Swim Story

An interview with Ally Brisby – Ice Miler #164

Ice Swimming is full of heroes – people that are brave enough to get into the icy waters time and time again for their training.  And then there are those that are super-heroes… the ones who don’t manage to swim a mile in water under 5.0ºC, and yet come back to brave the icy waters again, in order to complete their Ice Mile journey.  Ally Brisby is one of those super-heroes – on 24th February 2016 we had the privilege of being part of her support team as she ventured into Harthill Reservoir, Sheffield, for her second Ice Mile attempt.  We watched as she conquered the ice to become Ice Miler #164.  Here is her interview with the crew from Swimyourswim…

Swimyourswim (SYS): What made you think about doing an ice mile?

AB: Well, the thought of an Ice Mile never entered my head until I successfully completed the 1km qualifying swim for the Chill Swim event, and after that I thought it was a challenging next step…

SYS: How difficult was it to acclimatise to cold water?

AB: Acclimatising was a gradual process, but I found it a totally different sport to long distance swimming which was normally done in temperatures above 12ºC.  It took me a while but now I love it!

SYS: How often did you train? (both pool and open water)

AB: In the months leading up to my Ice Mile  (I did mine in February 2016), I swam in open water a minimum of 3 times a week.  I have not been in a pool since 2014 – I’m not a big fan of the chlorine boxes…

SYS: What food did you eat before your swim?

AB: My staple pre-swim food for either long distance or ice water swimming is porridge, bananas and honey.

Air temperature at Harthill Reservoir on 24th February 2016

SYS: So, lets talk about your Ice Mile attempt.  What temperature was the water when you swam?

AB: It was 4.5ºC on the day of my successful swim (it took me 2 attempts).  But the crucial thing about my attempt was that the air temperature was -3.3ºC!!!!

SYS: What was the swim like? Were you prepared for it mentally and physically? 

AB:   I was prepared on my second Ice Mile swim, but the first attempt I think I underestimated the difference between swimming 1km and 1mile in sub 5ºC water.  Physically it was difficult, but manageable mentally.  I found the Ice Mile much more difficult than anything I have ever done – including my solo channel!  So, every marker buoy was a heroic achievement to me!!!

SYS: How did you cope with the recovery process? 

AB: I felt I coped reasonably well, taking around 1 hour to recover each time though I do have some memory loss and patchy recollection of events…

SYS: What was the reaction of your friends and supporters that were there on your attempts?

AB: On my ‘non-successful’ attempt my husband was on the lakeside and he found it very shocking and difficult to deal with seeing me being recovered from the water. He chose not to watch my second successful attempt, but my friends and on shore support crew were very supportive and over the moon with my achievement.

Recovery starts on exit – aided by the Dryrobe

SYS:  What was the best piece of kit you had that you couldn’t have done without?

AB: My Dry Robe is my all time best bit of kit for any swim.




SYS: What’s the best advice you could give to an aspiring ice miler ?

AB: My advice… concentrate on your swim and not on the environment around you, your support crew will do that for you, so make sure they know what they’re doing!


It is such a privilege to be part of the Ice Swimming family – and we hope that as you consider your Ice Swimming Journey – whether you’re just beginning with a few winter dips or whether you’re about to attempt your Ice Mile swim, that you will find these stories and interviews helpful and inspiring as you plan your training.  We constantly describe Ice Swimming as a journey and not an event – and Ally Brisby is a perfect illustration.  We NEVER allow a swimmer to think of not making a mile in under 5ºC as a failure.  On the contrary, each and every swim in the icy temperatures is a success, regardless of the distance achieved.  Ally was determined enough, and focussed enough, and had the right team around her, to overcome any fears and doubts and get back in the water to complete her Ice Mile at the second attempt.  That’s gutsy.  That’s Ice Mile Swimming – never being scared to dare, and keep on daring!  On 24th February 2016, Ally’s swim was ratified by the International Ice Swimming Association (IISA) and she is now Ice Miler #164. 

If you would like to get involved in Ice Swimming – why not get in touch with us by emailing info@swimyourswim.com


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