Polar Bear Swim at Bountiful Lake

The four polar bear swimmers: Gordon, me, Sabrina and Jake.
Last week my brother Jake and I joined several others in jumping through a hole in the ice at Deer Creek reservoir to raise money for Special Olympics Utah.  We had such a great time at the annual Polar Plunge (we each jumped into the 36 degree water twice!) that we decided to do it again as soon as we could.

I though a good place to make the next jump would be Bountiful Lake since it is close by and I am familiar with it.  I drove past a couple times in the last week to check out the conditions and was happy to see that there wasn't any ice!  I told Jake and Gordon that I was planning to jump there and they were both excited to join in.

This afternoon Jake, Gordon, my wife Sabrina and I drove out to Bountiful Lake for our polar plunge.  Gordon asked me after the Deer Creek plunge, what made me want to jump into such cold water again.  I didn't really have a good answer for him and the best that I could come up with is that it is a rush.  I don't know if it is adrenaline, endorphins or what, but for me there is a definite "high" from jumping into cold water that lasts for an hour or so after getting out and drying off.

We decided that merely jumping into ice water was not good enough and that we needed to test ourselves by trying to swim.  The plan was to jump in, swim about nine strokes, turn around and come back.  We decided that the best place to jump from was the fishing pier nearest to the boat ramp.  A guy and his two daughters were fishing on the pier and the guy looked baffled when we hauled a ladder onto the pier.  He asked what we were going to to with it and we told him we were going swimming and needed it to get back out.  The guy could not believe what we were about to do and he and his daughters stuck around for a while as we got ready.  It was a good thing Jake brought our dad's Little Giant ladder.  Fully extended, it barely reached the fishing pier.  It would have been really tough to get out without it.

Our pre-swim view from the fishing pier at Bountiful Lake.
Once the ladder was in place, I dropped in my thermometer.  After a while, the temperature stopped at 41 degrees.  Believe it or not, we were actually encouraged by the temperature.  It was a full five degrees warmer than Deer Creek and we were feeling good about being able to stay in long enough to swim a little.

I volunteered to go first and jumped in.  The water was really cold and as soon as my head surfaced, I started swimming head-up freestyle.  I had committed myself to swim nine strokes and, once I hit nine, I turned around and came back.  Once I was out of the water I wrapped myself in a towel and dried off.

Gordon went next and, being the tough guy that he is, chose to dive in head first.  He was the only one of us who kept his face in the water as he swam.  He looked strong and swam out about twice as far as I did.  Gords has a great write up and made a cool video of all of us on his blog.  Check it out here.

Jake was next and swam out about 15 strokes or so before coming back.

Sabrina had been going back and forth on if she was going to jump in the week leading up to today.  This afternoon she surprised me by telling me that she was going to do it.  She jumped in and climbed right back out.  I think she felt the cold a lot more that the rest of us did, and she didn't find the experience to be as enlightening as me.  She told me in the car later that it was the stupidest thing she had ever done!  I told her that at least she had something to brag about.  I am really proud that she did it!  It's not an easy thing to do, especially when you are sensitive to cold.

I experienced the same "high" as I did last week at Deer Creek and it lasted for over an hour.  Honestly, I think I could do this once a week until it gets warm enough to really swim.  I would really like to add a Polar Bear Swim to our line-up of events next year....we'll see what happens.

Anyone interested in joining us if/when we go again?


Martin Strel is Coming to Utah!

Martin Strel, the heavy-set, wine-drinking, Slovenian ultra-marathon swimmer is coming to Utah!  Martin is famous for ridiculous distances down rivers.  He has swam the length of the Danube, Mississippi and Yangtze rivers and in 2007 he swam the entire 3,272 mile length of the Amazon River.

Martin recently announced his latest project to swim down the Colorado River this coming May.  While less than half the distance of the Amazon, the Colorado is more dangerous in many ways with its rapids and sharp rocks.  He has set up a website for the project at www.grandcanyonswim.com where you can sign up for email updates.  Martin was also recently interviewed on BBC News and you can read that article here.

