Why? This is the question often asked of Arthur Guerin Bowery since he decided to break the record for icy apnea in a simple swimsuit. After testing the Quebec waters, he also asks himself! To another, the challenge of a lifetime.
Posted at 7:00 am
Last year, in Finland, the editor from Nice set a new record by running 120 meters in one breath, in a 2mm wetsuit, without fins. Lake Sonnanen was frozen at 3 °C. This year, he wants to steal the 103m jersey record from Joanna Nordblad and is aiming for the 105m.
Approved by the World Consortium for Underwater Activities (CMAS), the records under the ice until then had been the work of Guinness World Records, with no real rules. Arthur Guérin-Boëri was also involved in developing the framework, which includes anti-doping testing, a safety rope and a flawless water exit protocol.
On the ice (and in the water), during the scheduled record for the next few days, there will be seven safety editors and their supervisors, two judges, a kinesiologist, a person in charge of anti-doping, two “paramedics,” and then seven employees of a production company making a documentary about the athlete’s winter exploits .
Welcome to Quebec!
On Monday, the first immersion at Morrison Quarry, in Wakefield, came as a shock to the dynamic apnea champ who has trained so far in water at around 5°C. It was 0.5°C on the surface of a small triangular pool. Outside, the thermometer reads -20 degrees Celsius. Welcome to Quebec! The athlete, who came at the invitation of the Apnée Aventure club, could not suppress some swear words.
“It was a bit frustrating, says Chloe Tidaldi, his agent. But it was made on Tuesday diving test 40 meters and there the vibes were good. It gave him confidence. »
Needless to say, mentality is just as important as physical abilities, in such adversity. “Arthur had a first stage of doubt when restrictions resumed in Quebec and we wondered if the record could be set, says Chloe Tidaldi. Train but why? He was a little disappointed. Then he developed hypothermia the same week,” says Chloe Tidaldi. But then he was able to cure his apnea in water for 90 meters at 4 ° C, which made him self-confident.”
When we arrived at Morrison’s quarry on Wednesday afternoon, the whole team was busy with ice. It is necessary to shovel freshly fallen snow, trace the holes in triangles and remove the snow with saws, one mechanical and the other manual. Using only two pairs of arms to make eight holes, it will take at least two days. There is the starting hatch, then, in a straight line – called the “track” – the hatches at 20, 40, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100 and 105 metres, so that the releaser can exit in the event of an emergency.
The time for the dreaded launch is approaching. You should end up taming this rather hostile big puddle before D-Day. Fortunately, there is a tent at the athlete’s disposal which is heated by a small wood-burning oven, which serves as a sauna. This is where he prepares, stores heat, and does some warm-up in the form of dry apnea.
Wednesday is another difficult day, where “good” feelings are not present. Jet lag fatigue is very present. pressure too. Arthur travels 20 meters under the ice, takes part in an underwater whirlwind shoot with a young videographer and trail runner Colin Oliva, and gets out of the water on the spot. The sauna is waiting for him. Official: Tomorrow will be a rest day.
Despite everything, the Stoic did not show his suffering. You can even tell that it almost makes you want to. And this “craving”, mixed with a share of anxiety, was felt by Colin Oliva, the next afternoon, when he decided to plunge into the lake in front of the chalet. A little earlier, a triangle opened in this “paradise” place of “My Cabin in Canada”, to take a picture.
At first Oliva takes off her shoes and stands on a small towel already soaked in ice water, and then takes off her precious woolen coat. “You put your feet and calves in the water first, what dictates it Fitness Trainer Guerin-Boeri. Then put a little water on your face and on your arms. continues. Then you spray your whole body. »
Everything seems to be going well for Colin Oliva, until he immerses himself completely and his breathing starts racing like crazy. Guérin-Boëri warned him of this happening, then insisted on the importance of keeping ventilation slow and steady. He reminds his student of this. But she is stronger than him: Oliva breathes.
“If you can stay in the water for up to two minutes, you’ll see that it gets easier,” stresses the freelance editor, warm at the edge of the hole. “Young people” will not withstand the “comfort” zone. He gets out of the water after a minute and a half, however, and walks to the chalet barefoot in the snow!
Back to “Why?” Why put yourself in such a state of discomfort, stress, and even danger? Because yes, this plunge into icy water followed by prolonged apnea (105 meters should be done in 2 minutes 45 seconds) involves a whole series of physiological reactions that must be taken into account. Arthur Guerin succinctly answered the question in a recent Instagram post.
Why climb Everest? Why swim across the English Channel? Why pedal running? Sport has no useful productive function in society, except for the sale of dreams, the transmission of values, and for the athletes themselves, to realize themselves and fulfill themselves through effort.
Arthur Guerin Bowery
“No, it’s not masochism, no, it’s not a search for recognition. It’s self-transcendence, it’s living one’s dreams, and a pioneer in uncharted territory. It also means adapting, through hard work and patience, but above all in humility, with the aquatic element.” »
After a hundred meters without a suit, the body is in shock for at least 10 minutes. Peripheral cooling caused by vasoconstriction becomes generalized and the whole body may begin to shake. These phenomena are then amplified by apnea, which also leads to vasoconstriction and increases the bradycardia (slowing heart rate) already caused by the cold. Add to that the hypoxia caused by the absence of air, and you have a very general picture of the trauma the body can undergo during cold water apnea.
“The urge to breathe is not quite in keeping with what we normally feel in the pool, states Arthur Guerin Bowery. For comparison, on my best character In the pool in the same regime (221 meters in dynamics without fins), I want to breathe about 60-70 meters, while in a frozen lake the discomfort reaches from 20 meters. »
So let’s not be surprised, on Thursday morning, if the athlete came to breakfast without much energy. The 6’5 wardrobe says “I haven’t slept enough. Amr Oyouni, the head of security, had nightmares. The pressure of regulation is playing a bit in his head. Chloe Tidaldi, for her part, is looking for an ambulance for registration day. My reservation has been canceled due to lack of staff.”
A little later in the day, after a nap and a plate of chicken noodles, Arthur Guerin Bowery assured that this record, which he would try in a few days, would be his last for a long time. It is necessary that he soon finds the element of “fun” in his sport. Because far from world-class performances – and even if this article could give a completely different impression of practice! -, free entertainment can be the most zen fun activity.
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