their showing at these Championships. Please join me in wishing Nuala, Anne Marie and Pádraig the very best of luck!

Thanks to Ram Barkai of the International Ice Swimming Association for providing me with most of the information for this post!