Thursday, December 30, 2010

Polar Bear Plunge

Yes, I’m doing it. I’m taking the plunge. Into Lake Michigan that is!! Get out your fuzzy hat and warm robe, because we are diving in deep. Okay, not really deep as Lake Michigan is actually pretty shallow for awhile close to shore, which makes it very difficult to get all the way under water, but I'm getting ahead of myself (shocking).
For only the third time in my life, and after a two year hiatus, this year (well technically next year), on January 1, 2011, as the first act of brilliance for the new year, I will be taking the venture into what we like to call a Wisconsin badge of honor/admittance that we’re all insane.

For all of my followers (since there are so many of you) who aren’t familiar with this concept, let me explain. We wait until the coldest time of year, then we pretend that it’s summer time and we all get in bathing suits, cut a hole in the ice, and jump into the water.  Voluntarily!  (Okay, for some people this involves alcohol so slightly voluntarily)

Once we're in the water (and you have to get your hair wet or it doesn't count) we all run around screaming like madmen until we have lost all feeling in our extremities.  Next we slowly make our way back towards shore.  Slowly because we are slowly losing control over our bodies.   Once we get out and the hypothermia begins to take hold and we can’t stop our bodies from shaking…then our mind sort of kicks back in and says “hmmm, I don’t think that was a good idea.”

I was against the polar bear plunge for a long time, for obvious reasons. My good friend from high school would invite me every year to do it.  I questioned his sanity and our friendship as a result of his choice to participate in this event.  I finally caved in 2007.  I’m not sure what made me change my mind-I’m sure peer pressure played a part. That and rock music are basically the only things that influence my decision-making. I will tell you this you doubters…….it is amazing!!! The adrenaline rush that you get is enough to last you for a year until you’re going to want to do it again!

I will say, however, that running into Lake Michigan was much more “enjoyable” than my second experience.  It was up in the north woods in 2008 and I jumped into a big hole in the ice up in a man-made lake, and three seconds later you are pulled out. I think I like Milwaukee's version because you get to actually run and move while being in the water, you can spend as much time as you want out there (not that we play water basketball or anything), and your body can sort of slowly adjust to the near-death level of cold.

In 2007 when I showed up at Lake Michigan promptly at 11:45 for a noon "jump", I was surprised by the amount of people there.  There were tents set up, fires going, people grilling out, I was impressed!  Then right at 11:59 they tell everyone to step up to the water. That was when I realized that the vast majority of the crowd were there for the show to watch us idiots make fools of ourselves.  All I thought was, please don’t let an image of me in a swimming suit end up on YouTube. Although it might be a good video for kids to show them what a real polar bear looks like.

Actual Polar Bear.

My imitation of a Polar Bear.

So now as a seasoned veteran, I have a couple words of advice.  First, there are rocks on the bottom of Lake Michigan, yes below the chunks of ice.  I was told to wear shoes to prevent being cut, and I would agree with this advice.  Small detail at the time was that I was not given this advice until I got there, which was not quite as helpful. So while I took the advice and wore my running shoes into the water… the problem was that when I got out I did not have another pair of shoes to wear. As I walked the long painful trek (I think it was approximately 8 miles) across the snow (uphill both ways) in my socks to my friend’s car, my feet were screaming at me letting me know what an idiot I was.  Thanks feet, I've realized that.  After a week though I gained pretty much all the feeling back in my toes, so it wasn’t really that big a deal.

Second, once you get out of the water and your mind and body are in shock….don’t just stand there like an idiot. You should get dressed immediately. I had this really sweet purple robe that I was wearing over my 5 million layers when I got there.  It works much better while actually being worn than laying in the snow.  These two mistakes may have been detrimental to my short-term health…but in the long-term, I’m sure it’s nothing…….right?  Do you want to go yet?

I’ve also realized that with all those cameras and tiny sneaky video recording devices, that the chances of other people seeing me in a swimsuit are way too high to take the risk. This year I have decided to wear a onesie.  Yes, an adult size onesie, also known as “footed pajamas”. The same thing babies wear…but a lot bigger, and mine will be covered in Grinches (how fitting).  Not only will it have the added benefit of covering almost all of my body, but it’s also super stylish!  Here is exactly how this will look.
January 1-the 2011 version
  So please join me as we ring in a new year the way we were supposed to-by jumping into ice cold water!! Milwaukee’s weather forecast currently shows Windy with a high of 28 and low of 15. What reason is there not to??

UPDATE:  I did it!!!  It wasn't pretty, but I did it-in my full onesie outfit (which no one got, which made it even better).  I got there a little late due to crazy traffic and ended up making some new friends to run in with.  I only wish I had met the guy in the banana costume, because I think that would have been a cool site to see.  Ah well, enjoy!  My favorite part, besides the women screaming, is at 19 seconds where the guy goes "they all went under!"  Damn right we did!!!  I will just say, for the record, that running in the water isn't too bad, but right when you get out---that is insane-your entire body shuts down.  awesome!!!

UPDATE #2: Here is another video that I forgot to put up.  This is my pre-jump dance.  I like how you can hear me say "I'm starting to regret this"...but I didn't.

And here is how good I looked after.  Not many people can pull off the half-frozen look, but I think I rocked it.
Frozen hair, red face....can  you say glamour shot?!!

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