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 Jan. 6, 2015
I remember back in college, I came to the realization that several different versions existed of me. Those different versions of me continue to this day, but nowhere are they more pronounced than on social media. I embraced Twitter long before Facebook and Instagram, but now active on all three, you'll experience a totally different Andy Tarnoff if you only look in one place.
Published Dec. 30, 2014
These year-end lists are always fun to write, because they are so open-ended. So bear with me if I skip the regular categories and think outside the box a little for this one.
Published Dec. 29, 2014
As you can imagine, it's not easy being a four-season bike shop in a state where it's possible to see snow on the ground for eight months out of the year. But Steve Whitford, co-owner of South Shore Cyclery in Cudahy, says he knows no other way.
Published Dec. 22, 2014
I remember vividly how hard school was. Not just the homework, but the routine of waking up early, navigating its social intricacies. Granted, my daughter is only in K5, but still, she works hard - so I like to reward her with plenty of family fun when seasonal school vacations come around.
Published Dec. 17, 2014
Yesterday, I walked around Packard Avenue in Cudahy for the first time in a long time. I mean, I drive through or around Cudahy all the time, but yesterday was different. I stopped to smell the roses. Every real Milwaukeeans should pay a visit to downtown Cudahy every now and then. It's like a window into our past, and it's still alive and kicking today.
Published Dec. 11, 2014
We all had a good laugh when the word spilled that Scott Walker substituted "Molotov" for "Mazel Tov" in his Hanukkah letter to Frank Gimbel. But you know that Gov. Walker didn't write that letter, right? He didn't even sign it.
Published Dec. 2, 2014
Black Friday and Cyber Monday were good fun, but Giving Tuesday is all about giving back to our community. It's a relatively new concept, but several Milwaukee nonprofits participate, including Discovery World, UPAF and Pathfinders. One local organization, Penfield Children's Center, is making Giving Tuesday work through crowdsourcing.
Published Dec. 1, 2014
I'm going to beat the Milwaukee winter. I will not be cold again. I will laugh in the face of Snowmageddon. I will be toasty warm when the temperatures drop well below zero. Here's how.
Published Nov. 18, 2014
Take it for what its worth, but Playboy Magazine has Blue's Egg as one of its 101 best breakfasts in America (don't worry, the link is reasonably safe for work). The restaurant at 317 N. 76th St. came in 21st place out of 23 Midwest selections, just behind Mickie's Dairy Bar in Madison.
Published Nov. 11, 2014
Can you imagine how social media would've melted down exactly 101 years ago? Nov. 11, 2013 was the end of the "Big Blow," the "Freshwater Fury" or the "White Hurricane," a hurricane-force blizzard that killed more than 250 people and and destroyed 19 ships.