Outdoor Swimming in Argentina and Chile #alotusrises #wsc

Nadia Rang is an outdoor swimmer from Argentina. She got in touch with our Women’s Swimming Collective on Instagram. Her pictures of swimming in Argentina are epic and we wanted to find out more about her swim journey from river swims to winter swimming in the snow! Here she shares her story.

My mom took me to the pool when I was still a baby, she was afraid of water and didn’t want me to have the same fear. I never swam in order to race, I always did it because it was good for me and I found it really soothing.

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Some years ago, a professor took me to an open water race, and that was it for me. It was a 500m race in a river. The place was not the nicest but I couldn’t believe I hadn’t done it before! I loved it – Swimming outdoors is one of the best things I have done! So, I started doing it regularly. But there was a problem; it only lasted during the summer months. After that I had to go back to the pool and wait at least 7 month to swim outdoors again.

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Last year I found out about a group of crazy people that swims outdoor during the hole year and without a wetsuit! So, I went to Chile for 4 days and learned that I could do it too.

When I got there, it was snowing, and I started wonder why am I doing this?! Why am I here?? It was too difficult and too crazy… But the instructors talked us through how it  would feel (like knives carving our skin when we entered the water!), and how we needed to control our breathing to be able to swim. After all that talk, they took us to the lake… ‘OMG I don’t want to take my clothes off, it’s snowing for god sake!’ But everyone was doing it, so I did it too.

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Some people started swimming fast, in the first dip. I put my feet into the water, and started wondering again, what am I doing here?! One guy, that was as afraid as I was, turned to me and said ‘Let’s not think about the cold, just watch where we are swimming, look at the mountains and the beauty of this place’, so, we started swimming…

 

That day I learned not only about how to swim in cold waters, but also that swimming is a group experience, something to share with friends and a way of making new and great friends. It was an incredible experience! The first time is really hard, but if you learn to relax, the feeling is unique. The water was at 6 degrees and outside it was snowing.

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On that first winter swimming adventure,  I met a group of friends and we started planning a lot of activities to do together. In August 2017, we went to México and swam our first OceanMan! 10km in the beautiful sea of Cozumel, such a nice experience. Now in November we are going to cross the Rio de la Plata river, the widest river in the world, 42km. In 2018 we are hoping to cross the Gibraltar Strait. I’m always looking for new experiences and places to go swimming and I don’t mind if it’s summer or winter –  I just go! So now I’m one of those crazy crazy people that swims everywhere during the whole year without a wetsuit! I think anyone can do it – Do you dare to try it too??

Out of the water a Lotus Rises – Thank you Nadia!

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Ellery McGowan #alotusrises

Ellery McGowan is an outdoor swimmer with a swim cv and sense of adventure that inspires the swimming community. Her swim highlights include Lake Zurich, Ederle, Manhattan, Toroneos Gulf and Kalamata plus 5 Channel relays and 4 Winter Swimming Championships, Most recently she completed an All Women Relay of the English Channel, setting a new record for the Oldest Women’s Channel Relay, with a combined age of 393. Team Members were Irene Keel (76), Ellery McGowan (70),Chris Pitman (66), Dee Richards (62) Sally Minty Gravett (59) and Kathy Batts (57) and the time taken to cross was 15 hours and 17 minutes. Ellery is also a swim teacher and swimming coach at Charterhouse.

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Ellery at Tooting Lido (note the leaf is not a tattoo!). Credit Ellery McGowan

In 2015 Ellery’s son James, an accomplished athlete, passed away from Adult Sudden Death Syndrome and she is now using swimming as a platform to raise awareness of Cardiac Risk in the Young , an organisation which draws attention to the range of conditions that can cause young sudden cardiac death. Each week in the UK at least 12 fit and healthy young people die of undiagnosed heart conditions. She has raised several thousand dollars in 2015 alone by her challenge undertaking “5 Swims in 5 Countries for a Five Star Son”.

A Lotus Rises caught up with Ellery to talk about her swimming journey, what inspires her and her adventures.

Why did you start outdoor swimming?

I taught myself to swim at aged 5 in an estuary in Tasmania and later swam in rivers and dams. There were no swimming pools in the vicinity of where I lived. However I took up masters swimming when I moved to Germany on 1991 and as I had never been in a club I could not even kick 25metres. I competed in Masters but in 2004 saw a stand in Riccione for SwimTrek and signed up for my first trip to Turkey. I loved every minute of it, swimming the Hellespont and a 10km swim across to Bozcaada among other swims. I felt at home once again.

