Category Archives: Swimspiration

Swimming in Siberia and other stories. A Lotus Rises meets Lake District wild swimmer Jackie Risman

Jackie Risman is part of a growing swimming community in the Lake District. Whilst many people start their outdoor swimming careers in warm climates, Jackie’s first outdoor swims were in Siberia!

A Lotus Rises spoke to Jackie to find out more about her swimming journey from Siberia, to Argentina and back home to the Lake District and her growing group of swimmers.

Why did you start outdoor swimming?

After two years of teaching English in Siberia, I decided to go winter swimming. My Russian student always found a way to turn discussions to the traditions and health benefits of swimming in cold water. It was worth trying if I was ever to find out what all this talk was about. As my boss, and in his role as President of the Tyumen Winter Swimming and Hardening Association he grasped an opportunity to introduce his passion to both me, the extreme tourist, and his growing children. When I announced my intention to swim in the frozen lake beside his dacha, in the depths of yet another harsh Siberian winter, the children said “Ok. If you swim, we’ll swim!” He stood proud as we all shook hands in solid agreement.

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Saturday morning arrived and my boss led our anxious group to the gym for a warm-up game of basketball. When our cheeks began to flush, he told us to quickly change into swimsuits while he organized our equipment. He was presented each of us with only a toweling dressing gown, fur-lined gloves, traditional Siberian felt varlinkee boots and a woolly hat. Laughing about our lack of winter clothing, we trudged outside into -15ºC and the icy path to the pool. Cold air crept into every space between skin and fabric, threatening to deep freeze our bodies until guided back to the sauna. Family and friends were applauding and yelling support from the dacha balcony, clutching hats and down jackets to them, as if we were making them feel colder. My brain screamed of danger, but my body wondered what all the fuss was about, because it really wasn’t as immediately bad as I presumed being semi-naked in wildest Siberia would be.

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The children stood back from the lake as we reached the wooden walkway leading across the frozen shore to the shelter protecting the ice hole. Memories flew across my mind of torturous school hockey games in the middle of winter while fingers froze and sleet blinded us. “But THIS is Siberia,” I repeated, “this is what they do in Siberia, and of course you can do it too. You’re a tough Cumbrian lass.”

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Without delay, my boss urged me to follow him inside the shelter. The children’s heads crowded into the doorway behind us, while I stared down at the 8m x 2m hole that had been carved through metre-thick ice into the frozen lake. A pump was driving air which bubbled through the black water to keep it from re-freezing, but the wooden steps descending into the steaming mix were shrouded in icicles and delicate frosting. The smell of rich Siberian earth, vegetation and metallic new ice lingered in the fog. Light flooded plastic-paneled windows while their corners were rounded with remnants of last night’s snowfall. This place hovered in a netherworld caught under the snow yet above the ice, and I was about to go swimming.

“Jackie, you must breathe out when you enter the water. Don’t forget to breathe.” My boss was calling me back from imagination. A moment of no thinking, of simply following his guidance, and I was trying to relax my breathing, outside in a Siberian winter, in a swimsuit and bobble hat.

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My toes touched the water which had been a film of glassy ice only a few hours ago, and I knew it was going to hurt. Two more steps down and my knees were submerged. Standing on the wooden framework, almost at my ear, my boss shouted “Go, go Jackie go.” I pushed away from the warmth of the wood and fell into the world of winter swimming in Siberia. From that moment, I didn’t look back with an ounce of regret or doubt that my boss knew exactly what he was talking about, and everything he had said was true. With a dedicated ice training plan my circulation and immune system dramatically improved, my heart felt strong, an appetite for adventure grew, and ‘cold’ never crept back into our vocabulary.

Siberia – that’s amazing – what’s it like cutting the ice?!

Every week, we swam in the frozen lake at the dacha. The children would drop into the pool behind me like ducks. Our screams of fear became encouragement, and more friends, including Ruth from Northern Ireland, joined us for the first time, fed by our enthusiasm for ice water. By May, winter had faded, the lake was melting, and we were confident and capable of swimming outside even when the temperatures plummeted to -34ºC. We followed International Winter Swimming Association (IWSA) guidelines and rules of security which meant that no-one swam alone, or without a woolly hat, or without the sauna being prepared first, and we never said the c-word!! Of course, it was going to be c-c-cold. By avoiding the word, we found a game in the positive mindset needed to keep swimming week after week in water below +5ºC. Usually, the children pushed me to swim first, and often the air pump had not been turned on. I would launch out from the steps and have to crash my naked hands onto sheets of invisible ice threatening to slice arms and faces. Icicles and frost would sparkle like fairy dust as steam rose from water warmer than the outer air. Our damp varlinkee boots would freeze to the wooden walkway and prevent us from stepping straight into them and easily walking away from the pool. Part of the fun was being frozen to the spot, and then sprung free to slide along the walkway back to the bank, but nothing prepared us for the razor sharp slashes of water which had frozen to our wet skin, that were pulling fine hairs from arms and exposed legs.

Where else have you swum?

The following summer, my boss was invited to the Argentina Winter Swimming Festival, in the Andes above Mendoza, and to swim in front of the Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia. He invited me, and I was honoured to join him. This unique opportunity of swimming in the cold but open waters of an Argentinian winter, concluded all the preparation we had been doing in Siberia. With nothing more than a swimsuit, cap, goggles and a positive attitude, strong friendships were founded as swimmers from 20 different countries shared unique experiences with us. Back in Siberia, we looked forward to hosting and swimming with these special people in the 2nd Tyumen Winter Swimming Open Cup. Guests joined us in our pool at the dacha, from South Africa, USA, Chile, Argentina, England and all across Russia and Europe. For many, winter swimming in Siberia was an impossible dream, and the event cemented our international winter swimming family.

