Monday, 26 October 2015
Iceland Day 2 , October 2015 History in the making!
Iceland Day 2 , October 2015 History in the making!
A year ago Roger Taylor and I in Iceland talked of his swim career to date and a dream was created. Roger had already been training for a year to do his Ice mile swim….yes you heard correct, an ICE MILE SWIM, which is one mile in just a swimming costume, goggles and one hat and under the rules of the International Ice Swimming Association (http://www.internationaliceswimming.com/) to be completed in water temperatures of 5 degrees or less.
The thought alone is enough to send shivers down most people spines but not Roger, he was relishing the prospect. But the dream had been born….could Roger do it in Iceland, he would be the first to do so if he could…history in the making!! It would also be a great start to the UK swimmers season.
Silfra the previous day had been a healthy reminder for me of the dangers of what was going to be attempted. Roger by now had been training for 2 years, taking to a strict swim routine and ice baths. Mentally he was strong, physically he looked good.
Our dive crew from Dive IS were fully behind us, providing full medi-kits and oxygen bottles. They were more than aware of the dangers of ice swimming. The journey to the Kleifarvatn lake did nothing to dispel the tension, the snow covering the roads and hills made reality sink in further. The approach to the lake showed ice on its edges an indication the beginnings of winter. In coming months as ice spread and more snow falls, the tracks for roads would disappear making it harder to find the water’s edge.
The vans with its myriad of people tentatively made its way closer to the water, we were trying to get as close to the edge as we could, Silfra with its biting wind the previous day has shown us how unforgiving Icelandic weather was and the last thing we needed was for Roger after his swim to have to do a trek to find warmth.
The volcanic sands black as can be, shifted under the weight of the vans. Divers and swimmers alighting into what little warmth the sun permitted. Whilst divers kitted up, Roger, Shane and I mapped out the swim route and distance. Now made harder by the lake rising 1.5 metres over the summer months – hiding the large boulders we had changed on last years but now posing a danger to the frozen swimmer. Swim route chosen it was time for the all-important temperature check. The lake is active with hotspots from its depths pushing scalding water from the bowels of the earth. Steering clear of the furthest bay where known hotspots are prevalent and where we would normally swim we tentatively placed our thermometers in the water. Testing them the previous day showered their accuracy within 0.01 of a degree. Yipeee were under 5 degrees…..we were good to go!!!!
All hands on deck as they say, Med kit and oxygen placed within easy reach. One van allocated for Rogers recovery, the engine left on to maintain a constant heat. Those involved were allocated their jobs as required. We needed observers, witnesses but there is so much more involved, time checkers, distance checkers, stroke counters, recovery team…the list goes on…and all the while Roger had to remain calm, warm and focused
On Rogers signal it was all systems go, camera’s clicking, video recording. A shallow intake of breath and in he walked towards Shane, his marker, for the starting point. A few words of encouragement and shoulders were lowered into the water and off he swam. The silence deafening with the seriousness of the task ahead. Starting with breaststroke to test for goggle leakage and to let the body adapt to the assault of the extreme cold that was being placed on it, then into front crawl. Roger had had some instruction on improving his stroke and it showed in his technique.
One long length of the shores and Roger turns, witnesses placed along the shores were eagle eyed for any signs of a struggle or distress. None came as he headed back along his chosen route. The waters depth no more than 3 metres hiding rocks beneath its clear depths. In places the water only rising to chest height enabling Shane to get a birds eye view of our swimmer and offer words of encouragement.
With the sun making an appearance over the walls of the volcano, you could be forgiven for forgetting the mission we were on. Sunlight bouncing off of the snow laden hills and shooting shards of light through the thick ice that was at times underfoot, it was truly an epic setting for an Ice mile. The silence only interrupted by the gentle rhythmic slap, slap slap of Rogers arms entering the water as he ate up the distance. Occasionally only broken by Barry O’Connor calling out how long Roger had been in the water.
Fifty eight minutes later the magic was put on hold. Distance covered and Roger returns to his original entry point. Shane guiding him in, Rogers skin red from the cold, eyes wide with concentration. Calling him to stand up, he did! Swim over with Shane supporting him for the short walk to the warmth of the van.
Only Shane and I were in the van for the recovery part, with all others on standby if needed. A shivering but grinning Roger was literally man-handled into the vans warmth and with dignity temporarily put on hold we roughly stripped him of his swim kit and towel dried him, me taking the top, Shane below the waist. We needed him warming up as soon as possible, no moment wasted. Alison ready with warm drinks and on essential recovery duties.
Soon Roger was dressing his first set of clothing. It was down to me and Roger to sort the recovery with Shane there ensure all was well. Amazingly Roger was coherent throughout and like most ice milers astounded at his achievement
Roger for those that know and have met him is one of life’s genuine people, not a bad bone in his body and with a delicious sense of humour which didn’t fail him throughout his recovery as his body shook so violently that he (as all those before him) had to be hand fed warm drinks but still the jokes kept coming, his laughter infectious in the van. Within an hour Roger was ready to get out of the van and start walking around, the violent shivers has subsided to a dull roar at this point, the support team, divers and Dive IS ready to give their congratulations which Roger took with good grace.
Walking up and down the swim route, the marvel of what he had just achieved slowly sinking in, Rogers’s colour returning nicely as his grin grew. Photo time, we had to get as many pictures of this moment as we could after all history (subject to ratification) had been made and no other would be the first to do the swim in the lake and be the person ever to do an ice mile in Iceland. What an amazing achievement, it was emotional to be a part of it and to witness it. At times a struggle to keep the emotions under control.
Once all the divers and those that had chosen to go off and swim were back and changed it was time for the second dip of the day, this time in the Blue Lagoon ….warm waters, the perfect end to a perfect day, and a massive aid to ensuring that Roger was fully recovered. His exhaustion showing at this point but this did not prevent his humour from showing. Naturally everyone that we spoke to we introduced Roger to them and stated with pride is accomplishment, their astonishment clear and the congratulations echoing around the lagoon.
Later that evening a meal with champagne (thank you Roger), it was so special. Each Ice mile shows its own merits and each swimmer pulls deeper on their reserves that they hold both mentally and physically that at time I sometimes wonder if they knew that they were capable of holding, but they get through it, trust their support team (who I will state that we consider it our privilege to be a part of their success) with their recovery and dignity. Add to that, that Roger is a man that I consider to be a true friend it was an amazing day and I personally will never be able to thank him enough for permitting me to be a part of everything.
Ratification came when we returned home to the UK, and now we can finally say it…..HE DID IT!!!!! Most people state that that they will only do one Ice mile but not Roger…he is already planning his next swims…wanting to an Ice mile at all degrees.. the ultimate being at zero….with his permission I will hold my emotions in check long enough to see him safely though each one.
My full hearted congratulations to you Roger Taylor (aka 3 ball!)….Icemiler!!!!!! x