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On Thin Ice...

We all know I am married to a bit of a nutcase, no surprises there. (My family firmly maintains that of COURSE Stephen is completely mad because why else would he have chosen to marry me in the first place? Apparently I should do everything I can to make my marriage work because no-one else on God's Green Earth will want me and that this is my Last Chance To Avoid Living Alone And Being Eaten By One Of My Cats. How lovely.)

Anyway, back to what I was saying before you distracted me.

So, Stephen has done many ... quirky... things during our 12-year marriage. He has hosted his own TV cooking show from our kitchen (an imaginary show performed out loud to one of the cupboards), fallen through the bathroom ceiling while trying to turn our roof into a homemade sauna, knocked himself unconscious with a hammer, hired a personal trainer in Texas to help him train for a race in Sweden (that he never actually took part in), and on it goes. So it shouldn't really have surprised me when he entered the Winter Swimming Championships in Finland earlier this year. But it did.

Firstly, the fact that this swimming event takes place in WINTER should be your first clue that all is not well in Stephen's brain. Your next clue is that it is in Finland, or Lapland, to be more specific. You know - the place where Santa Claus and his reindeers live. Like, in the SNOW?

Yes, my precious husband decided that it would be "fun" to head across the world with three of his brothers, before stripping down and launching himself into zero degree water for the equivalent of two swimming pool lengths at the gym. In a pool that has been cut out of the ice in the middle of a frozen river.

Right.

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As per usual when faced with one of Stephen's hare-brained schemes, I was positively SAINTLY and supportive and encouraging and just plain bloody marvelous. I smiled and waved, I said all the right things about how he was in for the adventure of a lifetime, I raved about the memories he would be creating with his brothers ... I did it all! While on the inside, I had to wonder whether I really should have chosen to have children with this man, thereby ensuring that his genes were passed onto another generation.

I also double-checked that our Will was up-to-date.

In true Stephen style, he threw himself head first into training for the event. And by training, I do of course mean that he read every possible magazine article on cold water swimming, spent hours designing the team Speedo (oh, did I not mention that no wetsuits are allowed and that team members have to swim in little scraps of material? SUCH a bonus that we had all our children before the event because Stephen's willy hasn't been seen since.) To be fair, he DID have a quick dip in the 7 degree pool at the gym, and diligently turned the shower onto COLD at least twice in the week before the event. He also practiced dipping his hand into ice water to get a beer, something I am sure helped enormously on the day of the event.

And then he was off - jetting to London and then onto Finland along with the world's finest cold water swimmers in the world. And it was cold. It was VERY VERY cold. And this was while he was warm and dry, AND dressed in seven layers, gloves and a hat!

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To be honest, I SO wish I could have been there to watch his face as he had to get into the water. Because of the health risks involved, swimmers are not allowed to dive into the pool because the shock could quite literally kill them. So they have to climb into the water and submerge their bodies until their shoulders are under the water - and only once all the swimmers are ready, can the race begin. Any shoulders peeking out the water are then pushed underneath with the supervisor's stick! 

According to Stephen, the water was so cold that it was beginning to refreeze as the swimmers made their way across the pool, which essentially means that they were swimming in water that resembled a Slush Puppy! In one of the photos, you can even see icicles hanging from the ropes separating the lanes!

And was it cold? Apparently not. Stephen said he felt absolutely nothing until about half way across the pool when the pain hit - like an ice-cream headache but in your whole body. It was then that he also began to wonder if he had in fact thought this whole thing through...

The good news is that Stephen returned home safe and sound, on an absolute high from accomplishing something on his bucket list while also spending 10 phenomenal days with his brothers.

The bad news is that he has signed up for the next cold water swim in Siberia in two years time. 

Somebody hold me.

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