TAKING a bath in ice water on a cold December morning by the sea is relatively balmy compared to what three Irish endurance swimmers face next week in Siberia.
The trio – Nuala Moore from Co Kerry, Anne Marie Ward from Donegal and Padraig Mallon from Armagh – fly out to Russia's coldest region on Wednesday on the invitation of the Russian Swimming Federation ahead of the winter swimming championships next weekend.
As part of their challenge they will swim in an ice lake where the air temperatures dip to as low as -30C to -40C.
In preparation for the feat, Dingle woman Nuala Moore has been busy acclimatising her body for the conditions by taking baths in ice water.
Local fish factory O Cathain Teoranta has been helping out by providing her with a tank and a plentiful supply of ice to create the conditions she will face for real next week.
Unlike Siberia, Dingle was a balmy 7C yesterday when Nuala slipped into the tank wearing just her swimming togs, goggles and a smile.
"Submerging your body in ice is the equivalent of running a marathon in half an hour," she explains.
"When you hit the ice it causes the system to crash and you really have to work hard to keep moving because your fingers will cramp and the muscles tighten." While in the ice water the swimmer's body temperature drops to about 31C – hypothermia can set in at 34C – and the most important thing for them is to get the temperature back to the normal 37C afterwards, which can take up to three hours.
While in the water the brain will instinctively try to draw all the blood to it and the swimmer's challenge is to fight this.
When they arrive in Siberia, the three will take part in a 50-metre swim in an ice lake on Saturday. On Sunday, Nuala has signed up to swim a 1km distance, while her target for next year is to swim the Bering Strait from Russia to the United States.