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Masters of the Universe

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“In order to be a good Marathon Swimmer, you need to be a capable Masters Swimmer.”
I had always been reluctant to join a Masters Swimming team. Back in the Canary Islands when we were kids, we used to laugh at them, saying something along the lines – “if you are not good enough to make it to the Nationals, you should retire” (ah, youngsters). Then I moved to Madrid and I joined the “Canal Isabel II” team (now defunct), given that I had swum with some of the guys before. But when you are starting to work in the financial sector in Spain and you leave the office at 8pm you get nasty looks at you, so I didn’t last much in the team. 
Fast forward a couple of years, when I discovered the Open Waters in Hong Kong in 2012. The guys used to train in the pool during the week in order to race in the beach on the weekends, but I was really bored of pools at that point, and preferred to run instead, in preparation of my marathon. I liked open waters and I was good at it, and I did notice that sw…

Awards in the OWS World

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Whenever you say you are an Open Water Swimmer – let alone an Ice Swimmer – people look at you with a deep sense of disbelief and concern. Even other pool swimmers usually ask the ubiquitous and unanswerable question: Why on Earth would you do that? 
The funny part is that there are no meaningful awards – monetary or otherwise – to be attained. The three most sought after feats (Triple Crown, Oceans Seven and Ice Mile) in both sports hold no physical recognition. In my trophy corner at home, the prize for winning a 2.4-mile race in Turks & Caicos is way bigger and nicer than my English Channel printed certificate. And I can assure you the latter was more painful and expensive than the former.

Perhaps to compensate this lack of incentive, the two organizations regulating OWS globally, namely the World Open Water Swimming Association (“WOWSA”) and the Marathon Swimmers Federation (“MSF”) started offering annual awards in 2008 and 2012, respectively. Now, both organizations are extr…

Dream Big. Work Hard. Make It Happen.

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On November 24th, I completed one of the most difficult projects I’ve ever undertaken. It did not consist of a multi-billion dollar IPO, a complex refinancing process or a cross-border acquisition. It was not even related to my career, but it has taught me more than many years in finance.
At the end of last year, after building momentum as an Open Water Swimmer, I decided I’d try and become the first person to swim one of the toughest events in each of the seven continents (incl. Antarctica) within the same year. In a purist fashion: no sponsor, no coach and no wetsuit.
As a good islander, the Ocean has always fascinated me. It reminds us, every day, that natural elements are more powerful than us. Just like with any job in life, you can put the best training, attitude and team behind, but if conditions are bad that day and it is not for you, it is not for you.
The year went by pretty quickly, and so did the first six races across six continents. I swam with roaring seas in Australia…

Antarctica – The recovery

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It’s been a week since returning from Antarctica, and most of the questions I am getting regarding the Ice KM race are around the recovery. Ice Swimming is still in early stages, and there is not much written on the recovery – worse yet, each swimmer is different and research does not necessarily help with one’s recovery. 
According to IISA’s rules and regulations, a “Second” is a person accompanying the Swimmer that watches him throughout the event, from the change room to recovery. I was lucky to have Leszek, a Polish experienced ice swimmer as Second, and before starting my swim, he asked me if he could record the recovery process with his GoPro.
These are not easy videos to watch, and there are some more dramatic scenes, but the 1-minute clip below can give an idea of what the body goes through after an ice swim. 

Viewer discretion advised

Before starting the swim, most of us raised our body temperature a degree or two, as a defense mechanism. So by the time we hit the -1.5C wate…

WE DID IT

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It is Day #11 aboard of RGS Resolute and we are coming home. The strong winds and waves of the Drake Passage cannot remove the smiles from our faces. 14 ice swimmers from all over the world came here to make history, and so have we. We are all over the moon.

It has not been easy. Antarctica is an unpredictable place and the swimming windows are very narrow. Seven swimmers were able to swim on Friday, Nov 23rd, and the other seven swam on Saturday, Nov 24th. Weather conditions including snow, winds, currents and chop varied among all four heats so results are very relative, and the important thing is that we all finished the Ice KM.

My heat had, in theory, the six strongest swimmers. 4-time Olympian Petar Stoychev and World Champion Victoria Mori were the favorites to win from the beginning, and they met the expectations. At about 2pm we each went into our zodiac and were ridden 1,000 meters away from the mothership. The snow was significant and there was ice all around the water, but …

Diary in Antarctica

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It is the end of Day #6 and this has been the most eventful one we’ve so far had in our Antarctica trip. This is not an ordinary journey and there is very little you can plan in advance. You are by now familiar with the reason of our trip to this remote location: to participate in the first ever Ice Swimming competition in the continent, among some of the world’s best ice swimmers, and to conclude in this way the Continents Seven project I have been pursuing throughout 2018.
Our ship was originally planned to depart from Ushuaia – Argentina on Nov 6, so that we could swim a week later, but some engine problems made us change the whole itinerary and we departed from Punta Arenas – Chile instead, on Nov 16. The race director and IISA president, Ram Barkai, was the third person to ever swim in Antarctica and the mind behind the race, certainly not an easy one to organize. Ice swimmers from South Africa (4), Argentina (2), Russia (2), Australia, Bulgaria, China, Italy, Poland and Spain, …

Swimming in Antarctica – Do you have what it takes?

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Last weekend I drove to Upstate NY to swim in a small lake, which gets cold way faster than the ocean down in the City. Water was at 50°F (or 10°C) and I tried to swim on my own on Saturday. I was feeling cold and miserable and I just managed to take a cold plunge before running back to the car and getting warm again. Johana looked at me and told me – “admit it, you are not an ice swimmer and the only reason you are swimming in Antarctica is because of your ambition and competitiveness”.
She was right, as she usually is, and this made me think again about the why and the how would a guy from the subtropical Canary Islands end up doing this. Next day I woke up determined, headed to the same lake and swim with a fellow cold swimmer for over 30 minutes. I could do it and just needed the push.

The chart below summarizes the hard and soft skills I think are required to be an ice swimmer:
Stubbornness: I have written about this before, and the only reason I have reached far in life is becau…