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Next, I landed in Finland with Ruth, and participated in the national championships, just 100kms from the Arctic Circle. More than 700 swimmers of all ages and abilities from across Finland, with a mutual love of winter swimming hosted us. We loved every second of their fresh/sea water pool and the club on the river, which is attended daily by hundreds of swimmers just as keen as us to feel their endorphins racing. Soon, I was on my way back to Argentina, via Prague to join Czech swimming friends, who also shared a passion for swimming throughout the year, and I promised, one day, to return for their traditional Boxing Day swim under Charles Bridge.

 

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After my second South American winter in Argentina, and assisting the organization of another International Winter Swimming Festival, life took a dramatic turn when aged only 45, I returned to Cumbria for a life-changing total hip replacement. Convinced that I wasn’t going to waste time by sitting around in pain, I visited Wigton Baths as often as possible for classes. I hoped to learn how to properly swim front crawl, right up until the week of surgery. Just as Siberia had taught me to enjoy the positivity of winter swimming, the pool taught me that movement without pressure on my damaged joints was keeping muscles flexible and my heart moving. Post-surgery, 6 weeks later, I was on my way back to the pool with Francine who, after 30 years of friendship, I’d just heard about her love of morning pool swims. It was a celebration to be in the water again and able to explore a new range of movement.

I walked with Leah from Lanthwaite Green car park at Crummock Water, just 8-weeks post-surgery. I’d underdressed my swimsuit and saw total shock when I told her as we locked the car. She held my clothes and sheltered from the sudden snow shower, laughing her head off when I waded into the lake at flat-stone beach, and had the shortest and first of many wild swims on home turf. Half disbelief, half amazement that I felt back in a pain-free world of adventure, which didn’t just connect me with open water. Having grown up in the Lake District, it had never occurred to me until then that I had a million opportunities for both cold and open water on the doorstep. My plan to swim in every swim-able lake was born now that I felt back on track with the buzz of Crummock-enduced endorphins racing through my body.

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Where do you like swimming now and who with?

Three months after hip replacement, and feeling the need for an open/cold water companion, I put a message on Cumbria Open Water Swimmers Facebook page for like-minded winter swimmers. At first, the general response was very discouraging but, rising above the negativity, I stayed hopeful until Rosie replied and wanted to swim. We messaged, agreed to swim from the boat landings at Derwentwater, and then I asked “Where do you live?” As fate had it, we lived in Wigton, the same small Cumbrian town!

Fate and social media had nailed it. May Bank Holiday weekend, with fresh snow on the fells, we dipped into Derwentwater and it felt good. Our next adventure took us to Glencoyne Bay, Ullswater with artist, Nancy Farmer and her unforgettable chocolate brownies, and I knew what I needed to do…get decent swim shoes to deal with awkward rocks underfoot, and keep doing what we were doing. There was no pressure to push extreme limits, we belly-laughed in the middle of lakes, and we got out when we knew we could still recover with ease. The water temperature was much warmer than Siberia, closer to +7ºC, but the feeling was just as exhilarating. My journey had been tough with a lot of miles to get back home with a new outlook, and I felt stronger with every adventure – the Lake District had everything I could possibly need to pursue my love of wild swimming, while the people I told my adventures to smiled and became curious.

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Eighteen months later, and every weekend it’s a different Lake District location, maybe a favourite lake spot or an unfamiliar tarn. This weekend I’ve been in both Crummock and Ullswater, wild swimming in the rain, uniting a group of swimmers that had never met before. Jean, who dared herself a year ago to join me and Rosie after we met at a local writers group; Margaret, who I met through mutual swim friends that we’d both found on Facebook, or was it Instagram?! Karen, accomplished swim achievements to her credit and visiting from Loch Lomond, but we first met in Argentina. And Francine, who finally joined in my challenge to swim all the Lakes, and has become my same-pace-same-courage-can-do-swim-pal; after all this time, who knew that her curiosity would generate a new dimension to our friendship.

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How did that swim group grow?

Our wild swimming community is built on personal connections, and jam-packed with positive souls and strong spirits, regardless of ability, age, or experience, but united in their sense of adventure and love of being outside to see the Lake District from inside the view itself. The Swim Gang messages through the week to plan our next adventure, and has grown from tiny seeds of connection and mutual friendships, with wild swimming in the Lakes as our linchpin. We share transport and suggestions of recommended locations, Suzanna Swims offers creative routes, or Susan wishes for dawn training calls, on sunny evenings there are post-work de-stresses, or early Sunday morning nattering from the middle of a lake, bobbing along with the wind and buzzards swooping overhead. The rest of the world may be sleeping off what it thinks has passed. Meanwhile, we’re in the quiet of what is yet to happen, in the middle of the natural world where it’s all still ticking along nicely, and the rubbish stuff is too far back on the shore to reach. The serious bit is that we are all aware we are not out there alone: tow floats are a must, there’s no prizes for staying in too long, and the swim isn’t over until everyone’s recovery is complete. After all, this is extreme adventure tourism, although it may not be Siberia, but the stakes are equally high. And there is always the sharing of photos and experiences, across our social media circles which are spread around the world, or tea and cake for when we’ve dried off!

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What does swimming mean to you?

Recently, I enrolled for an online copywriting course. The first exercise said – Sell yourself in a letter and sign it with your defining life role. I gave it a lot of thought: writer, teacher, domestic engineer…no, I thought…wild swimmer. I’m a wild swimmer and I’m wild about swimming wild. I love the rituals; the adrenalin; the mastering of irrational fears; the state of having irrational fears; our community; their diversity; how we never permit the c-word; swimming in all weathers, in all seasons; the strength that each of us displays that no individual thought they held alone, although wild swimming is not a team sport. Swimming has become the force of nature that wakes me early at the weekend, keeps me warm in the winter, and throws me into the beautiful Lake District landscape in search of fresh adventures. Every time, the experience is different, neither better nor worse – just wildly unique.