What have been the highs and lows in your swimming journey and how do you stay motivated?

My first open water race was at the World Masters in Edmonton  in 2005 where I came back with a gold medal which surprised me…. That was a high!

My lowest of low was not making it to France as a solo in 2015. I was pulled out after 11 hours in the French Shipping lane. I hate not finishing what I set out to do and not completing Rottnest in February due to the strong currents and not making the cut-off was also disappointing

What do you think are the three most important things for effective swim training?

I train regularly but think self- discipline, consistency in training and motivation to do so and cross training are essential.

What three tips do you have for swimmers new to open water?

  • Swim with an open mind
  • Enjoy the experience- every swim will be different.
  • Don’t put stress on oneself by hoping to finish in an unrealistic time.
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Ellery enjoying the 30km Kalamata Swim in  2016. Credit Ellery McGowan

How do you prepare for your swim challenges?

I am fortunate that I can train by myself and have the self-discipline to do so, but I also go on training camps to be with like- minded people.

I have a feeding plan which works for me and I have used for the last seven years! (Maxim and High5 isogel alternating along with half a banana every 3 hours)

A “Tupperware” box goes with me containing “ouch” for jelly fish stings, Voltaren for inflammation, ibuprofen for pain relief, an anti-histamine cream, sturgeron for sea sickness, night lights, safety pins etc. I cannot recall when I last used any of these apart from Voltaren on my 30km Kalamata swim last September.

How do you avoid injury?

I listen to my body but after a shoulder injury over 10 years ago I concentrated on my technique. I do two Pilates sessions a week, one yoga and a gyrotonics to keep my body supple and for core strength. I also do two spin classes for cardio.

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Ellery and her record setting Channel Relay friends! Credit Ellery McGowan

Why did you do the English Channel relay? How was it?! 

We had planned to do a two way in 2015 but were weathered out and managed to start a one way. However a massive storm hit us for the last few hours. I remember at 11:00 at night swimming in lightening and hail for the whole of my swim with everyone else in the cabin of Anastasia sheltering. Two hours later the seas became rough, the boat was lifted out of the water as winds reached 40 knots and we had to call it a day for safety just 2 miles off the French Coast.

Kathy re-booked with Eddie Spelling for this year , first on the tide but as the weather was not so good we went a day early, with just one replacement member due to injury. The first relay was four months before James died and this was the first time I had been in the Channel since. We all felt the cold after our first night swim which was pretty rough too but we had a full moon which was beautiful. Conditions smoothed out during my second leg but the third was magical coming towards the white cliffs of Les Escalles. I swam very hard and was just 17 minutes from the landing. I felt James was with me all the way in that glorious sunshine.

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Ellery McGowan

Has swimming helped cope with your bereavement?

Most definitely. I think of him a lot during my swims and I know the money I raise is now going towards research and screening. We have two days of screening planned at Charterhouse in June which will be covered by money from James’ memorial fund.

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Most of all I look back and know that the cold water swimming has put me in a good place. I have no problem in getting into -0.2 water in Siberia with air at -15 and swimming a 100m race. The feeling afterwards is always elating.

Your swimming accomplishments range from marathon swims to winter swimming championship medals – do you have a favourite swim and also, what next?

Every swim is different because of the elements, but I think possibly Toroneos Gulf has been my favourite. I was invited to do this by a Greek marathon swimmer whom I met on “The Big Blue” after swimming Manhattan. He sadly died earlier this year, also at a young age, from cancer. The swim was 26 km in the beautiful Ionian Sea, a wonderful atmosphere and in Greece everyone who finishes is a winner. To swim in hearing Vangelis playing loudly and having a huge wreath of olive leaves placed over my head by two fellow Greek swimming friends was just amazing.

What is your favourite swim cake?

I am not a great cake eater but would never say no to any, especially a rum cake!

What is your favourite swimming costume for open water and why?

I have a few but at the moment it is knee length Agon with an Australian design and my name ELLERY emblazoned on the front. (Just in case I forget who I am!)

Out of the water A Lotus Rises…Thank you Ellery!

 

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We Met as Strangers in a Car Park…

A brrrrrrilliant blog by super lotus Kate, who swam through the summer in a wetsuit, but wants to enjoy the water all year around. So…

We met, as strangers, in the car park next to Tooting Bec Lido. After a hug and introductions, Alice and I headed to the entrance. Despite being the longest outdoor pool in the country, you’d hardly know it was there. It’s so well hidden amongst the trees, and going through the turnstile it’s like stepping into a secret world.  And as the season changes, it’s a world of hardy outdoor swimmers – and I was planning to join them!

