The new course for the attempt then would consist of five laps swimming parallel to the shore in front of Rotary Beach and the car park. We estimated the swim would take 50-55 minutes and we knew that was just about my limit at these temperatures. Just last week I swam two laps of the course accompanied by Ashley in the kayak with Leora and Angelique on shore. I was happy with the course and I think Ashley was too as she would also accompany me during the 1.5 mile attempt.
With spring like temperatures last week I knew this would probably be the only time I could get this swim done before the water temperature rose above the maximum 5°c. The swim was set for Saturday afternoon.
The team for the day was:
Ground Crew: Angelique, Leora, Dean
Medical supervision: Dr Mark Fromberg
We met at my house and had a team briefing. This allowed me to discuss the new route with Mark. It was decided that in the early laps I would try and swim as far past the proposed turn points as possible, out towards the end of the wharf, to get as much distance in as I could while I was fresh. This was a plan I was happy with knowing that if I had to pull out of the swim early again every one of those extra metres could be vital. The wind began to pick up outside and I didn’t fancy the prospect of swimming against the wind as well as dealing with the cold. We set off for the beach, Ashley and Leora set up the kayak and we had our now customary team photo featuring Angelique’s now famous Canada flag towel.
The team earned their stripes as they took measurements to determine the average water temperature, Ashley was wind swept down the lake in the kayak and soon afterwards Mark could be seen perched on the edge of the wharf while Dean balanced precariously on the metal steps at the end of the wharf to take a reading in the deeper water.
I tried to remain calm but was becoming increasingly concerned about the wind gusts. In the summer I would have no problem swimming in the wind and the slight chop on the water, in fact I would really enjoy it. I did briefly consider calling the attempt off, but knew that as this may be the last weekend we could get this done I had to give it a go no matter what. The start point was 400 metres or so down the beach and through the car park. As I walked with Mark I’m sure he was giving me words of encouragement but (sorry Mark) I wasn\\\\\\\\’t really listening. I was getting my head into the swim.
At the bottom of the steps I started undressing and felt the wind chill my legs. I was keen to get stripped off and going, maybe a little too keen as I ripped my lucky Aqua Sphere swim cap. Damn it! Just when you think you have everything covered. All of my spare gear was at 400 metres away at the other end of the beach. Leora ran down to grab a handful of spares. Now I was ready to go. Except my Finis Hydro Tracker didn’t want to play along. I had turned it off for the few minutes it took Leora to grab my spare swim caps. When I turned it back on it seemed to take forever to re-acquire the satellite signal. In reality it was probably only a couple of minutes but I began to wonder if fate was trying to tell me that the swim was not meant to be.
Eventually I was ready to go and went through my ritual of splashing cold water on my arms, chest and face. I was just about ready to go when a gust of wind blew right across my back chilling me and I thought to myself “ Just get going and get it done” GPS was now on and tracking, I gave the team a thumbs up and we were off.
The plan as ever was to be patient and swim breast stroke while I regulated my breathing and slowly introduced my head and face into the cold water. This was fine until I turned into the wind. The water was hitting me directly in the face; I took in several mouthfuls of cold water which found every one of my sensitive teeth. Ouch! I also had cold water going up my nose.
“Holy shit!” I hadn’t even made it back level with the guys on shore and I felt like I was struggling.
Talking to myself:
“This is what it’s all about Paul.”
“Dig in and get that freestyle going”
“6 strokes, 8 strokes, 12 strokes”
“16 strokes, 20 strokes. This is it keep going”
I was soon making my way out towards the wharf, I was sighting off the cars parked at the aquatic park and then started to bear left towards the end if wharf as far as I dare in the deep water. By now my body, hands and feet must have been numb because I don’t remember registering the cold. As I made the turn I heard Ashley cheering.
The next lap passed by really quickly and I was soon turning around the buoy. I knew I was now at around 1000 metres maybe a little more.
As I started lap three I felt strong. I thought I was moving through the water well even though I was swimming into the wind again.
Towards the end of the lap though I started to feel tired and cold. It was at this point I had pre-arranged to take a quick drink from Ashley. I didn’t need the drink but thought I should stick to the plan to let Ashley know I was OK as I hadn\\\\\\\\’t spoken to her up to now. The drink was cold and gave me nothing except a 10 second break.
I started the fourth lap talking to myself again
“Three laps done, almost a mile”
Then suddenly like a switch had been thrown my core went cold. From my previous experience I knew that this was the beginning of the end of the swim.
“Time to dig deep again Paul.”
I was getting a signal from Ashley that my stroke was shortening. I felt as though I reacted and stretched it out but she later said I made no change. (I have since seen a video of this point of the swim and it looks like I am swimming on the spot – while in fact I had a slight current to my back so should have been moving fairly easily). Towards the end of that fourth lap I could feel my legs start to shiver.
“Not good! Remember February. Make a decision now!”
I made the turn and decided if I was to finish this last lap I should at least get into shallow water. As I made my way to the front of the car park were the water was about 4-5 feet deep the shivers in my legs got even worse and my core was really cold. (During my February 11th swim I was shivering like this and my condition deteriorated really quickly. I barely made it back to shore that day.)
“Make the call Paul. What are you going to do?”
“Where are the ground crew?”
“There they are at the top of the steps 200 metres away and Leora has my spare bag of clothes”
I made a straight line for the guys on shore. Distance and records didn’t matter at this point.
I made it to the steps, remembered to turn off my Hydro Tracker and I got on all fours. I was beat. I had given it everything I had. The concrete steps hurt so I asked to sit on the grass. It was then a frenzy of arms, towels and clothes as Mark, Angelique and Dean dried me off and got me dressed. Somebody said I had been in the water almost an hour and I couldn\\\\\\\\’t believe it. It didn’t feel that long at all.
I was whisked home and in the shower in no time. Angelique took my core temperature and it read 33.7°c. Exactly the same as it was on February 11th. The recovery was very comfortable considering what I had just gone through. Twenty minutes in the shower drinking tea and hot chocolate, then ten minutes in bed underneath two quilts with hot water bottles. I then joined the team for debrief. We didn’t even look at the Hydro Tracker. We thought we had missed the record. Only after everybody had gone home did I plug in my Hydro Tracker and look at the data. It read 2320 metres in 54:02. I quickly converted the distance to 1.441 miles. Just 20 metres longer than the previous best set by Ram.!
Just think if Leora had been standing at another set of steps we would have been short by 20 metres. Thank you Leora. You planted the ice swimming seed last year and it was your choice of stairway helped set a new ice swimming distance record. :0)
I contacted Mark, Ashley and Leora right away. We had provisionally set a new ice swimming distance record. Way to go team!!
The very next day I woke to an email from Ram Barkai. He congratulated me on the swim and we chatted back and forth a little about the length of time I spent in the water, the swim and the recovery.
All the data from the swim including: Water and air temperatures, pre and post swim core temperatures, swim time and distance (confirmed by my Finis Hydro Tracker), photographs /video of the swim has now been submitted to the International Ice Swimming Association for their approval.
I have already been asked ” Can you go further at that temperature?” The answer to that is ” On a flat calm day – yes I can”
But that will have to wait until next winter.
original blog post can be found here: http://www.nothinggreatiseasy.com/ice-swim-2013-i-knew-i-could-do-it-i-said-i-would-do-it-and-provisionally-i-did-it-just/
video of the March 2nd 2013 ice swim can be seen here: http://www.nothinggreatiseasy.com/ice-swim-2013-the-movie/