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As you know A Lotus Rises is working in collaboration with the International Institute for Swim Cake studies, to answer the fundamental question of open water swimming: What is the best cake for optimum swim performance.  Please can you tell us, what is your favourite swim cake and why?

And sometimes, Lottie will bake a cake. OMG can she bake a cake. Macademia and White Chocolate Brownies. End of!

What is your favourite piece of swim kit and why?

Finally, shoes. Get some, they will change your swim life. Take away the pain of starting and finishing your wild swim, knowing your feet won’t hurt and I may not be Halle Berry wading out of Ullswater, but I’ve never stubbed a toe when I’m wearing Sports Direct’s Hot Tuna swim shoes. With flexible but hardwearing soles, neoprene slip-ons, they are secure, lightweight, still let me feel the water temperature, are machine washable, and incredible value for money. Plus, a lightweight but hooded toweling poncho that rolls up small for my backpack to save modesty and from flashing my cold bits in moments of vulnerability.

Swim safe. Swim wild.

You can follow Jackie’s adventures and connect with her via Instagram 

A Lotus Rises  is the swimming blog for women who love open water, from your first 25m to the Channel. And we’re on a mission to increase visibility, access and participation of women in swimming and we’d love you to be a part of it. Many more inspirational stories, advice and adventures can be found on our Blog, and Facebook page and Instagram, – please don’t hesitate to get in touch via Twitter or  alotusrises@gmail.com. We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!

SLSC Plunge Championship Practice

Tomorrow is the most hotly contested event in the South London Swimming Club calendar – The Plunge Championships, and today I accompanied some of SLSC’s elite swimmers in their training and preparation…

Plunge diving is a tradition that dates back to the 1904 Olympics. Basically you dive in and see how far you can float – no kicking or underwater swimming allowed.

The biggest issue I found was with keeping my goggles on.

However other swimmers were able to dive without even using their goggle straps #eliteplungeskills

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Whilst traditionally plunge diving is a solo event, today we achieved what we believe to be a world first: A 4 Person Plunge…

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As these pics demonstrate, tomorrows race is likely to be the toughest yet in SLSC club history, with race marshals needing to be vigilant of any attempts by competitors to gain unfair advantage…

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Unconfirmed reports that Dan A may have been edging forward at the bottom of the pool…

At A Lotus Rises we’re celebrating  women in open water, from your first splash, through to wild swims and marathon swimming.

Many more inspirational stories, advice and adventures can be found on our Blog, and Facebook page and please don’t hesitate to get in touch via Twitter or  alotusrises@gmail.com. We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!

 

LOTUS Exclusive: A Circumnavigation of the Rock With No Name…

At around 20.00 hrs yesterday evening,  Jess and her dog Otley made their way down to Westcombe beach for a dip, with me, Alice, official observer from the swim blog for women who love open water – A Lotus Rises.

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Jess on the rocks! Photo copyright: Alice Gartland

Some people may think this was just two friends and a dog going for an evening swim and picnic amongst the Monet like cliffs of the Devon coast, but no…

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Looking out to the Rock With No Name (it’s the little one that’s difficult to see that’s just in front to the big one)… Photo Copyright: Alice Gartland

Otley and the picnic were secured beach side, and we ventured out into the cool sea. Jess pirouetting on the sea covered rocks that she knows so well  (this is her local swimming pool).

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Ahead lay the Rock with no name, of which there are no official records of a circumnavigation… we estimated the swim to be about 10m in distance and best approached with a mixture of head up breast stroke and doggie paddle…

This breath taking footage captures this world first in wild swimming…

And this – doggie paddle to the finish…and diving off the island in celebration – Well done Jess – Epic swimming times!

Then we headed back to the beach for a crudette avec dip supper, and a petit vino, whilst wrapped up in warm jackets and woolly hats, before walking barefoot and muddy back home.

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Jess looking back to the beach in her OSS Dart 10k hat (rumour has it that Jess will be returning to the Dart in 2017… )

Continue reading LOTUS Exclusive: A Circumnavigation of the Rock With No Name…

Swim4miles. A Lotus Rises meets Coach, Boat Pilot and Loch Lomond expert Chris Sifleet

Chris Sifleet is an open water swimming coach based in Balloch near Loch Lomond. Chris was a County pool swimmer and transitioned to open water many years ago at age 13 and has completed solo swims of the English Channel 1976 and 1979 and two-way Windermere, Bala Lake, Torbay, Mewstone Rock to Torquay (first person), Weymouth to Lullworth cove and return (first woman) and many more. She now helps swimmers achieve their ambitions be that one mile or 21.6 miles in Loch Lomond and soon various locations across Scotland. She and her firm Swim4miles are partnering with the IISA Great Britain Ice Swimming Championships being held in Loch Lomond on Saturday 11th February, and along with her group and individual tuition is hosting a swim camp in Banff Scotland in September involving sea swims, castles and a ceilidh!

Why did you become a swim coach?

Well I had been out of swimming for several years through illness, but always maintained an interest and reflected very much on what swimming had done for me. For example, it increased my confidence and fitness and introduced me to lifelong friends that I am in touch with to this day – Who would not want any of that?

So I decided to share my experiences and love of swimming and help people achieve their aims and ambitions and try and instill in others the belief that anything is possible. I passed my level 1 and 2 open water coaching qualification and started coaching three years ago. I formed Swim4miles, took my piloting qualifications and moved to Balloch Loch Lomond where I run a bed and breakfast, so I can offer the whole package – swim, sleep and socialise!

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Emma Lister on her 6 hour qualifier in Loch Lomond. Photo copyright Chris Sifleet

What does Scotland and Loch Lomond offer to open water swimmers?

