Though I'm not sure taking the Polar Bear Plunge was really on any of my lifelong lists of things to do, I nonetheless checked it off today.
Five hours later, I'm still cold.
Admittedly, I have always thought it would be fun to join the hundreds of lunatics who throw themselves into Lake Michigan every Jan. 1, but that was usually as far as the idea went. This year, however, a few friends decided to go for it, and again my inner F.O.M.O. (Fear of Missing Out) reared its persuasive head.
Initially, I hoped to do the Bipolar Plunge, the bicycle-themed alternative to the Bradford Beach event. But I got overruled, and at 11 a.m., our group, consisting of Jen Lada, Sean Reti, Trenni Kusnierek and my wife, Velia (who was there for moral and warming support), rolled up to the jam-packed beach.
Waiting proved to be the hardest part, well, other than jumping in the lake. With an hour to kill, we watched hundreds of crazed revelers hoot and holler. Some dressed in super hero costumes, others pitched tents and built fires for warmth. Most were drinking -- a lot.
I opted for stone-cold sobriety, and at 11:55 a.m., we peeled off our coats and prepared do the unthinkable. Jen and Trenni went with the bikini look, while Sean stripped down to a Speedo (and left me with an unpleasant visual memory that will take years of counseling to erase). I wore my beaten up white dinner jacket with black lapels over an ironic T-shirt and a floral bathing suit.
Then, someone blew an air horn and we took off. I jumped into the water and sprinted about 10 yards. Then I dove underwater, splashed around for a few seconds and turned back to shore. While the water temperature was a balmy 34 degrees, the air temperature hovered around 22. The shock of being submerged literally knocked the wind out of me, and I felt more than a little disoriented when I popped up.
Maybe 20 seconds later, I ran back to the shore, my energy depleting with each step. I actually had a tough time getting out of the lake, but a stranger grabbed my hand and hoisted me out. I waddled back our base, where my wife threw some towels over me and snapped some photos of me in my misery (Some YouTube footage has emerged from the event; I'm in the scene below for about 30 seconds, starting at the 25 second mark).
The next few minutes are a little blurry. My toes got very cold very quickly, and I had a hard time taking my shoes off -- and a nearly impossible time pulling a pair of socks. I was literally steaming at this point, feeling about as awful as I've ever felt.
Screaming swimmers were now returning to shore, stripping off wet clothes without a hint of shame. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught more male full frontal nudity than I needed to see, but modesty was now out the window. Covering myself as best as possible in a bathrobe, I flung my steaming clothes onto the beach and began to regain my composure.
The freezing sensation went away fairly quickly but was replaced with exhaustion, some chest pain -- I think I must've stretched out my lungs gasping in the frigid air -- and ravenous hunger. I was home by 1 p.m., soaking in hot bath that didn't manage to warm me up at all.
The rest of group seemed to enjoy this ridiculous plunge more than I did, all vowing to return next year. For me, I'll pass. While I've got a good story to tell, once is enough and the rest of the day has become an exhausted write off of naps and lying around (like most New Year's Days, come to think of it).
But I did it, and I survived. If each of our 365 days each year is about new experiences, then 2010 is off to a fine start.
2 comments about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Andy Tarnoff
Published July 22, 2014
It's easy to complain about highway construction in Milwaukee. After all, it's pretty much a constant. When one project finishes, another begins ... if we're lucky. More often, it seems like every interchange or stretch of freeway is being worked on all at once.
Published July 9, 2014
Milwaukee's homegrown sausage chain, The Dogg Haus, has reached an area development agreement with Minneapolis-based Freestyle Enterprises, LLC, to expand into the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area.
Published July 8, 2014
I can't believe it's true, but the iconic Gobbler in Johnson Creek is coming back. On May 22, Daniel A. Manesis, of Manesis & Associates of West Allis purchased the long vacant restaurant, that last was, as I recall, a barbecue place and served one of the worst meals I ever had in a restaurant.
Published July 2, 2014
G. Love & Special Sauce, now 20 years old, is still around, and they played at the Miller Lite Oasis on a beautiful Tuesday night. They certainly didn't stop making records in the `90s, but to me, they still have that Gen X sound that this older audience came to hear.
Published June 28, 2014
"When's the last time you saw a keytar?" asked Liz Ofte, in the middle of her band's set at Summerfest on Saturday afternoon. That's a good question, and even though the keytar is one only two of the instruments (along with drums) in the two-person Pet Tiger, Ofte and Jeremy Keith don't really need more to produce a big sound.
Published June 27, 2014
Vegas-based garage punk band Pet Tigers has a pretty strong Wisconsin connection. One half of the band, Liz Ofte, is from tiny Westby near LaCrosse, an actual farmer's daughter. While Ofte and her bandmate Jeremy Keith are well-known in Las Vegas music scene, Saturday marks their first trip to Summerfest. They play at 4 p.m. at the Harley Roadhouse. The duo, which is touring in support of its first album, spoke to OnMilwaukee.com by phone, minutes before hopping on a plane to Milwaukee.
Published June 25, 2014
There are years when Summerfest's lineup seems like it was made just for me. Then there are years, like this one, when the Big Gig just doesn't flip my trigger. It's not their fault, of course - the world's largest musical has to make a lot of people happy. And this year, I'm just not one of them. But I won't sit around and complain. There's still plenty to recommend.
Published June 17, 2014
I remember exactly where I was 20 years ago today, the night O.J. Simpson captivated the entire nation with his slow-speed chase through Los Angeles. I was at Hooters.
Published June 12, 2014
I like to think of myself as a pretty adventurous dad. We've done all sorts of fun stuff with our 5-year-old daughter, but I've also tried to remember that some stuff is better done at an older age.
Published June 6, 2014
If you ever want to see the worst people in the world, just scroll down to the bottom of stories on CNN.com or Yahoo News. No matter what the subject of the article, the anonymous trolls will be there, spewing hate, racism, right- and left-wing political crazy talk, and the worst grammar and spelling on the Internet.