Cold water swimmer, Cath Pendleton, is the first person to swim a mile in the Antarctic Polar Circle. We asked Cath to explain how she got into swimming in freezing cold water, and how she went about preparing for the mental and physical challenges of swimming in the coldest place on earth.
Before I got into cold water swimming I had already been doing triathlons for about five years, which got me comfortable with open water swimming. I had also started to do some standalone 5k and 10k swims, but I always wore a wetsuit for them.
As the triathlon season was coming to an end, I had picked up a back injury and was thinking I wouldn’t be able to continue to run and cycle, but hopefully could still swim. I saw an advert for a winter swimming gala called Chill Swim; a 1km swim that takes place every February in Lake Windermere. When I saw that swimmers could only wear a standard costume, hat and goggles, I was intrigued. As a wetsuit swimmer, I was thinking how on earth could they do that in the winter? I signed up for the event as I'm always up for new challenges.
On a Friday evening in late September, my training started. I did my first ever no wetsuit winter swim with a friend in the local river. It was getting dark so we left the car lights on and swam widths of the river, rather than upstream and back down as we would have done in summer months wearing a wetsuit. The water temperature was 12°C. We managed about eight minutes of swimming and were still frozen half an hour later. By the way, I must add this is not a recommended way to start and we did have a proper introduction to safe winter swimming shortly after.