21.6 miles of beautiful scenery and a very challenging swim. The challenges are the weather; particularly wind directions. It can be very variable – sometimes it’s behind you, but at some point it will be in your face! There is also the temperature. In a good year it might be 16 to 18c, and in a poor year it can be as low as 13c. Because the bottom of the Loch undulates and there are many small rivers flowing off the hills the temperature can go up and down, which is why acclimatisation is very important. If you don’t want to swim the whole thing then there are various routes across and around the islands, which I map out on an individual basis.

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A swimmer enjoying the loch! Photo Copyright Chris Sifleet

Please describe some of your recent coaching successes.

I was very proud this year to coach the Arran Troonautics. A mainly female team with one chap swimming 16 miles from the Isle of Arran to Troon on the Scottish mainland, in aid of the Jo Walters Trust and the RNLI. There were two relay teams: ‘Clyde’, the non wetsuited team who gained recognition from the BLDSA; and ‘Firth’, the wetsuited team who were on a separate boat. There were a variety of abilities, so I had a busy time formulating training plans for the beginners as well as the more experienced swimmers. They all completed the swim and raised twenty five thousand pounds for charity.

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Troonautics swimming from Arran to Troon. Photo copyright Chris Sifleet

I also coached a lady who had done very little swimming and wanted to undertake a swim challenge in aid of MIND. We worked towards her swimming the three miles across Loch Lomond, which she did. We started off with stroke analysis and then I gave her a program of swims so she could swim the distance. She wore a shortie wetsuit and to help her acclimatise I recommended that she blow up a paddling pool in her back garden, fill it with cold water and sit in it for as long as she could stand through the winter! She was so proud of herself and that smile will stay with me for life! She raised seven hundred pounds for MIND.

How does the role of a boat pilot differ from that of being a coach?

I am responsible for the administration and safe running for the whole swim. I have my own boat so it is my responsibility to get the swimmer plus the boat to the start, and ensure that before and after care is dealt with efficiently. I am a qualified pilot and I have a co-pilot with me. I also have a medic and encourage the swimmer to bring along someone who knows them well. I can be responsible for feeding them etc if they have come alone.

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Swim Camp! Photo copyright Chris Sifleet

I need to make sure during the swim that the swimmer is not becoming hypothermic and I will pull a swimmer out of the water if I feel their health and wellbeing is compromised – We live to fight another day! It is a long sit on the boat, as it can take in excess of 15 hours to swim the length of loch Lomond, however the minutes at the finish of the swim when the swimmer gets out, realises what they have achieved and smiles, makes it all worthwhile!

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Coaching the Sunday Morning Swim Group. Photo copyright Chris Sifleet

What are you looking forward to most about working on the IISA Great Britain Ice Swimming Championships?

Very excited about this event. We have ‘tartanised’ it as much as possible and have a piper, highland dances and a Scottish Ceilidh in the evening. There are events where swimmers can challenge themselves and the temperature is likely to be a tad chilly. I am the one person cheering when it looks like snow! I am looking forward to introducing this wonderful Loch to people who have never been here before and hopefully renewing old acquaintances and making new friends.

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Loch Lomond. Copyright Chris Sifleet

 

A Lotus Rises is dedicated to women who inspire and are inspired by a love of open water: We celebrate their successes in the water, inspire others to embark on swimming adventures and raise awareness of the social and environmental issues that are entwined with our love of water.

You can get involved via the BlogFacebook, Instagram, Twitter @ALotus_Rises and alotusrises@gmail.com. We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!

The name ‘A Lotus Rises’, comes from the Chinese proverb 芙蓉出水,“Out of the Water a Lotus Rises,” used to described strong beautiful women in water and overcoming challenges and coming into bloom.

The BIG Chill Swim! Event review by Helen Gilburt

With a backdrop of snow tipped mountains, there’s nowhere in England quite like Lake Windermere for a swimming gala. So like 100’s of others, last weekend I travelled to Low Wood Bay to take part in the Big Chill Swim. For anyone who has never been to a winter swim event or been put off by taking part in a ‘gala’ the Big Chill Swim is a prime demonstration of how eclectic and inclusive cold water swimming is. My first year I signed up for the 60m and 120m events but 3 events on, I’ve been building up and along with 2 shorter distances I was finally entered into the British 1 kilometre Championships.

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The Big Chill Swim, water a bracing 7.3 degrees: Photo Credit Helen Gilbert

The event kicked off on Saturday with the 450m endurance event. Yet again I asked myself – why does everything I enter have to start first thing in the morning?! Despite all the training, I always feel awash with nerves. It’s only when you get into the final briefing and take your allotted seat, when the opportunity for ‘just one more wee’ has finally passed that it’s time to go with the flow. For our group that meant a lot of banter and laughter enhanced with someone explaining to the younger age category sat opposite ours that “this is what you’ll look like in 5 years time!”

I can’t say it was a disaster (I took 3rd place in my age category) but it certainly wasn’t what I visualised. Perhaps the tell-tale sign that yet again the adrenaline had got the better of me and I’d gone off too fast was that 3 lengths in out of 15 all I could think about was how out of breath I was.

Between swims you often have quite a bit of time, but swimming is only part of what Big Chill Swim is. Like other events, I often travel on my own. This can seem a bit daunting at first but the common bond of winter swimming means there’s always someone to chat with. And if you’re not embroiled sharing stories with one of the many teams in attendance, there’s always the relay. Teams of 4, each member racing 30m for me is one of the highlights of the event. Not for the speed per se but the diversity and creativity of the fancy dress at play. You’ve heard of 4 lords a leaping, but can you imagine 4 turkeys swimming… not to mention the obligatory mankinis.

