Swimming in Ice - a Story in Training and Perseverance

Swimming in Ice - a Story in Training and Perseverance

Today this video showed up in my Facebook feed. I was captured by the title: Swimming a Mile in the Antarctic Circle. Wait. What? I had to read it again and of course, had to watch.

I know one can die of hypothermia in 32F water in 15 to 20 minutes, although most die of drowning in the first two minutes due to shock and of course, not wearing floatation. So as the daughter-in-law of a Coast Guard Captain, here's my public service announcement: always wear a personal flotation device on the water.  

Okay, back to the story,.

On 22nd February 2020, Welsh ice swimmer Cath Pendleton became the first person to swim a mile in the icy waters of the Antarctic Circle. Marinobio,org tells us the temperature of water at the surface of the Souther ocean varies from −1.8 °C (28.8 °F), near the freezing point of seawater. With wind-chill, it can be 20°F colder.  I can't even imagine.

But Cath Pendleton could.

She trained by lying in a freezer full of water. She trained by learning to breathe under stress. She trained by swimming and creating a mental battle plan to keep going one stroke after another.

Cath is not a lean swimming machine. She is a single, middle aged mom from Whales. She says she does not 'look' like an athlete, and I think that is partly why I found her story and her success to be so inspiring. Because looks -- and stories -- can be deceiving.

Cath has a special needs child, which would be a reason to not pursue her goals. To not be the athlete she wanted to be.  But she didn't.

Many of us put up excuses to being active and going for audacious, bold goals. I'm too old. I'm too out of shape. I'm too busy. I'm too whatever. We invent barriers to keep us from even trying. But Cath decided she was going to do this and she did.

At her doctor's recommendation, she needed to find something to help her reduce stress and create space in her schedule for her own mental and physical health. When Cath found cold-water swimming, she found her 'reset button' and decided to go for it and she incorporated ice swimming into her life.

"If I don't go for it now, I won't go for it at all," said Cath. So first she swam the English Channel. Then went on to swim for her country in Russia and came in 3rd in her age group. "What's the next thing?" she said to herself. And that was to swim one mile in each of the seven continents. Only two people had ever done it. 

And so she set out to be the third. "It sounded terrifying. I had to do it", she exclaimed.

A community rallied around her to support her and to create the safety conditions needed for her to achieve her goal of swimming a mile in the Antarctic Circle. 

I hope you're inspired by her achievement and can see how to pull down one of your own barriers to reach for your goals.


What audacious bold goals will you pursue in 2021? 



Val Sanford

Val Sanford 

Growing up in Southern California, Val played competitive softball (coached by her father), was a gymnast, swimmer, ran cross country, fished, hiked, kayaked, and as an adult, experimented in rock climbing and golf. In 2010 she was diagnosed with a rare cancer; a liposarcoma was growing on her sciatic nerve. Once this tumor was removed, she has been cancer-free!

Left with significant nerve damage, she now has limited mobility. Yet still moves and engages in the world around her. She snorkels, walks, travels, and practices yoga to combat chronic pain and to maximize her ability to keep moving. She works with a personal trainer, acupuncturist, physical therapist, and massage therapist to maximize her mobility.

She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and her dog and gets her fins on so she can swim with the fish any time she can.  

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