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Chilling dedication: Ottawa man keeps cool with daily ice swimming

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While most people try to avoid the bitter cold, one man in Ottawa is taking the plunge into icy water.

Tom Heyerdahl, a 61-year-old enthusiast of extreme cold, has been swimming in ice-cold temperatures on a daily basis this winter. At Britannia Beach, he, and a few friends, carved out a 25-meter ice pool.

"For the last, more than 40 days, every day, we have worked towards and maintained a 25 meter ice pool," Heyerdahl says. "So it's a swimming area that's about a meter and a half wide by 25 meters long."

For Heyerdahl, skipping a day of swimming is simply not an option. "Getting in is mandatory," he says. "Time spent in is negotiable."

Accompanied by fellow swimmers, Heyerdahl's determination is shared by others, like first-time ice dipper Karina Bittelbrunn, who took the plunge despite being nervous.

"I don't know. I'm not thinking. I don't know what I'm doing. I'm just going to go for it," Bittelbrunn said before braving the cold.

She was able to spend nearly two minutes in the water.

"She did great. She did fantastic," says Heyerdahl. "That's not your average first time."

Meanwhile, seasoned ice swimmers like Angelo Ocana and Silke Reichrath love the experience of swimming in freezing temperatures.

"It feels amazing," Ocana says. "Every time I go do it, it's always hard. And I'm like why am I doing this. But then I don't think too much and just do it. And after I feel really good."

Reichrath, who initially intended to pause her swimming routine for the winter, found herself drawn to the dedicated group of year-round swimmers.

"I was swimming in the summer, and I was going to stop for the winter, and then I met these people and they said, 'We keep going year round.' And I said, 'I'll see how long I can keep going,'" says Reichrath.

Heyerdahl says his passion for ice swimming will keep him braving the cold for years to come.

"I am currently the eighth oldest man in the world to have swum an ice mile below five degrees," he said. "And I think the current oldest guy is 66. So, I'll take a shot at it. Who knows?" 

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