If I can figure out where he will be and when, I am going to try to get a glimpse of the "Big River Man" in action.  Anyone else planning to see him as he swims through Utah?

Photo courtesy of www.grandcanyonswim.com


Polar Plunge 2011

Well, I survived the Polar Plunge.  It ended up being a lot of fun and is something that I think I will make an annual tradition.  Before I get into the details, I want to thank everyone who sponsored me and donated to Special Olympics Utah.  I set a goal to raise $250 and ended up with a total of $300!  You guys are awesome!

We got up early, by Saturday standards, this morning and drove up to Deer Creek reservoir where the Polar Plunge was held.  The weather was actually pretty nice at our house this morning as we were getting to leave, but once we started up Parley's Canyon it started to snow.  As we turned off onto Highway 40, the snow got worse and I was getting worried that my family was going to get soaked while they watched from the ice.  Luckily the snow had mostly stopped by the time we got to Heber.

After checking in and getting a wristband, we walked down the boat ramp to where a hole had been cut in the ice.  There was a big inflatable polar bear set up that was looking right into the hole.  I was amazed at how thick the ice was!  It was easily over a foot thick and the huge blocks of ice were piled up around where the hole had been cut.  Hats off to whoever cut the hole in the shape of Utah...that was a nice touch!

After the rest of my family arrived, my brother Jake (who I had talked into jumping with me) and I walked down to the hole to drop in my thermometer.  There was an oily slick on the top of the water that must have come from whatever machinery they used to cut the ice blocks and I made a mental note to not be the first one to jump in, hoping that some of the oil slick would be splashed out before I took my plunge.  I thought the water would be about 38 degrees or so, but according to my thermometer it was 36!  I made a point not to touch the water when I was taking the temperature so I wouldn't psych myself out.

The event included a costume contest that was pretty entertaining to watch.  There was a guy dressed up like a chicken, another guy as a pig, a group of guys dressed as the Village People, some guys in grass skirts and coconut bras and a bunch of others.  I didn't see who won, but the guy in the chicken suit was awesome!

With the contest over, it was time for everyone to head down to the water.  A kind of informal line formed and people started jumping right away.  I had been watching some videos of past Polar Plunges leading up to today and was surprised that hardly anyone was screaming after coming out of the water.  Other than a few curse words, there really was not a lot of screaming going on at the event either.

With only a couple guys ahead of us, we started to take off our warm clothes and pile them in the snow.  No one had any idea that I was wearing a polka dot Speedo because I had been bundled up and didn't enter the costume contest.  It was pretty funny when the crowd slowly realized that they was a near-naked guy walking up to the platform.  They started clapping and cheering and the announcer said something about me being all the way from Australia (not sure why he associated a chubby guy in a Speedo with being from Australia...).
I started jogging through the snow, towards the hole in the ice.  I wanted to dive headfirst but, after seeing how shallow the water was, I decided to go with a classic cannonball.  I hit the water and was immediately wrapped in cold.  The cold water stung my skin and I found myself gasping for air when my head came out of the water.  I guess that is why no one screams when they come out of the water, they are too busy trying to get air back in their lungs.  The water was cold...really cold, but it was not as bad as I had imagined it would be.

After climbing up the ladder and out of the water, I immediately felt better and ran to where my family was watching and Sabrina handed me a big towel.  The worst part of the Plunge was getting out and walking through, and standing barefoot in, the snow.  My feet burned.

After watching the rest of the "plungers" jump into the water, Jake and I decided we might as well do it again while we were there.  We ran back through the snow and each took another plunge.

I had a smile on my face all morning from participating in this year's Polar Plunge.  My family and I had a great time and I look forward to making the Polar Plunge an annual tradition.  I was happy to have a part in helping to raise money for Special Olympics Utah.  Thanks again to everyone who helped me reach my fundraising goal!