Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Laughter and Singing - The best anesthetic..

"Strangers are Friends we have yet to Meet.."

Mardi Gras Snow Style.. 
It was difficult to remember the moments between the opening cermony ending and the actual swimming beginning. It was Mardi Gras snow style and seeing as I had been to Rio de Janeiro for the carnival, I was much happier dancing in thermals and 2 pairs of socks then I was walking in Speedos on CocoCabana beach. Smiles filled the space in moves that Michael Jackson would approve of, music that any disco would be proud of.

The dancing and the swimming was happening together. The one thing is certain is that the characters that we have at home, the guys who bring a smile to our faces exist in all countries.
The biggest challenge was the need to be there for the boys races. Seeing as my body was not built for speed I love watching the sprints. The air temperature was -24 deg, I must admit the 36 hours we were here, the breathing was becoming manageable but when the face was exposed the pain to my chin and cheeks was burning.

Watching the juniors, the pale white bodies as they immersed themselves, not an ounce of cold stress-today could only be fun.so thin yet so resilient to the cold air and water-the pools were about a 200 m walk to the warm saunas. Standing still watching the activity was movie like, a feeling that I had seen this before. In a Siberian spy thriller movie, where an uncooperative spy was dragged through the snow, hem toe'd  to the timber house for some unknown continuing treatment.  I started to laugh it was so funny, once out, two arms lifted by two burly men, bare legs immersed in boots off they were carried.
The motley crew....Gucci has little to worry with P and I...
For us all waited inside the changing rooms for the call and only went to the pool once the race was ready in pairs.The russian women were amazing, standing by the door they high fived us and wished us well.
The sing song saunas... 

Anne Marie was one race ahead of me so I would definitely miss her and Jackie was after me so I would be in the sauna. I am so torn between being a spectator and being a competitor.

Hearing my name in Russian was hilarious-I felt like Rocky walking to a boxing ring with the coat and hood up, loud music blaring. It was 25m front crawl. My team walked with me, Noel and Padraig held my clothes, Christian stood strong and Mariia was happy in her support. Irina had to make every trip with us as we had no clue what time to start etc.

Despite the -25 Deg wind and air, the wind. It was sequence of events as the water consumed me I reminded myself that the water was 25 degrees warmer than the air!
The burn is consuming and it is sudden. It is numbing but the pain is not debilitating. There were no spasms, no cramps just intense burn as if I picked up a pot from the cooker and my hands were stuck to it. There was nothing could be done.
25m is fast and too short to even have a thought process and I kicked afraid to stop. Each glide and each time saw the feet of Padraig and Noel walking alongside. 16 strokes would get me there.
Yup My hands were armpitted..!
The end came when I hit the ladder. Despite knowing my hands would stick to the handles it was reactionary. It was momentary and once detached from the ladder I was out. Bodies were all racing to cover me. I was fine.
A man at my feet, a man at my shoulders all for the wrong reasons!!!! I felt fine and really didn't want to be rushed inside, but I did what I was told. I was raced across the snow to the Sauna. Once inside Anne Marie introduced her new friend-Therm...A huge grin concealing a dark secret.

There was no time to warn me, within seconds he had my hands rammed up under his arm pits and he squeezed as he sang me a song. I hadn't the heart to tell him I wasn't that cold but his armpits were roasting.

A group of Russian men burst into song, the funniest thing ever. As another entered they were welcomed, arm pitted and serenaded..
I was conscious that we needed to watch the boys so I eased my way to the door and walked across the snow in flip flops and jackets to changed and move on to our next swim. 2 more races.
Just after our Relay.. brilliant experience

The fun atmosphere was wonderful, Noel Brennan was heading into his first ever immersion in the Ice, the craic was mighty. I had missed Padraig's swim but we were determined not to miss Noel's.Draped in the Donegal flag, tall Irish hat we were welcomed with cheers.
The Russian crowd embraced the effort and as Noel breast stroked down the water for the first time he was met with rapturous applause, rightly so. Once at the end and wrapped in my red coat, his Russian competitor was not allowing any of our assistance, He waited in the water for Noel to finish, he wrapped his arms around Noel and ran with him to the sauna, without as much as putting a towel around himself.
This was the ethos the event-the importance placed on every swimmer. It wasn't about the fastest, of the best-it was about the taking part. There were the host so we were the guest- I must admit that there were enthralled by the rosy cheeks. The red faces burned, their skin tone seems to reduce in pa lour where ours reddened.
The relay was hilarious. I was just back from my breast stroke when we were shafted to our relay. All teams were 3 men and a woman, we had 2 and 2 under our Tricolour so we were happy to take it on.We were the most disorganised relay team in the world.

Anne Marie and I took the middle slots and Padraig brought it home. Noel set off and try as we might we couldn't figure out the clothes. With all of us in the water who would dress us-and with what..
Noel taking out the Relay Team

Noel took off in his breast stroke as Anne Marie grabbed his clothes to run up to the end-half way through navigating her way up she saw that I was ready to jump in, which meant she was next, handing Noel's clothes to a random stranger, she ran back down in time to dive in. It was the funniest. when I got out I grabbed Anne Marie's shoes, she was gone in mine. as Noel ran by he handed me my red coat and off the the sing song.. (the sauna)-I was left holding Padraig's clothes but no Padraig-The South Africans and Jackie were about to get in, It was like the Olympics, tanned bodies, flexing muscles and spring loaded!!  I grabbed my camera in my pocket and started clicking. It was so difficult to go the sauna but needs must.
I was last on the bus and the journey home was brilliant-I had 3 immersions in Ice, it was 5pm, I had drank a bowl of soup but not an ounce of water since 9 am.. nothing else.. The challenge would be the food and liquid. The biggest and best memories were not the ice but the laughing, the music, the clapping and the sing song in the sauna..
Lots to think about for tomorrow but that was still a day away.

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