Inside, at a welcome coffee morning, some had already had their dip and were multi-layered, wide eyed and sniffy-nosed. Conversation skirted around the water temperature – the question never quite bubbling to the surface – a kindness perhaps towards those who haven’t yet taken the plunge.

Soon, Alice was keen for us to swim and we went to change.  

I could feel my nerves jangling and I wondered if I could do this. As we headed out in our cossies and flip-flops, there was a light drizzle and a delicate breeze. The steps into the pool were just a few metres ahead, and as I approached, my mind went still – focusing only on what was in front. Alice confidently waded down the steps, throwing back an ‘oh it’s not that bad actually’ over her shoulder. I knew I couldn’t keep her waiting so followed as quickly as I dared. I was waist height before I knew it, and felt myself gasp. There was a giggle as Alice captured the moment on camera.

 

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Kate enjoying the fresh water!

I tiptoed further in, so far so good… Then, Alice DUNKED! ARGH!  One minute she was with me, half-in half out, then she was under in a swirl of bubbles and up again with a glorious exhale. What?!! A dunk was too much! I can’t dunk! Hysterical laughter as I felt myself stuck!

But again the camera was rolling, and, with a polite mention of a low battery, Alice helped me with a countdown, 3, 2……..1!….  I pushed off, glided forward and I was swimming! My skin prickled and a massive smile appeared on my face.

With an encouraging whoop, Alice joined me and we swam together up the pool, chatting as we went.

I felt every push through the water was cleansing. All that I had arrived with a few minutes earlier was being washed away. At that moment I was just me in the water, enjoying every sensation, feeling refreshed and revitalised.

Tootling lido is an oasis of calm, secluded from the buzz of the city. As you look up all you see is trees. The leaves were blowing down onto the pool like confetti and our breath joined the steam rising from the pool.

After two lengths a high five alerted me to the fact I couldn’t feel my edges, and we scuttled in to dry off and layer up. Suitably dressed it was time for tea, cake and a chat with other swimmers. Extra bonus – my burnt banana bread even won a prize!

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Post swim layers and big smiles!

What did I learn?

  • I can do it. Without any superpowers!
  • That goggles are for decoration only – face in is a step too far.
  • You don’t swim far, but emerge with a zing!
  • Winter swimmers don’t mind burnt cake
  • Great things happen when you meet in a car-park

I left Alice with a giant hug and plans to take advantage of any opportunity for a swim throughout the winter. Thanks Alice!

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Cold water swimming is a fun activity, but as with all outdoor activities there are risks and needs to be approached with common sense. Knowledge is power and although this is not an exhaustive list, some helpful resources on cold water swimming are: the brilliant Lone Swimmer ‘s Bible of Cold Water Swimming. And this piece by Simon Griffiths at Outdoor Swimmer on After Drop is also an informative read and refers to the interesting research being undertaken at Portsmouth University around these issues.

There’s no such thing as a stupid question, so don’t be shy and do ask your fellow swim buddies for their advice and become part of a swim community. The same piece of water will change every day,  as does how you feel. No swim is the same, so listen to your body and know your limits…And pack sensibly – post swim always have a woolly hat, and loads of layers, starting with a good thermal (top and bottoms) next to the skin and layer up from there – people take the p*ss out of me for how many layers I put on, but I don’t care! Oh, and don’t forget cake. This is a particularly important time of year for the International Institute for Swim Cake Studies – they need you – for your cake and your winter swimming smiles, not for unnecessary shivers or scaring yourself 🙂

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Cake vs Pie – A Lake District Swim Adventure with Suzanna Swims

A Lotus Rises is working in partnership with the International Institute for Swim Cake Studies to answer one of the toughest questions in outdoor swimming: “What is the best cake for optimum swim performance?” Links to our swim cake archives, and how to contribute your swim cake data are at the bottom of this post. But suffice to say, we are determined in our scientific pursuit and prepared to travel the world swimming and eating cake for the rest of our lives if we have to…And so it came to pass, that on Tuesday at 09.00 hrs, this serious swim science endeavour lead us to a car park in Ambleside for a secret swim cake mission with Lake District swim guide and pie expert Suzanna Swims

The International Institute for Swim Cake Studies is a multi disciplinary, multi-stakeholder organisation, with a collaborative ethos at its heart – only through cooperation, discourse and truly listening and allowing different voices to be heard, can we ever resolve the critical challenges facing our world; and most of the time that’s best achieved with a swim followed by cake and a cup of tea (or perhaps coffee…).

