Vampire Swim Ottawa, Halloween 2015

Warm blood, cold water, crazy fun. Kinda sums up Vampire Swim in a nutshell. What started out as a fun quirky idea quickly turned into an international event, and Ottawa was not shy in stepping to the plate! My hand went up, and blamo, I became race director for the Ottawa venue. Luckily, my coach agreed to help support the event, and gave me a lot of guidance along the way. Go Technosport!

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Vampire Swim is a 25m cold water swim on Halloween, participation includes proof of a blood donation or cash equivalent, hence the vampire theme. A total of 17 people registered (some of which did so just to support the event itself which was awesome), and 11 waded into the chilly 9 degree waters of the Ottawa River. A decent crowd, considering it was the first year, and well, not too many people care to swim in frigid water. Go figure.

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Being my first time directing an event, I came away with a lot of info and ideas for what went well and what I would do differently in the future. The City was very helpful in finalizing the event permit, especially considering the short time frame, and their input on safety considerations really made me think through the safety plan and mitigate all possible issues that could come up. Drawing up the safety plan itself was a valuable exercise, I learned a lot, luckily I also had help from some more experienced organizers/swimmers along the way. Took a lot of work, but I felt confident going in that we had all bases covered.

Safety aside, I tried to make the event as fun as possible so that people would have a good time – there were refreshments, treat bags for swimmers and a few prizes for costumes/caps. Bushtukah kindly provided a couple of gift cards, which was really appreciated. We offered shirts and mugs for sale to raise a few extra bucks as well, they looked pretty cool. It was a lot of work, and took a fair amount of time to organize, but it was fun to do and now we have the tools in place for next year.

I was thrilled to see my good swim friends show up, people from our regular open water summer gang that I hadn’t seen much of in a while. And the costumes, people really went all out, which was fun.

The weather could not have been better. Wind was low, water was calm, making entry a bit easier. I was surprised at how quickly people got in and submerged, especially newbies – my first time swimming cold, I inched in very slowly, it took me about 5 minutes to get going. Not these vampires! It was all oooos and aaaaas and brrrrrs and away they went…

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We served “spooky split pea soup” and “creepy cupcakes” to finishers and volunteers. People seemed to be having a good time, and we had a chance to chat with swimmers afterwards, always nice to make new swimmie friends. Turns out I had swum the inaugural “Escape From Aylmertraz” two years ago with a couple that came over from Gatineau for our swim…small world!

Cold swimmie pal Deb Durbin (race director for King Wolf Swim) couldn’t make the event but came down the next day, and back in we went!

The event actually did pretty well! After costs, a total of $635 went to the Canadian Blood Services, along with 6 blood donations. Overall engagement was good, considering the small size of the event, with 28 people donating either cash or blood – surpassing the goal I’d set for 25 donations.

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Overall, a worthy cause and fun time. Hope to see everyone again next year. Pics from a few other participating venues around the world:

Vampire Swim Maryland, US

Vampire Swim Dublin, Ireland

Vampire Swim Vermont, US

Vampire Swim Cork, Ireland

Vampire Swim Montana, US

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