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01.04.15: IISA World Championships 1000m at 0 degree inside the Arctic Circle


IISA World Championships 1000m at 0 degree inside the Arctic Circle

Remember that Great Love and Great Achievements involve Great Risk

It is still hard to believe that I competed at a Swimming World Championships. The Inaugural International Ice Swimming Association World Championships 1000m-Wow- Some of us in the Ice swimming community were so focused on the outcome of the event, the safety of the event, the positive perception of the event that it is easy to forget that I actually stood, represented Ireland, swam for 22 mins in 0 degree water and won a Silver at 1000m. My second time in this exact pool completing this distance. Monumental for me but all I could think about was Please let us all get out safely.. Please let it be successful-mainly as I knew too much. !

The swimming world is and was watching, not necessarily to applaud but to see how the Ice would present 47 swimmers to swim 1000m at 0 deg.What an ask. 50% of the swimmers, we had spent 2 yrs together, if togetherness could keep it safe I knew it would.
On paper it’s insane but the work and the learning from the last two years had brought us here. It's hard to understand where and when the structure took place but we are here-yet we always have questions- The organisers had taken on such a huge challenge and they looked to us to bring our A Game.
The volume of swimmers was huge-The Media was colossal-The expectations were ginormous. Behind the smiles-
Would the swimmers accept responsibility for the challenge at 0 degree-so many first timers.My first time was like a teenager being asked to dance for the very first time-very awkward. Not knowing what the next experience would be-now we are so advanced BUT would the world come with us.
Would the safety cover at the event suffice for so much extreme immersion?
Would the pressure on the Recovery and the Sauna be too much?
Would we all come out alive and mostly if we, as an Ice swimming community could manage to present an event which could carry enough integrity as to be accepted and worthy on a world stage, worthy of the sponsors and the event organisers who had poured their hearts into this. It had to work.

There was so much emotion riding on this event that it was difficult for me to just be an athlete representing my country. But I was.
None of the politics or the international perception is my challenge -either way we owe it to the sport.

Training for 0 degree has its challenges mainly as Irish water do not go near 0 degrees. So I trained for the challenge and not the distance. I had completed 450m at 0 deg in Tyumen Siberia in December 2014 and traveled to Estonia and completed 750m in Feb 2015 so I knew that the distance was well within me.
The only thing that could stop me was the mental challenges I had in the previous months for personal reasons.

Where huge self doubt became my normal-despite all the bravado-I crumbled so many times.So many people would say-"it is no bother to you." but it was.

My body, I knew would go through a brick wall.. I just needed my mind now to come back. My Nephew Christopher had helped me so much with a program as I'm not the easiest to train. I guess family can touch nerves.

The days before the swim are as important, travel, tiredness, caffeine, bad food and alcohol are all negatives and absolutely impact your body, being able to focus and being able to block out all the clutter is a huge challenge. I kept myself clean, despite craving coffee in airports, it was green tea all the way, wanting my Medical to be perfect.
I had 18 ECG's in the previous 2 yrs and each was text book-we always worry.
There were a lot of challenges traveling with a big group so I tried to stay as calm as I could and apart from other's journeys.
Weakness can creep in and self doubt, feelings like what if I have to stop? Reality that if I have to then so be it.
As we line up thoughts come and go.
What if the pain is too much?
What if I can’t breathe?

I always try to focus on the thoughts like -
what if I’m phenomenal?
What if this is my moment?
You have to believe in greatness and personal journeys. I am a fan of believing that Life prepares us for everything.

I go quiet which is hard to believe. I go deep. I go there and visualise every length for the hour before. I swim that swim before I get in the water.
We have a team member each end of the 25m and a friend and top Ice swimmer Henri Kaarma came to me before the start and explained that the touch board (board inserted into the Ice to turn was high) which meant I had to lift my legs high on the turn or I would miss the wall. If I miss the wall, my race would be chasing the understanding of what happened.
That was huge info for me as my turns are weak, so I knew to lift my legs high. We mind each other. Once you walk down the step of the ladder into the Ice every moment freezes, every fibre freezes.
I stick my face in the Ice straight away and take that moment as we are given about 10 seconds. I breathe out hard to get the hot air out of my lungs so when I take my first breath I don’t get a shock. Everything physical that is going to happen in the first 4/6 lengths so the next 34 lengths are only about keeping the show together. I was determined to keep my show on the road today.

Frances Lynch from Tralee has been with me for 15 years, travelling to Lake Zurich, my Ice mile and all my training-she knows me, she has also seen me at my weekest but also she knows how to drive me forward.
I don’t want worry unless there is something to worry about-
At length 18 of 40 she played a request and started dancing to La Bamba.. I laughed as I ploughed all I could repeat was the tune- La Bamba. I swam only the water in front of me-I don’t swim fears.
I am grateful to have gotten over most of the learning in the Ice. I remember at length 34 thinking to myself-"you're so amazing". Back in 2011 in Donegal Ram Barkai asked me as we completed a mile in Donegal what was going through my head.. Each stretch I always thought "You're on the cusp of your own greatness" and I believe it.Medals cannot ever give you that moment-they can represent it but they cannot compare with feeling that moment of greatness. Of being your own hero.
Only we and those around us know our journey and our sacrifices.

Jacqueline kept saying "Come on Nuala Moore" with her face within touching distance from mine.. that is the oyxgen-The last 6 lengths I remember being so proud of myself. I wanted to kick my legs and increase my pace-but I guess I don't yet have the mindset that worries about speed. I smiled and knew this was mine-not first, second or world champion but this is mine. The Monkey is off my back-I can breathe for the first time in 18 months.
After 22 mins at 0 degrees, climbing the ladder is not easy, with hands, feet frozen. Your team picks you up. We walked the route before the race, so this was sequence. Straight to the Sauna/recovery where a team work on your body wrapping us in hot towels. The towels poultice out the cold and are replaced every few minutes. Swimmers need to stay focused and fight hard here.
Our swim is over when the recovery is complete. Takes about 30 minutes to regain control, there are challenging moments but the pain when the blood enters the hands and feet has to be experienced to believe. But it is what it is. In our sauna were faces whom I love very much, Irina, Vicki and for the 1st time scantily clad men!! I smiled to myself. They have me.

You take the glory you take the journey. I had a Personal Best-very few can say that-I swam minute faster than my previous 1000m @ 0 deg in 2013. My dream is always to be better than myself.. I only hope others have the same journey.. either way I am proud to share mine with so many.

One of a small group in the world who have 2 x 1000m completed at 0 deg. For me it’s all personal but I am very very proud of my Silver medal and mostly my ability to do what I can do. Privileged to be who I am and very grateful to those who have helped me to be this strong. Midst all the carnage there is a pot of Gold.

Ní Neart Go Chur Le Cheile.. "There cannot be strength without Unity"



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