I made a last minute decision (not uncommon) to register for the Winter Swimming World Championships and booked my Ryanair flight straight to a beautiful resort town called Jurmala. This holiday paradise is located along the Latvian coast where the Baltic Sea meets the 300km stretch of sand covered in ice.
As the plane began its descent to the runway all I could see were frozen waterways and snow covered roofs and evening lights. It was beautiful. To think that I was about to swim in a frozen river without a wetsuit boggled my mind. But I'm sure that's how a few of us on the plane felt as most of us were on that flight for the same reason.
The venue for the competition was the frozen Lielupe River which flows into the Baltic. An 8 lane 25 metre "pool" was cut out of the ice with chainsaws with a ladder for each lane hung over the side.
The air temperature was 0 Celsius with a wind chill factor of -1. It was hideous.
It was a truly international affair with mostly Eastern Europeans and Russians making up the bulk of the talent. The Russians are masters at ice swimming, but that's no surprise.
I entered into the 50 metres freestyle event. I can never forget the announcer saying before each race in a Latvian English accent, "Please take off your clothes!" just before we plunged into the icy water.
Breathing was the most difficult task when swimming front crawl in such temperatures as I just wanted to keep taking very short breaths and that caused a load of water to run down my throat.
I came third in my race which I was very happy with and also took part in a few relays with the South London Swimming Club.
I will be participating in the endurance event of 450 metres in Finland at next years Winter World Championships.
Winter Swimming World Championships - Jurmala, Latvia