The weather in the UK has been unusually mild for the time of year. Most people are happy to read such a sentence, but not the cold water enthusiasts that gather at Parliament Hill Lido yesterday.
Everyone was in a great mood though for PHISH (Parliament Hill Icy Swim Hootenany), the brainchild of John Donald, North London cold swimming celebrity. He did a great job of getting the word out to the winter swimming community, and organising a great bunch of volunteers to officiate and support the swimmers.
There were 4 events on the day, 122 m (2 lengths), 244 m (4 lengths – obviously), a relay (4 x 1 length), and the Endurance event (6 circuits of the pool – somewhere around 1 km). Helen and I were both entered in the 244 m event, for which there were 10 heats. There were some seriously fast swimmers around (including Helen who qualified for the final with the second fastest time – 3:13). I unexpectedly snuck into the 8th qualifying spot for the final with a qualifying time of 3:32 (I think).
All above photos courtesy of Mr Tom Reed!
Before the final came our relay. Our team comprised me in the lead off position, Julie, Helen L, and Helen G. We swam valiantly, but came in last in our heat. It was fun though!
Soon after the relay came the final of the 244 m event. The competitors lined up in order of their qualifying times across the pool, me as the slowest qualifier. I changed my tactics for the final, taking it out a little harder from the beginning, and breathing only to my left from the beginning. I was feeling really at home in the water. Strange how the third time getting in to water that would make most people gasp it felt totally natural, and not shocking in any way. The human body is a wonderful thing.
I also concentrated on actually doing some kicking right from the start as well. Normally my legs dangle around behind me, occasionally performing a desultory flick; in the first heat I had only turned them on down the last length. This time, my kick, and the increased oxygen from breathing every stroke propelled me faster, and I gave it my all. I am still unsure what my actual time was, but Bojan and Helen said I came in 4th which I was pleased and surprised to hear.
Better still, Helen came in second, and gained a podium spot. Well done Helen!
The last event of the day was the endurance. Swimmers went off in six (I think) waves, with the speed of swimmers increasing nominally as each wave went in. All swimmers entered at one of the corners in the shallow end, and swam six circuits of the pool, with buoys at each corner. 1 km at 7C is not ice mile territory by any means, but is definitely not something to be taken lightly, and needs some serious preparation. Everyone did amazingly well, with one man doing butterfly all the way (sorry I don’t know his name, but it wasn’t Sylvain Estadieu, the first male to swim the channel butterfly last year). One by one the swimmers came out, ranging from completely untroubled to being in a bit of a state (you know who you are!).
There was a warm tent for getting changed in, and an even a warm portable sauna, some of the many nice touches to this lovely wintertime event. Thanks to the organisers and volunteers. Well done to everyone who got wet!! See you next year I hope.
Only one cold event left in my season – Chillswim in Windermere in 2 weeks time.