A polar plunge (also known as a polar bear jump) is for the bravest of brave and the craziest of crazy! In fact, I believe I have been called "crazy" more times for doing a polar plunge than for when I went skydiving!
Basically, all that this insane event consists of is jumping into an extremely cold body of water for a short amount of time and then hopping back out! It is a rite of passage for all adventurers, but sounds more like a result of one big game of "truth or dare" or perhaps an episode of Jackass.
But, there are many positives to this frigid feat. Many of these events take place to raise money for the Special Olympics. There are several polar plunges on the calendar for 2014: in Cortland, in Sandusky and Waynesville, in Athens, in Columbus, in Geneva, in Celina, and in Lakeview. Additionally, an annual Polar Bear Jump takes place in Portage Lakes on to benefit the Ronald McDonald House of Akron.
I recently participated in the Polar Plunge at Mosquito Lake State Park in Cortland, Trumbull County on January 18. I raised $100 for the event to benefit the Special Olympics of Ohio (many thanks to all who donated, including Patty B., Mike V., Steve F., Paul H., and Linda H.!), thus qualifying me to participate (the minimum needed to raise was $75). As always, it was great to be doing something for a good cause AND to cross something off of my Bucket List at the same time.
In the days leading up to the event, I had no idea what to expect, and everything I imagined it would be involved a whole lot of horror! What if I lose a toe? What if I pass out from hypothermia? What if I get taken down by the Snow Queen from Disney's "Frozen"? WHAT IF I DIE?! So many what-ifs, but all of them were pretty extreme, to say the least.
I then prepared myself by sitting in the car with the heat turned up and changing into my garb. We were encouraged to dress in costume, so I kept mine really simple: I wore my red lifeguard shorts and large sunglasses - I was a Baywatch lifeguard, except this "beach" was an icy tundra rather than sandy paradise. There were a lot of people dressed as superheroes - Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Wonderwoman - as well sa cheeseheads, Waldo (of "Where's Waldo" fame), and other fun and creative costumes to distract us all from what craziness we were about to put ourselves through.
I wore aqua shoes - which is very important if you are thinking of doing a polar plunge - and had a spectator on standby with towels for me and my robe to change into. I had a fresh pair of winter socks and shoes with toe warmers waiting for me as well.
When it was time for the plunge, they had the oldest participant do the plunge first - with a paramedic escort. The woman was 83 years old! I was thoroughly impressed and seeing her walk out of the water like it was no big thing helped encourage me that I could do it too! There were roars of applause and soon enough it was time for the rest of us to take the plunge!
The event organizers literally carved an area of the lake out of the ice to make the plunge possible. It was not exactly a "plunge" as I had expected. We didn't jump into the water, as I had thought we would. Instead, we had to run (or walk) from the beach into the water until we reached the end of the carved out area, and then turn around and run back onto shore.
My plunge lasted about 2 minutes, but felt like an eternity! Running into the water, I had no feeling in my toes, and found it difficult to move very fast, as my shoes were falling off. The adrenaline kicked in quite a bit - with all of the screaming and cheering spectators and fellow plungers roaring in the distance. I high-fived the firefighter who stood in the water in a heavy duty orange suit, and made my way back to shore.
To cap off the event, a post-plunge party took place at the Cortland Moose Lodge complete with complimentary chili, bean soup, cornbread, chicken, and fixings!
This probably goes down as one of the weirdest OHventures I have had, but nonetheless, I sense I will be doing it again in no time!