It's October, in Scotland, in the chilly waters of Loch Lomond.
Winter is coming so it's time for me to start the acclimatization process from the warm sea waters of Devon to get ready for the Ice Swimming season. Over the next few months I'll be competing in Ice Swimming events in Czech R., Austria, Poland and the USA as well as in the World Championships in Germany and organising the Great Britain Championships to take place in Loch Lomond in February.
Ice Swimming is what it says it is. Swimming in water where the temperature is between zero and 5 degrees C. In Poland that means cutting through 6 inches of ice with chainsaws to create a swimming pool out of a frozen lake. No wetsuits, no neoprene, just swimming in a normal swimsuit - this is hardcore stuff !!
It's not a quick dip either - I can swim a mile in 3.5 degrees and the Ice competitions are over 1000 metres so it takes some serious training to be able to cope with the cold.
The swimming is only part of the training process. Recovering from such a cold swim is hard and takes practice to get a routine right so that I can be dry and dressed within 10 minutes of getting out. After 10 minutes the 'Afterdrop' hits and that's can bring on spectacular shivers so I have be be dry and safe by then.
I have a second who helps me and they know the routine well. First thing on is the Eskeez top followed by leggings and socks. Then outer clothes. At the last minute my swimhat is whipped off and replaced with the Eskeez beanie - then a hot drink is shoved in my hands ( in an oversized cup in case I'm shaky). Then I like to walk around and warm up from the inside out.
Some say Ice Swimming is a crazy sport - I'm not going to argue with that - but it's a fantastic feeling to swim in the cold and the camaraderie of the swimmers is brilliant.