Get Your Polar Plunge On
I stood on the frozen sand of North Avenue Beach two winters ago, looking out on the ice glazed lake. Three paramedics stood knee-deep in a patch of water cleared from snow. Equipped with nothing but my old high school gym shorts and a backward “D” shaved into my chest (note to self: avoid shaving chest in the mirror), I was minutes away from an all out sprint into the glacial abyss. I remember going into complete warrior mode. Inspired by the hundreds of soldiers beside me, we were all braced for the same, insane, arctic challenge. It was my first Polar Plunge.
After a full body submerge in freezing Lake Michigan, I stood back up in the water to a sensation of what I can only imagine it feels like to be electrocuted. My body was moving two paces behind the messages from my brain. And my heart was attempting a backflip out of my chest. But the run back up to the beach house was incredible, as the huddled masses passed on cheers and high fives. A truly wild experience.
I now stand poised for my 3rd annual plunge on the morning of Sunday, March 6th. I still think I’m just as crazy as I did the first time around, but the action fix is too intense to pass up, and it’s for an awesome cause. The event raises money for the Special Olympics and the Special Children’s Charity. Each plunger is required to raise a minimum of $125, and the funds are allocated to programs enjoyed by over 5,000 athletes in Chicago.
Encouraged, but not required, are absurd costumes. In 2009, the original cast of the Flintstones won for group prize. And I have personally run down the “chute” in a wave of vikings, greek philosophers, Oompa-Loompa’s and ‘church ladies on sunday’. Chicagoans totally rule — people crazy enough to jump into a lake mid-winter and not afraid to look dumb while doing so! I am still open to costume ideas for the 2011 coming plunge (feel free to leave them in the comments), as the backward “D”, (for ‘Dan’) in my chest hair was never recognized as innovative. Or at all, actually.
My team and I will probably stick around after the plunge to celebrate with a beverage or two at the ‘Melt Down Party’, hosted on the beach in heated tents. Participants can indulge in free non-alcoholic beverages and food, or check out the cash bar for a brewskie. I can anticipate we’ll warm up and listen to music while we struggle to discuss our motivations for doing what we just did.
I hope for tame weather, but expect the worst. The plunge is not for the faint of heart. Or West Coasters. Or Kathy, my Mom. But it’s a great opportunity to give back to Chicago. And after hearing your story, people won’t want to fight you. So come on out. Run with me. And get your plunge on!
For more info or to get involved, check out the official Polar Plunge website.