A MENSTON man has become the 259th person in the world to complete the notorious Ice Mile swim.

Earlier this month Andrew Ainge, who only took up swimming seriously a year ago, completed the cold water challenge at Hatfield in Doncaster.

An Ice Mile is a mile of swimming in open water where the water temperature must be 5C (41F). Swimmers have to battle not just the distance but the bone chilling cold.

Andrew’s journey to Ice Swimmer and Ice Miler started with triathlon which he took up in 2013, joining Leeds & Bradford Triathlon Club. "It was a classic case of wanting to get fit and buy lots of gadgets," he said. He was quickly hooked, completing a sprint distance in 2013, an Olympic distance in 2014, half ironman in 2015 finally becoming an Ironman in Vichy, France in 2016.

The swim part of the Ironman in Vichy was non-wetsuit because of the hot temperatures in southern France and despite his achievement, Andrew was disappointed with his time. This disappointment, coupled with a desire for a new challenge lead him first to swimming and then eventually to cold water swimming and the Ice Mile.

In January 2017 he employed a coach, learnt to swim properly and was surprised to find he enjoyed swimming and was good at it. Over the next ten months he completed a 5km swim in Lake Windermere, a 8km end to end swim of Lake Coniston and a 16km end to end crossing of Lake Windermere. All these swims were completed in a wetsuit.

With a place to swim the English Channel in July 2019 secured he decided it was time to ditch the wetsuit, with training taking place at Ilkley Lido. Cold water acclimatisation started in September 2017 with the water temperature at 13.5C (roughly the average temperature in the English Channel).

When the lido closed at the end of October Andrew returned to lake swimming with others who are members of The International Ice Swimming Association (IISA) and who were gearing up to compete in the GB Championships. In December Andrew completed a 1km swim in water of 1.5C which meant he qualified for the IISA GB Ice Swimming Champs to attempt the Ice Mile.

His Ice Mile was scheduled for February 24, but the Beast from the East intervened and the swim was postponed until March 3. Andrew said: "The swim was a two lap course around a lake. There is a pilot boat to guide you and a medical team standby to assist with the post swim recovery. IISA allow speedos, goggles and a swimming hat, plus ear plugs to protect your inner ear from the cold. That’s it. The water temperature was 3.6C, warmer than the ice kilometre but this swim was almost twice as far. The first lap passed without a hitch, 800m down and swimming strongly. The second lap was much more difficult. The cold water started to take its toll. The boat crew were worried but shear will power got me to the finish unaided."

The feat means that Andrew has become the tenth member of a select group of athletes known as Ice Ironmen, having completed an Ice Mile and and Ironman.

Andrew added: "Life is about challenging yourself to be the best that you can be. I want to explore what can be done, rather than being told it can’t. It’s quite funny, being the 259th person to have swum the Ice Mile, I’ve got a place in history which is phenomenal and of course I have kudos on Strava (essential) but for the physical recognition I’ve got a certificate and badge to sew on my jacket. It’s like being in an extreme scouts group! I love the camaraderie."