Ice Bear Trophy

Ice Bear Trophy

More photos to be added later.

On 13 January, I did my craziest thing in my life: flying from the UK to Austria to swim a 250 m race and back in the UK within 24 hours.


I want to get started in ice swimming, but unfortunately the UK doesn’t have enough opportunities for me to do that. There was only 1 race under IISA in the whole winter in December, the national championships, which was sold out in just days after registration opened in October, when it wasn’t even cold enough to start training, and there was nothing at all under IWSA. As a result, I went to the Netherlands to race. I did the 100 m and 250 m races, but unfortunately it wasn’t cold enough to be ice swimming.

I really want to get a race done in the season, such that I could have an official race record (and upgrade my IISA membership from “warm” to “cool”), but unfortunately there were no races reachable by London in a reasonable time without flying apart from the British and the Dutch championships. I then started looked at other races where I could fly there cheaply on low-cost carriers instead, and signed up the 250 m race of Ice Bear Trophy, the Austrian championships, on 13 January.

I booked a pair of air tickets, from Gatwick to Vienna and back, at around Christmas for £21.99 + £17.99, and one night of hotel for 36 €. The organiser arranged pick up from the nearest train station, Kirchberg am Wagram, around 5 km away, so I would travel from airport to the city after landing, from the city to Kirchberg am Wagram on the morning of the race, and back from Kirchberg am Wagram after the race. The ticket prices were 4.4 € from Vienna Airport to the city on regular public transport (e.g. suburban train, NOT the City Airport Train), 14 € from the city to Kirchberg am Wagram, and 15.2 € from Kirchberg am Wagram back to Vienna Airport. All these are fixed regional (VOR) fares without the possibility of reservations, and are valid on all modes of regular public transport.

I flew from Gatwick at 19:09 12 January and arrived the hotel in Vienna just after midnight. After a short sleep I headed for the race. I planned to take the REX4 departing at 07:00 and followed the journey planner, but the tram to the train station was delayed and I saw the tail light of the train I intended to take just departed despite I arrived at the tram stop 7 minutes before the journey planner suggestion, and the next train was at 08:00. Fortunately I still arrived with enough time to prepare for my early race.

After getting there, I saw ice on the river and the organiser was breaking the ice!!! The journey was totally worthwhile. The water temperature reported by the organiser was 1.16°C 🥶! That was much colder than I used to. The pool where I trained stayed at around 8°C for the majority of the season and went down to only 4°C before I departed for the race. I was so stressed about my performance expectation as the difference between 1°C and 4°C is massive in ice swimming.

The race was 10 lengths of a 25 m pool. Unlike in Amsterdam, it was cold enough to “take away my breath” when getting in, and I couldn’t concentrate on my form even when the race was over, while in 6°C my swimming became smooth after a few lengths. My result was 4:41.05, nearly half a minute slower than the non-ice swim in Amsterdam.

Thanks Sae for the video

After the race I went back to the airport to fly back to London, and landed Gatwick at 18:25, less than 24 hours before I flew out of the country.

It was such a great experience racing in the ice. It was a pity that, not long afterwards, I went back to Hong Kong for a holiday and to visit my family, which interrupted my ice swimming training, and I didn’t do any more ice swimming in the remainder of the season.

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