Swim Story

An interview with Nicola Naunton – Ice Miler #142

Just over a year ago, on 23rd January 2016, we had the immense privilege of providing the safety and guidance to Nicola Naunton as she undertook her Ice Mile attempt at Harthill Reservoir, near Sheffield, in the United Kingdom.  With a water temperature of 3.13ºC, Nicola stepped into the water and swam a distance of one mile in ‘skins’ – the name given to the Channel Swimming and International Ice Swimming Association (IISA) dress-code which states you can only wear one swimming costume, one pair of goggles and one swim cap… 

Prior to her Ice Mile attempt she told us that she was a couch potato and had just decided to try a swim in the North Sea with borrowed kit in May 2014, having not swum for years. She loved it so much but realised she needed to be able to swim a bit more than heads-up breast stroke and so had some swimming lessons to learn front crawl. After entering the Great East swim in June 2014 and doing her first 3k event in September that year, she was hooked.  She began swimming outdoors all year round in the North Sea at Felixstowe with Felixstowe Swimscapes.  Nicola loves the freedom, challenge and friendships swimming gives to her, and her story reflects her passion for this ‘crazy’ sport…

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

NN: I thought about doing an Ice Mile after my first year of open water swimming, I seemed to be resilient to swimming in ‘less warm’ conditions from the outset.  Plus, I like a challenge…

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

NN:  It is of course difficult and not to be underestimated.  However, you just need to keep swimming in cold conditions to learn how your body copes with various conditions. Learning how you recover and what works for you is a really important part of Ice Swimming.  There are various stages of cold water acclimatisation and it feels different according to what you have eaten, how you are sleeping and how much body fat you have.

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

NN: I trained five or six times a week when doing my Ice Mile training. I swam twice a week outside and kept an eye on my exposure and recovery time. In the pool I concentrated on endurance, however, I would recommend focusing on technique and speed work too, now I am more experienced.

SYS: What food did you eat before your swim?

NN: I ate the same thing before the swim as I did during my training. It’s important that you don’t try anything new on the day. For me that means carbing up, and having lots of my particular favourite porridge.


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

NN: I did my Ice Mile at Harthill Reservoir, near Sheffield – home of the Yorkshire Outdoor Swimmers and where Leon and Alistair were based last year.  The temperature was at 3.1ºC degrees at the time, which was coldest I had ever swum in.

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

NN: I was really up for the swim. I took myself away to be quiet just before entering the water, so that I was quite focused. I have practiced meditation for a few years, which helped get me in the ‘zone’. I always doubt my ability whatever I do, so I went in thinking I would just do one lap and take it from there.  After the first lap of the lake it felt awesome and I was sure I would be fine. (The lake at Harthill had an 800m loop at the time of Nicola’s swim. Ed)

SYS: How did you cope with the recovery process?

NN: I ran out of the water as I wasn’t sure where the swim was timed until, but I’m not sure it was exactly Baywatch!  I am lucky in that I always recover well.  I didn’t shiver much and was ‘supervising’ my helpers whilst they tried to help me get dressed. They knew I was OK at that point! The trick is to have people around you that you trust and know how you recover.  Recovery is a major part of the Ice Mile journey, and it can be very serious stuff!  The venue at Harthill has great facilities, so recovery is out of the weather, with the team constantly checking on you.

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

NN: I was amazed by the difference in the reactions. There were those who knew how much training I had done and who were there on the day.  They were brilliant – so enthusiastic and excited, it was lovely. Some people just didn’t get it, but that’s fine. Afterwards, I just wanted to get back to normal and get on with my channel relay preparations!

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

NN: Apart from the safety crew and helpers, without doubt my trusty Dryrobe.

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

NN: Don’t over think it. Like one of my heroes would say ‘shut up legs’ just get on with it….and don’t ask the temperature before the swim! It will be the same whether you know or not!

Nicola’s Ice Mile attempt was ratified by the International Ice Swimming Association (IISA) and she is now officially Ice Miler #142.  We were thrilled to be part of Nicola’s journey, but her story reveals that her journey wasn’t just about turning up, getting in the water and swimming.  The preparation and dedication to training in the cold water temperatures that she demonstrated in the build up to her attempt, along with the team of volunteers based at Harthill, all went together to make her hard work on the day very successful.  



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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