Swimmers brave Loch Lomond in first ice swim champs
Taking a dip in Loch Lomond in only your swimming costume (not a wetsuit) is challenging enough in the summer – yet this weekend a group of brave swimmers completed 1000m in water registering just above 4C.
Some 80 men and women, most them in their 50s, swam in the icy waters in Scotland’s first international ice swimming competition.
This is the second year that the national Ice Swimming Championships have been held and it’s the first official Ice Swimming event in Scotland. International Ice Swimming Association rules dictate that swimming must take place in waters with a temperature below 5C. Swimmers can wear only swimming costumes, goggles and swim hat.
Competitors had travelled from all over the UK, as well as from Ireland and South Africa, to take part in the competition, based at The Cruin, on Saturday on one of the coldest days that Scotland has experienced all winter.
A safety team including two ambulances, doctors, nurses and four paramedics were on hand throughout the day.
As well as the 1000m event, swimmers could take part in a 500m race and other shorter distances.
The championships was won by James Leitch, 41, of Paisley, who holds the record for the 24-mile Loch Lomond End to End. James swam the 1k in choppy conditions in 15:02, a time most swimmers would struggle to do in a pool, never mind in 4C water.
Emma’s first 1000m ice swimming race
One of the swimmers, Emma Cummings, of Helensburgh, described the ice swimming event was “the hardest thing I have ever done”. She said: “Despite the fact that I swim in Scottish lochs every weekend, train every winter at 1k distance and I have swum the 10.5-mile length of Windermere, the ice swim on Saturday was so tough.
“The air temp was 3.1C and the was water 4.2C, plus there was a keen wind and choppy water conditions. In winter, it’s not all about water temperature for swimmers but the weather conditions. Air temperature and wind chill can make a significant difference to how it feels.”
Emma faced difficult conditions on Saturday. She said: “As I got in the loch I wasn’t even thinking about the temperature only about my tactics against the wind and waves. The last thing you want to do is swallow a mouthful of freezing cold water so you have to alter your stroke and breathing accordingly. I found it particularly hard swimming out to the first buoy in the choppy water.”
Emma reports she then felt “comfortable” for the first two laps but by the the third lap, things started to get tougher. She said: “On my final lap I was beginning to feel very tired and starting to feel disorientated but as I know my body very well I dug deep to finish. I was certainly on the edge of what my body could take.
“The worst part was actually the recovery out of the water. Usually shaking starts as the body begins to warm its core temperature but I was beyond even that point. It took quite some time in the steam room before the shivers started and my body recognised what it needed to do.
“I just remember feeling worse than I ever have in my life and my support crew friends Kathryn and Gillian, who are both cold water swimmers, were amazing. You can’t do this sport alone and there’s a great camaraderie. I was very grateful for their support.”
Emma had expected to take 23 minutes to complete the swim but the clock showed 33 minutes. She said: “I think my slower time was partly due to the conditions and partly because swimming outdoors isn’t like swimming a straight line in a pool so it’s likely that I covered a good bit more than 1km.
“The day finished well though with a good dance at the after-event ceilidh where I received my medal as 4th in my age group.
“Would I do it again? I think that’s a certainty!”
Also read about Mark Cohen’s 500m Ice Swim.