For many Saturday was completed with a buffet and barn dance at the fabulous Low Wood Hotel, but for me it was a burger and bed in preparation for the 1k event. Yes, as you’ve guessed, yet another early morning. Big Chill Swim is associated with the International Winter Swimming Association attracting participants from across the world. With two ladies from Finland, one from the US and one from Chile – our race was certainly a demonstration of that.

So what will I be taking from this year’s event? A gold, silver and bronze in 3 separate events and entry to the Big Chill Swim 1k club, learning how to sauna the Finnish way (on your back with your feet and hands in the air) but most importantly a growing group of friends to hang out with at next year’s event.

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Champion! Photo Credit: Helen Gilbert

 

A Lotus Rises is dedicated to women who inspire and are inspired by a love of open water: We celebrate their successes in the water, inspire others to embark on swimming adventures and raise awareness of the social and environmental issues that are entwined with our love of water.

You can get involved via the BlogFacebook, Instagram, Twitter @ALotus_Rises and alotusrises@gmail.com. We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!

The name ‘A Lotus Rises’, comes from the Chinese proverb 芙蓉出水,“Out of the Water a Lotus Rises,” used to described strong beautiful women in water and overcoming challenges and coming into bloom.

New Blog: A Lotus Rises Meets Lynne Cox…We talk about her new book ‘Swimming in the Sink’, the power of love, and realising swimming dreams

Lynne Cox is an American long-distance open-water swimmer, motivational speaker, and author. Over the course of more than 35 years, spanning a period equal to 8 Olympic Games, Lynne has accomplished swims setting world records and opening borders, contributed to medical research, supported environmental causes, and inspired people to overcome great obstacles. She is best known for her swim across the Bering Strait from the United States to the Soviet Union 7 August 1987.

She twice held the overall record for the fastest crossing of the English Channel from England to France and has completed over 60 challenging swims around the world, including being the first woman to swim the Cooke Strait and first person to swim off Antarctica in 32 degree water, for 25 minutes!

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It is fair to say Lynne puts her heart in to everything, and in her latest book “Swimming in the Sink. An episode of the heart” Lynne tells the story of facing her biggest challenge ever – a broken heart – dealing with the grief of her parents passing, the loss of her beloved Labrador and diagnosis with atrial fibrillation, placing the real possibility of her own death before her.

As her world unravels, she becomes estranged from the water, but courage, patient determination, friendship and love take her on a healing journey, reconnecting her to her heart and mind, rebuilding and making her whole again.

Why did you want to write this book

My goal was to write a book that would help people in many ways. I explain the process that I went through to become an elite athlete, how the stress of life made me lose touch with my body and heart and how I nearly died. I write about the process I went through to recover my health so other people may adapt that process to their lives to recover from illness and thrive. 

What have you learned about life both in and out of the water from this journey of the heart?

I have learned that life is a gift and that it’s important to remember each day is precious. I have learned that love heals your heart. And there are many forms of love – romantic love, love of family, friends, love of the ocean, love for oneself, and love for other beings. Love is a powerful emotion and force that connects us and makes us happy we are alive

Your book explores the mind-body connection. How important is that for open water swimming?

The mind-body connection is essential for open water swimming. You have to be constantly aware of your body when you are making a long swim or a cold swim. You need to continuously monitor how your body is performing, to adjust your pace and you need to continuously maintain a positive attitude. 

“Each day I told my heart that I was happy that she was still a part of me, and I was grateful for her. I told her that she was strong and powerful and that she would endure like she always had. I told my heart that I loved her, that I always wanted her with me. We still had great things we would do together, and I wanted to do them wholeheartedly.” Lynne Cox, Swimming in the Sink

What advice do you have for other people embarking on new challenges, facing a broken heart or a loss of swimming mojo?

I would give different advice for the three things you’ve listed. If people are embarking on new challenges I would suggest they determine the level of their commitment to the challenge, figure out how much research they need to do, and focus their training to meet their goal. As for facing a broken heart, I think there are so many components to consider when people are doing that, and there are so many possibilities and options.

That’s why I wrote the new book because you can’t advise people in a few sentences. If people are losing their desire to swim the best thing they can do is to get out of the water, do something else, take a break, enjoy hiking, kayaking, going to the movies, do something different with friends. There will be a time when the water calls them back and it will be impossible for them to resist that invitation.

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What next for you? 

I am doing speaking engagements for: companies, physicians, libraries, and associations. I’ve begun to work on a new writing project, and I am swimming whenever and wherever I can as I continue to travel to promote Swimming in the Sink.

Finally, as you may be aware A Lotus Rises is working in partnership with the International Institute for swim Cake studies to answer the critical question: what is the best cake for optimum swim performance? What is your favourite swimcake and why?

A slice of moist rich dark chocolate cake with chocolate butter cream frosting was a swim cake that I’d dream about when I was doing a four hour ocean swim 🙂

Thank you Lynne!

A Lotus Rises is dedicated to women who inspire and are inspired by a love of open water: We celebrate their successes in the water, inspire others to embark on swimming adventures and raise awareness of the social and environmental issues that are entwined with our love of water.

You can get involved via the BlogFacebook, Instagram, Twitter @ALotus_Rises and alotusrises@gmail.com. We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!

The name ‘A Lotus Rises’, comes from the Chinese proverb 芙蓉出水,“Out of the Water a Lotus Rises,” used to described strong beautiful women in water and overcoming challenges and coming into bloom.

JENBO JETS, SET FOR GENEVA

Next week four women from London’s Serpentine Swimming Club – the JENBO Jets  – will be swimming the length of Lake Geneva to raise funds for both lifeguards saving refugees, and local peacebuilders who protect and rebuild lives shattered by conflict.

