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Embracing the Darkness!

22 June 2019

22 June 2019

Embracing the Darkness

The Cyborg is no spring chicken; this very fact is the basis for the story. You see, in a desperate bid to rail against ageing, the Cyborg has set himself a tremendous challenge – which shall remain unnamed (because that would make it “real”). In the lead up to this challenge, the Cyborg has undertaken to improve his running fitness. Because, as has been stated many times, the Cyborg is not a runner. To that effect, he has taken on a running program. Yes, a set running program, with all sorts of running things, like interval runs, tempo runs, and heart rate zones.

And, being the Cyborg, he has not stopped any of his other activities, such as going to the gym, or riding to work. No, this running program is in addition to his current activities, and his ageing. Which means one thing.

He’s getting sore. Very sore.

Pity the poor Cyborg, crawling out of bed every morning with an aching body that just doesn’t seem to recover. But then the Cyborg remembered something a runner – a real runner who had been in a proper training program with real-life coaches and everything had told him: he’d said cold water immersion was the best recovery. A few minutes in freezing cold water would greatly reduce the pain and help with recovery.

But those big ice-baths you see footy players jump in after a game seem so, well, expensive! And, sure the Cyborg has a bath in his house, but running down to the servo every week to buy his body-weight in ice just seems like a lot of hassle. No, there must be a cheaper, more effective way to get a good dose of ice-water submersion...

Then he heard about the Winter Solstice Swim. On the darkest day of the year, crazy people from all over Canberra strip off their gear and dive into the icy waters of Lake Burley Griffin as the sun rises in the morning. That, by any definition, is ice water immersion! Even better – it counts as an event, so there’s a race report. And, of course, all proceeds go to charity. Because crazy people do crazy things not for their own enjoyment, but to raise money for charity.

People standing around a fire.

So, early in the morning of June 21, the Cyborg turned up to Yarralumla Bay to make idle chit-chat for about 45 minutes with about 150 other people who were just about to get their gear off and take a communal bath. A few had done it before, and said it was a great thing to do, and gave them a buzz which lasted for days. (The Cyborg thought they were all mispronouncing “bug”). And, of course, there was much bravado, such as “Okay, we have to swim out to the pontoon.”, “And jump off”, “And the person who comes back last wins!”

Before too long there were the speeches from the organisers, from the life savers and the charities being supported by the event; then it was back to prepare to strip. The whistle let everyone know there was a minute to go, and all pants dropped to the floor, and everyone made their way to the water.

There was a bag piper too (who also wound up naked). He started playing, we suspect, to drive the swimmers away and into the frigid waters. It worked, as everyone charged (and, by charged, we mean walked slowly and steadily into the water -there be little rocks in Burley Griffin – and little rocks and freezing feet do not mix!).

It’s probably worth pointing out at this time that it was something like -1 degree. And while many people said, “Nah, the water’s warmer than the outside air, it’s around 10 degrees”, it felt quite the opposite! The Cyborg marched into the water, and in a strange turn of events, it wasn’t until he’d reached the top of the bottom third of the pack – his natural place in an event - that he really felt the effects of the cold. But, despite this, he pushed on for at least another metre.

The swim doesn’t have many rules. But one of the rules is that you must achieve full body immersion. Now, we’d like to report that the Cyborg dived into the water at this point, and swam all the way out to the pontoon. We’d love to say that he climbed onto the pontoon, then dived off like many of the other crazy naked people. But he didn’t. He dropped into the water where he stood and fully submerged himself in the frigid lake. Then it was time to turn back.

And, believe it or not, the rest was painless. The Cyborg got out of the lake, put his clothes on and went to work like any other day. No buzz. No huge sense of achievement. But, no pain! Much to his surprise, his aches were entirely gone! Which is a bit of a shame, because it means now he has to wait another year before he can take an ice bath!

The Solstice Swim is a great event for a very worthwhile cause. Everyone was very friendly, and there were no pervy old men in trenchcoats (though, there was one quite nice gentleman in a dressing gown). Getting naked in a group like that is essentially like putting on a costume for a costume party. Nobody’s really going to point and laugh at you, because everyone’s dressed silly, except in this case, it’s undressed. So, it’s nowhere near as embarrassing as you may think, people are nervous, and much friendlier and chattier than you may expect, and diving into freezing cold water really isn’t as painful as you’d fear.


  1. They provide towels and caps. So you don’t need to lug down a heap of your own gear.
  2. Wear clothes like tracky dacks and ugg boots that are quick and easy to get on once you get out of the water.
  3. It doesn’t take that long to strip your gear off. So there’s no need to do it 10 minutes in advance! Unless you just want to show off...
  4. A lot of people brought cameras for selfies and the like, and nobody really seemed to mind cameras coming out (though, you know, if you weren’t taking selfies that may change!)
  5. Enter as a team. If you enter as an individual only your payment for the event goes to charity. If you enter as a team, you (or your friends who want to see you swim naked in Lake Burley Griffin) can donate more money to the cause.