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  Wednesday, 7 August, 2002, 13:32 GMT 14:32 UK
Radcliffe method cuts no ice
Ice bath
Radcliffe swears by an ice bath after each race
BBC Sport Online's Tom Fordyce

Paula Radcliffe revealed in the aftermath of her sensational European 10,000m gold that the secret to her success is a 10-minute ice bath after every race.

"It's absolute agony, and I dread it, but it allows my body to recover so much more quickly," she said.

A few ice cubes? Ten minutes? How bad could it be? For the good of BBC Sport Online, I resolved to find out...


Operation 'Ice Bath'

In preparation I stick rigidly to the Radcliffe plan.

Paula ran 30 minutes and one second in taking her first European crown - so I do exactly the same.

A T-shirt's bound to help

The blinkered jobsworths at the Olympiastadion fail to enter into the spirit of things and allow me entry to the track (something about the heats of the men's 400m hurdles) so I am forced to do my run round the city streets.

No matter. Everything else is the same.

I wear tiny running shorts, bob my head a bit and put in a sustained burst mid-race which burns off the pursuing pack - in my case, an old woman walking her dog and a couple of kids on BMXs.

Back at the hotel the request for enough ice to fill my bath is greeted with a suspicion barely masked by a thin veneer of German politeness.

Clearly I am being viewed as some sort of sexual deviant. But within five minutes, two sniggering porters are pouring sacks of ice into the tub. I am ready to go.

Initially the mountainous heaps of ice are hugely intimidating. The temperature in the bathroom has dropped from summer in Bavaria to Christmas in Anchorage.

After 14 seconds, frostbite has begun to set in

Still, if a skinny girl like Paula can manage it, what problems could the gutsy chap from the BBC have?

Plenty. An exploratory wave of a toe over the gleaming cubes sends shivers to the ends of my eyelashes.

I had wanted to conduct this experiment in the same objective, measured way that Aldous Huxley tried mescaline in "The Doors of Perception".

Now I am face to face with the contents of the hotel kitchen's freezer, such hopes appear distant.

I have dreamt of hotel rooms and baths full of ice before today. But that was with a couple of bottles of bubbly chilling in the tub rather than me, and a recent winner of Miss World reclining on the bed wanting to drink it.

Taking three quick breaths, I throw my towel to one side and step in.

Or at least I try. The ice is too solid. It's like trying to sink into a pile of gravel. And it's sharp.

"And I was doing this why?"

These German uber-cubes are like no cubes we get back in Blighty.

With an effort I shove my hands into the hellish depths, frantically burrow out a man-shaped hole and slide in.

The immediate sensation is quite devastating. Ten minutes? Within six seconds I am doing laps of the hotel room, shouting obscenities at the ceiling and grasping my withered manhood with shaking hands.

Wrapping towels around the damaged areas, I return, shaking, to the ice. It sits there, glinting malevolently, taunting me, daring me to take it on again.

With a crazed shout I leap back in. Fourteen seconds and 73 swear words later I am back dancing laps of the bathroom again.

My legs have gone an interesting blotchy red. I can't be certain, but it looks like the early stages of frostbite.

Surely no human could sit in that for 10 minutes?

Ice was invented for one reason and one reason alone

Maybe I've got this wrong. Maybe Paula melts the ice first.

I snatch the shower from its cradle and blast hot water at the evil cubes. After three minutes of hosing - and how good it feels to see those little swines melt away - there is a slushy mix of ice and water.

Taking the precaution of covering my goose-pimpled top half with a fleece, I climb back in.

It's hard to recall exactly how I felt during this phase of the experiment.

I had left a pen and notepad by the side of the bath with which to recall my emotions, but after I'd dropped them in the water it was difficult to read what I'd written.

The decision to abandon Operation Ice Bath followed swiftly afterwards. Paula can have her gold medals. I'd rather keep my manhood.


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