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Natasha is fundraising for Peace Direct – an NGO with 12 years’ experience supporting local peacebuilders worldwide who find their own solutions to conflict and build long-lasting peace: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Natasha-Dyer 
Emily is fundraising for Lifeguard Hellas who haul refugees out of the water, saving them from sinking boats near the island of Lesvos.
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We spoke to Natasha about why she’s doing this and what it involves:

This swim will be the ultimate test in endurance for me, but local peacebuilders dedicate their lives to helping people overcome war and violence to build brighter futures and long-lasting peace. The energy, commitment and resilience they show in enabling people to forge a new path out of violence and tragedy is remarkable, and thinking of their daily sacrifices will certainly help keep me going during tough points in the swim.

Its 69km and will take us between 24 to 35 hours depending on the weather and swim conditions.

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Training tips and strategy
As we all swim at roughly the same speed, we’ve trained by swimming regularly together over the last few months, so it helps maintain our pace and fitness. We’ve also done swims where we get in and out of the water repeating one hour swims as we will do across Lake Geneva, to test our ability to battle the cold and fatigue. Luckily our swim captain is a physio so she takes care of any injury niggles, but ultimately the key to a strong team is constant communication. Planning and training together has allowed us to identify what we need and discuss each other’s fears and weaknesses, so we can develop strategies to tackle them. As well as bonding of course!
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Cake!

As you know, at a Lotus Rises, we are working in partnership with the International Institute for Swim Cake Studies on a groundbreaking research project to answer the question “What is the best cake for optimal swim performance”. What  SwimCake will you be taking across Lake Geneva?

I will take banana bread – delicious and nutritious after a choppy swim. But we will also have cookies and chocolate tiffin!

Big Love
Finally, just a thank you to our swimming friends and groups that are supporting us to do this, and the generous friends, family and colleagues who have donated to help us across. Like any challenge, you can never do it alone, so we are hugely grateful to all that have donated, given tips, supplies or good luck wishes. We promise to give it our all!
Go Smash it JENBO Jets. Wicked, wicked, BOOM!
 

At A Lotus Rises is a community of women who inspire and are inspired by a love of open water.  From the first splash, through to wild swims and marathon swimming, many more inspirational stories, advice and adventures can be found on our Blog, and Facebook page and please don’t hesitate to get in touch via Twitter or  alotusrises@gmail.com.

We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!

Totally Bondi! A Lotus Rises meets endurance swimmer and surf life saver Kristy McIntyre

Kristy McIntyre is an endurance swimmer who lives in Sydney. Her swim adventures include solo swims of Lake Zurich, The English Channel and Rottnest. Two years ago, Kristy joined the Bondi Surf Bathers Lifesaving Club, Australia’s oldest life saving club founded in 1907 (and perhaps the world’s first ever life saving club).

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Kristy is a volunteer lifesaver and trainer, and, with a group of 4 others, recently trained 19 new lifesavers over 11 weeks. The training programme includes practical and theory classes that teach new recruits: how to communicate on the beach, CPR & first aid, skills to negotiate the surf swimming and on a board, how to rescue conscious and unconscious patients and treat spinal injuries.

Kristy talked to A Lotus Rises about what it takes to train as a life-saver and the importance of swim community in her swimming journey.

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Epic Sydney Harbour Swim Selfie!

Why did you become part of the Bondi Surf Bathers Lifesaving Club?

 There are so many long distance swimmers who owe their success to volunteers. Before moving to Sydney, I lived in London and was part of the Serpentine Swimming club. I loved the ethos and volunteering culture of the club. The club and it’s community were a big part of why I loved living in London. When I moved to Sydney, I joined Bondi Surf Bathers Lifesaving as I wanted to continue to volunteer in our local community, to meet like-minded people, improve my surf skills, and, as I’d just returned from the UK with my English partner (Mark) it was a great way to re-integrate Mark and I into Australian life and teach him all the things he needed to know about the ocean. It also happens to be home to the largest population of British people in Australia.

What is the role of life savers on Bondi beach?

Bondi Beach is one of the busiest beaches in the country, on a hot day we can get 30,000 people at the beach in a day, we do more rescues in a day than some surf clubs do in a year. Bondi is one of the Sydney beaches that is patrolled all year round by paid council lifeguards (think Bondi Rescue). The volunteer lifesavers patrol from September to April on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays, we wear red and yellow uniforms and volunteer a minimum of 6 hours, 1 in every 3 weekends.  At Bondi there are two volunteer clubs, Bondi and North Bondi and members of both clubs work alongside the lifeguards to keep beach goers safe. We rescue people who are in difficulty in the ocean, treat broken bones & dislocations, treat cuts & abrasions, help find lost children, take tourist photos and even provide directions.

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Hello Bondi!

What do you need to do to qualify as a life saver? 

 To qualify as a lifesaver requires undertaking an 11 week bronze medallion course which consists of 1 x 2hr theory class, 1 x 3 hour practical class and additional board and swimming training every week. To pass this course you’ll need to swim 400m in under 9 minutes, complete a 200m run – 200m swim – 200m run, in under 8 minutes, rescue an unconscious person from behind breaking waves using a board, demonstrate your ability to work as a team, communicate on the beach, perform CPR, lift unconscious patients, treat spinal injuries and provide first aid.

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What are the common dangers swimmers need to look out for and what are the kind of situations you encounter?

At a patrolled beach, swimmers should always swim between the red and yellow flags, this is the most watched place for you to swim. If you’ve decided not to swim between the flags or there are no flags you need to look at the ocean, if there are no waves breaking and the water is darker in colour, this indicates a channel that the water is using to go back out to sea (commonly known as a rip). Don’t go swimming in a rip, if you do find yourself in a rip, don’t try to swim back to shore against it, swim across it to where the waves are breaking and take the waves back into shore. Rip’s won’t kill you and won’t drag you under the water, they’ll take you out past the break zone and then they dissipate, if you want to return to shore quickly, the quickest way is using the waves.

