Extreme Swimmer Braves Russian Ice Challenge

Ava Mason, Staff Writer

“I swim around 700 miles per year,” said Ranie Pearce, who somehow also finds the time to work as an instructional assistant on campus.

In her latest swimming challenge, Pearce traveled to Vladivostok, Russia from November 15 to the 21. She won seven medals in the annual ice-swimming competition.

“The reason it is difficult is not because of the distances, it’s because the water is zero degrees Celsius,” said Pearce. “Every time you hit the wall you have to convince yourself to turn around and keep on going even though you want to get out, because it hurts.”

She is one of only three people from the United States who participated in this event, held by the international winter swimming association, which host international events approximately 13 times a year.

This is the seventh ice-swimming competition hosted by the Russian Pacific winter swimming open cup that Pearce has attended.

Just a few years ago Pearce could not have imagined herself swimming in such conditions. “I swam the English channel so I met some people that were interested in ice swimming, and I had never even given it a thought,” she explained.

Ultimately, it was the opportunity to combine her athletic passion with international travel that enticed Pearce to try the hard-core physical test. “Someone who I met in England invited me to the first International Swimming Invitational in Argentina, and I had never been to Argentina so I decided to go.”

Pearce only pays for air-fare, as the rest of the expenses are covered by the organization. On her most recent trip there was a ball each night, as well as a car service and a translator for everywhere she went. “It’s so exciting, I mean I’m just a teacher’s aid I don’t get a lot a special treatment in my normal life,” said Pearce.

While the event might not have been in the headlines at home, in the host country Pearce and her fellow competitors were treated like stars. “Everywhere you go, you bring your flag and do press-conferences. I was on Russian National Television,” she said. Pearce was also interviewed by three different Russian magazines.

Over her years of ice-swimming, Pearce has done some unusual training in order to withstand the frigid temperatures. “I bought ice at the super-market and filled up my bathtub and sat in it, and the first time I did that I lasted a minute, and I jumped out and said ‘this is crazy, I’m never going to do that’, and then I got back in and lasted 5 minutes,” said Pearce.

Pearce also swims in the Soda Center pool every morning and travels to Tahoe occasionally to train, which is what she did prior to her recent Russia trip.

Pearce also annually partakes in at least one ultra long-distance swim event, which can present their own unique challenges. “My last swim got stopped by tiger sharks. I tried to swim between Molokai and Oahu and it didn’t work out,” said Pearce.

Pearce thrives on challenge. Future extreme swim plans include attempting to cross the 5-kilometer Straight of Magellan, a feat accomplished by only 7 other people in the world.

“Swimming has changed my life. Within one year of swimming, starting swimming, I took my first international trip. I went to Spain and I swam from Spain to Morocco from one continent to another, and I made it…I was all by myself having this wild adventure and I just thought oh my god, I can do anything..If I can do this I can do anything,” said Pearce.

Ms. Frazier, special education department chair and close friend, believes that Pearce is a great example for all students. “She is a daily reminder that you have to find something that motivates you and that’s the right fit for you, because there aren’t many people who do winter swimming or ice swimming and so for our kids I think all Campo students have that sort of pressure to pick that 4 year school and pick a school that lots of people go to,” said Frazier. “So I think that Ranie is just an example about how you should find a school, a passion, an activity that gives you that finality, that you enjoy, instead of what everyone else is doing.”

While she may have joined the game late, Pearce is thankful to have discovered the sport for herself. “I waited until my youngest daughter had her license before I started swimming, because everything in my life was about my kids… Once my youngest started driving, I started swimming, and now I’m the one having the big adventures,” said Pearce.