Shiver me timbers! Polar bears are well adapted to swimming in icy and frigid Artic waters. Fur and blubber insulate them well. Humans, well, not so well adapted to this sort of activity.
The little bit of hair I have on my highly evolved body won’t even keep me warm on a hot summer day. And while I do have a reasonable layer of blubber, it doesn’t do much in the way of insulation either.
So what was I thinking when I signed up to take a Polar Bear Plunge on a chilly day into an even chillier lake? Can’t say exactly because I’m not sure. Maybe it was an exercise in relieving boredom. Something to do. No, more than that. I have plenty of things to do. Perhaps it was more a calculated effort to try something new. Different. Outside my comfort zone and exciting. Something to make me feel alive.
Laying in bed, nice and warm, I was questioning my sanity and trying very hard to convince myself to get up and get ready for this thing. The warm bed was awfully tempting. Until I realized that I wasn’t getting any more sleep, and would be disappointed if I missed it.
Jumping into a thirty five degree lake on a thirty seven degree day will either kill you or revive you. Heading from the registration pavilion down to the lake I saw the paramedics standing by. I told them I was glad they were there. Not that I was worried.
This was my first ever polar plunge although I’d thought about it before. I had no idea what it would be like. Other than cold. As it turned out there were probably about a hundred people milling about the pavilion when I arrived at about twenty minutes to plunge-off.
There was a big fire blazing and several portable propane heaters blasting heat. Better to stay away from the heat and stay adjusted to the cold I thought, so I drank some hot chocolate and walked around checking out the crowd.
Costumes were a no brainer for an event like this. There were five guys wearing kilts, blue war paint, and nothing else. And three guys in red body suits with strategically placed fig leaves. I saw Supergirl, a giraffe, unicorns, Batwoman, and a guy in a wetsuit with goggles. That’s cheating!
As it turned out, most of the one hundred or so people there had no intention of taking the plunge. They were there to watch the crazies, and perhaps cheer on their own personal nut.
With less than a minute to go, I removed my sweatshirt and my sweatpants. Leaving me dressed in a t-shirt, a pair of swim trunks, and my sandals. The big question in my mind was do most people go all the way in, or do they just dip their toes?
Standing at the starting line, the woman next to me said she was going to go in until it hurt. That didn’t sound good to me. I’m here for fun. But the idea was to get all the way in.
So as the countdown went 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… I ran with the rest and hit the water. Yes, it’s cold, but I’m here for a reason. And on I went, running in the water. When I was waist deep I sat down and was all wet. Up to my neck. Success! And I turned around and ran back. I hadn’t had a heart attack. Or chickened out. And I didn’t even really feel that cold. It even seemed like I was in and out so fast that I barely got wet.
Charging back to the shoreline, I saw a few folks still very timidly making their way out to the deep. I hollered out, “the secret is to keep moving!”
And so it is with life. Keep moving. Forward. Along whatever path you are following. Taking all of the fascinating detours you can find.
That’s part of my story. What’s yours?