Water reached its hands out towards me again.  And I couldn’t say no. But still I don’t believe it really happened. Am I crazy? 😉
January in Poland might be not considered as the best season for outdoor swimming. Most of the people I know think Poland is a freezing country during winter. Last years though it was a bit different and Poles were enjoying positive temperatures in November and December dreaming about snowy Christmas. It did not happened several times in a row. Anyways, it is not a time to write about the global warming, but when I heard about winter swimming I said: “is that a joke”? Nobody does it. And in fact…i was wrong. It tourned out that there is many people – amateurs and proffesionalls who do it in that region of Europe. Anyways I took decision just 3 days before the competition when in fact was the cooldest time during this winter. I signed in the competition and then while waiting at the train platform for a delayed train and when I couldn’t really feel my frozen hand – I said: “am I crazy? Going to the water now..?”. Anyways I took decision knowing that I am not the first one doing that and I know somehow that my body is strong and I can handle. But I was affraid. I was affraid to feel pain. I was affraid to be affraid. Then I realized that it is similar sensation I had while I started to freedive. I know my tricky mindset that quite often can sabbotage my actions, questioning anything that is out of my comfort zone. And I was standing on that train platform  trying to understand the process. I have allowed myself to be affraid. It is nothing wrong with that. It is natural instinct while we try doing something we have never done before. Then breathing a bit deeper I started observing my frozen hand. And in fact I have realize that I didn’t feel pain. I felt a little needels, simple vasoconstriction. Amazing feeling to be alive. Don’t take me wrong but I have started to enjoy that…
When the train finally arrived I was on the way to Katowice, south of Poland where the Open Polish Championship in Winter Swimming took place. I had no expectations. I said to mysleft that it is already a great thing that I can try this. I knew I was safe – all the competition was super professionaly prepared with medical staff and rescue. There was no risk that something wrong can happen. But I was excited anyways.
Before I heard a bit about Iceman – famous Wim Hof who uses huge dose of hyperventilation to heat the body and be resistant for cold exposure.  I know he has a lot of fans who consider it as an amazing way to get cold baths and keep theirs body in a great health. Anyways he bases on Tum-mo,  Inner Heat Meditation which is a deeper spiritual practise that needs to be explored.  Cold exposure and criotheraphy is used by athlets and people after injuries to increase recovery. Cold enables pheripheral vasoconstriction, squeezes lactic acid out and keeps inflamation down. Also I can help in  antidepression treatment, significantly arises the level of endorphines.  So we cannot complain for lack of sunshine . And some people say it also keeps you young:-) Anyways belive me, I did not think about all these adventages. I just wanted to survive, trying to trust my body and mind.  When there was a start coundtdown I suddenly switched into “doing mode”. Just do it, focus on that. Be now and here. ( I know it from somewhere, right?).
I swam 100m freestyle in 0,6 degrees water temperature in the race during . After some recreational swims in the ponds it was my first time in such conditions in the lake. For the first time I fully immersed my head despite I wasn’t sure about my body reaction and before the race haven’t  plan to do so. But adrenaline did the job and proved again that our body can adapt to conditions we couldn’t even imagine before. And what you have to deal with in such conditions? Shallow breath, stiff muscles, hard work for a body to keep the proper heat.  The cold sends blood to the chest and vital organs away from limbs making our body weak for a massive workout. I was really a spring chicken amongst amazing professionals who raced in longer distances, the real hardcore was “combo” 2×1 km.

10 cm ice was cut to prepare a pool for winter swimmers

Those who think it was cold I can tell it was a feeling between numbness, survival mode and euphoria.
Even though before the race I said it’s already the success to go into the water but after it my ego woke up when found out I missed 4 seconds to be third one. Greedy ego never sleeps! 
When I went out of the water (to be precise: walking as a robocop – stiff muscles) I was so loaded with the endophines that I didn’t really think I needed to dress up. And couldn’t belive it really happened. If you are asking me if I got cold – just to be clear – not a single sneeze!
After being spoiled by tropical waters I came back to my reinforcing sources. And I am grateful I can try both.

Robocop walk 😉 But a happy one!

photo credit: Mateusz Orlik