We are immensely grateful to Suzanna for taking us on a swoosh-tastic, swim adventure along the River Rothay, past a Roman fort and across the “The Puddle of Unknown Depth”.

What follows is what will become (no doubt) award winning adventure film footage. Please note, that in the summer, this swim usually ends at the pub – literally you get out and walk into the pub garden. However as it was October and the water was pretty tropical, the autumn version of the swim enjoys an earlier exit, taking in the glamorous “Puddle of Unknown Depth”.

 

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Shark dog was carefully secured in her dog box and Suzanna talked me through the swim and what kit to carry in her new Swim Secure Wild Swim bags that we got to test out for the first time. Kit list below.

Getting in

Suzanna talked me through the safest entry point and lead the way into the Rothay. The water temperature was tropical “Just like Hawaii”…

 

Swoosh!

We flew along the first section – no need to swim and could rest on our wild swim bags and chat – very happy swim times!

 

Laughter and Kayaks

Turning the corner we met a group of kayakers “you’ve forgotten your wetsuits”.  Happily both of us knew we are acclimatised and happy skins swimming all year around. Skins swimming in October is not a badge of honour. But having acclimatised for a few years now, it’s something I enjoy. We all find our own path.

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The Puddle of unknown depth

We exited the river and walked back across the fields past the Roman fort and across “the Puddle of unknown depth”. Glamorous wild swimming times!

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Not quite such in the mud… Photo Credit  Suzanna Swims

 

Cream tea – Is it a scone or a cake?

There were pancakes on the menu too, but we kept things traditional with fruit scones and tea, over which we talked about swimming as a gateway to positive change in our lives and the environmental challenges faced in the local area and the responsibilities we have as swimmers (more to follow on that…).

For Suzanna though it is pies, rather than cake that fuel her swim adventures.

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Train home. Is a pasty a pie?

Too much tea and chat lead to a dash for the train back to the metropolis, leaving no time for a direct comparison of cake vs pie. However, Suzanna is super organised and gave me a cheese pasty to evaluate on the journey home….

 

Key information

Kit

This is not an exhaustive list, but Suzanna was testing out the Swim Secure Wild Swim Bag  It’s an inflatable dry bag with shoulder straps and waist band – you can remove the shoulder straps to swim, and put them back on when crossing the puddle of unknown depth and/or other terrain… Really good – space for a lot of clothing (down jacket, trainers, thermals etc), highly visible (good when encountering other water users), and versatile for swim-walk or run adventures.

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Suzanna Swims – expert Lakes guide #SwimSecure

Swimming costumes: Alice – Natatio Racer Back one piece Navy Pop; Suzanna – Zoggs – blue planet high back – (we think discontinued, we’re not sure). It’s her pick for buttermere swims – matches the water there (and that’s not just a fashion choice – more on that another time).

Swim gloves (Osprey): Again I never want to get cold, so when Suzanne offered gloves I gladly accepted them. They were much less cumbersome than I anticipated – could use my camera for Oscar winning film making etc…

And of course, the limited edition A Lotus Rises swim hat, perfect for river swims to the pub, or crossing the puddle of unknown depth. Incredible versatility 😉 (Note Alice wore two swim hats, just in case it was too tropical)

Post swim: Foot changing mat (insulates you from the cold), thermals (top and bottom), Swim Robe, Woolly hat, down jacket, waterproof jacket, mud and rain.

Where?

River Rothay, Ambleside.

Nutrition:

Tea.

Fruit scone, cream, jam and tea.

Cheese pasty or is that a pie?

The discussion continues (swim cake fellows there is a secret mission that we will announce that we need your help on…):

Kina Mara on the Swim Cake Science pulse:

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Outdoor swimmer magazine has also said the cake/pie debate is “just heresy”…

Controversial swim cake times – thank goodness the International Institute for Swim Cake studies is there to oversee developments.

A Call for Submissions. Deadline 6th November 2017

Outdoor Swimmer Magazine have launched a call for swim cake recipes to be published in the December issue of the magazine with prizes up for grabs. IISCS will be overseeing the adjudication panel in line with IISCS swim cake panel guidelines.

Where can I find out more?

Want a swim adventure in the Lakes? Connect with Suzanna Swims on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook

The International Institute for Swim Cake Studies – Become a research fellow @SwimCakeStudies or submit your swim cake data here and here (AKA swim cake pics and insights). Research write ups here and here. During the winter months we’ll be conducting a serious swim cake survey. Watch this space for more details…

The swim cake adventures continue…Thank you Suzanna Swims! #alotusrises #wsc

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