Thursday, March 19, 2009

Getting In and Out of 4°C Water

We previously report on the extreme cold-water swim by Ram Barkai (shown on right) and Andrew Chin (with red jacket) in Lake Zürich following standard English Channel rules.

Neither Ram nor Andrew used wetsuits or technical swimsuits in the 4°C (39°F) water with 32°F (0°C) air temperature and 19°F (-7°C) wind chill. 25 minutes after Ram finished the 2.2K swim, his core body temperature has risen to 32°C (89.6°F) from an estimated core body temperature below 30°C (86°F).

"It is border line and I must admit the recovery process was very unpleasant but I felt fine after 30 minutes [even] with core body temp of 32°C!" said Ram. "My skin was the same temperature as the water - 4°C [39°F]."

When asked how he and Andrew prepared for their swim, Ram explained, "We spent couple of hours in the casino building where we started the swim and drank warm sweet tea. We walked in to knee high and we dived in - straight into a swim. Breathing was the biggest challenge - regulate the breathing. [I] try not to take big, deep breaths because you will get very cold very quickly and hyperventilate. Remember, we were breathing -7.5°C straight down the hatch."

After getting out of the cold lake, Ram continued, "[As for] warming up, we got dry as soon as we could [with] blankets and hot air - I sat in a car. Andrew had a long hot shower. Andrew was taken to where we started. I ended up in the public 50-meter indoor pool. I rolled into the kiddy pool and fell very uncomfortable. I then moved to a hot shower (shown on left) and started to defrost quickly."

As for Andrew's preparation, he said, "[It] was a challenge of both mind and body for me. I was very nervous and scared as Ram wanted to swim further than I thought possible. I woke up hours before the swim and mulled things over and over in my head, I was was not going to swim: hospital or worse was not an option for me. Then I calmed down a bit and thought 'Hey, you’ve done 10 minutes so why not do 1K, it's only 20 minutes at most.'"

"If Ram had any fears, he was a lot better than me at hiding them. We had walked the course so I know the markers for 1K, 1.5K, etc. At the casino start (see photo on left), we spent what seemed hours with TV, radio, the doctors and others. The safety briefing turned out to be my salvation as we discovered we had 4 boats on the water and they would allow 1 of us to continue should the other voluntarily decide to stop. I had an out! Just after 2 pm, we entered the water, I splashed myself, but Ram was already in and swimming.

I followed with a shallow dive and a big yelp as the cold took the air out of me…it's freezing! It was hard to breathe properly at the start and my stroke was slightly altered with the left coming out of the water more. We swam along the jetty. I knew I needed to keep my mind active to know how I was doing in terms of the cold, so I repeat Andrew Chin, Monica Spiro, Leila Chin, Rebecca Chin (my little family) over and over to myself

"I think after this I let my mind go a bit and a felt a few strokes go sloppy and myself swallowing some water. Plus, I was now only saying Andrew, Monica, Leila and Rebecca. It was more difficult. Ram is now a meter or 2 ahead of me and the fun is not there. Normally, I push myself through this moment, but my thoughts are 'that’s it…a few more strokes and I am out.'

A minute later, I stop and put my hand up the signal that I am finished.

I am covered with blankets (see photo on left), space blankets and clothing, I somehow with assistance manage to get into the Polar jacket, the boat is going into the head wind and its icy cold! I am so cold but I just lie still as instructed, I feel 100% safe. Soon the boat stops near the casino and with help I manage to get up and climb off the boat. I feel a little dizzy and lie down on a stretcher; I am covered with blankets which I pull over my head and am stretchered inside

"In the shower, things improve quiet quickly and I make the water hotter every few minutes, I am shaking violently and my feet are blue and purple, but I know from experience, this will all pass. Finally, I stop shivering (after 20 minutes) and manage to dress myself."

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