Extreme Swimming In Donegal, Ireland

Extreme Swimming In Donegal, Ireland

DONEGAL, IRELAND. Ram Barkai visited Anne Marie Ward and Nuala Moore in Creeslough Village on the northwest coast of Ireland.

The sun is a just a concept here, no one claims to have ever seen it. The sky turns from pitch black to light grey for a couple of hours during, what the locals call here the day,” explained the extreme swimmer from Cape Town, South Africa.

Anne Marie and Nuala are truly world-class hard-core sea swimmers,” thought Ram who feared his ability to uphold the cold water reputation of the hardy South Africans. “Especially when the wind has changed direction, from icy cold to just very cold while it is raining non-stop in various quantities, but everyone’s spirits remain high.”

In a twist on open water swimming, Ram and his Irish hosts spent time chasing even colder water for a test swim. “This Christmas was the warmest ever-recorded in Ireland. Last year, the same time it was -14°C and many loughs where frozen. We desperately hopped from one bay to other, sampling various loughs for the coldest temperature. The coldest place we found managed to get down to 6°C. Although we were not yet in Ice Swim territory, there was a proper bite to the water. The chilly wind, rain and grey sky added to the atmosphere. We settle for a balmy 6°C. Weather forecast for tomorrow is perfect. Wind force 6, around 30 knots, rain and the usual grey sky.”

Before the swim, the Coast Guard and logistics team watched the Speedo Ice Swim Africa movie. They said, “All the essential issues were covered in the movie.”

The course was set at the deepest part of the lough (50m deep) to attain the coldest water. “We hope for snow water from the mountain,” said Ram as each swimmer would swim at his/her own pace with a dedicated boat crew. The start was a wet start for a one-mile stretch in the middle of the dark cold lough to be able to swim in the coldest spot in the water. “It doesn’t matter how many times you have done this all around the world,” explained Ram. “The entry to the ice water is always a shock to the system as your lungs shrink and your muscles spasm. It feels as if someone has locked them in a vice.

We dive in or slide in to the icy water. Get your breathing right. Find the rhythm. I have no idea what the water temperature is, but it bites hard everywhere. Hands freeze and feet hurt. The cold is paralyzing. Now it is time to swim and wait for few minutes for the wonderful feeling of being comfortably numbness takes over
.”

Ten minutes into the swim, Ram feels everything is great, “Great rhythm, comfortable stroke and no feeling at all. We decided to have no communication with the boat aside from a ‘thumbs up’ signal every few minutes. The wind picked up quite a lot with the water temperature a steady 6°C. I knew it would not qualify as an ice swim, but it was as difficult as 6°C and a great experience.”

After the swim on the way back to the pier, the return trip to shore is wet and windy. “The cold sets in, deep and penetrating. We remember that the swim is not over until we are fully recovered and the doctor is happy. This is the unpleasant part of the swim. You just close your eyes and focus, push away the cold and making sure you don’t let go, not for a second. Slowly, slowly the cold level reached a bearable discomfort.”

Anne Marie and Nuala will be back in a month when water temp drops below 5°C. For Ram, “It was another great adventure getting to know another mad swimming community in Creeslough, Donegal.”

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