but none more basic, primal or important than the responsibilities that we have to ourselves"
International Ice Swimming Association Russian National Championships 1000m
This was my 9th trip to Russia so each event is filled with friends and faces so familiar and even though I don’t speak the language for me I don’t need to. We know what it takes to swim in the ice and we have travelled this road together- signals and sign language is enough to finish safely.
|The long Journey from Dingle to Krasnoyarsk 8000km|
Once I say to myself "you are in the game" my mind changes..
My obsession has long since been the understanding of our bodies and our minds to allow us to engage and strangely embrace the experiences of swimming in the Ice Water.
The body and the mind work together either with us or to conspire against us in our adventures-I’ve lived both moments and for me this journey is all about learning at this point.
The first day was spent at the "Scientific and Acclimatisation of the Body Conference" and it’s reaction to Ice- my dream.
The Yenisei River is a 5,800km River-a colossal volume of water running from Mongolia to the Arctic-a river which is the second longest in the world and is in a constant state of cold-with Ice pieces moving on it all the time. The area of the swim had little or no movement but the open water route would allow us to swim into deep water.
The challenge of swimming 1000m at low to 0 deg temps are something that as a swimmer, I have down to a hymn sheet. I can close my eyes and swim each stroke-knowing when the pain hits, how to manage each of the symptoms and mostly how to stave off that doubt and anxiety.
and proper food to another time zone.
Having medics like Dr Irina who know and understand the body’s responses and can interpret my tests is huge benefit. She has my ECG and Cardio file since 2012 and she now knows my responses-knowing us, knowing the swim and mostly the changes to expect, this allows her to make the best possible decision -for a swimmer, learning to respect the medicals is vital.
The OW route area was a confined water space in so far as the flow of the river was not impacting. On arrival I threw a stick into the river to determine if there was a flow. It was negligible in this area but 100m outside would this change the values- there was a racing flood. The river drops deep 50m and this with the accompanying wind really changes the mind’s approach to an event.
|Saying hi to the Rescue Unit|
Knowing I was going into the challenging period of the swim, physically my fingers and feet were stiffening. I needed to do a body check-My mind felt so strong and each time I felt some stress coming into my head-I would use the freedom of the water to breathe.. feel my freedom to move, I could twist and turn and the depth of the river all are so free. You're free-this is your space-just breathe. My goggles had fogged from the freezing water-in the pool this doesn't matter but trying to navigate it did.
Once I saw the final line of 3 yellow buoys I lifted my head to signal to the boat that I was breaking from the group and started to kick. I was so surprised how strong I was-my mind was so busy-I visualised standing up and exiting the water strong. I could have easily have been 3/4 mins faster-what I needed from myself was to be was strong. You can never take your eye of the cold and you can never take your eye of the cost of a swim to your body.
I exited the water and though the Danil and Albert came to meet me-I wanted to exit myself.
There were stones on the exit so the balance with my cold feet was difficult.
"You gotta figure this out-stand strong " My focus was deep-I wanted to see how the 2 ladies behind me were.
Breathing and standing, holding onto the pontoon, my coat around me-I had this wry smile when I heard it was 25 mins.. "wow and look at you" I said inside. I focused on my breathing and wanted to just take a moment.
Many would say-"geez you were 3 mins slower" for me I was 10 times stronger on exit despite being in the water 3 mins longer. This was a journey of recovery for me. There is no value in getting faster and getting out quicker to me.. the challenge is staying in and learning how to get out stronger. I didn't do the speed work so I was so happy.
Speed will never be my thing. Learning is my thing. Being in physical and emotional control is my thing.
Over the years post swim is one of the most vital of area of learning. Having worked so much myself in the recovery area on the towels since 2012- this has all allowed me to be on both sides of the swimmer.
We can often not be aware of the process. I believe we have to witness it as an independent to genuinely understand the battle we go through. With the experience I have gained over the years, this has allowed me to be as tough on myself as I would be with anyone else. We often believe we are 10 times stronger than we are-as we need to believe it-when as a swimmer, you see the weakness, you appreciate it and your weaknesses all the more.
The recovery was standard. painful but controlled. I dropped my head and focused as the towels were placed on me to heat me. There were a few challenged swimmers. One lady was her first open water experience and being in the water for longer had taken it's toll. The team were amazing as moment by moment they managed her back to a focused state.
These moments are vital.
Then from here we walked to the indoor sauna but I found the heat just too stiffing.
I was back out at the lake side for the exit of the following group which means in total my recovery was 40 minutes including getting dressed.
I was delighted with my weekend-in 12 hrs I will be on a flight to Moscow so anther event, another
adventure and yet another first for me. The joys of discovery are what life is all about.
Long term I have other goals so I have to use all the opportunities of being in 0-1 deg water. There were so many offers of dinner and celebrations and I just smiled, dutifully declined and headed back to my small space where I bought some food at a supermarket.
I walked around the city, breathed some air, exercised my legs, increased my circulation to ensure that in 8 hrs my legs and cardiovascular would not be challenged on 4 flights-24 hrs home. I stretched and exercised. after an hour of walking, visiting a beautiful church, giving my towels and t shirts to a lovely homeless man-I arrived home-ate everything I could get my hands on and contacted home in SW Ireland for a wake up at 2am.