Wasatch Front Polar Bear Club New Year's Race Report

Our new mascot (the bear, not Harrison)

I have been putting off typing up my report of the Wasatch Front Polar Bear Club New Year's Race until my fingertips thawed out enough to type.

After loading up my kayak on our van this morning, I got some double takes from my neighbors.  Little did they know, that I would not only be paddling today, but would also be swimming.

Gordon, who organized the event, was already there with his family and already had the cocoa station set up.  I unloaded the kayak and helped get some of the other things set up.  Jake and my dad, Kelley, were also there and were getting set up to do the timing for the race.

Dave Shearer came by and gave us the official water temperature of 31.6 F!  I had been expecting 34 degrees, which had me pretty nervous over the last couple days (and especially this morning).  Hearing that the temperature was was below freezing (yes, this is possible due to the high salinity of the Great Salt Lake) had me even more anxious.  During Goody's safety briefing, it started to snow.  Great.

Goody giving us our pre-swim safety briefing.
 Reporters from Fox13 and the Deseret News were on hand to cover the event.  Goody, Gordon and I got interviewed by Pete from Fox13, who put together an excellent story on the event (It just barely aired).

The first two swimmers enter the water (Richard Edge and Jim Hubbard)
There were eight people registered to swim the 400 yard race.  Considering the extremely low water temperature, Gordon did an excellent job organizing the event so that it was as safe as possible.  There were four waves with two swimmers each.  Gordon, Jake and I were on the water in kayaks to keep an eye on each of the swimmers.  In addition, the USP Rescue boat was on the water and there was an ambulance and paramedics standing by in case anyone needed help.  A time limit of 15 minutes was established and everyone finished the swim well under that time.  After the first wave finished, the second wave had two minutes to get ready.  During that time the volunteers were doing a great job taking care of the first wave swimmers and helping them to warm up.

Nathan Nelson nearing the finish (and a hot "shower")
I paddled alongside Jim, Nathan and Kim for the first three waves and had a lot of fun watching them and trying to encourage them.  I made sure to ask them how they were doing every once in a while, but they all looked strong and I had no doubt that they would all finish.  I really enjoyed watching them finish and pour warm water over themselves and seeing the steam come off their bodies.  Seeing them all be successful helped put my mind at ease about my own swim.

Jim getting a much deserved hot "shower"
Superstar volunteer Chad Starks helping Sue Frehse warm up after her swim.

Gordon and I were in the last wave and we hurried and stripped out of our wetsuits, which we were wearing to keep warm on the kayaks, and get ready to swim.  The crowd counted down and we took off.  Gordon shot off like a bat out of hell.  His kick was ferocious and he was making quite a splash.  The water was definitely cold, but I hardly noticed at first because of the adrenaline and the excitement of everyone watching.  Pretty much everyone had swam head-up freestyle, but Gordon had his face in the water from the start.  After swimming head-up about a quarter of the distance, I put my face in the water and was surprised that it didn't hurt like it has before.  Weird.  I guess it must have went instantly numb and I swam the rest of the way with my face in the water.  Sabrina had jumped on our kayak and was my escort during the swim.  It was very encouraging to see her cheering for me when I took a breath.

I finished the 400 yards and Sabrina got a jug of warm water to pour over me.  The reporters from the Deseret New and Fox13 were asking me a bunch of questions, but I honestly can't remember what they were or what I said.  I got dressed and Todd brought me a cup of hot chocolate.  After sitting in the van for a few minutes I was pretty much back to normal.  I was actually surprised at how little I shivered and how quickly I recovered.
Me and Goody after the event.
I caught the tail end of Goody's quick dip after the swimmers were all done.  He was the inspiration for a lot of us today and many of us dedicated our swims to him.  He is an inspiring guy and I am honored to call him my friend.

Thank you to Gordon for putting on such an excellent event!  Thank you also to all the volunteers who helped make it happen and helped keep us safe and warm.  Special thanks to Chad, Jake, Kelley and Sabrina.

I know a lot of swimmers were at least as nervous as I was before the race.  It was awesome to see every swimmer conquer their fears and anxieties and finish the race.  What a great way to start the new year!  I can now look back during the hard times that are surely to come in 2013 and draw strength from today.  I hope that this will become an annual event!

Results are posted on www.wfpbc.com.

Link to Fox13 Story by Pete DeLuca: http://fox13now.com/2013/01/01/starting-out-the-new-year-with-a-dip-in-the-great-salt-lake/

Link to article in the Deseret News by Emiley Morgan:  http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865569737/Eight-take-part-in-polar-bear-race-at-Great-Salt-Lake.html

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