Polar Bears


02/12/2012 by Carl Reynolds


Nando and I, building on an idea that I’d hatched with Big C a while ago for a longer endurance, created a Polar Bear competition last spring. To get the hat you have to swim a kilometre at 5 degrees or under. Yesterday we had our first qualifiers – Peter the Vicar and Bob Knock. But some of us decided to do it ensemble today. Temperature on the lifeguards thermometer was a tad under 5 degrees, but other readers were saying it was more like 3.5. It was under five. We were ready to go.

Before we got in, I found out that Jackie Cobell had done a km; so she became the first woman. Despite warning a certain gentleman that I thought he wasn’t really up for it, we started with Mrs Ape, Nando, Big Carl, myself and Pip. All completed in a variety of times from my 19 minutes to Mrs Ape’s 30 minutes. One of us was in a mess, but recovered; the rest of us had some afterdrop, but in no time at all were drinking coffee and eating Mrs Ape’s splendid Chocolate and Almond Battenberg cake. Going down well with all those who love marzipan.

Along comes Martin. Once he’d found out we’d done it, there was nothing stopping him. Roll of honour so far then –

Peter the Vic, Bob Knock, Carl Richards, Jackie Cobell, Kate Webb (aka Mrs Ape), Pip Barry, Martin Wollny and Nando Farah.

Any SLSCers reading this take heed – do not try this without building up to it; make sure there is someone there to support you (ie they know when to tell you to get out and understand how the body gets warm again) and tell the lifeguards. If they’ve not seen you swim, then they will probably tell you not to be daft. So don’t be.

My deepest thanks and respect to Kathrine for keeping an eye on everyone, Sarah and Dylan the lifeguards, Longpela, Nicky and Richard C for helping Mrs Ape and others; and all those SLSCers who cheered us on.

Finally – a dip, a few strokes, a width, a few, a length or two or more. All refreshing, lovely and done with the care of those around you. Respect the water and respect yourself.


17 thoughts on “Polar Bears

  1. Nicky Smith says:

    You are all extraordinary and quite, quite mad. Hilary Jennings suggested a Chihuahua Club for people who can do *up* to 1km in under 5C.

  2. Martin says:

    Kate, well done, amazing feat and delicious marzipan cake. Carl, there was never any doubt that you’d manage it. Thanks for sending me straight to the sauna – I did have a horrible 5 minutes before experiencing a massive high ;-) Very proud of the hat.

  3. swansswimmer says:

    You are all very rightly proud of your hats. I hope very much that one day I can join you too. I need a bit of practice though first. Well done all SLSC Polar Bears

  4. Jenny says:

    You amazing lot! I’m seriously impressed! And VERY happy to stick to my two lengths for the time being.

  5. Nando Cuca says:

    What a fabulous day to get one’s Polar Bear cap. It was so nice and sunny I really didn’t mind the cold water. My notes were:

    1. By lap 4 you really think this is all quite stupid and you’ll never finish. But 6 is nearly 8 and 8 is nearly 10 and then all you need is another 1 or 2.

    2. Hands went totally numb by lap 6. From then on just concentrate on technique, watch where they come in and try to keep all muscles working. Cold sensation in the rest of the body was fine. Breathing stayed calm and heart didn’t feel stressed at all. Other than hands, I’d say I was comfortable.

    3. By lap 9 I could feel my heart pumping on my fingers. Possibly as blood tried to get through and couldn’t. Whole patches of my leg and arms felt hard and frozen. Some cramp on left leg but when away after half a length. Spirits still flying high.

    4. Got to 10 and there didn’t really seem any reason for not going for 12. I didn’t think anything could freeze further. Body still felt comfortable. Breath calm and easy. Drank quite a few sips of cold water but told myself to shut my mouth as that was probably not a good idea.

    5. Finished the 12th no problem. Not much feeling at all on the hands appart from tingling. Feet not hurting but bloddy difficult to get into crocs. Walk to the sauna was jolly with no dizziness or faintness. Just very euphoric.

    6. First 5 minutes in the Sauna were marked by nothing but a very strong pain on my hands and shots of hot and cold travelling around my body. Nothing new there. But pain on hands was really bad. Just relaxed and let it pass.

    7. Relaxation interrupted by the arrival of the only member of our team which did not seem well. Bit of a kerfuffle and lots of helpers getting in and out of the sauna. But at least it distracted me from pain in the hands.

    8. Fifteen minutes or so in the sauna and I was pretty back to normal. Lots of laughs and great banter.

    9. Any lasting damage? Hands still feel delicate or sensitive, but not hurting. Plus I feel like I will sleep really really well tonight.

    10. Would I do it again? Hell yeah, but will have to leave some time for the hands to recover.

  6. Ella Dunn says:

    Amazing! Congratulations guys. Quite an achievement. LOVE the hat!!! Need to get myself a hat with a polar bear on it!! You need these towels to dry off with afterwards..



  7. Barbara says:

    I’m thinking we need a Chihuahuas cap – Under 1 km under 5 degrees. I’ve sourced a suitable image and website which does caps – anyone interested? :- )

    • Barbara – several others have said something similar. I thought it might say, ‘I swum under 5 C’. And could be a penguin or a seal. I love the inclusive spirit too. X

      • Barbara says:

        I think I should follow this up! I’ll try to collar a committee member on Sunday….
        I still like the idea of a Chihuahua though – maybe a tough one in swimming goggles… or possibly a peanut in trunks and goggles (going on the nutter theme …. )

  8. Barbara – great news. Personally think the Chihuahua will be more discernable on a hat, than a peanut.

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