Blue bottles or stingers will sting initially, but you can treat them very effectively with what you have on the beach. Use the salt water to pull the stinger off yourself (you can touch this with your fingers it won’t hurt you), then try a warm shower, or failing that lifesavers will have ice and/or stingose at their patrol tent.

Another danger is diving head first into sand banks, if you’re at a beach you’ve never been to before, walk out into the water and look for where the sand banks are, if you’re going to dive or surf a wave make sure your arms are always outstretched in front of you, this will help protecting your head and neck.

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Kristy enjoying the 2016 Rottnest swim

As you know, at a Lotus Rises, we are working in partnership with the International Institute for Swim Cake Studies on a groundbreaking research project to answer the question “What is the best cake for optimal swim performance”. What is your preferred SwimCake and why?

Banana cake with cream cheese frosting, not too sweet, its quiet dense so you get a lot of energy from it and when your mouth is all salty after a long swim, it doesn’t sting it.

YUM! Thank you Kristy!

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Rottnest Complete!

 

 

Splash! The Swimming Initiative Empowering Lives In An Out Of The Water in Hong Kong

Simon Holliday has lived in HK for two years and has spent a lot of that time swimming in the surprisingly beautiful waters around Hong Kong. He is a Channel swimmer and became the second person to swim from HK to Macau in 2014. Last year he co-founded Splash – a swim school for Foreign Domestic Workers and under-privileged young people in Hong Kong. A Lotus Rises spoke to Simon and Naive, a recent Splash! graduate to find out more about this fantastic initiative that is empowering women both in and out of the water.

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Splash! From the Pool…
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…To Open Water!

What is Splash?

Splash conducts free learn-to-swim and water safety courses for targeted communities who may not have access or financial resources for swim lessons. 

Taught by experienced coaches in a supportive group setting, Splash swimmers learn an important life skill while developing confidence and well-being both in and out of the water.  We are a bunch of volunteers – some with a coaching background some without – who wanted to share the sport we love.

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Why did you found Splash?

Foreign Domestic Workers play a pivotal but under-appreciated role in Hong Kong society.  They are required to live with their employers in invariably tiny living quarters. They have no legal rights in Hong Kong.  Should they lose their job, they are required to leave Hong Kong within two weeks. They make a huge sacrifice to work in Hong Kong, leaving children, extended family and friends behind in The Philippines, Indonesia and elsewhere in Asia.

They work six days a week and on their ONE day off many congregate in the central business district and other open areas sitting on pieces of cardboard, playing cards, sharing food and catching up with friends.  We felt some of these women would like the opportunity to use this time to learn a life skill.  Swimming has been such an important part of my life and we wanted to share our love of the water with others.  It is quite a selfish activity really as we (the coaches) seem to get at least as much enjoyment from the sessions as the participants!

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What impact does it have?

Last year we helped nearly 200 Foreign Domestic Workers to learn to swim.  We have also seen some of our swimmers go on to compete in open water competitions.  These were women who had just learned to swim competing against people who had swam all their lives.  They fail and succeed with a smile on their faces and are always willing to give it a try.

But swimming is really just the vehicle.  We have seen participants grow in confidence out of the water.  Friendships develop.  And more people are joining a small but growing open water community. 

What are your hopes for the future?

This year, we hope to help nearly 700 Foreign Domestic Workers learn to swim.  We are also developing programmes for under-privileged young people.

Longer term, we hope to continue to build swimming communities in parts of Hong Kong and other countries in Asia.  

Congratulations to the Splash Winter 2016 graduates!

 

Naive Gascon, a recent Splash! graduate also shares her experience. Naive joined Splash as a beginner swimmer and now regularly enjoys 4km swims in open water.

Why did you participate in Splash?

I participated in Splash because i really wanted to learn how to swim. When I got here in Hong Kong, I looked for opportunities to grow, learn things and have fun on my day off. Before, I participated in free learning stuff offered from different organization such as Yoga, Cooking, etc.  and then Splash came. Swimming just captured my heart!

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Naive flying out of the water!

What did you gain from participating in Splash?

Friends, happiness, fun. It has boosted my self esteem and given a sense of “belongingness”, which I struggled with when I first got here. I also learnt a lot from people I met, which is pretty awesome. The  short time since learning learned how to swim has shaped me not just physically, but also as a human being. There is so much love in Splash. 

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Naive at the end of an open water swim training session with Hungarian marathon swimmer Manyoki Attila

How can people support Splash?

We need more volunteer coaches, more pairs of goggles and more money to offer more free learn to swim programmes.  Details of lessons, coaching opportunities and how to make a donation can be found here .

 

 

 

69km, 32 Hours and 52 Minutes. A Lotus Rises meets Marathon Swimmer and Winter Swimming Champion Jaimie Monahan

On August 26th and 27th, 2015, Jaimie Monahan from New York City, swam the 42.8 miles (69km) across Lake Geneva in 32 hours and 52 minutes. It was the 53rd longest solo swim in human history – and she is the first American to complete a solo crossing of the lake.

This is another chapter in an incredible swimming journey that has taken Jaimie across the globe from Antarctica to the Arctic Circle, from Argentina’s Perito Moreno Glacier to frozen lakes in Siberia and Vermont to the Sahara Desert and the towering mountains and crystal blue waters of Switzerland.  And that’s just in 2015.

Jaimie has also just become the overall female winner of the 2015-2016 International Winter Swimming World Cup.

Paradise Bay Antarctica Courtesy of Arik Thormahlen
Paradise Bay Antarctica Courtesy of Arik Thormahlen

What inspired you to undertake this swim?

