For my fourth year in a row, I did the Polar Bear Plunge on New Year’s Day. It’s a lot of fun. Yes, really. I like doing this race because it’s wild, fun, and something outside of the norm from any other race. I have been called “crazy” many times when I tell people it’s my favorite event. I suppose you have to be a little crazy to do it.
I did have a group of friends do the plunge with me, so I’ve surrounded myself with crazies. And while this race is a very cold way to start the year, it is also an amazing jumpstart. For me, this certainly is a challenge, as I am someone that despises being cold. It is a definitely challenge to push yourself into that chilly water 3 times because you know it’s not going to be comfortable. It is another push beyond my limits.
The Polar Bear Plunge is a bizarre tradition of running and jumping into the ice cold waters. There are versions of this frigid event all over the world, with many taking place on New Year’s Day, and been described as a “baptism” of sorts. It is a great way to wash away the complexities of the previous year, and celebrate the unlimited potential that awaits each of us in the New Year.
For the plunge event in Tulsa, we run 1/2 mile before jumping into the freezing cold water of the outdoor pool at Life Time Fitness in South Tulsa; we run another 1/2 mile and then slide down one of the two water slides into the water again; run another 1/2 mile and finally jump in the water and find a finisher medal at bottom of pool. It’s a short 1.5 miles of running and 3 plunges into water.
People show up wearing costumes, and the mood is generally silly, mixed with a good amount of anticipation (especially from first-time plungers). Everyone is in a jovial mood (some may still be hungover from New Year’s indulgences the night before). Everyone is huddled up at the start line and there’s conversation between strangers.
“This is crazy! What are we doing?!”
“I’m so nervous!!”
There’s a lot of laughter, and of course screeching once we hit the water. Seeing the shocked faces as people plunge into the water is so funny; The cold of the water takes your breath away and your mind goes blank. This year they said the water was 34 degrees. That first plunge is the one you remember, the 2 other trips into the water aren’t as bad. And as you run that ½ mile in between plunges, your hands go numb and your skin turns red.
For my second plunge, I went down the enclosed tube water slide (the other tube is open without a cover over your head). Sliding FAST in complete darkness is a little freaky so it was almost relief to hit the pool and be in the freezing water, because at least you can see.
The third dip at the end has you retrieving your finisher medal at the bottom of the pool. Your hands are numb and your fingers don’t want to work. You’re completely submerged under water just pawing at the medals hoping your hands will grab one and be able to hold on to it. You want that medal! It’s HUGE and awesome!
After finishing line, my skin was bright red, and I couldn’t feel parts of my body, but I was still smiling.
Here’s my deeper insight.
Starting the New Year doing something outside my comfort zone, seemingly stupid, and taking a risk starts my year on the right path. This wacky race sets a positive tone for the upcoming year: I know I can handle anything that comes my way; I will have fun even when my mind is saying “OMG!”; I will be out there doing and not just on the sidelines watching.
My goal this year is to continue to challenge myself and to have fun. I hope you find something that starts your New Year feeling excited. Make yourself proud because you took risks and lived life to the fullest. The Polar Bear Plunge is hard but I endured, survived and had fun. Isn’t that what we want in life? Look for those moments that are hard and have people thinking you are crazy.
These moments are rewarding.
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