Swimming in cold water – one leg Ilanit- the failure

I’ll start my story today in the night before. Me, Ilanit Yurman, Amputee, from Ra’anana Israel, who started swimming only 3 years ago, is going to try completing one of the hardest open water challenges – 6 hours in 14.5 Celsius open water. 

2 years ago I wasn’t satisfied by my abilities in swimming. Well, I guess I’m never satisfied with myself. A friend sent me to Ori Sela – the founder of the WEST swimming technique, told me I have to swim WEST according to my abilities and my 1 leg. 

I’m not a very strong or fast swimmer. 2016 was my first winter without a wet suit, and I’m moved from one mode to the other “you’ll make it, you’ve got strong spirit” to “who do you think you are????” 


After swimming for 2 hours, the third day was supposed to be a long one, with a 3 hours swim in the morning, followed by 2 more in the afternoon, which is a wonderful preparation for the big 6 hours swim. 


God had different plan for me. The forecast weather made us to swim the 6 hours on the third day, after a very short unexpected preparation. 

So, I’m negotiate with my demons about my plan for tomorrow – I’ll do 6, no, 3, you’ll never make it- 2 hours. At the end, I decided to set the goal for 4 hours, in a bathing suit, one cap, in 14.5 Celsius. For sure I’ll make it. I’m strong. 


Today we’re taking the boat. The sky is cloudy, the cold wind getting under your worm clothes, everyone is a bit nervous. “How am I going to swim 6 hours, I’ll make it 4, for sure I can stay for 4 hours”. Putting back the voices that are trying to remind me the very little acclimation was done. 


Even undressing is awful in that weather..windy cold..no sun. After long preparation – sun block, Vaseline – I’m climbing down the ladder, and I’m in the coldest water I’ve ever experienced. “It’s not that cold”, I’m telling to the guys on board. Lying to yourself is one thing, but they know I’m freezing. 


My first hour was o.k. Thinking about my wonderful children. They’re so brave. I’m letting them warm me from the inside. I’m focusing on my technique for long distance. Straight my hand long to strengthen the lower back, keep my head in the right position – in order to let my only leg float to the surface. Keeping my strokes in body alignment as much as possible, thinking on my WEST swimming technique, and gliding.


The second hour was much harder, I began to shakeand shiver. I began to lose control of my reaction. I asked One of the leading coaches for his true opinion. “Make your 2 hours qualification, it’s enough for today” he advised me, must be seeing something that I was too weak to understand.


For them 2 hours were enough. For me it meant that I failed in my mission. 

After only 2 hours, I was on the boat. It took me an hour to stop shivering. Confused, disappointed, and trying to be away from others, I was ashamed, trying to keep my tears to myself. The comforting words were even worse. I know for sure what was my goal, and that by getting out of the water today, I made it impossible for me to complete it in that journey.


The enjoyment was to see my brave friends. Ofer Peled, who was on his way to complete 6 hours for the third time in Palma in these temperatures. He wasn’t even close to break. And Limor Barak, which wears a wet suit when temperature drops below 22 deg who surprised herself by swimming in the freezing water without her wetsuit. 


After relaxing my stormy heart, I understood that we still have 3 hours until all swimmers finished their 6 hours, and remembered Alon Korek (one of the strongest Open Water Marathon  I know, and a good friend) words – that for the relay, going back to the water after resting is an important practice. I took a decision to try another hour. And made it in the cold water wow it was cold getting back in..


I was devastated by my failure. No comfort. Until now, I know that the only thing that I can do is to come back next year and make the six hours. I can do that. 


To be continued….


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