Ballybrack Ice queen defies the cold for a sixth time

by Stephen Findlater
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BALLYBRACK woman Claire Ryan completed an unprecedented six “Ice Miles” at the 7th Eastern Bay Invitational International Ice Mile Event held at Clontarf Baths.

She was among 13 athletes who attempted to swim an Ice Mile at the international event which featured swimmers from UK, Ireland and USA and was the only woman to successfully complete the arduous task.

The Ice Mile is the International Ice Swimming Association’s ultimate achievement where each swimmer has to complete an endurance swim in water with a temperature of 5°c or less.

The swim must be unassisted with the swimmer wearing only a standard swimming costume, pair of goggles and swim cap.

Six-time Ice Miler Claire Ryan has the additional distinction of being the only woman to have swam an Ice Mile in the Irish Sea; she completed this feat on International Women’s Day on March 8, 2018.

It is hard to imagine or understand what drives these athletes to take on such extreme challenges and how they cope with being immersed in near freezing temperatures over relatively long periods of time, so why does Ryan do it?

“I suppose it sounds a little mad doesn’t it?” she laughs “Your whole body is screaming ‘get me out of here’ whenever you get into water that cold.

“But that is part of the challenge for me, overcoming that fear and the pain that your body is going through. It’s difficult to describe – your body and mind are in turmoil yet you have to keep your focus and stay in control.

“It’s one of the most difficult challenges I have taken on, you can hardly walk when you get out of the water and we couldn’t do it without the help of the support and medical volunteers.”

Unusually for ice swimmers, she uses breaststroke rather than the faster and more energetic crawl-stroke that the vast majority use. This means she can spend up to 50% longer in the icy cold water compared to a crawl-stroke swimmer, greatly increasing the difficulty and risk.

This has led to four of her endurance swims meeting the qualifying standard of “Extreme Ice Mile” having spent in excess of 45 minutes in the water.

Her coldest and longest swim took place at the Wild Water Swimming Facility in Armagh in January 2017, spending over 49 minutes in nearly freezing water at 2.03°c.

An ice mile is given the higher risk classification of “Extreme Ice Mile” if one of the following factors occurs: the water has a temperature of 2°c or less, the swim takes over 45 minutes to complete, there is -15°c wind chill or the swim takes place at a high altitude of 2440m or above.

Ireland is at the forefront of this fledgling sport, second out of 35 countries in the number of IISA ratified Ice Mile Swims completed and they hope to feature strongly at the world championships in Murmansk, Russia in March.
If you are interested in finding out more about the sport there is an Irish wing of the association IISA-Ireland website:

If you are interested in finding out more about the sport there is an Irish wing of the association IISA-Ireland website:

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