In February of 2015 I got an email through the English Channel swimmers distribution list about a new organization, the Lake Geneva Swim Association (LGSA) (http://www.lakegenevaswimmingassociation.com/) that was starting to organize swims across Lake Geneva in Switzerland for the coming summer.  I’d been focusing on ice swimming and winter swimming for the past year and hadn’t done any long swims for a while.  Lake Geneva was much longer than any swim I’d ever done and less than six months away, but something about it just called to me.  I researched for a few minutes about the lake, the surrounding landmarks, and the water, and decided to go for it.

I registered my interest on the website and within a few minutes was in correspondence with Ben Barham, the founder of the Lake Geneva Swimming Association (LGSA).  He was great and we locked down a date that same day!  In general, I try to only pursue swims that are exciting or meaningful to me personally rather than try and check off swims on arbitrary lists.

Lake Geneva Photo Courtesy of Ben Barham LGSA
Jaimie in her element in Lake Geneva

How did you prepare physically and mentally? 

Physically I swam as much as I could, and did a lot of yoga.  For me, yoga helps a lot mentally too because it’s taught me to just show up to the mat (or the water) and breathe through whatever happens.  I also thought it was important to get a long freshwater swim under my belt a few months in advance, so I signed up for Extreme North Dakota Racing’s Watersports Endurance Test END-WET http://endracing.com/end-wet), a 36 mile swim down the Red River of the North.  I had never swum much in fresh water, so END-WET was a great learning experience for me, as well as a lot of fun with swimming friends and the amazing people of Great Forks, North Dakota.  Definitely a great community race!

How important are logistics and support crew? Were there any particular instructions you gave to them? What did you eat?

Logistics are a very big factor on a swim this long. We planned for up to 48 hours worth of feeds which is a LOT of bottled water and carbohydrate powder.  Watching us load a huge shopping trolley cart of groceries onto the boat the day prior must have been really funny for the people watching us from Geneva’s stylish waterfront cafes.

Support crew is so important, perhaps THE most important thing.  I had a small but dedicated and experienced personal crew of one, the amazing Arik Thormahlen, and a wonderful team organized by the LGSA of our pilots Gérard Schoch and Jacques Massard and observers Ben Barham and Tim Davies.

I fed every 30 minutes on warm carbohydrate drink, interspersed with black tea and even some flat Coca-Cola at the end for variety. I don’t eat solids during swims but the drinks provide warmth and enough calories to keep me going, even for a long time.

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Jaimie and her super support crew Arik Thormahlen and Ben Barham, Observer and LGSA Founder

 

How much sunscreen and vaseline did you have to apply etc?

I could go on for ages on the topic of sunscreen but for this swim I used La Roche-Posay Anthelios factor 60 as a base layer with a thick layer of Desitin Maximum Strength brand diaper/nappy cream. It’s messy and we come prepared with latex gloves for a neater application, but with 40% zinc oxide, it is the only thing that works for me. It also prevents chafing so no need for vaseline! It was very effective and stayed (mostly) on, even after almost 33 hours in the water. I still daydream about ways to reapply in the water for even better coverage but haven’t found a good method yet.

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WICKED!

What goes on in your head on a 32 hour, 52 minute swim?

Everything and anything!  I have a really slow stroke count so I often try to keep faster paced songs in my head to increase my turnover.  I felt quite sick for most of the Lake Geneva swim so I spent a lot of time monitoring myself…making sure my feeds were absorbing, that the cold I was feeling wasn’t hypothermia, just discomfort, etc. For this swim the scenery was a great distraction for me, beautiful vineyards, stunning mountains, and the water itself was ridiculously lovely so I tried to focus on that too.

Do you have a mantra? What keeps you motivated?

I don’t have a mantra.  Sometimes I count to myself, but always lose track.  It’s kind of calming though.  In terms of motivation, I just swim to the next feed, or sunrise, or some other landmark.  For long swims I try not to even think about being done until the very end.  It’s always the last 10% of every swim that’s the hardest for me, because my mind switches from swimming and being in the moment to wanting to be done.

How do you recover from a swim that big?

It sounds a little funny but for me swimming at my typical pace for long solo swims is not very tough on my body – even after swimming for so long I was only sore for about 24 hours afterwards.  Slept in the next morning, had a nice social swim on the second day and went on a (leisurely!) hike with friends before heading back to NYC.

Perito Moreno Glacier Photo Courtesy of Mariia Yrjo-Koskinen
The Perito Moreno Glacier: Jaimie Monahan overall female winner of the 2015-16 International Winter Swimming World Cup

We know that you love cold water swimming.  What are your top tips? Please refer to fancy dress in your answer.

Good question!  For training, my best advice is to ramp up gradually.  Start swimming in the summer or autumn and then just keep swimming outdoors as the water gets colder.  Keep your breathing under control, relax, and as you’re going in, try counting to 100.  By then it usually feels okay.  Don’t push your limits, get used to how your body feels and reacts and be conservative with temperatures and length of swim until you are familiar with what “normal” and “not normal” feels like for you.  And never swim alone!

Specific to winter swimming events and competitions – my best advice is bring as many swim costumes as you can, more than you think you need.  Keeping on a wet swimsuit between events can take a toll over the course of a long day of events.  In a similar vein, always dry off and get dressed immediately after a cold swim. You may feel amazing and want to hang out in the cold air, but dry off, cover your head, and get dressed including warm comfortable footwear as soon as possible.

And yes, fancy dress wherever/whenever possible!  I highly recommend a sheep hat.

Tooting Bec UK Winter Swimming Champs- photo courtesy Tolga Akmen
Sheep hats – The millinery of winter swimming champions!

A Lotus Rises is a community of women who inspire and are inspired by a love of open water.

More inspirational stories, advice and adventures can be found on our Blog,  Facebook and Instagram and  Twitter – we’d love to hear from you at alotusrises@gmail.com. We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!