I’ve been asked a couple of times to write something for the HOWSC web site. I’m not a writer so haven’t had any thoughts of what to write about before but, this weekend I witnessed something inspirational so, here goes…
Journey of an Ice Miler
On Saturday 17th February 2018 a couple of my swimmy friends and myself had the honour of watching one of our Jubilee River swimmers achieve an Ice Mile swim.
An official Ice Mile is defined as a one mile swim in water below 5oC, wearing nothing but swim trunks/costume, a hat and goggles (and ear plugs if needed).
Four of us set off from London for the journey to Hatfield Outdoor Activity Centre in Doncaster at 5.30a.m. on Saturday morning. To make up for the early start, we were driven in style, in a Tesla no less. What a car – the future is here, the future is now!
The activity centre works in partnership with Swim Your Swim to provide open water swimming all year round and will be hosting the International Ice Swimming Association GB Championships over the weekend of 24/25 February 2018. That means they are well set up to host potential Ice Milers with medics and full support crew (and warm changing rooms which was a bit of a novelty!).
So, we arrived in time to have a quick chat with Maurice before he entered the water and then it was time. He gave us a thumbs up as he waded in with two 800 metre laps ahead of him. There were three swimmers altogether, Maurice and Di from the Jubilee and a guy named Kevin from the Felixstowe Swinscapes Open Water Swimming group. I’m a member of their Facebook group and had seen the day before that one of their group would be attempting an ice mile – it was only after I’d been standing on the edge of the lake watching the three swimmers and chatting to his wife that I realised the breast stroker was in fact that man and just caught up with him and managed to congratulate him after he’d completed in around 55 minutes and was warmed up. I hope to get up to Felixstowe at some point, they have an amazing group and I am always quite envious of their sea swims.
So, lap one completed, Maurice looking good and off for the second lap. We were all willing him on, there were some supporters with a GB flag and cow bells running round the course cheering him on as he went. As he came in to the finish, everyone was so excited to know that he had done it! Cheers, whistles and whoops a plenty as he got out of the water and was quickly robed and whisked away with a supporter on either side holding him up. He was taken into a warm area, undressed (!) and dressed in warm clothes by the supporters (total strangers but all part of the support package) and provided with hot water bottles and hot drinks. I told Maurice not to expect us to do that for him every week!
Maurice coming in to the finish point
Maurice finished in around 35 minutes, waiting for official ratification but the water temperature was about 3.5oC and he and the others are now part of a very elite group of swimmers. He was handed his badge, his achievement will be recorded in the IISA records and he will be allowed to wear the coveted IISA Red Jacket.
My friend and I had a quick swim once Maurice had completed; I did the short lap – not sure how far it was but I was in the water for about 8 minutes.
So, a long way to go for a 8 minute swim, but boy was it worth it to support the man we have swum with every Sunday morning, us mere mortals doing 10-15 minutes in the water and are out, dressed and warmed up before he gets back to the river bank.
And believe it or not, we all met again at the Jubilee the next day for our usual Sunday morning swim. Maurice said that his hands had not quite recovered and he chipped a tooth from clenching his jaw while swimming but apart from that, all good.
Maurice is raising money for Alzheimers Society, so if you have been inspired by this huge achievement and have a mind to help, here’s the link https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/maurice-wheeler
I have a vague notion of trying this myself at some point – although I might be just all talk… watch this space!
Maurice with his pet unicorn at Bray Lake
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