The title of this blog post is a little deceiving.
I have actually been thinking about an official ice swim for several months. I first became aware of ice swimming and the International Ice Swimming Association back in the early spring of 2012 after reading an article in H2Open Magazine. I put the idea to the back of my mind as we began our Lake Monsters English Channel training which took us from the spring right through until mid October. While the other the Lake Monsters moved their focus to training indoors I turned my thoughts to winter swimming and challenged myself to see just how much longer I could continue swimming outdoors. I adjusted my swim times accordingly as the water temperatures dropped and finally by early December I was swimming close to ice mile standards.
The International Ice Swimming Association define an ice swim as a swim of at least one mile (1609.3m) in water 5°c or colder. On December 8th (video here) I swam for just short of 1500m in 5.6 deg and knew I was right on target for an official ice mile swim sometime this winter.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and I find myself with a support team assembled and preparing for an ice mile attempt. It was time to go public.
Angelique sent out a general press release late on Thursday night. The next day the story appeared on-line and the phone was ringing off the hook. The media took to the story immediately. I did phone interviews for newspapers and was even invited into the CBC radio studios in Kelowna to do a live interview on the Kathryn Marlow show ( hear the interview here)
On Saturday Angelique and I had an appointment with a Sho-Tai practitioner and his receptionist told me I had been the hot topic of conversation over dinner the previous evening. Mark came over in the afternoon and we went round to the swim location and discussed logistics for the big day.
I also decided I needed to get in the lake privately to regain my focus. Friday had been a bit of a blur with the media stuff and I wanted to get in, get cold and remind myself what this thing was all about. I only did ten minutes but that was all I needed to do to get my mind back on track. A lady walking along the beach came over and wished me luck for Sunday, she had seen me in the news. She said until that point she thought she was doing well by going out for walk every day in the winter. :0)
After this re-focus swim I felt good. I was ready for the ice mile.
Sunday came and went in a blur. I’d had a nervous nights sleep and when my alarm went off at 7am I wondered if I could just turn the alarm off and the day would be magically cancelled and forgotten about. It seemed to take me forever to eat a bowl of oatmeal. My stomach was in knots. I even tried to distract myself by reading but the thoughts racing through my head wouldn’t allow me to concentrate on the book. One last radio interview to do with Power 104 and before I knew it my support team of Dr Mark Fromberg, coach Jon Smirl,Chris Charbonneau, and Kelly Imada had arrived and it was time to go. We had a phone call to tell us the car park was full! There was a crowd of people there waiting to watch me make Canada’s first ice swim!
The next 45 minutes or so are best described here: Ice Swimming | Inside the mind of an ice swimmer
The swim was awesome. It felt good all the way through. I had obviously prepared for this very well because I can honestly say that there was never a doubt in my mind that I would be successful. Even when the cold had taken its grip of my body I blocked it out,focussing on the buoys taking the energy from the crowd that was walking along the shore following my progress. Every time I heard a muffled shout from the shore it gave me another boost.
Seeing my swimming buddy Rhonda waving her arms like a mad woman during the last 500m or so was amazing. As soon as Jon had confirmed we had completed just over a mile I shook his hand and headed to shore. Where I punched the air and gave Angelique a huge hug.
There was only one swimmer in the water but it had been a true team effort to achieve Canada’s first ice swim and make it a huge success. Angelique, Kelly, Mark and Randy took care of me once I made it to shore. I was soon dressed and being driven home.
I was left alone for while during my warm up shower and it was a perfect time for me to reflect on my ice swimming journey. The first magazine article, Leora joking that I should give it a go (at that point the seed was planted), connecting with Cecilia Schutte – the first woman to complete an ice swim. Leora asking me during summer if was still planning to do an ice swim, the secrecy of my initial training sessions, the paranoia I experienced on my last solo session, training sessions with the support of Trent Hoath and Ashley Russo (Ashley was in on the secret). The Bald Eagle that circled above us while I trained a couple of weeks ago.
Angelique bought me hot tea to drink while I was in the shower and I gave her another big hug and we shared a few tears.
An awesome day, an awesome team and a great achievement by us all.
I would like to thank all of the people that came out to watch. I wish I could have stayed around to thank you all individually but as you saw it was vital that I get home to get warm quickly. Your support was greatly appreciated and your energy helped us achieve Canada’s first ice swim.
photography by Angelique. www.BrightSparkMedia.ca and Randy Wissman.
I now have to officially apply for membership to the International Ice Swimming Association to have the swim officially recognised. This includes submitting photographs/video of the swim, witness testimonies, swim time/distance, air/water temperatures. Everything is in place and I will be applying in the next few days.
Ice swim media links:
The Daily Courier December 24th: Swimmer has ice water in his veins.
The Globe and Mail December 23rd: Canadian joins elite club after mile swim in freezing Okanagan Lake
Castanet.net December 23rd: Canada’s first ice swimmer
Daily Courier December 23rd: Extreme swimmer set to take icy plunge.
Castanet.net December 21st: Iceman swims in Okanagan Lake
Kelowna Capital News December 21st: West Kelowna resident attempts Canada’s first ice swim
CBC Radio West interview live with Kathryn Marlow December 21st: CBC Radio West interview.
More ice swimming posts: