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  • Writer's pictureNadine Bennett

Chilliest of swims - my first IISA ratified Ice Mile

Updated: Mar 10, 2021

On the morning of Monday, November 11th 2018, I swam my first ice mile. Entering the water at 8:22am, exiting at 9:04am, this marks the first ice mile completed by a Canadian woman. 1900m at a pace of 2:11/100m. Not the only one swum that day, big congratulations goes out to Amy Ross, and not the last to come for Canadian swimmers, I'm sure.

First, a heartfelt word of thanks: observer Aimee Jones, witness Diane Harper, supporters Julie Maillet, Tom Heyerdahl, Derek Tucker, and Serge Gauthier Desroches. They were on the shoreline for safety, and just as importantly, for encouragement during the swim. A very special shoutout to Kat Borczak, who took a musing and helped me see it could be an attainable goal. And of course my hubby, family and friends, Technosport team mates, and chilly swim friends around the world...I couldn't have pushed my boundaries this far without you, it takes a team to make a tribe, thank you.


The following information was submitted as evidence of Nadine's ice mile swim, in great detail for transparency and to show alignment to the International Ice Swimming Association's (IISA) requirements. And for a couple of laughs at her expense along the way...


The swim took place in Lac Meech, which is located in the wooded hills of beautiful Gatineau Provincial Park, Quebec, Canada. Nadine swims here throughout the year, so the waterway, landmarks and exit points were well known to both Nadine and support crew. The venue has washrooms and a change room for public use. The lake is spring-fed, with no current. Wildlife present is limited to honking geese, a pair of loons, plenty of fish, and the occasional turtle. To the relief of Nadine’s somewhat overactive imagination, no freshwater sharks or lake zombies have ever been noted at this locale. To date, she adds, seemingly concerned.

This is also the same location where she did her qualifying swim the week before:

The team used a spreadsheet Nadine had prepared, to cover off all requirements and make sure nothing was missed, but also to ensure there was thorough and transparent documentation of who did what:

Wind and Air Temperature:

The wind and air temperature were taken from Weather Network readings for “Blanchet Beach, Lac Meech, Chelsea”, approximately 5 minutes before the start of the swim. The air was cold and windy, but the sky was sunny with no clouds, overall a beautiful day for a chilly swim. To Nadine's delight, a thin layer of ice was starting to form along the shoreline. The weather readings were as follows:

Air: -8C, Wind: 14km/h, gusts to 21 km/h

Water Temperature:

The temperature of the water was taken using 3 digital Comark waterproof thermometers, which have an accuracy rating of +/- 1C. The measurement was taken at the midpoint of the swim course, precisely 10 inches below the surface of the water. The thermometers were attached to a plank of wood, with markings to show the depth to water level necessary for the readings. Nadine filmed the taking of the temperature using her waterproof GoPro attached to the plank, which also included a shot of her handheld GPS as evidence of geographic coordinates to confirm location. The readings at the midpoint of the course were as follows:

Reading 1, Comark PDT300: 4.6C/40.3F

Reading 2, Comark PDT300: 4.5C/40.1F

Reading 3, Comark PDQ400: 4.5C/40.1F

A secondary measurement was taken closer to the shoreline as a precaution, as some of the swim would take place in fairly shallow waters for safety reasons. The readings closer to shore were as follows:

Reading 1, Comark PDT300: 3.3C/37.9F

Reading 2, Comark PDT300: 3.2C/37.8F

Reading 3, Comark PDQ400: 3.2C/37.8F

“Oooo, that’s cold”, Nadine exclaimed, which seemed silly to say at this point considering she had already submerged waist-deep in the water for several minutes. The observer and witness were notified of the temperatures, and using the midpoint readings, and they declared the water temperature had met the IISA maximum threshold. Meaning, it was below 5C, and good and proper cold.


Nadine wore 1 silicone bathing cap, 1 fabric bathing suit, 1 pair goggles, 1 earplug - that’s right, as is often the case, she lost the other earplug getting into the water but didn’t want to turn back to get another one. No grease or glide was used, because she simply forgot, which left her with nasty rashes on the side of her neck from bathing suit straps. She had some explaining to do at work the following week.

Location, mapping and timing:

A handheld GPS (model Garmin 78sc) was used to document the location coordinates, and to map the route taken by Nadine during the swim. The tracking module mapped the route taken, and the stopwatch module took the total time, time moving, stopped time, time of day, distance in km, geographic coordinates, and strength of GPS signal, all of which properly documented the entirety of the swim once in the water. The GPS tracking module and stopwatch module were reset to “0” in front of the observer, to later prove that no distance or time had been accumulated on the GPS during the taking of the temperatures. The GPS unit was towed in a pink float attached to Nadine’s waist, which she wore begrudgingly, as she loathes wearing “that thing”. The float and GPS unit were handed over to support immediately upon exit, and the observer and witness verified the stopwatch module was stopped immediately to capture an accurate distance reading (1.90km). The tracking module was stopped only once in the change room (2.30km), however the waypoints heading to the change room are clearly visible on the map itself. The distance submitted for ratification is 1.9km, which is actually 1.18 miles. Nadine later pointed out, rather boastfully we might add, that she swam 300m more than necessary. We think it's likely she just wasn't paying attention and overshot her turning points. But good for her.

The stopwatch module indicates that the swim started at 8:22am, and ended at 9:04am, for a total time of 42mins24secs. The observer subtracted the stopped time from the total time identified by the GPS, as this was the time spent walking in and out of the water. The swim time was therefore documented at 41min31secs. Had Nadine known that another 3mins29secs would have netted her the claim of an “extreme ice mile”, she likely would have treaded water in place with a smile and refused to exit…best she wasn’t aware. Just kidding, upon exit, she made it well known she was DONE for the day!


The swim route followed the shoreline within 20 meters, along a looped 280m course, from the boathouse from the left of the beach to an outcrop of rocks further to the right. Nadine spent most of the swim in high waist to chest-deep water, so that she would be close to the shore should there need to be an emergency exit. She did not touch the bottom at any point during the swim, mostly because them's the rules, but also because there were weeds and weeds freak her out a little. The float added extra assurances, were there to be any safety or weed-related incidents. The observer and witness were both experienced ice swimmers, and walked the shoreline to watch the swim as it progressed as well as monitor for signs of distress such as slowed stroke rate, confusion, disorientation. There were some signs of confusion noted, but a quick shoutout to Nadine revealed this was due to her refusing to invest in a pair of proper prescription goggles and not being able to see the shoreline well enough to actually swim straight. She also won't bilateral breathe, which didn't help either. A safety plan had been devised for the tasks of retrieval and calling emergency services, but luckily the swim went well and neither were needed.

Swimmer condition:

Nadine’s approach was to take each lap one at a time and “see how things go”. She spent most of the swim either looking up at the sun in the sky, down at the weeds below the surface, or checking in to her body to see how things were doing. The air was cold and windy, so her arms and hands got chilled right away, but she was able to keep moving her fingers and would occasionally clench her fist to gauge if things were still working. Nadine doesn’t kick much when she swims, usually not at all, and she was surprised to feel her legs and feet get progressively colder, much more so than during training swims. As soon as she realized this, she made a point of trying to move her legs more during the swim to try to get more circulation moving but it was likely too late. However, she was still able to work at keeping her stroke rate fairly consistent throughout, at 56 strokes per minute at the start down to 51 strokes per minute at the end. She emerged from the water happy but quite cold, and was ushered immediately by supporters into the change room, stripped of her wet bathing suit and dressed up warmly, and covered with blankets. The worst of recovery took approximately 30 minutes to pass, and another 30 minutes to further stabilize, during which time she was closely monitored. One of her supporters Julie helped by wrapping her in a big bear hug, to try and generate added heat, which apparently was quite effective and greatly appreciated.

Youtube videos: start, middle, finish

About an hour and a half later, she was back in her hometown of Ottawa, Ontario, she was feeling good and drove herself home, stopping at the Starbucks drive-through to treat herself to a vanilla latte and a tasty snack because darn it, she'd earned it. After a warm bath, she spent the day lounging lazily in her favourite snowflake-print onesie and binging on netflix...

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