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?


Heidelweiss said...

I'm curious if jumping in once a week at these temps, even for just a minute or two, will help with your cold water acclimation? If so, I'm in. I'm struggling so hard right now I can't even tell you. 78 degrees in an indoor pool is feeling cold. I'm dead this summer.

Josh said...

Hmmm...good question. I think we are all hoping that it will help with acclimation, but I don't know if once a week is enough exposure to get any real benefit. I'm sure it will help, I'm just not sure how much. We are going to progressively try to stay in longer and swim further each time and we'll see how it goes.

You are welcome to join us and I would be happy to meet you guys at Black Ridge sometime if that's easier for you.