Liz Ryan

Other than the historic Christmas Day Swim (a 50m dash) in Corbally Baths, Limerick, I had never even considered entering the frigid waters of any river or lake in Ireland beyond the summer months. I first heard of Ice Swimming in 2015 when my brother John decided to continue swimming throughout the winter season and compete in the Ice Swimming Championships (Wild Water Armagh) in January 2016. I thought that swimming 1km in 4.5c was crazy, but the week after Armagh I followed him up to Lough Dan in Wicklow to support him and fellow team mate Pearse Ryan in the Ice Mile event there. That weekend I found myself in awe of all the brave competitors from various parts of the country (and beyond) putting their bodies and minds through one of the toughest challenges I had ever seen or heard of. I still had no intention of trying it. I had been very happy open water swimming through the warmer months. But I always felt a bit sad to leave the open water swimming and summer season behind – so much so, that the end of each summer season, started to push further and further into the winter season. In 2019, it was the first week of November and I was still swimming in the Shannon river of O’Briensbridge when the temperatures started dipping below 10. This would normally be the point at which I would have hung up my ‘open water’ togs and retreated back to the pool. But there were still a few of us stragglers not wanting to leave the freedom and buzz of the open water behind (it is our therapy ). So we kept going, taking one day at a time, not knowing how far we would go and how long we would last as the days got bleaker and bleaker. And as much as the water temperatures dropped, the camaraderie of our little group of winter swimmers seemed to soar! We kept each other motivated through the tough days of the biting chill of the Two Mile Gate waters and we spurred each other on through the wind, rain and hailstones, forcing the numbing pain of the first few minutes of an icy swim to the back of our minds to push through together. Then there was talk of Clontarf (1 mile) and Armagh (1 km). I had come this far so I might as well keep going. So a hardy group of Ice swimming narwhals travelled to Armagh in 2020 to compete at the National Ice Swimming Championships. I placed 2nd female in a time of 17.09 – all the hard work and acclimatising had paid off and I was hooked! With Covid, the 2020/2021 season has been a bit different without any events to look forward to. But we still pushed ahead in whatever way we could and I was thrilled to achieve a solo Ice Mile on Jan 31st 2021. Who knows what’s next, but for now at least, I can conclude that there is no end to the open water swimming season Sometimes, it can be ‘a better day for a swim than a walk’, as someone once said…