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Active Expert: Gale Bernhardt

2 Posts tagged with the cold_swim tag

A local swimmer, John Polansky, is seen in the photo below. The photo was taken a week ago when there was still ice on this Colorado lake. (That smooth "water" is really ice.) John said the water temperature was 48 to 49 degrees Fahrenheit. I know you’re thinking…why??!!



John is training for the 2010 English Channel Swim. I decided to find out more about his swimming adventure:


Date of the event: Approximately June 25th - depending on weather

Swim distance: John is swimming on a four-person team. Each person will swim three segments at 2.0 to 2.5 miles per segment. The exact distance depends on the currents and swim pace of each team member. He’s hoping to be in the water around an hour for each one of his “shifts”.

Predicted temperature of the Channel: It will be about 52 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. No wetsuits allowed during the event.

How does someone decide to swim the English Channel? I went to a CU football game last fall with my uncle Kevin and some cousins. While tailgating at half-time I got sucked into the conversation that was going on about an English Channel swim attempt. The group talking about it said that they had been planning on this event for three years and they were suddenly a person short. (One team member could no longer participate.) It seemed logical to someone that since I’m from England and a swimmer I would be a perfect substitute – or a target. I figured I was going to be over there during June to see my two new nieces and this swimming the Channel has been something on my "to do" list. I had a few too many beers and before I left I had official become a member of the team.


I guess training for enduring cold water begins now…



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Jimmy Riccitello, head referee for Ironman events, got back to me about cold water guidelines for Ironman events. Here is what he said:


USAT, our sanctioning body, does not have a cold water policy, like ITU does.  They leave the decision up to each sanctioned event.  


However, Ironman has a cold water policy that considers water temperature, air temperature, and whether the water is fresh or salt.  Ironman has altered swims due to cold water and/or rough conditions and will always consider environmental conditions and the safety of its participants.  If necessary, a decision to alter the swim will be made one hour prior to race start and will be clearly communicated to the athletes.


Bottom line, with regard to St. George, race operations feels confident, based on historical data, that the water will be “warm” enough for the full swim distance. 




For those of you doing any cold water swim event, here are a few tips I give my athletes:

  • Consider purchasing a neoprene cap to wear under your official race swim cap. (Don’t wait until the last minute, in the race town, to make your purchase.)
  • If possible, have a thermos of warm fluid to consume pre-race (tea, coffee, chicken soup, etc.) Pre-heating your core seems to keep people comfortable for a longer period.
  • Stay as warm as you can pre-race. (Keep your shoes on, sweatshirt, etc.)
  • Don’t “warm-up” pre-race in really cold conditions. Just take the first part of the swim as your warm-up.
  • If you haven’t practiced cold water swimming pre-event, know that the first time you put your face in the water, it feels like your breathing disappears. Know this is coming, relax and take a few strokes to settle into a rhythm.
2,193 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: ironman, cold, cold_swim, wetsuit_rules