Walking through Luton airport in my Team GB jacket I felt like a total fraud. Jackets were offered to Ice Milers, Ice Kilometer swimmers and those representing Team GB in international events. As I was neither of the first two I didn’t really feel like I should be allowed to wear it until after I had swum! Even more worrying was what the security officers would make of the four digital thermometers in the hand luggage!
After a somewhat ‘interesting’ journey driving through the wilds of Germany in the dark we arrived in Burghausen late on Thursday night. Little did I know how busy Friday would prove to be!
Friday morning after a lovely breakfast we wandered into Burghausen to meet Pauline Barker for a morning swim. Frustrated with the mild weather at home we had been chatting online, hoping to do an Ice Mile. On the way to the venue it became apparent that doing an Ice Mile was unlikely.
Arriving at the venue it was all hustle and bustle. I was introduced to Stefan and some of the other race officials. There was ice on the lake but the swim lanes were mostly clear. The published temperature was 3.4 degrees Celsius, the coldest I would have ever swum in.
Entering the water down the ladder I wondered how I would feel. Would I even manage the 1k? With the sun shining I set off on a beautiful 500m and knew I would be fine. In fact judging by the reaction of the race officials timing me I got the feeling I would be better than fine.
Registration in the afternoon was an opportunity to meet lots more people. It was also a reminder that I don’t speak much German. After a couple of hours of “encouragement” from Pauline about entering more events I also finally capitulated and entered the 200m event on the Friday evening (in 5 hours time).
Following registration and much confusion as to where we were going we finally joined the monster queue for the 1k medical. Here we met some swimming celebrities; Alexandre Fuzeau, ‘The Ice Doctor’ and Padraig Mallon, World Open Water swimming man of the year 2013. Both were really nice. The actual doctor we were queuing to see was also very nice and thankfully seemed content with the explanation of being a bit excited as an excuse for my head exploding blood pressure and rapid pulse.
A compulsory aspect of entering the 1k was attending the safety brief. Entering a tent full of ice swimmers I began to feel a bit nervous. All these people looked like pros and here was me, the great pretender in her team GB jacket. There were also a lot of people in red jackets ! The brief was pretty much straight forward being first delivered in German and then English. The only problem was waiting for the translation of the jokes.
Something I had not expected was the opening ceremony in which swimmers marched behind their national flag. I walked into the pool area holding the Great Britain sign beaming like a loony. The occasion did not stop with the marching in. There were speeches by the race director and by Ram Barkai of the IISA. To finish off there was a an authentic umpa band accompanied by men in lederhosen cracking whips.
The 200m swims started shortly after the opening ceremony. As I entered the pre-start tent I realised that everyone else in my wave was German. Using my rusty GCSE I asked if the lady next to me spoke a little English. Thankfully she did and she translated all the pre-race instructions for me. Walking out onto the side of the pool and seeing my name on the electronic display I felt a little anxious. 200m is not exactly a distance I usually do or at least not a point I usually stop at! I made a really rubbish start as I missed the start horn and started when I saw the others go. Perhaps I was feeling polite? The swimming bit went fine and I recorded a good time for me. Climbing out I was totally unaware of my placing and thought I was last but one (the other person being a breaststroker). Turns out I was 4th in my wave and 8th 40-49 year old woman (it was quite a big field). Not a bad start to my racing weekend.
Saturday night was the ice party which was basically a buffet with a band. I was not sure what to expect but the band was quite good and the party very busy. As I was entered in the 1k the next day I was officially banned from drinking. This did not make much difference to me really as a) I had made a stupid promise to myself to not drink until I was an Ice-Miler and b) Bavarian breweries do really good alcohol free beer.
Sunday morning I got up and wandered down to the venue ready for my main event, the 1k. The site was buzzing as usual and some passers by had come in to see what all the fuss was about. Soon I was in the pre-start tent running through my order of dressing with Simon. The previous ladies wave were in there re-warming. I met some students from Munich university who were studying the effects of cold water and the benefits of higher BMI readings. They asked if they could take my stats.
The race itself was fantastic. As I was announced I felt like I was at the Olympics, Andrea Startin of Great Britain!. Unlike in the 200m I heard the start horn and set off on time. The lady in the lane beside me was like a torpedo. There was no way I could stay with her. I would just have to swim my own swim. As the race progressed I could tell I was doing well. I was comfortably in second place. The lake felt great I focused on my own breathing, I counted down the lengths in blocks of ten. I even saw a fish. As I heard the 50m to go whistle I felt invincible (even if I was only second) and as I turned for the final length I put on a spurt and sprinted down the length. As I finished I looked up to see the race director and Ram Barkai. Being told ‘good swim’ made me feel a million dollars. Ram asked if I would have liked to have gone further. Cheekily I told him just another 600m.
Recovery was not too painful. The Munich university students discovered my temperature had dropped almost 2 degrees Celsius in the space of 20 minutes. However by the time I had climbed the hill to our hotel and drunk two cups of coffee I felt mostly normal. As I sat with my feet up watching the video feed from the event I thought I might be in with a chance of placing. Little did I know just how good the wave known as ‘Die Favoriten’ were. The winner broke the world record! Still pleased with my time though.
The weekend after was not so bad either. I finally knocked out my Ice Mile!